I think it is common knowledge that the Olympic Games originated in Greece. Are you aware however, that a man known as Diagoras Of Rhodes (full name Diagoras Diagorides and in Greek Διαγόρας ὁ Ῥόδιος, which translates to Diagoras Of Rhodes) was an Olympic Boxing Champion during the 5th Century BC? Maybe you are not, so Let’s have a closer look at this amazing man.
Diagoras Of Rhodes
Although we are mostly familiar with the Olympic games as we know and see it today, it originally started in 776 BC and continued until 393 AD. They originally began in the South West Of Greece in a place called Olympia.
Like today, every 4 years the competition was held, but back then it was also held with a religious purpose. Thousands of people would visit the Olympics on each occasion which were in honor of Zeus. Zeus of course was the God of Sky and Thunder in Greek Mythology and he was also King of The Gods.
It was during these times that Diagoras Diagorides made his name. Originally from Ialyssos in Rhodes, he went on to become the Olympic Boxing Champion on two occasions at the Olympic Games. He also claimed the title in the Nemean Games, 4 times at the Isthmian Games and one time during the Pythian Games. Winning so many accolades earned him a massive status and was even honored by Pindar in his Ode – Olympian 7. This was put on display at The Temple Of Athena in Lindos.
Although it is actually unclear how many accolades Diagoras won throughout his career, he went on to be seen as a legend of his time.
Not only this, he went on to father his 3 sons (Damagetos, Akousilaos and Dorieus) who also succeeded in the Olympic Games as Boxers.
The Legend Of Diagoras
It was in 452 and 448 BC that Diagoras Of Rhodes attended the sporting event known as Pankration to see two of his sons compete. This was an event introduced into the Olympic Games at the time and it was a boxing/wrestling/kickboxing sport all rolled into one with little in the way of rules.
Upon his sons victory, the two of them (Damagetos and Akousilaos) went to their father and picked him up. They paraded around the stadium proudly with their father on their shoulders for all the spectators to witness. They were showered with flowers and everyone applauded their success. To be an Olympic Champion in those days was an honor, never mind to father Olympic Champions too.
During the festivities, it is said that one man/spectator shouted that Diagoras Diagorides may as well die now. This was the peak of honor, happiness and success. There was nothing else better he could do in life. Legend has it that Diagoras died at this moment. With this it is said that he was the happiest man that was to ever have lived.
Kallipáteira – The Daughter Of Diagoras
Back in the early days, women were not allowed to attend the Olympic Games as all of the events took place with the competitors in the nude.
Kallipateira however, the Daughter of Diagoras and Mother to Peisirrhodos made a different move. Peisirrhodos and Eukles (her Nephew) were also competing in the Olympic Games, and Kallipateira was desperate to see them do so.
To do this, she disguised herself as a male trainer and crept her way into the arena unnoticed. The excitement got the better of her though, and after seeing her boys win, she climbed over the fences to cheer and celebrate with them. Falling in the process, she accidentally revealed herself as a woman.
For her crime she was stood before the judges of the games. At this time, any woman going against the ban was to be severely punished often with the penalty of death.
It was here that she stated in her defense that if any woman was to be able to attend the games it should be her. Having Diagoras Of Rhodes as her Father, his 3 Sons, her own son and a Nephew all holding medals as Olympic Champions, who was anyone to stop her having pride with this.
Naturally, the charges were dropped as the judges were in complete admiration. There was however a change in the rules from this point. All trainers in future events also had to attend the games in the nude to avoid any future misunderstandings.
From here, Kallipateira was the only woman to be allowed to attend the Olympic Games due to the successes of her family through the different generations.
The Remembrance Of Diagoras
Although we are 2500 years on, the achievements and victories of Diagoras Diagorides and his family have never been forgotten.
The airport in Rhodes is named Diagoras International Airport in his honor, and the football club of Rhodes is also named Diagoras FC in his memory. These are nice gestures.
Also, back in 2004 when the Olympic Games was held in Greece, a statue of Diagoras was erected in Rhodes Town. Here you can see Diagoras being carried by his 2 Sons. This is the statue here on the photographs which I took for you to see. I also think this is a wonderful tribute to a great man and his family.
Do you agree?
