Recently archaeologists have done a bit of translating some ancient Latin. They made a startling discovery. Unfortunately The Pink Flamingo is not above using this fascinating moment of trivia as a way to exploit my (sigh) adoration of the late Charlton Heston who was a good Republican.
One Gaius Appuleius Diocles was the highest paid athlete who ever lived.
Who was Gaius Appuleius Diocles?
“…Gaius Appuleius Diocles was an ancient Hispano-Roman, a Lusitanian of the 2nd century CE, notable for racing chariots. At age 18, he began driving for the White team. After six years, at the age of 24, he switched to the Green team. After three years there, at age 27, he finally began driving for the Red team until his retirement at age 42. Records show that he won 1,462 out of the 4,257 four-horse races he competed in. His winnings reportedly totaled 36 million sesterces. Diocles’ career was unusually long—many a charioteer died quite young….”
Then the following information was discovered:
“…The immensely strong but illiterate athlete pocketed a cool 35,863,120 sesterces in prize money during his career – the same as £396million a year in today’s terms….
…Historian Peter Struck from the University of Pennsylvania uncovered the figures scrawled by his fellow charioteers on a monument to the sportsman in Rome earlier this year.
The tribute to Diocles upon his retirement in 146 AD read: ’42 years, 7 months, and 23 days. champion of all charioteers.’ It also listed in the currency of the day, sesterces, his total career prize money from the fierce races
Professor Struck, Associate Professor of Classical Studies, said: ‘The modern sporting spectacles we manage to stage—and on occasion be appalled by—pale by comparison to the common entertainments of Rome. ‘The Circus Maximus, the beating heart at the center of the empire, accommodated a quarter million people for weekly chariot races. ‘Drivers were drawn from the lower orders of society.They affiliated with teams supported by large businesses that invested heavily in training and upkeep of the horses and equipment.
‘The best drivers were made legends by poets who sung their exploits and graffiti artists who scrawled crude renderings of their faces on walls around the Mediterranean. They could also be made extraordinarily wealthy.’…”
“…The very best paid of these -in fact, the best paid athlete of all time—was a Lusitanian Spaniard named Gaius Appuleius Diocles, who had short stints with the Whites and Greens, before settling in for a long career with the Reds,’ Professor Struck wrote in historical magazine Laphams Quaterly. ‘Ovid recommended the reserve seating as a good place to pick up aristocratic women, and he advised letting your hand linger as you fluff her seat cushion.’
The racing equipment consisted of a leather helmet, shin guards, chest protector, a jersey, whip, and a curved knife—handy for cutting opponents who got too close or to cut themselves loose from entangling reins in case of a fall.
They adopted a Greek style of long curly hair protruding from under their helmets and festooned their horses’ manes with ribbons and jewels. Races started when the emperor dropped his napkin and a referee tried to keep order from horseback.
After seven savage laps, those who managed not to be upended or killed and finish in the top three took home prizes.
Professor Struck added: ‘Twenty-four years of winnings brought Diocles—likely an illiterate man whose signature move was the strong final dash—the staggering sum of 35,863,120 sesterces in prize money.
‘The figure is recorded in a monumental inscription erected in Rome by his fellow charioteers and admirers in 146, which hails him fulsomely on his retirement at the age of ”42 years, 7 months, and 23 days” as ”champion of all charioteers”.
‘His total take home amounted to five times the earnings of the highest paid provincial governors over a similar period—enough to provide grain for the entire city of Rome for one year, or to pay all the ordinary soldiers of the Roman Army at the height of its imperial reach for a fifth of a year.
By today’s 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. Even without his dalliances, it is doubtful Tiger could have matched it.’…”