Athletes of Antiquity: Eupolus of Thessaly

by Karl Smallwood

Cheating is looked down upon in sports–that is, unless you cheat hard enough to make it into history books, an action known in the sports world as, “Lance Armstrong-ing.” Eupolus wasn’t just a cheater though, he’s the first ever cheater in recorded Olympic history. Considering he cheated in a time when doing so was punishable by flogging and/or a lightning bolt hurled by Zeus, we think Eupolus deserves his place in history, even if it’s infamous.Cheating is one of those things that causes people a huge division in opinion, some people hate it and think the cheater should be punished, others think that the cheater should be forced to compete on all of the drugs until they learn their lesson the hard way.

Eupolus was a boxer who competed in the 98th Olympiad, but we’re using the word competed in the loosest possible sense here, since rather than trying to punch people in the face until they collapsed like an honorable warrior would, Eupolus decided to screw that noise and instead bribed all the other boxers to take a dive.

We should point out that boxing back in those days was a ridiculously brutal affair, where Queensbury rules were thrown out of the window and then beaten with sticks. Boxers would fight either bare-knuckled or with coarse ropes tied around their fists and everything except stabbing your opponent in the neck with the physical manifestation of your hatred was legal. Oh, and fights could last all day.

How much money would it take for you to stand in front of a chiseled Greek man and have him punch you in the kidneys for all afternoon and then have your entire family call you a failure for the rest of your life? We’re guessing the answer to that is, a lot and we don’t blame you.

Which only causes more questions, if Eupolus had enough money to pay his opponents to dishonor themselves by letting him ineffectually wipe his fists against their ribs, surely he could afford enough money to hire a half-decent boxing trainer? The only answer we can think of is that Eupolus was a decent boxer, he just decided to study under the school of Batman and win his fights by throwing money at them until they went away. Which if we’re being honest, is a great tactic when the alternative is internal bleeding.

But here’s the thing: even though Eupolus was found out, his statues ripped down and his family forever cast in disrepute, we still know his name because he was the first guy to ever attempt to cheat the Olympics. (Unless somebody earlier got away with it, in which case he’s famous for being the first person dishonest and bad at what he does.) His opponents, on the other hand–who were by all rights good, honest boxers tempted away by money and Eupolus’s let-me-punch-your-liver argument–are rarely named in any literature.

Even after being found out, Eupolus had his name carved onto a bitchin’ statue of Zeus. Okay, so the statue was built using the fines levied against himself and his city he called home and he likely had garbage thrown at him every day for the rest of his life. But he got the one thing every Greek athlete competed for, fame. It doesn’t matter how good at boxing Eupolus was or how many people he screwed over on his way to the top, because his name is still in all the history books.

And you know what? When you have the balls to risk your entire reputation and the manly thighs and calves it takes to carry enough precious metal to bribe the most determined, proud people on Earth, you deserve to be remembered for them. If only to serve as an example to others. If you’re going to cheat, you either cheat to win or don’t cheat at all.

Dude, you've got a gorgeous girl on your arm -- show no fear.

Dude, you’ve got a gorgeous girl on your arm — show no fear.

Karl Smallwood is a freelance comedy writer that you can hire! His work has been featured on, and 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.

greatgama Athletes of Antiquity: Eupolus of Thessaly

Why, his mustache alone could best you in combat!

Karl also documented The Most Hilarious Overreactions to Scary Movies. For a more contemporary ass-kicking athlete, check out Karl’s account of the five-decades-and-counting winning streak enjoyed by The Great Gama.

More from Karl Smallwood

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