We're used to hearing about the millions of dollars earned by sportsmen like Tiger Woods, Kobe Bryant, Peyton Manning or Roger Federer. However, a report in the Daily Mail indicates that a charioteer in Ancient Rome makes them all look like pikers by comparison.
The highest paid sportsman of all time was a slave-turned-chariot racer from Ancient Rome who earned a staggering £9.42 billion [about US $15.13 billion], researchers have revealed.
Experts found details of Gaius Appuleius Diocles who was plucked from humble beginnings as a slave to become the a champion charioteer in second century Rome.
The immensely strong but illiterate athlete pocketed a cool 35,863,120 sesterces in prize money during his career - the same as £396 million [about US $636 million] a year in today's terms.
Historian Peter Struck from the University of Pennsylvania uncovered the figures scrawled by his fellow charioteers on a monument to the sportsman in Rome earlier this year.
. . .
Professor Struck, Associate Professor of Classical Studies, said: 'The modern sporting spectacles we manage to stage—and on occasion be appalled by—pale by comparison to the common entertainments of Rome.
'The Circus Maximus, the beating heart at the center of the empire, accommodated a quarter million people for weekly chariot races.
'Drivers were drawn from the lower orders of society.They affiliated with teams supported by large businesses that invested heavily in training and upkeep of the horses and equipment.
'The best drivers were made legends by poets who sung their exploits and graffiti artists who scrawled crude renderings of their faces on walls around the Mediterranean. They could also be made extraordinarily wealthy.'
. . .
The racing equipment consisted of a leather helmet, shin guards, chest protector, a jersey, whip, and a curved knife—handy for cutting opponents who got too close or to cut themselves loose from entangling reins in case of a fall.
They adopted a Greek style of long curly hair protruding from under their helmets and festooned their horses’ manes with ribbons and jewels. Races started when the emperor dropped his napkin and a referee tried to keep order from horseback.
After seven savage laps, those who managed not to be upended or killed and finish in the top three took home prizes.
Professor Struck added: 'Twenty-four years of winnings brought Diocles — likely an illiterate man whose signature move was the strong final dash — the staggering sum of 35,863,120 sesterces in prize money.
'The figure is recorded in a monumental inscription erected in Rome by his fellow charioteers and admirers in 146, which hails him fulsomely on his retirement at the age of ''42 years, 7 months, and 23 days'' as ''champion of all charioteers''.
'His total take home amounted to five times the earnings of the highest paid provincial governors over a similar period—enough to provide grain for the entire city of Rome for one year, or to pay all the ordinary soldiers of the Roman Army at the height of its imperial reach for a fifth of a year.
'By today’s standards that last figure, assuming the apt comparison is what it takes to pay the wages of the American armed forces for the same period, would cash out to about $15 billion. Even without his dalliances, it is doubtful Tiger [Woods] could have matched it.'
There's more at the link.
OK, I have to admit it: my mind is truly boggled by that sum! I wonder who inherited whatever was left of it when he died? That's enough to make any government - particularly an avaricious Emperor with an Empire to pay for - very sticky-fingered indeed!