Milo of Croton – Monday 4 January 2016

Milo of Croton – Monday 4 January 2016

If the legend is to be believed Milo of Croton was a wrestler and all-round cool guy of significant regard who lived a triumphant but somewhat truncated life during the 6th-century BC.

Milo won six Olympic crowns, seven at the Pythian Games, ten at the Isthmian and nine at the Nemean Games; a kind of ancient ‘Grand Slam’ legend of the Panhellenic Athletics circuit. The dude could wrestle. According to stories of yore his winning streak ended because people stopped competing against him; rather like Usain Bolt jogging to Olympic Gold unopposed.

The most intriguing stories about Milo are, however, from outside the ring, or octagon, or mat, or whatever it is called. He was pals with Pythagoras, one of his best students, and even managed to convince Pythagoras to let him marry his daughter Myia. I think Pythagoras would be a cool father-in-law, if somewhat frustrating to play at Trivial Pursuit.

As a boy Milo was given a newborn calf as a pet. For some reason Milo carried the calf on his shoulders wherever he went, and as it grew so too did Milo. After four years the calf had grown to a full-size bull, presumably now weighing somewhere around 1000kg. Milo was still carrying this thing around, a feat which by now must have been impressive but somewhat lifestyle limiting. Anyway, one day Milo decided to slaughter, roast and devour the whole thing in one sitting. Apparently he achieved this feat with ease and asked to see the dessert menu; in the end he decided against dessert but the mere fact he was considering it was impressive. He did have a single shot espresso, decaf.

Milo of Croton just appeared to do things because he could. Once he was an Olympic legend the mid-level bureaucrats of the Grecian Olympic Committee honoured Milo by casting his likeness in a bronze statue. Milo decided to carry the statue of himself into the Stadium of Olympia on his back. Why did he do this? It must have been incredibly heavy and awkward to lift. Slaves were plentiful and many such statues had previously been erected in the Stadium with little fuss. Just doing stuff because he could.

Once he tied a leather band tightly around his head and then burst it by inhaling air quickly, causing his temple veins to swell. His daily diet consisted of 9 kilos of meat, 9 kilos of bread and 10 litres of wine. Why? Even a large wrestling man like Milo could not possibly require such a gluttonous feast every day. Strong dude, lots of time on his hands, just doing stuff.

The story which captures this aspect of ancient wrestler Milo’s personality most saliently however is the story of his demise. It would appear Milo was walking through the woods one afternoon when he saw a rather large tree trunk, partially split by ancient lumberjacks, but not completely severed. Milo, wishing to test his strength, reached his arm into the split in the trunk and tried to rip it asunder. Unfortunately Milo’s estimation of his strength was over-ambitious and his arm was instead wedged in the trunk. Some opportunistic wolves leapt out of the forest and devoured him, and that was that. The key part of this tale is that he was alone; nobody was there to witness Milo’s test of strength.

Milo didn’t eat his childhood pal the bull to impress Myia, Milo didn’t burst the leather band off his temples at a frat party to impress the Delta Kappa Gammas, Milo didn’t eat 9 kilos of meat to compliment Pythagoras’ cooking on Christmas Eve (Europeans celebrate Christmas on the 24th). Milo pursued these ridiculous feats for himself. Doing stuff because he could.

Our son is named after Milo of Croton; although we can no longer remember whether we came up with the name before or after we learned about the ancient wrestling legend. We think Milo (our son) came second, but we can’t be sure. Actually, clearly the chocolate malted drink came first, then Milo of Croton, then Milo of Sydney.

His voracious appetite aside, Milo has recently started exhibiting some very Croton-esque habits; doing stuff because he can.

Milo stands on one leg in the bath. Why? It is incredibly dangerous and not conducive to cleansing himself.

Milo shimmies under his ball pit and hoists it like a Kazakh weightlifter; a perfect dead lift which sends all the balls tumbling down the stairs like an emptying apple truck. He then directs me to retrieve the balls with an emotionless gesture of his hand.

Milo walks on his tip-toes backwards.

Milo carries his ride-on fire engine around in front of him, in a very awkward fashion which only uses his deltoids and triceps; like a mini upright row. He powers it up stairs two at a time, grunting and panting as he goes. This is a very slow process but he is in no hurry. When he reaches the top he sends it crashing back to the bottom where he retrieves it and begins again.

Milo does the same with his ride-on lady beetle and his wooden ball-trolley. Often times the ball-trolley is balanced atop the lady beetle before he attempts to lift the whole pile together. Why? Just read a book or play quietly with your Captain Planet figurines. Just doing stuff because he can.

In the last week Milo has also begun to exhibit behaviour that may suggest he has an innate desire to wrestle. I don’t know quite how it started but Milo rather enjoys me pushing him over.

Now that I have written this down it doesn’t sound great, but it’s true. Milo will sidle up to me, get down on his haunches and begin to giggle before I have even begun. But as I gently nudge him off balance Milo bursts into fits of laughter which continue as I roll and shove him back onto the ground; by his hips, shoulders and forehead. If I pause my nudging Milo will immediately deliver his phrase ‘moremore’ which is a ubiquitous signal for ‘keep doing what you are doing or keep feeding me whatever that delicious food/ beverage was’. If ‘moremore’ does not do the trick Milo will simply pretend to fall over himself, laughing just as energetically, hoping that I will follow him and continue the shoving. It’s pretty weird, adorable, but weird, and I think can only be fully explained if the legend of Crotonian Milo is understood.

If Milo begins to carry either of our cats Huckleberry or Suu Kyi around on his shoulders, we may be in trouble.

Crotonian strength

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