Adela,  Rome,  Western Europe

The Highest Paid Athlete of All Time

Gaius Appuleius Diocles

No I’m not talking about Tom Brady, Lionel Messi or Serena Williams I’m talking about Gaius Appuleius Diocles. Never heard of him? Well no one else really has either. So let’s get to know the wealthiest athlete of all time.

Diocles was born to a middle-class family in 104 AD Lusitania (now Portugal) and started racing as a teen. The area was known for stud farms which bred the best racehorses.

He raced for 24 years, which is a long time for a charioteer and he represented three of the four most famous chariot racing stables in Rome at the time, which were known by their racing colors: Reds, Whites, Blues, and Greens. Many of his wins took the form of a ‘come from behind’ crossing at the finish line at the very last possible moment.

He made his racing debut in Rome at the age of 18, in 122 AD with the racing stable known as the Whites, but he wouldn’t win a race until almost two years later. Diocles usually raced four-horse chariots, probably at Rome’s Circus Maximus. After six years, he switched to the Greens, during which time he sustained some kind of injury on the race-track; He then left the Greens after only 3 years, and raced 15 years for the Reds before retiring to the small but opulent town of Praeneste (small town in Italy) at the age of 42.

An ancient Roman inscription that was found is one of the only records of his existence and career. They show that in his 24 years of racing, he won 1,462 and placed second in almost all of the the remaining 1,438 races. He also broke several records . His publicity and very detailed track record remain an essential source for reconstruction of the conduct and techniques of Roman chariot racing. He is assumed to have died in or soon after 146 AD.

At the time of his retirement his total career earnings were 35,863,120 sesterces, as recorded in the Roman inscription CIL 6.10048. That’s enough money to pay the salaries of 29,885 Roman legionaries for a year during that time. Historical accounts state that Diocles earned 26,000 kilograms of raw gold by the time he retired. His net worth today would be close to 15 billion dollars.