The Greatest Sports Stars Of Different Eras: Part One – From Ancient Times to 1000 AD

Since I started this blog I have included regular posts with a short history of the major sports events from different periods.  I have also given annual “awards” for the best sportsman and woman of the year and team of the year.  My latest project is a combination of the two.  Who in my opinion were the greatest in earlier eras of sports history.  As organised sport wasn’t widespread until the nineteenth century there won’t be enough to make a meaningful choice for each year in those times.  Instead I will be making a choice for longer periods of time in these earlier eras.

Here are my first choices – Firstly for Ancient Times (that is BC or BCE – Before Common Era)


1st: Leonidas of Rhodes 164-152 Leonidas of Rhodes won twelve running titles at the Ancient Olympics 3 at each games from 164 to 152 BCE – a record for the Games.

2nd Theagenes of Thassos – an outstanding all-round sportsman who won 1300 events in different sports. Supposedly unbeaten for twenty-two years at boxing and also a fine runner.

3rd Milo of Croton – Winner of 6 Olympic wrestling titles in the Ancient Games between 540 and 520 BCE. He also won 26 titles at the other Pan-Hellenic Games and 5 times won titles in all four Games in the same cycle.

 Chionis of Sparta – double champion at three Olympics. His long jump mark if true would have been competitive in the early modern Olympics.

Astylos of Croton – in three successive Olympic games from 488 to 480 BCE he won the running events of stade and diaulos.


Not much choice so it goes to Bilistiche who won two horse races at the Olympics in 264 BCE according to some sources.

Moving into the Common Era (AD) there are few records of the winners of the Olympic Games so the choices become even more limited although there are some famous Roman charioteers.  Finding outstanding sportspeople often means looking at explorers.

1st – Porphyrius the Charioteer (also known as Calliopas) was a renowned Roman charioteer in the 5th and 6th centuries AD. He is regarded as the greatest of his era, having seven monuments built in his honour in the Hippodrome.

2nd – Scorpus (c. 68–95 AD) was a famous charioteer in Roman times who lived at the end of the 1st century. Scorpus rode for the Green faction and accumulated 2,048 victories.

3rd – King Varazdat of Armenia’s  victory in the Olympic bare-knuckle boxing event (pugilat) is one that is recorded.  He reigned from 374 until 378, conjecture places his victory in the 360’s.

Lucius Septimius Flavianus Flavilatus  from Lycia lived in the 3rd century AD and was a champion at wrestling and pankration.

Erik The Red – credited as the first person to discover Greenland (although others had seen it) when in 982 he sailed from Iceland.

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