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A History Of Strength & Muscle

Learn About Some Of The Most Famous Idols Of Strength & Muscle!

Posted by WelshFitnessFan - December 27th, 2016

Since the first hominids appeared on the face of the Earth, one thing has been evident. Those who are bigger, stronger and more powerful than everyone else have been held in everything from respect, to reverential praise to, in extreme circumstances, being worshipped as heroes. This is one of the reasons why Scott has been teaching people all over the world how to become healthier, fitter and stronger people. So let’s go all the way back to the beginning – a history of some of the world’s strongest and most powerful people who have been held in such reverence. This article will feature not only real people, but also fictional characters as well, because as it will be seen, it’s not just real people who have influenced those who wish to improve themselves. The list will be ordered by chronology and will be interspersed, where appropriate, with historical information.

80 million years ago: The earliest known primates appeared

33 million years ago: The first known hominoid appears

Around 4 million years ago: The first known homo genus appears

Around 350,000 years ago: The first known homo sapiens appears

8,910 BC: The city of Chemi Shanidar in modern day Iraq has a population of 150

7,800 BC: The city of Jericho in modern day Israel has a population of 3,000

3,000 BC: The city of Uruk in modern day Iraq has a population of 50,000


Samson (Born Approx. 2,831 BC. Died Approx. 2,810 BC)

Samson was born to the wife of Manoah in the town of Zorah during the time that the Israelite people were being disciplined by their Lord by handing them to the Philistine people from the neighbouring countries. When the news was given, in the form of an angel, there were certain requirements laid down for the child would live as a Nazirite. In ancient Israel, those wanting to be especially dedicated to God for a time could take a Nazarite vow, which included abstaining from wine and spirits, not cutting hair or shaving, and other requirements. This the wife agreed to, but Manoah who wasn’t there, but after praying for his own visitation was told the same information and so when the child was born, they both agreed to the request and named him Samson.

When he became a man, Samson left the hills of his people to see the cities of the Philistines. He fell in love with a Philistine woman from Timnah, whom he decided to marry, ignoring the objections of his parents, who were concerned because the Israelites were forbidden to marry gentiles, but per religious scholars, the intended marriage was part of God's plan to strike at the Philistines. Per the account of his life in the Bible, Samson was repeatedly seized by “the Spirit of the Lord” and when this happened, those were the times he demonstrated strength far more than normal men. The first time it happened was when Samson was on his way to ask for the Philistine woman's hand in marriage. On the way, he was attacked by a lion whereupon he simply grabbed it and ripped it apart, the spirit of God divinely empowering him. However, Samson kept it a secret, not even mentioning the miracle to his parents. He arrived at the Philistine's house and became betrothed to her. He returned home, then came back to Timnah sometime later for the wedding. On his way, Samson saw that bees had nested in the carcass of the lion and made honey, He ate a handful of the honey and gave some to his parents.

At the wedding feast, Samson told a riddle to his thirty groomsmen (all Philistines). If they could solve it, he would give them thirty pieces of fine linen and garments, but if they could not solve it, they would give him thirty pieces of fine linen and garments. The riddle was “Can sweetness come from power?” and with that he just sat back. It took the groomsmen four days to realise that they could not solve the problem and so having given him nine hundred pieces of linen, he gave them the answer explaining about the honey from the carcass of the lion. That instantly made the native people very suspicious of this stranger. They decided that he was a danger to their nation, and planned to capture him at any opportunity.

So, when they get word that he is going to Gaza, they decide to lie in wait at the gates of the city to ambush him. However, he tears the gate from its holdings and carries it to "the hill that is in front of Hebron". By this time, Samson is not married and has fallen in love with a woman called Delilah from the valley of Sorek and sensing a chink in his armour, the Philistines bribe her with an eleven hundred silver coin payment to try and discover the secret of his strength. He refused, but decided to string her along, stating that first his strength can be overcome if he is bound with fresh bowstrings, then says that in fact he needs to be bound with new ropes, then says that if his locks are woven into a weaver's loom. It is only after persistent nagging by Delilah that he admits the truth. So, that night, she gets a servant to cut off his locks and then woos him to sleep “in her lap”. Cue the Philistine soldiers and the once mighty Israelite is blinded, imprisoned and put to work grinding grain by turning a large millstone.

