Skip to comments.Highest-Paid Athlete Hailed From Ancient Rome
Posted on 09/02/2010 12:07:51 PM PDT by wagglebee
Ultra millionaire sponsorship deals such as those signed by sprinter Usain Bolt, motorcycle racer Valentino Rossi and tennis player Maria Sharapova, are just peanuts compared to the personal fortune amassed by a second century A.D. Roman racer, according to an estimate published in the historical magazine Lapham's Quarterly.
According to Peter Struck, associate professor of classical studies at the University of Pennsylvania, an illiterate charioteer named Gaius Appuleius Diocles earned the staggering sum" of 35,863,120 sesterces (ancient Roman coins) in prize money.
Recorded in a monumental inscription erected in 146 A.D., the figure eclipses the fortunes of all modern sport stars, including golfer Tiger Woods, hailed by Forbes magazine last fall sports' first billion-dollar man.
Diocles, the most eminent of all charioteers, according to the inscription, was born in Lusitania, in what is now Portugal and south-west Spain, and started his spectacular career in 122 A.D., when he was 18.
Life for a charioteer in Rome wasnt easy. Often slaves who could eventually buy their freedom, these racers engaged in wild laps of competition at the Circus Maximum, running a total of about 4,000 meters (nearly 2.5 miles).
After seven savage laps, those who managed not to be upended or killed and finish in the top three took home prizes, wrote Struck.
Experienced charioteers drove hard-to-manage chariots driven by four or even more horses.
Their sporting equipment included a leather helmet, shin guards, chest protector, a jersey, a whip, and a sharp knife with which to cut the reins if the chariot overturned.
Although drivers did not have their helmets or whips blessed by generous sponsorship, they could rely on stables or factions, basically teams similar to todays Formula One: the Reds, Greens, Blues and Whites.
The drivers affiliated with teams supported by large businesses that invested heavily in training and upkeep of the horses and equipment, said Struck.
Diocles won his first race two years after his debut with the Whites, four years later, he briefly moved with the great rivals the Greens. But had the most success with the Reds, with whom he remained until the end of his career at the age of 42 years, 7 months, and 23 days.
He is said to have won 1,462 of his 4,257 races and finished second 861 times, making nine horse centenari (100-time winners) and one horse, Pompeianus, a 200-time winner.
The inscription details his winning tactics: he took the lead and won 815 times, took the competitors by surprise by coming from behind and winning 67 times, and won in stretch 36 times.
Although other racers surpassed him in the total number of victories -- a driver called Pompeius Musclosus collected 3,599 winnings -- Diocles became the richest of all, as he run and won at big money events. For example, he is recorded to have made 1,450,000 sesterces in just 29 victories.
Struck calculated that Diocles s total earnings of 35,863,120 sesterces were enough to provide grain for the entire population of Rome for one year, or to fund the Roman Army at its height for more than two months.
By todays standards that last figure, assuming the apt comparison is what it takes to pay the wages of the American armed forces for the same period, would cash out to about $15 billion, wrote Struck.
Even without his dalliances, it is doubtful Tiger could have matched it, he added
sesterces were worth 1/4 of silver denarius - which was
daily pay of Roman soldier or skilled laborer as
Well, it says he was illiterate, so he obviously wasn’t one of the “lucky” ones with a hot teacher.
Took some liberty with the double overline above CCCL. It was suggested on a site, but couldn't find any examples. A single overline (like over the DCCCLX indicates *1000), so a double indicates *1,000,000 (*1000*1000).
Had flashbacks to Catholic School there and a sudden urge to watch Blues Brothers....
Marcus Licinius Crassus was an supporter of Julius Caesar and is generally thought to be one of the ten wealthiest men in hostory had a fortune of 200 million sesterces.
Probably some spinners.
If life imitates life, then I will wager that a lot of his money went to managers, gambling, bling, women, hanger-ons, relatives, drink and by no means least - TAXES!!! Do you suppose that he had any left in his old age, assuming he lived into it?
I had to dig around and yours was creative, but I don’t really think they had a way of expressing such huge numbers. I never saw the double bar multiplier.
I think a Roman would have said “numerus maximus, ultra descriptionum” (a humungous number so big you can’t describe it).
Sister Agnes would be ashamed of both of us.
Is that you King Richard? I think that this is late 60s and may be Daytona? Can you believe it, you can actually see the paint job, not the decals!
I bet Spartacus would have been paid more, but he broke his contract at the very end......
I think it’s Circus Maximus not Circus Maximum.
Permit me to give you a caveat on this. Two ways of 'false money' in that era were gold-over-lead 'slugs' and 'clipped' coinage. Both were considered forms of counterfeiting although the lead slug was an invitation to immediate judgement and death. As for 'clipping', that is why you see most non-ancient high-value coins being 'reeded' (the mini cog-wheel ridging along the edges, credited to Sir Isaac Newton). In ancient times, a bit cut off of silver and gold coins was a common way to make money "go farther" so long as the coins could be still exchanged for "face value".
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I had his rookie card, but it was defaced by Vandals. :(
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