The astronomical sponsorship deals amassed by modern athletes are dwarfed by prize money earned by an illiterate Roman charioteer named Gaius Appuleius Diocles, according to University of Pennsylvania classical studies professor Peter Struck.
The star charioteer's fortune was recorded in a 2nd century inscription which declared that the racer had earned 35,863,120 sesterces (ancient Roman coins) in prize money. Diocles, who began his career at the age of 18, was born in Lusitania, in what is now Portugal and south-west Spain. He began racing with the Whites, later moved to the Greens and became a star with the Reds. “The drivers affiliated with teams supported by large businesses that invested heavily in training and upkeep of the horses and equipment,” said Struck.