The Diagoras Tomb
Back in 2018 the tomb of Diagoras Diagorides was brought to light in Marmaris (South West Turkey) by a group of archaeologists. It was a pyramid shape and was the resting place of the famous Greek Athlete.
Before the discovery, the monument was thought to be a holy site and the local people used to come and pray. This was the case over 50 years ago as the locals thought it was the crypt of a saint.
Unfortunately, once the news broke out that it was not a holy site, but the tomb of Diagoras, the site was pillaged.
This saddens me, as whether the site was for a saint, somebody famous or somebody unknown, it is a complete lack of respect. Sometimes we have to say the human race has a lot to answer for.
I think the achievements of Diagoras Of Rhodes were simply amazing. To achieve this level of success and to Father Children that achieved the same success is unbelievable.
Long before days of modern technology and training equipment, Diagoras was a man that hit great heights with hard work and dedication. I wonder what it would have been like to witness the original Olympic Games?
For me, it is an honor to live in the village of Ialyssos that was once home to Diagoras Diagorides.
Let me know your thoughts on this, I would love to hearing from you and receiving all of your questions.
Just leave a comment below and I will be right back to you.
Thanks for reading.
That’s very interesting to know something from history. I cannot imagine how sports like boxing looked like at that time.
It is quite strange that all the fights were without clothes and women were not allowed. Maybe it had something to do with the special conduct and order of precision back then.
But I wonder why they participated in the olympics naked? Did they think that they have more strength or advantage without clothes?
Thanks again for a wonderful article on sport’s history.
When it comes to discussing the issue of competing in the nude, there are many stories.
The most common one that seems to surface is that back in history, one of the competitors was taking part in an event, and while running his loincloth came off and he tripped on it and fell.
After this happened, the board which oversaw the games ruled that the competitors should compete in the nude to avoid this happening again.
From there, the games were held with all athletes competing in the nude.
Like I say, you will see different opinions and stories, but this one in my mind is by far the most common.
This is just another great reason to visit the beautiful island of Rhodes, not just for the beautiful beaches and rich Mediterranean culinary, but also for its ancient history.
I didn’t know that the Olympic games originated here. The history of Diagoras of Rhodes is beyond interesting, its really inspiring. You can learn a lot here, but the most important lesson is that through hard work and patience, great things can be achieved.
Thanks for sharing your views Leo. Much appreciated!
A fascinating story. As a teenager I was fascinated with the Olympic Games of Antiquity and did a report on it while in school. The modern games have a certain flare to them but the ancient games were certainly in a class of their own.
It is quite remarkable that the legend that is Diagoras of Rhodes has survived until this day and that his name and family are still very much a part of the present culture. A legend indeed.
I must say, for being a small island, it sure produced a lot of interesting historical persons. One of my dream trips is to cruise the Mediterranean. I’m starting to think that if I ever manage to make the trip a reality, one of the stops might have to be the Island of Rhodes.
Thank you Mitch. Really great to hear from you and thanks for reading about Diagoras and some of the other important people that have shaped Rhodes to be what it is today!
I hope on your next excursion you manage to fit Rhodes into your plans!
This is some really great history about the Olympics and Diagoras specifically. I did not know any of these details before reading this, so I really enjoyed it.
I was Athens back in 2005 and I enjoyed touring around and seeing all of the Olympic stadiums (of new and old) and statues. Do you know which sports were in those first Olympics? You mentioned boxing and a mixed martial arts of sorts, but what else was included?
How long after him did it take to change the rules where women could join in watching? And competing?
Thanks for this information! I enjoyed reading and learning about this!
Hey Kory, great to hear from you.
The Ancient Olympics also had the events that people are familiar with today. Running, Jumping, Discus, Javelin and not to forget the Equestrian Events. This must have been awesome to see the Chariots in action. What do you think?
To be honest, as these games were held long ago, it is hard to put specific dates and times on things. on saying that, the first documented woman to win an event at the Olympic Games was a Spartan princess that went by the name of Cynisca.
She was originally known for breeding horses, and for this reason, she was allowed to get close the events. Eventually she was persuaded to race the Chariot by her Brother. She won this event in 396 BC.
Thanks for reading Kory.
Thanks for this post. I enjoy learning about Greek Mythology a great deal but I I didn’t know about Diagoras of Rhodes. I have to say his story is truly impressive.