A few months later, the Philistine leaders assemble in a temple for a religious sacrifice to Dagon, one of their most important deities, for having delivered Samson into their hands and being the object of their ridicule, Samson is brought along. However, by now, his hair has grown back and lamenting what he has done, he begs forgiveness and seeks vengeance for his eyes. As the book of Judges, chapter sixteen, verses 28 – 30 relate: “Then he called to the Lord and said, “O Lord God, please remember me and please strengthen me just this time, O God, that I may at once be avenged of the Philistines for my two eyes.” Samson grasped the two middle pillars on which the house rested, and braced himself against them, the one with his right hand and the other with his left. And Samson said, “Let me die with the Philistines!” And he bent with all his might so that the house fell on the lords and all the people who were in it. So, the dead whom he killed at his death were more than those whom he killed in his life”

When news reaches his family, they recover his body from the rubble and bury him near the tomb of his father Manoah but his legend is secure and he serves as an inspiration for people seeking strength thereafter and for those who doubt the veracity of stories from the Bible, you might be interested to know that in 2013 a historical structure known as Maqam Neby or Sheikh Samat was identified as the tomb of Samson.

2,500 BC: The Egyptians divide the day into 24 hours

Hercules (Born 2,200 BC. Died Approx. 2,150 BC – Written About In 1,300 BC)

Hercules was, not exactly an unwanted child, but rather a child who complicated matters. You see, Zeus, the king of the Greek gods was rather a womanizer, and Hera, Zeus’s wife, hated him and all his offspring for it. So how does a God become a father? Simple, Zeus decided to visit Alcmene who was married to the Greek hero Amphitryon, but who was off fighting a war against someone, and disguising himself as her husband, well I think you can guess the rest. What slightly complicates matters is that after Zeus left, Amphitryon really did come back from the war, and so Alcmene became someone who had had a heteropaternal superfecundation (in laymen’s terms, two children from two different fathers, but born at the same time).

As you can imagine Hera was furious with Zeus, but did she take out her anger on her philandering husband? Of course not, this is Greece we are talking about, remember. She persuaded Zeus to swear an oath that the child born that night to a member of the House of Perseus would become High King. Zeus agreed to this which allowed Hera to enact part two of her plan. She hurried to Alcmene's dwelling and slowed the birth of the twins Hercules and Iphicles by forcing Ilithyia, goddess of childbirth, to sit cross-legged with her clothing tied in knots, thereby causing the twins to be trapped in the womb. Hera then caused Eurystheus to be born prematurely, making him High King in place of Hercules, but this final part of the plan was ruined when a servant of Alcmene lied to Ilithyia, saying that Alcmene had already delivered the baby. Upon hearing this, she jumped in surprise, loosening the knots and inadvertently allowing Alcmene to give birth to Hercules and Iphicles. Confused? Good, most Greek legends are like that.

So Hercules and Iphicles were born and Hera was determined to get rid of the demigod by any means necessary and that famously included sending two poisonous snakes to bite him, but old Herc’s reaction was entirely natural as he picked them up and started playing with them as if they were a pair of rattles. It was then that people noticed his strength, and after killing his music tutor Linus with a lyre (a type of ancient guitar) he was sent to tend cattle by his foster father as far away as possible (to ensure no more accidents). Thankfully no more accidents happened and Hercules grew up into a man, and yes, everything you have seen in the Disney cartoons and the movies of the 1950’s and 1960’s did happen as he became the most eligible bachelor ever to walk the planet, but he decided to marry Megara, the daughter of King Creon, and they settled down and had two delightful children and Hercules could enjoy life.

Hera, on the other hand, had flipped her lid, and in a fit of madness, induced by Hera, Hercules killed his children by Megara. After his madness, had been cured with hellebore by Antikyreus, the founder of Antikyra, he realized what he had done and fled to the Oracle of Delphi. Unbeknownst to him, the Oracle was guided by Hera. He was directed to serve King Eurystheus for ten years and perform any task Eurystheus required of him. Eurystheus decided to give Hercules ten labours, but after completing them, Hercules was cheated by Eurystheus when he added two more, resulting in the Twelve Labors of Hercules. And it is these labours that cemented Hercules’s status today. He did more than that, but one adventure proved to be his swansong.

