Milo of Croton: The Strongest Greek of All Time
The town of Croton was renowned for producing elite athletes in Ancient Greece. Milo of Croton was a decorated wrestler whose athletic prowess led him to five Olympic Games titles between 536 and 530 BCE. Milo would go on to dominate the Pythian Games, Isthmian Games, and the Nemean Games. His career spanned 24 years at the highest level of competition.
Milo was a fierce competitor. To intimidate his opponents, Milo would eat raw bull’s meat and drink the blood. The blood was said to give him energy and vitality.
Milo showed the same spirit in his military career. The story goes that Milo led an army of one hundred thousand men against Sybaris. Despite Sybaris deploying three hundred thousand soldiers, Milo led Croton to victory. The records show Milo was wearing a lion skin draped over his head and wielding a club similar to the hero Hercules.
Outside of his athletic and military achievements, Milo has shown impressive feats of strength. On the Olympic stage, Milo was seen as larger than life. The athletes were kept away from the public until the competition, where they took to the stage naked and oiled up. A man with the physique and strength of Milo was not a common sight in Ancient Greece.
The stories of Milo of Croton spread far and wide. Below are some of the feats of strength it was said that Milo achieved.
Grip of a God
Milo was said to be able to hold a pomegranate in one hand whilst others tried to pry his fingers open. Milo couldn’t be budged and caused no damage to the fruit. Milo would also hold his hand outstretched whilst others tried to bend his fingers.
Band Bursting Veins
It is said that Milo burst a band placed around his head through the inflating of the veins in his temples.
Milo was able to stand on one leg atop an oiled discus. Others tried to push Milo from the discus plate but his balance was too good.
Appetite of an Animal
Milo’s diet allegedly consisted of 20lbs (9kg) of meat, 20lbs (9kg) of bread, and 10 liters of wine.
Of course, most of these stories are embellished. Milo was idolized by the Greeks and rumors of his strength spread far and wide. Little can be done to fact-check the feats of strength. Just know he was a man the Greeks looked up to, and his dominance in athletic and military pursuits was impressive.
The death of Milo of Croton is equally remarkable. The Ancient Greeks had a tendency to embellish the lives and deaths of those they respected. The story goes that Milo inserted his hands in the wedges of a fallen tree, in an attempt to split the tree further with his bare hands. Milo became trapped and was devoured by wolves in the night. Historians believe the more likely story is that Milo was walking through the woods when the wolves attacked. That’s not as impressive though.
Milo’s career was worthy of recognition. The archives show he is one of the first strongmen ever recorded. Milo was so far ahead of his time that he’s used as an example to explain the law of progressive overload.
The story goes that Milo carried a calf up the same hill every day. Milo started as the calf was a baby and continued until it was a fully-grown bull.
The body adapted to the increased weight every day. The weight of the bull changed alongside Milo’s increase in strength. As the bull got heavier, Milo got stronger. This is the idea of progressive overload.
This is of course a myth. The body can’t adapt indefinitely. Milo would have reached a point by which he couldn’t lift the bull anymore.
The principle remains. Once we are comfortable with a certain stimulus, we must progress to adapt.