Arrichion, also called Arrachion, of Phigalia, was a pankratiast who lived in the sixth century BC. He won Olympic victories in 572 and 568 BC. In 564 BC he reached the finals for the third time. At the end of a close-fought match, he was held by his opponent in an iron stranglehold. He could not make any move. On that moment his trainer shouted, according to the story, "What a fine funeral if you do not submit at Olympia". The prospect of an honourable death prompted Arrichion to use a temporary weakening of his opponent's hold to dislocate his foot with a kick of his right leg. To make this manoeuvre more effective, he casted his body to the left. Because of the unbearable pain, the opponent made the sign of submission to the umpires.

During this manoeuvre of Arrichion, however, the opponent still held Arrichion's neck in a stranglehold. Because of Arrichion's sudden move, his neck broke, more or less like the neck of someone who is hung. Death was immediate, caused by the broken neck and not by suffocation, as Pausanias says. Before a man dies of suffocation he is unconscious for a while.

Although he was dead, Arrichion and not his opponent was proclaimed victor, because his opponent had submitted. Thus Arrichion represents the athletic ideal of 'victory or death'.

© KU Leuven, 2012