'Greek Becks' lacked looks

August 13, 2004

A St Andrews University expert in ancient athletics has uncovered evidence of an Olympic hero from the second century AD, the David Beckham of his day in terms of his sporting success and celebrity.

Jason König, who is researching the history of sport in ancient Greece, has shed new light on a neglected Olympic winner, Marcus Aurelius Asklepiades, whose sporting triumphs were recorded in a series of inscribed stones in Rome.

Dr König has carried out the first in-depth analysis of Asklepiades, who was victorious at the Olympics in AD 181. He was honoured throughout the Roman Empire, and the stones record a career that saw him win every contest he entered before retiring aged 25.

"This athlete would have been a Mediterranean-wide celebrity, very much the David Beckham of his day," Dr König said.

But Dr König said that he was unlikely to have been much of a looker as Asklepiades competed in the pankration, a particularly brutal mixture of wrestling and boxing.

"Some of these characters looked pretty ugly," he said.

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