"He, though still a boy, but with the prowess of a man, he, where beauty and strength unite, Where does he come from? Who is he? Speak! You stand before the house of Zeus boasting of victories over what labors?
Eirenaios is my father, stranger, and my name is Ariston; both sides of my family come from Ionic Ephesos. I was crowned anephedros at Olympia in the boys' pankration having dusted off three opponents".

I trained at the gymnasium of my town, under the supervision of a gymnaste [trainer] named Kallias. I practiced wrestling, boxing and pankration, which is a combination of these two, and showed excellence in all of these games. My trainer supplemented my practice with lessons on the rules of participation and the qualities I needed to win at the Olympics.

I was taught about the rules of pankration: "the pankratiasts, my boy", my trainer used to say", practice a dangerous brand of wrestling. They have to endure black eyes which are not safe for the wrestler and learn special holds so if one falls can still win. They must be skillful in various ways of strangulation. They bend ankles, twist arms, throw punches and jump on their opponents. All practices are allowed in the pankration except for biting and gouging."

I was also taught about the virtues of a proper wrestler and boxer:
"The neck should be upright like that of a horse which is beautiful and knows it.
The shoulders should be drawn together and the tops of the shoulders should be erect.
A well-marked arm is good for wrestling. It must have broad veins starting from the neck, continuing to the throat, going down the shoulders and descending into the hands.
The straight back is beautiful, but the slightly curved [back] is more athletic, in order to adapt to the bending and forward-leaning posture of wrestling.
Sides which are flexible are adequate for both offensive and defensive wrestling.
Above all, the proper athlete should have endurance, courage and skill".

When the time for the Olympic festival was approaching, a spondoforos [messenger] from Olympia came to my town and announced that the games would be starting in two months. I decided to participate and compete in pankration paidon [for boys].

Fifty days before the festival, my trainer, Kallias, and I sailed from our hometown, Ephesos straight to Greece, in order to participate in the obligatory training exercises held in Elis.

We arrived at Elis early in the evening. It was a very hot day in the Sacred Month. Appoaching Olympia was an unforgettable experience. As we were going down to Olympia, the smell of the plane trees and the sound of the cicadas brought to my mind stories that I had heard about famous athletes who had won at Olympia. I remembered Milo from Kroton [6th century BC], who won six victories in the wrestling games at Olympia and who, according to people, carried his own statue into the Altis. I then thought of Theagenes, the son of Timosthenes of Thasos [5th century BC], who carried the statue of some god which stood in the agora, when he was nine years old. He later became a famous victor at pankration, winning a total of 1,400 victories.

Just before crossing the Alpheios river, we passed by Typaion, the famous high mountain which has very steep cliffs. It is here that the Eleans, according to their law, throw off any women who are discovered at the Olympic festival or even on the Olympia side of the Alpheios on the days which are forbidden to women.

Passing the Alpheios, we entered the sacred site of Olympia. The natural contours of the land formed the stadium in a simple, but ample glen, and the Alpheios river flowed by. All around it were olive tress with gray-green leaves curling like parsley. I was deeply moved visiting --for the first time of my life-- the famous temples of Zeus and Hera, and seeing the statues of the famous athletes stood in the sanctuary.

Then, we visited the town of Elis, already crowded by athletes who had gathered there to follow the official training rules of the Eleans and continue training. Upon arrival, the Elean Hellanodikai [judges] classified us into age groups. Then they told us: "If you have worked so as to be worthy of going to Olympia, if you have done nothing indolent nor ignoble, then take heart and march on; but those of you who have not trained may leave and go wherever you like."

For thirty days I trained along with other boys at the Square gymnasium in the town of Elis. It is here that we practiced wrestling. There were special rooms for oiling and rubbing our bodies. The rooms and open spaces were paved with mud, so that we would fall on a soft surface. Coated with mud made the opponent slippery and thus we needed more strength to hold on while he tried to slip away. Coated with dust helped us stop sweating and prevented our opponent from slipping away once caught.

There [at Olympia] I also met other athletes, famous for their victories. First I met Sostratos, a pankratiast from Sikyon, famous for his wrestling style. He won twelve victories at Isthmia and Nemea, three at Olympia, and two at Delphi. Then, I met Leontiskos, a wrestler from Messene on the Sicilian straits. He was crowned once at Delphi and twice at Olympia. His style was similar to that used by Sostratos in the pankration.

When the day of the festival came, we gathered in front of the statue of Zeus Horkios [of the Oath] to swear that we all had adhered strictly to our training for ten successive months. All athletes, along with our fathers, brothers and trainers, swore an oath on slices of the flesh of wild boars that we would do nothing evil against the Olympic games. Those who judged the ages of the boys also swore that they would judge fairly and would not take bribes. They also would guard in secrecy everything about the examinee.

During the day of the boys' competition, after arriving at the site, they classified us into pairs with the following system: a silver pitcher which was sacred to Zeus, was set out. Small kleroi [lots], about the size of beans, with inscriptions, were tossed into the pitcher. On each of a pair was inscribed an alpha [letter], on another pair a beta , on another a gamma, and so forth; two kleroi always had the same letter. Each of us came forward praying to Zeus, while putting his hands into the pitcher. One after another, we picked out the letters in the kleroi.

When we all had kleroi, the chief of one of the Hellanodikai came to us, --we were standing in a circle--, and inspected our kleroi. Then, he matched each of us who had the same letter. I picked up the gamma and had to fight with Polites from Karia.

I gazed at all of the cheering spectators and prepared myself for the most decisive contest of my life. The contest was long and hard, but I succeeded to beat my opponent fair, with virtue and courage. When I won this contest, I was then paired with all other winners of the other pairs and beat them all.

The crowd cheered, some were jumping up from their seats, some were waving their hands, others were slapping one another on the back, as the judge put the wreath of kotinos [wild olive] on my head. I graciously received the applause of the audience, being proud for making my city glorious and famous henceforth.

"I am heralded through all Asia, I am Ariston who was crowned with wild olive in the pankration, Whom Greece said was perfect when she saw me, though still a boy, with the arete of men, victorious with my blows.
A winner not by the luck of the kleros, but without a bye, I was hailed by Zeus and the Alpheios. I alone of seven boys had no rest from their tricks, but always paired I beat them all. Thus do I glorify my father Eirenaios, and my fatherland, Ephesos with immortal garlands".

Famous Victors | Victors timeline