Phayllos of Kroton

Phayllos was a runner and a pentathlete from Kroton in Southern Italy from the late sixth and early fifth century. He won three victories at the Pythian games, twice in the pentathlon and once in the stadion. For these achievements he was honoured with a statue at Delphi. The Athenian comedy-writer Aristophanes mentions him twice as a runner, but his biggest talent was the long jump. Once he jumped 55 feet (16.3 m) and because the sandpit was only 50 feet (15.2 m) long, he landed outside the pit. This achievement soon became proverbial. This jump, one of the few from Antiquity of which the exact distance is known, forms an important argument in the discussion whether the Greek long jump was a single or a multiple jump.

During the Persian war Phayllos was the only Greek from Southern Italy who took part in the sea-battle of Salamis (480 BC) with a ship. As he paid the equipment and crew of the ship out of his own pocket, he was clearly a very wealthy man. As a reward for this feat he received a statue on the akropolis of Athens. The inscription on the statue base has been preserved. One century and a half later Alexander the Great sent part of the treasures he had seized in Persia to Kroton out of admiration for the military prowess of this athlete.

© KU Leuven, 2012