Jumping is one of the most natural and yet unnatural things you can do. It’s natural because people have been doing it for thousands of years as an effective and more fabulous way of getting around, unnatural because you’re escaping the single most enduring force in the entire universe with nothing but your thighs! With that in mind, Phayllus of Kroton was either a really good athlete or a magician, our money is on both. Though today he’s known for his incredibly jumping ability (which we’ll get to in a second) in his prime he was a pentathlete with moved so fast broken wrists were a known side effect from shaking his hand and a shattered pelvises was the only way of knowing you’d conceived his child.
Along with being an award-winning athlete with one of the single longest jumps ever recorded by a human being (seriously, we’ll get to it in a second), Phayllus was a bona-fide war hero. When he noticed that Persian @$$#()!%$ were metaphorically stepping on his turf and engaging his countrymen in a sea battle near the city of Salamis, Phayllus up and bought his own ship. Outfitting it with weapons, men, and supplies, he sailed the sea, turning Persian sailors into pink mist and hydra chow whenever he damn well felt like it. Phayllus’s war heroics were so impressive that when Alexander the Great, a guy who had the word “great” right there in his damn name, sacked the ever-loving crap out of Persia, he sent part of his bounty back to Kroton, purely out of respect for how much ass Phayllus kicked during the Persian war. Just read that again, Phayllus fought so hard that half a century later one of the finest military leaders the world has ever known sent his home town money to appease his ghost, that’s how scary this guy was.
Oh, and we like to point out that Phayllus was the only Greek who fought in the sea battle of Salamis and he funded his murder boat out of his own pocket. This guy was wealthy enough to fund his own Persian waterborne safari and rather than sit back and watch the carnage in comfort surrounded by solid gold, he leapt into the fray himself and shot everyone he could. Along with his military prowess, Phayllus could also leap over 50 feet through the air. That has to be hyperbole, right? This guy could literally propel his body far enough through the air to clear an entire street? Apparently so, because Phayllus’s record-breaking jump is one of the only ones from antiquity to ever be recorded. Presumably because after seeing a man fly through the air the people of the time thought “Holy $#!+, we better record this so someone actually believes us.”
Phayllus’s incredibly, almost unbelievable jumping ability is down to his use of halteres, a kind of ancient dumbbell that could add feet to a jump. Just so everyone is clear, halteres could weigh anywhere between 7 and 35 kilos, each! If you’re wondering how carrying the equivalent of a very fat child in each hand helped you jump further, the answer is, physics, son. Now very little is known about how the ancient Greeks liked to jump, however, Phayllus’s recorded jump would suggest that they jumped multiple times, since 50 feet in a single jump is crazy even by history’s standards. Meaning that Phayllus likely did a triple jump, which, by today’s standards, is, well, not that great. However, unlike today’s, lesser athletes who get a run up, Phayllus performed his jump from a standing position. Meaning he jumped just 10 feet shy of the current world record, standing completely still.
But this is where things get even cooler, Phayllus’s jump was so amazing he jumped over the skamma (sandpit) set out for him and broke his freaking leg. Imagine if an athlete did that today? Phayllus jumped so far he leapt further than people even thought possible at the time and broke his leg doing it. At this point we’re suspecting his leg didn’t break and that his shin bones just tried to leap out of his body because they wanted to go further. This means that Phayllus, along with being a war hero, a pentathlete and ghost feared by Alexander the Great, was also the owner of legs that had to break themselves to stop the world knowing that he was gravity’s arch-nemesis. Again, just so we’re sure you read it correctly, Phayllus jumped so far HE BROKE HIS OWN LEG!
Karl Smallwood is a freelance comedy writer that you can hire! His work has been featured on Cracked.com, Toptenz.net and Gunaxin.com 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. Karl also documented The Most Hilarious Overreactions to Scary Movies. For a more politically motivated ass-kicking athlete, check out Karl’s article on how Abe Lincoln wrestled his way into the history books.