Having wrestled and defeated Achelous, god of the Achelous river, Hercules takes Deianira as his wife. While travelling to Tiryns, a centaur named Nessus, offers to help Deianira across a fast-flowing river while Hercules swims it. However, Nessus is true to the archetype of the mischievous centaur and tries to steal Deianira away while Hercules is still in the water. Angry, Hercules shoots him with his arrows dipped in the poisonous blood of the Lernaean Hydra. Thinking of revenge, Nessus gives Deianira his blood-soaked tunic before he dies, telling her it will "excite the love of her husband”. Several years later, rumor tells Deianira that she has a rival for the love of Hercules. Deianira, remembering Nessus' words, gives Hercules the bloodstained shirt. Lichas, the herald, delivers the shirt to Hercules. However, it is still covered in the Hydra's blood from Hercules' arrows, and this poisons him, tearing his skin and exposing his bones. Before he dies, Hercules throws Lichas into the sea, thinking he was the one who poisoned him (according to several versions, Lichas turns to stone, becoming a rock standing in the sea, named for him). Hercules then uproots several trees and builds a funeral pyre on Mount Oeta, which Poeas, father of Philoctetes, lights. As his body burns, only his immortal side is left. Through Zeus' apotheosis, Hercules rises to Olympus as he dies where Hera finally relents and allows Zeus to place him in the stars where he can still be seen to this very day.

2,000 BC: Establishment of the Minoan civilization in the Aegean Sea

1,783 BC: The Middle Kingdom of Egypt falls

1,500 BC: Evidence of copper working in Africa


Conan The Barbarian (Born 1400BC. Died 1330 BC – Written 1932)

In all recorded history, there are some events that only need a single word name and you know precisely what they are on about. For instance, “Krakatoa" immediately brings up images of the “bang heard around the world” when in 1883 the volcano in Indonesia exploded with such violence that it created a tsunami that wiped out the region of Java. “Laki” conjures up “the year without a summer” caused by the almost nine-month eruption in Iceland in the late seventeenth century. The name “Santorini” is also up there, but only for those people with an interest in ancient history and the legends of Greece, because the eruption of that volcano led to the collapse of the Minoan civilization and more importantly led to the legend of Atlantis and it is the years after that event that the events of Conan’s life take place.

Life in the middle of the second millennium BC was exceptionally tough with battles here, there and everywhere, so when you hear that Conan was born on such a battlefield you get an immediate idea of how tough his life was. Thus, you had to grow up and fast, so it should come as no surprise to hear that by fifteen, he was already a respected warrior who had participated in the destruction of the Aquilonian outpost of Venarium. However, that poses a question, namely “I’ve enabled the destruction of an outpost of my enemies, what else can I do?” Conan goes wandering across these lands and, well, does all manner of things really, encountering skulking monsters, evil wizards, tavern wenches, and beautiful princesses (as you do!). He roamed throughout the lands of the Hyborian era (the name given to this period time time) as a thief, an outlaw, a mercenary and even a pirate. As he grew older, he began commanding larger units of men and escalating his ambitions so that by his forties, he seized the crown of the tyrannical king of Aquilonia (the most powerful kingdom of the time) having strangled the previous ruler on the steps of the throne. As you can see, Conan doesn’t stand for any nonsense. But what does this person look like?

When Robert E. Howard wrote the stories about Conan back in the 1930’s, it was a time when everything seemed possible. Even though he was writing about the past, Robert made sure that he could get his characters to be believable whilst at the same time unbelievable. So as a result, Conan was described as having “sullen”, “smoldering” and “volcanic” blue eyes with a black “square-cut mane”, a hairy chest, and covered by “whatever garb is typical for the land and culture” he happens to find himself in. Although no definitive measurements are given, we are told (via a letter to P. Schuyler Miller and John D. Clark in 1936, just a few months before Robert’s death) Conan stands six feet tall and weighs a hundred and eighty pounds at the battle where he earned his stripes (and how many teenagers do you know today who can claim to be that?).

We do get an idea of what he is like older, as when he was King of Aquilonia he was described as follows: “a tall man, mightily shouldered and deep of chest, with a massive corded neck and heavily muscled limbs. He was clad in silk and velvet, with the royal lions of Aquilonia worked in gold upon his rich jupon, and the crown of Aquilonia shone on his square-cut black mane; but the great sword at his side seemed more natural to him than the regal accoutrements. His brow was low and broad, his eyes a volcanic blue that smoldered as if with some inner fire. His dark, scarred, almost sinister face was that of a fighting-man, and his velvet garments could not conceal the hard, dangerous lines of his limb”.

Over the course of four years, Robert wrote twenty-four books about Conan, with three books published after his death and four unfinished with the most recent publication being in 1967. Therefore, it should be no massive surprise that when a very famous bodybuilder ended his competition career and decided to become an actor, Conan was his first role.


