Aegean villagers mistook Greek boxer's tomb for Islamic holy site, archaeologists discover

For decades, villagers in the Turgut area on Turkey’s Aegean coast offered their prayers and even sacrifices at the ancient, pyramid shaped structure nestled among the olive groves on the hillside overlooking their settlement.

But what they believed to be the tomb of an Islamic saint turned out to be a mausoleum built for a famous Greek boxer called Diagoras in the third century BC, archaeologists have discovered.

“I used to kiss the tomb”, one villager interviewed by Turkish national broadcaster TRT said. “People would sacrifice chickens or goats for their prayers to be answered”, she said.

The tomb had become a pilgrimage site for the Muslims who called it Çağbaba, believing it to be the resting place of a holy man.

People would pray at the tomb for rain to come, to be blessed with children or for their relatives to return safely from military service, the villager said.

However, doubts were raised about the belief that the tomb belonged to an Islamic figure in the 1970s, news site Greece High Definition said. Decades later, archaeologists have proven those doubts well founded.

The boxer for whom the mausoleum was built, Diagoras, was celebrated for his victories at multiple Olympic games and other contests during his life in the 5th century BC.

“The pictures of this boxer have been newly found. He had two sons, and they were boxers too. Diagoras won many prizes, and these have been found in many different temples”, TRT quoted archaeologist Raşit Öztürk as saying.

“He was a boxer who would draw applause from people when he walked the streets”, he said.