Among the athletes whose statues were to be seen at Olympia was Milo, a man of Croton, one of the Greek colonies in Italy. This man was remarkable for his great strength, and could carry very heavy weights. In order to develop his muscle and become strong, he had trained himself from a boy, and had practiced carrying burdens until he could lift more than any other man of his time.

We are told that he was so earnest in his efforts to become strong, that he daily carried a pet calf, gradually increasing the distance. As the calf grew larger, Milo became stronger, and his muscles became so powerful that he could carry the animal with ease when it became a fullsized ox.

To please his companions and show them what he could do, Milo once carried an ox for several miles, and then, feeling hungry, killed it with one blow of his fist, cooked it, and ate it all at a single meal. On another occasion, Milo was sitting with several companions in a rather tumbledown house. All at once he noticed that the roof was falling in. He stretched up his great arms, spread out his hands, and held the roof up until all his companions had run out of the house.

Milo’s hands were so strong that when he seized a chariot, even with one hand only, four horses could not make it stir until he let it go. Of course, Milo was very proud of his great strength, which, however, proved unlucky for him, and caused his death.

One day when he was very old, Milo wandered out alone into a forest where some woodcutters had been at work. The men had gone away, leaving their wedges in an unusually large tree trunk.

Milo, remembering his former strength, gazed for a moment at the tree, and then, feeling sure that he could easily pull it apart, he slipped his fingers into the crack. At his first effort the tree parted a little, and the wedges fell out; but the two halves, instead of splitting apart, suddenly came together again, and Milo found his hands held fast.

In vain he struggled, in vain he called. He could neither wrench himself free nor attract any one’s attention. Night came on, and soon the wild beasts of the forest began to creep out of their dens.

They found the captive athlete, and, springing upon him, tore him to pieces, for he could not defend himself, in spite of all his boasted strength.

From: H. A. Guerber, The Story of the Greeks; edited for this online publication, by ELLOPOS BLOG