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Greek Women and Athletics
Female Recreation
Women as Entertainment
Women as Athletic Benefactors
Women as Athletic Prizes
Women as Spectators?
Women as Participants/Athletes
Female Recreation
Athenian Attitude toward Women
“To a woman not to show more weakness
than is natural to her sex is a great glory,
and not to be talked about for good or for
evil among men.”
From Pericles’ Funeral Oration in
Thucydides’ History. II.VI.
Red-figure amphora by Andokides Painter, c. 520 B.C. Paris. Louvre
Women as Entertainment for Men
Women as Athletic Benefactors
• Goddesses as Sponsors
• Wealthy Women as Supporters of Athletics
Goddesses and Sports
Artemis at Brauron in Attica
Hera at Olympia
Tatia
CIG XVII, 3953c from Asia Minor (Turkey)
The council and the people and the senate honored
Tatia, who was the daughter of Glykon, who was
the son of Glykon, who twice received the honor
of wearing a crown. He was the director of the
gymnasium and a priest of Herakles and head of
the council. They thought Tatia worthy of this
honor because she was a faithful wife, was
directress of the gymnasium, and was honorable
in all aspects of her life.
Tata
CIG 2820
The council and the people and the senate honored
with highest honors Tata, daughter of Diodoros,
who was himself the true son of Diodoros, who
was born the son of Leon. She was the virtuous
priestess of Hera all her life, mother of her city,
who became the wife and remained the wife of
Attalos, son of the Pyptheos who received the
honor of wearing the crown. She herself came
from a leading family, one that was illustrious.
When she was priestess of the emperor Augustus
for the second time, she twice supplied flasks of
oil for the baths in great abundance and great
expense, even through most of the night.
Women as Athletic Prizes
WAR PRIZES
In Funeral Games of Patroklos (See Arete #1)
SUITOR CONTESTS
Chariot Race of Pelops
Running Race of Atalanta
Wrestling Match of Peleus and Thetis
Chariot
Race of
Pelops
Detail
from an
Athenian
red-figure
clay vase,
about 410
BC.
Arezzo,
Museo
Nazionale
Archeolo
gico 1460
Guido Reni. Atalanta and Hippomenes. c. 1612
Oil on canvas, 206 x 297 cm. Museo del Prado, Madrid
Peleus and Thetis
Volute Krater, 4th cent. B.C.
Villa Guilia, Roma
Women as Spectators
•Priestess of Demeter (Arete #97/150)
Story of Kallipateira
(Arete #111/170 #96/149)
On Diagoras of Rhodes, see also Arete 248 (Pindar Olympian 7).
Women as Athletes
• in Myth (Atalanta and Thetis)
• in Reality (Kyniska et al.)
Atalanta as Wrestler
Atalanta as Runner
Thetis as Wrestler
•Staatliche Museen zu Berlin - Preussischer Kulturbesitz, Berlin,
106, Detail of interior (tondo), ca. 500, Signed by Peithinos, inv.
no. F 2279
On Kyniska see Arete #98a-c)
Women Athletes at Delphi
• See Arete #106/162
Tryphosa and Hedea, daughters of
Hermiesianax
Dorian or Spartan Women
Known as phainomerides or
“thigh showers”
Euripides’ stereotypical image
of Spartan women: Arete 154
Plutarch, Life of Lycurgus
(see next two slides)
In order to the good education of their youth (which, as I said before, he thought the most important and
noblest work of a lawgiver), he went so far back as to take into consideration their very conception and birth, by
regulating their marriages. For Aristotle is wrong in saying, that, after he had tried all ways to reduce the
women to more modesty and sobriety, he was at last forced to leave them as they were, because that in the
absence of their husbands, who spent the best part of their lives in the wars, their wives, whom they were
obliged to leave absolute mistresses at home, took great liberties and assumed the superiority; and were
treated with overmuch respect and called by the title of lady or queen. The truth is, he took in their case, also,
all the care that was possible; he ordered the maidens to exercise themselves with wrestling, running,
throwing, the quoit, and casting the dart, to the end that the fruit they conceived might, in strong and healthy
bodies, take firmer root and find better growth, and withal that they, with this greater vigour, might be the
more able to undergo the pains of child-bearing. And to the end he might take away their overgreat tenderness
and fear of exposure to the air, and all acquired womanishness, he ordered that the young women should go
naked in the processions, as well as the young men, and dance, too, in that condition, at certain solemn feasts,
singing certain songs, whilst the young men stood around, seeing and hearing them. On these occasions they
now and then made, by jests, a befitting reflection upon those who had misbehaved themselves in the wars;
and again sang encomiums upon those who had done any gallant action, and by these means inspired the
younger sort with an emulation of their glory. Those that were thus commended went away proud, elated, and
gratified with their honour among the maidens; and those who were rallied were as sensibly touched with it as
if they had been formally reprimanded; and so much the more, because the kings and the elders, as well as the
rest of the city, saw and heard all that passed. Nor was there anything shameful in this nakedness of the young
women; modesty attended them, and all wantonness was excluded. It taught them simplicity and a care for
good health, and gave them some taste of higher feelings, admitted as they thus were to the field of noble
action and glory. Hence it was natural for them to think and speak as Gorgo, for example, the wife of Leonidas,
is said to have done, when some foreign lady, as it would seem, told her that the women of Lacedaemon were
the only women in the world who could rule men; "With good reason," she said, "for we are the only women
who bring forth men."
These public processions of the maidens, and their appearing naked in their exercises and
dancings, were incitements to marriage, operating upon the young with the rigour and
certainty, as Plato says, of love, if not of mathematics. But besides all this, to promote it yet
more effectually, those who continued bachelors were in a degree disfranchised by law; for
they were excluded from the sight those public processions in which the young men and
maidens danced naked, and, in winter-time, the officers compelled them to march naked
themselves round the marketplace, singing as they went a certain song to their own disgrace,
that they justly suffered this punishment for disobeying the laws. Moreover, they were denied
that respect and observance which the younger men paid their elders; and no man, for
example, found fault with what was said to Dercyllidas, though so eminent a commander;
upon whose approach one day, a young man, instead of rising, retained his seat, remarking,
"No child of yours will make room for me."
Phainomerides: “thigh shower.”
Used pejoratively of women of loose
morals.
Athenian Idealization of Spartan
Woman
Plato’s Laws: Arete #105
Image from a Corinthian Aryballos from the Apollo Temple in Corinth, first quarter
of the sixth century BC. Text includes the names of Polyterpos and Pyrrhias
Bibasis, a Spartan dance, "The dance consisted in
springing rapidly from the ground, and striking the feet
behind...The number of successful strokes was counted,
and the most skilful received prizes. We are told by a
verse which has been preserved by Pollux (iv.102), that
a Laconian girl had danced the bibasis a thousand
times, which was more than had ever been done before "
William Smith , A Dictionary of Greek and Roman
Antiquities, John Murray, London, 1875.
ARISTOPHANES
Lysistrata Good day, Lampito, dear friend
from Lacedaemon. How well and handsome
you look! what a rosy complexion! and how
strong you seem; why, you could strangle a bull
surely!
Lampito Yes, indeed, I really think I could. 'Tis
because I do gymnastics and practise the kick
dance.
Calonicé And what superb bosoms!
Religious Festivals for Women
• Heraia at Olympia (Arete #158)
• Brauron in Attica
The Heraia
ARETE #103/158
Heraia
(Arete #103/158)
•
•
•
•
•
Celebrated every four years
Footrace only
Three age-groups
Shortened track (158 m)
Run by “Sixteen Women”

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