Ass-Kicking Athletes of Antiquity – Leonidas of Rhodes

by Karl Smallwood

If your first instinct was to immediately picture man-mountain Gerard Butler as King Leonidas in 300 upon reading the title of this piece, we don’t blame you. However, no, the Leonidas we’re about to tell you about is way more badass, because although King Leonidas arguably cemented his reputation as a stone pimp when he spat in the invisible face of death, Leonidas of Rhodes is so badass, death probably couldn’t even catch him.

This is due to the fact that Leonidas of Rhodes is noted as being the finest sprinter of all time, not of antiquity, not of his era, all freaking time. To put this in perspective Usain Bolt, the finest sprinter we have today is the unquestionable king of the 100 meter and 200 meter sprint event, Leonidas was the don of the Stade and Diaulos races. To clarify, a single stade was just under 200 meter and a Diaulos was 400, the hundred meter sprint just didn’t exist back then, you either rolled hard or not at all.

But there was another, third event that Leonidas was also dominant at, the so-called “race in armor” which involved a runner running in full hoplite gear (greaves, shield and helmet) which weighed in excess of 60 pounds and greatly obstructed a runner’s vision to the point if they got tunnel vision they had flashbacks to being born. Leonidas won these three events outright for four straight Olympiads. Oh and he won all three events on the same day.

For an idea of how hard that would be, imagine if immediately after his 100 meter sprint, Bolt was asked to run the exact same distance twice over again. Then after all that he was given a manhole cover, weighted pants and a lead bucket to wear on his head and asked to run it once again. Now imagine he did this at age 36.

By that age most sprinters knees have turned to powder, Linford Christie is the modern-day equivalent since he managed to become the 100-meter olympic champion at the ripe old age of 32, then again, he didn’t run the 400 meters an hour later with a garbage bag full of dumbbells thrown over his shoulder in a time when the average life expectancy was 28 years old. So we’re going to have to give this one to Leonidas. Suck it, Christie.

But remember earlier, when we said that Leonidas could out run the Reaper himself, we actually weren’t kidding, since despite Leonidas being one of the most famed runners in all of history, his date of death is incredibly hard to pin down. Seriously, if you search for it on Google it automatically removes the word “death” and even the almighty Google books turns up zilch for that search term.

Sure it’s easy to assume that his death simply wasn’t recorded, but this man was the triple Usain Bolt of his time. If he dropped dead, someone, somewhere should have noticed the distinct lack of sonic booms in their immediate vicinity. Then note that we said this guy lived almost a decade past his life expectancy while still being at the top of his game.

Though we have no formal proof, we think it’s safe to say that Leonidas is still, to this day running and the Grim Reaper is still trying to catch him, fueled only by the rage caused by the torrent of middle fingers Leonidas keeps throwing over his broad, rippling shoulders.

Also curious how you never see Leonidas and Mercury at the same time.

Also curious how you never see Leonidas and Hermes at the same time.

So the next time you’re watching athletics, spare a thought for the runner who ran so hard his momentum was great enough to tear his death right out of the freaking history books, leaving us lesser mortals to only guess at how a man who could sprint at his age in full armor actually succumbed to the bittersweet embrace of the grave…

…that is, if he ever died at all.

Roman entertainment was a lot like Silent Hill minus the reassuring ending.

Roman entertainment was a lot like Silent Hill minus the reassuring ending.

Karl Smallwood is a freelance comedy writer you can hire! His work has been featured on Cracked, Toptenz and Gunaxin. You should probably click those links to make sure he isn’t lying. He also runs his own website where he responds to the various pieces of hate-mail he’s gotten over the years, in fact, he got so much hate-mail that he wrote a book about it that you can buy on Amazon. When he isn’t writing, Karl also Tweets and uploads pictures of himself drinking on Facebook.

Figging sounds way scarier than any swear you could devise.

Figging sounds way scarier than any swear you could devise.

When you can’t run, you gotta fight, and Karl discovered Flamma, a badass gladiator who won his freedom four times and couldn’t be bothered to stop stabbing people to enjoy it. More recently, he watched Englishman James Figg tenderize rocks for practice. They’re all yours to enjoy in Ass-Kickers of Antiquity!

More from Karl Smallwood

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