Even though I am not a sports person, I really enjoy watching the Olympic Games. This year the Olympic Games of youth were in my city, Buenos Aires. It was so inspiring to see these young athletes perform so well!
And the women did great, I think Kallipateira would have been proud.
Thanks Vivi. I am glad you found the information here of interest 🙂
Greek Mythology is such an interesting topic in general. I’m glad I was able to become eduacated on Diagoras Of Rhodes who was a legendary Olympic champion.
Although I know very little on the subject, it was very intriguing to learn about the story and family legacy of Diagoras Diagorides. Truly would have been a privilege to witness the triumph of the Greek Olympics.
Thank you Tim.
I agree, some of the legends of the original Olympics have in many ways been forgotten in my opinion.
While I respect the more modern athletes that compete, none of it would be happening if it was not for The Ancient Olympics.
In my opinion, achievements by the likes of Diagoras and his Sons should always be remembered 🙂
This was an amazing post. I really didn’t know that boxing was even considered in the games at all let alone the status of the family.
This really puts some perspective in knowing the history of the Olympic games. The other thing I did not realize was that it was a religious event and not just purely a theatrical event.
Thanks so much for this post.
Thanks for reading Ralph and I am happy you found the information interesting and educational.
There is a lot of history on the island of Rhodes, and this is just the surface 🙂 Feel free to have a good look around.
I think a lot of people overlook where the original Olympic Games originated and some of the contestants have long been forgotten. This is not the case with Diagoras. He is considered very much a legend here 🙂
Interesting history of Rhodes in Greece. I didn’t know that the Olympics originated here, this is new knowledge for me. It’s nice to learn about other countries history.
Great achievements by Diagoras of Rhodes too. The family achieved success in every generation, that’s really amazing. I don’t understand why women were not allowed at these events though.
Fascinating stuff. I really enjoyed this post.
All the best.
Just for you to know the first Olympic Games was actually held in Olympia not in Rhodes. So yes, it is documented as the games originating from Greece, but not directly from Rhodes.
As for the attendance of women at the Ancient Olympic Games, in today’s day the reasons would be frowned upon.
Check out this link, and will offer you a variety of scenarios!
Women And The Ancient Olympic Games
We all knew that the Olympics was created in Greece. But after reading this article I found out that there is more to that. I had no clue about Diagoras Of Rodes. After reading this article it gave me a bunch of information about it. Thank you for sharing this article with us. It is really helpful.
Your welcome Sujander. Happy you enjoyed it.
I see you live on the island of Rhodes, I’m so envious right now, would love to be in a beautiful place like that!
The only Greek island I’ve ever visited was Corfu, also nice.
I had heard of Diagoras of Rhodes but didn’t remember any of the details. I love Greek mythology, and I often wonder how much the narrative of the gods and heroes would be altered over the centuries, especially being handed down by word of mouth, but nevertheless, the essence of each story no doubt remains the same.
It makes you want to time travel back to those days, so you could witness those boxing matches which sounds so much like the extreme fighting of today, minus the being naked part haha, where everything goes!
The caveat about everyone having to attend in the nude so as to instantly ‘gender reveal’ is pretty hilarious stuff lol,
Thanks for such an informative and interesting post!
Thanks so much.
I am happy you enjoyed the post. I only hope you managed to stay fully clothed while reading it all 🙂 lol
Nice to meet you.
What a truly fascinating article – I was aware of the history of the Olympic Games, and where it was held etc, but never for a second did I think there would be ‘sporting heroes’ that took part in them back then!
This Diagoras seems like one of the ‘original’ sports superstars – I suppose these types of men were regarded in much of the same way that brave warriors were at the time.
Did he manage to live a full life, to a reasonable age, or did his endurance effect his health in the end?
Hey Chris and thanks for passing by.
Diagoras is considered a hero here in Rhodes and his achievements were quite remarkable.
As far as I know, yes he lived a full life. As you can see here within the text is explains the manner in which he passed away (on his sons shoulders in celebration).
I can say he lived a full life, but health issues and his exact age when he died I am not sure.
Be sure to know if i do come across additional information, I will post it here 🙂
Thanks Chris. Nice to meet you.