Diagoras Of Rhodes

Boxing is one of the most popular sports around in the present day, but its history goes back centuries and among the legendary boxers is Diagoras of Rhodes. Alive in the 5th century BC, Diagoras gained notoriety for his incredible prowess in the boxing arena and then later enjoyed seeing his male children and grandchildren also develop into successful boxers.

Olympic Games Boxing Success

It is impossible to known an exact birth date for Diagoras, but he stems from a family line that includes King Aristomenes of Messenia in the Greece’s southwest Pelopponese area and King Damagetus of Ialysus. What’s also unclear is when the legend first started out in boxing.

But there is enough information in historical texts to tell us that Diagoras found success in the sport when boxing matches were held as part of the Olympic Games, which are still in operation today. Back in ancient times the games were held in Greece’s southwest in Olympia (hence the name Olympic Games) and were performed in praise of the Greek King of Gods Zeus.

The games, as today, were held in four year intervals and Diagoras succeeded in becoming the champion at boxing in at least two of the events, helping to gain him notoriety.

Other well-known sporting competitions that Diagoras is said to have won during his active days of boxing include being a one-off winner of the Pythian Games, a one-time winner at the Nemean Games, and taking the top prize four times at the Isthmian Games. All of these victories combined with his success as the Olympic Games secured him his place in sporting history.

Pindar, an ancient Greek poet, wrote one of his many famous odes about Diagoras and called it “Olympian 7,” with the text of the ode displayed prominently at Lindos’ Temple of Athena.

Diagoras’ Family Achievements And Death

Diagoras went on to father several children, including three males who all went on to enjoy success in the Olympic Games. Damagetos was the oldest son and he was a two-time winner of the pankration, which was an empty hand sport that had few rules.

His second-oldest son, Akousilaos, took the Olympic Games title for boxing in 448 BC, the same year that Damagetos won one of his two titles in the pankration (the other was in 452 BC).

Because both brothers had scored such impressive victories at the event in 448 BC, and their father was watching the games, they hoisted him up on their shoulders and carried him around the stadium to the cheers of the audience. The legend is that at this moment one of the spectators in the audience told Diagoras that he should die at that exact time because he was at the pinnacle of his happiness and family success and nothing could top that. Diagoras is then said to have passed away immediately after, and so can be said to have died a very happy man.

It’s not just the oldest brothers who enjoyed success in sports, because the legend of Diagoras’ powerful sporting family tree is that Dorieus, his youngest son, was also a great boxer.

The Legend Of Diagoras’ Daughter

Another fable that has endured over the centuries centers on Diagoras’ daughter Kallipáteira. Women were in those days prohibited from participating in the Olympic Games, and it was impossible for her to get away with it as the sports matches took place naked. But she dressed up as a male trainer in order to see her brothers take part in the events.

It’s said that when she saw their success she got so excited that she jumped into the arena to congratulate them but that this uncovered the fact she was a woman — and the punishment for violating the ban on women was death.

At the trial before the Hellanodíkai, which was the panel of judges reviewing her case, Kallipáteira is said to have argued that if there was any female who should be allowed to defy the prohibition then it should be the daughter of Diagoras because of his powerful family line that included three celebrated male boxers, as well as Kallipáteira’s son who was also successful at the games.

The judges are said to have been won over by this argument and acquitted her in the case, making her the sole female to be authorized for attendance at the Olympic Games.

But to prevent anyone else sneaking in to the games a rule was instituted after the trial that said trainers had to appear naked to prevent any such problems.

Present Day

In present day Greece you can find many tributes to the legend of Diagoras, including buildings that are named in tribute to him. For example, the Diagoras Football Club that was founded in 1905 and is based on the island of Rhodes derives its name from the boxer.

Similarly, Rhodes International Airport “Diagoras,” which opened in 1977 on Rhodes, is also named after the legendary boxer, ensuring the memory of his skill lives on.

And there’s a statute in Rhodes, the island’s main city, erected in 2004 that depicts Diagoras being carried around on the shoulders of his two sons.
It is widely believed that Diagoras’ tomb was discovered in 2018 by archaeologists who were exploring near Marmaris, which is a city in southwest Turkey. Unfortunately by the time they identified the tomb it has been looted of any treasures. For many years the tomb had believed to belong to a saint and therefore not even thieves would disturb it, but in 1970 it was discovered that the tomb — which has a large pyramid shape — was not a religious site.
Although raiders have since taken whatever valuables that might have been placed in the tomb at the time of Diagoras’ burial, signs of his legend still endure at the site. These words are written inside the tomb: “I will be vigilant at the very top so as to ensure that no coward can come and destroy this grave,” suggesting he keeps watch over the site to this day.