P076Melankomas, "the one with the black hair", was a boxing champion from the first century AD. His father, another Melankomas, won the Olympic boxing in AD 49 . Melankomas owes his fame mainly to Dio Chrysostomus, who wrote two eulogies on the Carian athlete, who passed away in the prime of his life, around AD 70 .

Although Melankomas was no doubt a historical athlete, in Dio's eulogy he becomes the ideal image of the perfect athlete. Melankomas was an extremely beautiful athlete. He was even the favourite of the future emperor Titus. Using his special tactics, Melankomas managed to maintain his beauty throughout his boxing career: because of his exceptional condition and endurance he succeeded in keeping his arms up high in defence - in this way he didn't receive any blows on his face, nor gave any, according to the idealized picture of Dio - until his opponent was exhausted and submitted. Melankomas represents both an athletic and philosophical ideal: central in the life of athletes and philosophers stood the virtue of self-control. No earthly pleasure, e.g. food or sex, could stand in the way of their life's purpose, in the case of Melankomas, his achievements in sport. This ascetic ideal was obtained through continuous training and extreme self-discipline.

Melankomas was also extremely competive. He died during the games at Naples and on his deathbed he asked his friend Athenodoros how many days the games would still continue.

© KU Leuven, 2012