Athlete becomes politician

Successful athletes were famous men in their own city and sometimes all over Greece. Moreover, many athletes belonged to the leading families of the city. Some athletes used this fame to make a career in politics after their career in sports – oppositely, some politicians became involved in the horse races for political propaganda.

The boxer and pankratiast Dorieus, who belonged to the noble family of Diagoras, had a major influence on the politics of Rhodes during the Peloponnesian war (431-404 BC) and brought his own ships with Rhodian mariners into the battle on the site of Sparta. In the sixth century BC the famous wrestler Milon had become a general in his home town Kroton. His fellow citizen Phayllos decided to take part in the sea-battle near Salamis (480 BC) with his own ship as the only captain from the Greeks in Italy. About twenty years later the career of Kallias of Athens was less successful: he was banished from his home town because of his political stand.

In the Hellenistic and Roman periods many athletes became members of the city council. In the third century AD the periodos-winner Perelius Aurelius Alexandros even led an embassy from his home town Thyateira to the emperor. Sometimes the victors of local games were rewarded with the nationality of the organising city and occasionally even with a place on the city council. Some champions thus became honorary citizens and council members of a whole series of towns. In the Roman period, functions in the international athletic guild also offered possibilities for a political career.

© KU Leuven, 2012