Milo of Croton

Milo of Croton, (Μίλων), was a Greek athlete who was one of the the most renowned wrestlers in antiquity. By wearing the victor’s crown at Olympia no less than six times, his name is still proverbial for extraordinary strength. The Greek tale of Milo serves to date the antiquity of an interest in physical development, and an understanding of the processes by which it is acquired. Briefly, his father gave him a bull calf for his son to raise. One day, his father asked him, ‘How big is your bull today?’ Milo ran outside, picked up the calf and carried him inside to show his father. Each day, his father asked him ‘How big is your bull today?’ and each day Milo ran outside, picked up the bull and carried him to his father. This went on for a number of years. As the bull grew, so did Milo’s strength.” The moral of the story demonstrates the progressive nature of strength development which was known thousands of years.

Milo enjoyed showing off his unrivaled strength. For instance, he would clasp a pomegranate in his hand and have others try to take it away from him. Even though he was holding it so tightly that no one could remove it, he never damaged the fruit. Sometimes, he would stand on a greased iron disk and challenge others to push him off of it. Another of his favorite exhibitions was tying a cord around his forehead, holding his breath, and breaking the cord with his bulging forehead veins. Other times, the wrestler would stand with his right arm at his side, his elbow against him, and hold out his hand with thumb pointed upwards and fingers spread. No one could successfully bend even his little finger.

Milo excelled even in warfare. When a neighboring town attacked Kroton, Milo entered the battle wearing his Olympic crowns and dressed like Herakles, in lion’s skin and brandishing a club, and led his fellow citizens to victory.

A follower of the famous philosopher Pythagoras, Milo once saved his friends. It happened that the roof of the hall where the Pythagoreans were meeting began to collapse. Milo stood and supported the central pillar until the others escaped to safety and then dashed out, saving himself.

In the end, however, all of this fame and strength did not save Milo from a less than glorious death. Milo was wandering through the forest when he found an old tree trunk with wedges inserted into it. In an attempt to test his strength, Milo placed his hands and, perhaps his feet, into the cleft of the trunk and tried to split apart the wood. He succeeded in loosening the wedges, which fell out, but the trunk closed on his hands, trapping him. There, according to the tale, he fell prey to wild beasts.

Sources:
http://www.combat-aging.com/milo.html
http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/383062/Milo-of-Croton
Starting Strength 2nd Edition: Basic Barbell Training Mark Rippetoe & Lon Kilgore
http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/Olympics/milo.html

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