1,200 BC: The Hittite empire collapses

1,000 BC: Polynesian civilization develops in Fiji, Tonga and Samoa

750 BC: The Illiad by Homer is written


Milos Of Croton (Born Around 560 BC. Died 502 BC)

Milos was a right old Renaissance man. Despite being born some two millennia before the term had been coined, as he was a regular jack of all trades. He won the Olympic wrestling competition six times in a row between 540 and 520 BC (and according to the reports at the time, did so by lifting a calf onto his shoulders when he was a young lad and walking around the paddock so that as the calf grew into a bull, so Milos grew), he was a military commander, who according to the Greek chronicler Diodorus, “Milo the athlete led them (the Crotons) and through his tremendous physical strength first turned the troops lined up against him” There are also suggestions that he went into battle holding his Olympic crowns, draped in a lion skin in homage to Hercules. So, we know that he was strong in the wrestling ring, but how strong was he in everyday life? Pretty strong.

It is said Milo saved Pythagoras’s (of theorem fame) life when a pillar collapsed in a banquet hall and he supported the roof until Pythagoras could reach safety. It is also suggested that he carried his own bronze statue to its place at Olympia, as well as holding his arm outstretched and challengers were unable to bend his fingers plus if that was not enough, one report says the wrestler was able to hold a pomegranate without damaging it while challengers tried to pry his fingers from it. So, clearly, he was strong, and to be that strong you need to get lots of protein into you and I would like to think that with a daily diet of twenty pounds of meat and twenty pounds of bread he would have the right amount of protein and carbs as recommended by modern day trainers, however I am not quite sure what they would make of the eighteen pints of wine he had every day as well.

Perhaps that wine led in some way to his death, which when you look at it could be ranked as being pretty stupid. Whilst walking through a forest, he spotted a tree with a split in it and pondered if he could separate the tree using his strength. So, he placed his arms inside the split and pushed. However, that’s when things started to go wrong for Milo, as the split in question was so narrow he could get his arms into the split, but not in a position that allowed him maximum leverage and so he got stuck. So, when a pack of wolves wandered into the forest and found him completely unable to defend himself, well, you get the picture.

Despite this questionable end to his life, in the eighteenth century he was rediscovered and became rather the celebrity appearing in paintings by Meynier, Beniot and Barry, sculptures by Puget and Falconet, books written by Rabelais, getting a mention by Shakespeare in Troilus and Cressida when he refers to a “bull bearing Milo”, and even appears in Wuthering Heights when Catherine Earnshaw refers to the circumstances of Milo’s demise when she says, “Who is to separate us, pray? They’ll meet the fate of Milo”.


500 BC: The Hebrew nation develop the concept of the seven-day week

400 BC: Celtic settlements developed in Northern Italy

300 BC: Antioch, in the Middle East, founded by Selencus I

200 BC: Second Macedonian War erupts


Maciste (Born 122BC, Death Unknown – Written 1910)

Maciste is not a name that most people recognise these days, but in the early part of the 20th century (especially in Italy) he was a legend based in ancient Roman history. The first recorded reference to him was in Strabo's Geography which states “And in the middle, is the temple of the Macistian Heracles, and the river Acidon”. So, who was this Maciste? Well, in the late 19th century there was a large amount of discussion about this temple and who it was referring to. In 1858, there was a suggestion that it was an alias of Hercules, in 1864 along came the idea that it was a nickname and in the same year it was suggested that it was simply a statement of fact (i.e. that Hercules lived in the town of Macistus in Triphylia). Well, there’s nothing like public debate to fuel the imagination, and in 1910, Giovanni Pastrone, an Italian film director, wanted a name for his hero for the first feature film to be made in the country and so plumped for Maciste. Four years later, he made his debut in the movie “Cabiria”.

Cabiria was a story about a slave named Maciste (played by Bartolomeo Pagano) who was involved in the rescue of a Roman princess named Cabiria (played by Lidia Quaranta) from an evil Carthaginian king who plotted to sacrifice her to the cruel God Moloch. The film was based very loosely on Salammbo, a historical novel by Gustave Flaubert, and had a plot and screenplay by Gabriele D'Annunzio. Maciste's debut set the tone for his later adventures. Including Cabiria itself, there have been at least 52 movies featuring Maciste, 27 of them being pre-1927 silent films starring Bartolomeo Pagano and the other 25 being a series of sound/colour films produced in the early 1960s. Typical plots involve tyrannical rulers who practice vile magical rituals or worship evil Gods. Typically, the young lady who is the love interest runs afoul of the evil ruler. Maciste, who possesses superhuman strength, must rescue her.

There is often a rightful king who wants to overthrow the evil usurper, as well as a belly dance scene. There is often an evil queen who has carnal designs on the hero. These films were set in locales including Mongolia, Peru, Egypt, and the Roman Empire. In this that set up sounds familiar, that’s because it should because following the success of the “Hercules” movies starring Steve Reeves in the 1960’s, Maciste got a relaunch in 1961 and was played by all the best muscle on film at the time including Mark Forest, Gordon Scott, Reg Park, Gordon Mitchell, Reg Lewis, Kirk Morris, Samson Burke, Alan Steel, Richard Lloyd, Renato Rossini and Frank Gordon.


