Arrichion Of Phigalia The Wrestler Who Died Winning The Olympics


*Note- Arrichion has different spelling such as Arrachion and Arrhachion we have used Arrichion because it was the most consistent throughout sources.

Throughout the history of the ancient Olympic Games there have been some crazy stories. None of them however are as crazy as the story of Arrichion of Phigalia, the wrestler who died winning the Olympics.

Arrichion was a two time champion at the Olympics winning at the 52 and 53rd Olympiads in 572 BC and 568 BC.

The Temple of Zeus ruins in ancient Olympia, Peloponnes, Greece / Deposit

He would be competing in the art of pankration which was essentially mixed martial arts in todays terms. So this would mean that maneuvers such as kicking, submission holds, chokes, boxing, and wrestling would be of the things that were allowed.

Arrichion would go on to defend his crown at the 54th Olympiad seeking a third Olympic victory. Whilst fighting against his opponent (unnamed) he would find himself in a compromised position in a choke hold where most people would simply signal for submission.

While in the position instead of submitting Arrichion would kick his opponent dislocating his foot and causing him to signal for submission winning Arrichion the match. However in the process of this having his neck locked up the sudden movement would end up snapping his neck and killing him instantly.

*Some sources also claim that the cause of Arrichion’s death may have been due to suffocation or possibly cardiac arrest due to his age at the time (also unknown). However most agree on the broken neck.

This event was described by the geographers Pausanias who was a Greek traveler of the second century AD and Philostratus of Lemnos who was a Greek sophist of the imperial period.

“The latter got a grip first, and held Arrichion, hugging him with his legs, and at the same time he squeezed his neck with his hands.”

That sort of depicts a rear naked choke to an extend which is something you see a lot in MMA today and makes up for a good portion of submissions.

“Arrichion dislocated his opponents toe, but expired owing to suffocation; but he who suffocated Arrichion was forced to give in at the same time because of the pain in his toe”

Arrichion’s corpse was crowned the victor of the match due to his submission over his opponent which till today stands as one of the craziest stories of pankration in ancient Greece.

During the match while stuck in the hold his trainer would shout to him “What a fine funeral if you do not submit at the Olympia” – Philostratus

This would also be compared with the idea of “Victory or Death” which it was compared to by Philostratus himself as well.

Claiming the win at the 54th Olympiad along with his third Olympic victory it would secure Arrichion a spot amongst the other legends of the sport. By many Arrichion is also claimed as the most famous pankrationist of all time.

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Akil Murugan
Akil Murugan
Senior Editor for Heavyweight Nation

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