Have Pro Athletes Always Been Well Paid?

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Golfer Rory McIlroy earned over $15 million in 2016, but may not come close to the fortune of ancient Roman charioteer Gaius Appuleius Diocles, who won the equivalent of $15 billion USD in prize money without modern sponsorships and marketing deals. Diocles won 1,462 out of 4,257 four-horse races and retired at age 42.

Golfer Rory McIlroy won more than $15 million USD in 2016, capping the season off with a victory in the Tour Championship and a $10 million USD bonus for taking the FedEx Cup. If he keeps up that pace for many years, he might come close to Circus Maximus charioteer Gaius Appuleius Diocles, who amassed a fortune of 35,863,120 sesterces in prize money — the equivalent of about $15 billion USD in today’s money, according to Peter Struck, a professor of classical studies at the University of Chicago.“His total take-home amounted to five times the earnings of the highest-paid provincial governors over a similar period,” Struck said.

A champion in a chariot:

The ancient Roman “champion of all charioteers” made his fortune without the sponsorship and marketing deals that fill the pockets of today’s pro athletes.
Diocles raced four-horse chariots, and he frequently came from behind to win. He retired at age 42 — an unusually long career in a sport where charioteers often died young.
Records show that Diocles won 1,462 out of the 4,257 four-horse races he competed in.

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