The Bizarre Death Of Milo Of Croton

The Ancient Greeks had the myth of Heracles (whom the Romans called Hercules), the hero known for his super strength and outrageous exploits. For most, he remained just that: a Greek myth, an untouchable godlike personage who accomplished feats no mere human could ever dream of doing.

Then in the sixth century, Milo of Croton came along and said, "Hey, I can do that, too." According to Britannica, the wrestler was unmatched in his strength. He won six wrestling championships at the Olympic Games, and seven at the Pythian Games, and was also a skilled military leader. He led the army of Croton — a Greek colony in what is now southern Italy – in its victorious clash with the nearby colony of Sybaris. While exceptional, those accomplishments remain within the realm of doable when it comes to human ability. Milo, however, was also said to have performed some pretty Herculean feats in his day. For example, his training regimen reportedly included raising an ox calf and carrying it around every day of its life until it grew into a full-sized beast of burden. And as the story goes, he left this world in a pretty legendary way, as well.

Milo of Croton's death was bizarre, but fitting

According to art historian Nigel Jonathan Spivey's 2004 book The Ancient Olympics, Milo of Croton was so strong and sure of himself that he even dressed up like Heracles when he went into battle against the Sybarites. So, of course, when he came across a tree in the forest that woodcutters had failed to fully split open, he had to finish the job himself. No, no one was around. He did it just because he could. The legend says that he stuck his hands in the split tree to rip it apart, but the wedges that the woodcutters had left in it fell out, and the tree closed on his hands, trapping him there on the spot.

Unfortunately for Milo, he seemed to have grown weak in his old age, because he was unable to tear the tree in two. He remained stuck there until a pack of wolves came and ate him alive. In later accounts, the wolves were changed to lions, because, well, any weakling can fend off a pack of wolves with his feet, but lions are a death fit for a true strongman. In some circles, Milo of Croton's name is synonymous with extraordinary strength to this day.