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The highest paid athlete of all time

This post is also available in: Polish (polski)

A mosaic showing a chariot race. Discovered in Cyprus
A mosaic showing a chariot race. Discovered in Cyprus

Gaius Apuleius Diocles was born in 104 CE in the province of Lusitania, which is located in what is now southern Portugal and southwestern Spain. He was born a free man or a slave, most likely he was also illiterate. Little is known about his youth and a lack of reliable information about him, but he was the best-paid athlete in history.

Around the age of 18, he began his sports career as a professional coachman, he participated in chariot races at Circus Maximus – the largest and oldest circus of ancient Rome located in the eternal city. The first two years did not bring significant achievements, he won his first race at the age of 20. Initially, he appeared in the “white” team, after six years he moved to the “green”, and in 131 he joined the “red” team. During his – for those times – exceptionally long career he took part in 4,257 races in which he won 1462 times, in the second position he reached the finish line 862 times, and 567 times he took the third position. He ended his career at the age of 42, he drove in carts for 24 years, most often he raced in a quadriga, i.e. a cart with four horses, less often a two-horse chariot, he also sometimes drove six-horse carts. He was also the first coachman to win a seven-horse race.

Although his sports results were far from record-holders in this field – Pompey Musclosus won 3,559 wins, Scorpus won 2048 wins – Gaius Apuleius Diocles managed to earn the most and accumulate huge wealth. It amounted to 35 863 120 sestertii, which means 8 965 780 denarii. Getting such a fortune, although he was not the best in his discipline, enabled him to win in the highest premium races, in which he won 1064 times, of which the first races of the day enjoyed the greatest interest, and Diocles triumphed 110 times in them. To show how much money he managed to get, it should be mentioned that his fortune would be enough to supply all Rome’s inhabitants with grain for a year, or enough to pay a salary to all soldiers of the empire in “times of its greatest military power for 10 weeks.

According to Professor Peter Struck’s calculations from the University of Chicago, his fortune was worth $ 15 billion of modern US dollars, and his income in the form of about 1.5 million sestertii per year exceeded five times the income of the best-paid province governor. In 147 CE in Rome, chariot racing enthusiasts and the competitors themselves financed an inscription to celebrate the retirement of Gaius Apuleius Diocles, who was recognized by the supporters and his rivals as the champion of all charioteers. Among his horses are the names of those with whom he has won at least 100 races, and they are Cotynus, Galata, Lucidus, Pompeianus and Abigeius. Nowadays, he is considered the first athlete from Spain, he was devoted to the novel “El auriga de la Hispania”, which was published in 2004.

Author: Bartosz Kareciński
  • Najlepiej zarabiający sportowiec w historii, "Kopalnia Wiedzy"
  • Wikipedia

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