Athletes' Stories

Melankomas of Caria

  • Boxer
  • Victor in the 207th Olympiad, 49 AD

Now since his was beauty of body, his was courage and a stout heart and, besides, self-control and the good fortune of never having been defeated, what man could be called happier than he? ... Dio Chrysostom, Discourses,  29.16

The boxer Melankomas was from Caria, a region of what the Greeks called Asia Minor and is now known as Turkey. Born to an outstanding father, Melankomas was known for his handsome body and good looks.

Tampa 86.92
Side B: seated athlete.
Photograph by Maria Daniels, courtesy of the Tampa Museum of Art.

This athlete, we are told, had a soul as brave as his body was beautiful. In an effort to prove his courage, Melankomas chose athletics, since this was the most honorable and most strenuous path open to him. Evidently some men believed that the training a soldier must endure is less difficult than that of an athlete, particularly that of a boxer.

Amazingly enough, Melankomas was undefeated throughout his career yet he never once hit an opponent or was hit by one.

Toledo 1963.28
Side A: athletic victor.
Photograph by Maria Daniels, courtesy of the Toledo Museum of Art.

His boxing style was to defend himself from the blows of the other boxer and avoid striking the other man. Invariably, the opponent would grow frustrated and lose his composure. This unique style won Melankomas much admiration for his strength and endurance. He could allegedly fight throughout the whole day, even in the summer, and he refused to strike his opponents even though he knew by doing so he would quickly end the match and secure an easy victory for himself.

No doubt his success was due in large part to his rigorous training. Melankomas exercised far more than the other atheletes. Indeed, one story relates that the boxer went for two straight days with his arms up, not once putting them down or resting.

Toledo 1955.42
Shoulder: athlete on far left.
Photograph by Maria Daniels, courtesy of the Toledo Museum of Art.

Unfortunately, Melankomas died at a young age. Always the eager competitor, the boxer, lying on his deathbed, asked a friend how many days of the athletic meet were left. He would not live to compete again. Even so, his name lives on for his remarkable boxing skills.

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