Michael Phelps made Olympic history by breaking an ancient, 2,168-year old Olympic record for 12 individual titles; the record was held by a Greek, Leonidas of Rhodes.
On Saturday, the U.S. swimmer, the most decorated in Olympic history, won his 22nd medal in the 2016 Rio Olympics, in the 4X100m. medley relay, bringing up his individual titles to 13, thus beating Leonidas of Rhodes and making Olympic Games history.
Leonidas of Rhodes had won 12 gold medals in athletics in the 164 BC, 160 BC, 156 BC and 152 BC Olympic Games in ancient Olympia. In each of these he won three different foot races. The three events were the stadion, a sprint of about 200m.; the diaulos, which was twice the distance of the stadion; and the longer hoplitodromos, a race where the runners were in armor and holding weapons.
The statistics are confirmed in the Encyclopedia of the Modern Olympic Movement as well as the Olympic Victor Lists and Ancient Greek History.
In ancient Greece, an athlete who won three events at a single Olympiad was known as a triastes, or tripler. Leonidas was the only one of the seven known triastes to have achieved the honor more than once. “He had the speed of a God” was written on his statue on Rhodes.
The island of Rhodes had a tradition in strong athletes, with boxer Diagoras being one of the most famous.
Rhodes Mayor Fotis Hatzidiakos sent a congratulatory letter to the “Baltimore Bullet” – one of Phelps’ nicknames – along with an invitation to visit Rhodes, homeland of Leonidas of Rhodes, the man who was holding the Olympics record for 2,168 years before Phelps broke it.