16 Dramatic and Bizarre Ways People Died in Ancient Greece and the Hellenistic World

Copy of a third century BC statue depicting ancient Greek pankratists. Wikimedia

13. Arrichion Became Olympics Champion Despite Being Dead

The ancient Greek martial art of Pankration is seen as the forerunner of modern Mixed Martial Arts (MMA). It combined wrestling and boxing, and allowed almost everything, except biting and gouging, or going after the genitals. Arrichion of Phigalia had won the pankration championships in the 572 BC and 568 BC Olympics, and sought a threepeat in the 564 BC Olympiad.

He advanced through the early rounds, and worked his way until he reached the title fight. There, with age perhaps catching up with him and slowing him down, Arrichion got into trouble. His opponent outmaneuvered him, managed to get behind him, and with legs locked around the reigning champ’s torso and his heels digging into his groin, applied a chokehold.

Arrichion pretended to black out, tricking his opponent into relaxing a little. The wily title holder then snapped back into action, and snapped his opponent’s ankle while shaking and throwing him off with a convulsive heave. The sudden and excruciating pain induced Arrichion’s opponent into the Ancient Greek equivalent of tapping out, and he signaled his submission to the judges.

Unfortunately, by throwing off an opponent who still had him in a powerful chokehold, Arrichion ended up with a broken neck. However, since his opponent had conceded, the dead Arrichion was declared victor – perhaps the only time in Olympics history that a corpse was crowned a champion. He went the athletic ideal of “victory or death” one better, by gaining victory and death.