100 BC: The Etruscan civilization is in terminal decline


Obelix The Gaul (Born 85 BC. Died Unknown – Written 1961)

Obelix, the constant friend of Asterix, was a proud and fierce Gaulish warrior, living in the northern parts of France in the first century BC. When he was born, he was a large baby. He loved his food, just like his father, and perhaps because of that he was bullied a lot for his size which that made him very sensitive indeed. Thus, he didn’t like to fight and that made matters even worse. On one occasion the blacksmith’s son yelled “Obelix is a sissy” and instead of reacting he just walked away pulling his little toy dog behind him. If anyone came to his defence it was Asterix who retorted “You tease my friend, and you will have me to deal with!” From that moment on, the two became best friends. There was another problem that Obelix had to deal with and that was he wasn’t terribly bright, but Asterix took pity on him and helped him as best he could by asking small questions such as “Is two and two, more, less or the same as three and one?” to which the reply came, with a slight lisp, “Boars or Punishments?” So as you can imagine, his schooldays were not the happiest days of his life.

The days that were the happiest of his life where the days when the village ganged up on the Roman invaders and resisted the occupation of Gaul that had been proceeding since the accession of Caesar to the head of the empire. And how did these villagers do that? Well, you can thank the druid for that, he had a very clever trick up his sleeve, a potion, made from mistletoe, roots, herbs and on occasions strawberries that once drunk made any man ten times stronger. Just imagine that for a moment. The heaviest lift at the 2012 London Olympics was 455kg (1,001lbs) by Behdad Salimikordasiabi of Iran. If he had drunk this potion, he would have been able to lift 4,550kg (10,010lbs), so you can see that when it came to resistance, these Gauls were doing a large amount of it and at the end of every successful campaign, the villagers would hold a massive feast and all the children wished they could sit around that table.

One day, during a particularly massive punch up between the Gauls and the Romans, all the children were left on their own and so they decided to have their own punch up with Bionix declaring himself to be “the great leader, Vercingetorix”, as he was the biggest and strongest of all the children. At the same time he announced that Obelix would be “a large body of Romans”. Of course, Asterix objected but it was all in vain as the other kids all piled on top of Obelix. Asterix tried his best to defend him, but a few moments later Obelix was sitting on the ground with a black eye and a nosebleed and on the verge of tears. This was too much for Asterix and so he proposed an idea. Get Obelix to drink some of the potion that the druid had left in his hut to teach the other kids a lesson.

Obelix was very scared, but Asterix managed to persuade him and the two of them went to the hut. Now, when you are a small boy, a cauldron, even a normal sized one is massive, and so it took both of them to enable Obelix to reach the top of the cauldron but he managed to grab hold of the edge whilst Asterix kept a watch at the door. However, just then the druid, along with the rest of the villagers came back from their punch up and so Asterix whispered “Hide” and ran off from the hut. Sadly, he did it so suddenly that Obelix lost his balance and landed inside the cauldron.

A few moments later, the druid came running out of his hut, carrying Obelix now soaking wet exclaiming “I left a cauldron containing potion, and when I came back I found a small boy in my cauldron containing potion”. Obelix’s mother came running worrying about her son, but a quick examination by the druid showed that no harm had come to him, bar this. The potion had a permanent effect on him. He was now ten times stronger than any other villager, including Bionix, so the next time they played Romans, guess who the Romans were played by? And as he grew up, this difference continued, but with one side effect. Because he was so strong, it was impossible for him to get good exercise, so whilst his friend Asterix never grew to be more than 5 feet tall and weigh about a hundred pounds, Obelix grew to around 6 feet 5 inches tall and weigh close to three hundred pounds. Still on the good side, all that strength meant that he was the primary exporter of menhirs in Northern France in the first century BC, which may go some way to explain why there are so many that litter the countryside.

The story of Obelix and his best friend Asterix, was written by two French authors Goscinny and Udzero from the 1960’s onwards, first appearing in French magazines as comic strips and then as books. To date there have been 35 stories written about them featuring their travels to places such as England, Scotland, Spain, Switzerland and even North America with some of these stories being turned into animated and live action films but in all those stories, one rule abides. Never, under any circumstances, call Obelix fat!


46 BC: Julius Caesar appointed dictator of the Roman Empire

50 AD: The Roman conquest of Britain is complete

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