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Ladies of the Ancient World

In every epic hero and brooding philosopher’s life, there is a woman somewhere in the background or directly by their side , whether it’s a cherished love of their life, faithful companion, or adoring mother. In this article, we will introduce some of the ladies of the ancient world , some with the blood of kings flowing through their veins and others who were simply goddesses in their own right.

Cynisca of Sparta

When it comes to the Olympics held during ancient times, usually it’s the men that receive a great deal of attention. We rarely hear about the women who participated. Enter Cynisca of Sparta, who was the daughter of the Eurypontid king of Sparta, Archidamus (~ 469-427), as well as the sister of Agesilaus (who took hold of the throne from around 399 to 360. Cynisca earned a name for herself despite the barriers that women faced when it came to the Olympics.

During these days, women were not allowed to attend the main stadium found in Olympia, which offers the running events and combat sporting events. However, she was not barred from entering her 4-horse chariot teams under the equestrian category. On two occasions, she entered horse teams under the condiiton that she did not actively participate. She ended up winning, especially with noteworthy wins in 396 and 392. Because of this, a commemorative plaque was created to celebrate her wins.

Telesilla Of Argos

Who would have thought that a woman would be celebrated for not only her way with words, but also for her bravery? During a time when the Argives were recognized as the best of the Greek culture for their music, Telesilla followed in their footsteps by becoming a resident of Argos that claimed numerous admirers of her work.

Sadly, only one fragment of Telesilla’s writing has survived the test of time. Over the years, three single word quotes and a couple of other references have also been passed down. For us, this means that we have to rely on documented acclaim for her work and do not have actual proof of the quality of her writing. The subject of her writing is believed to have centered on mythological themes, but there is some evidence that martial poetry was also one of her genres.

By taking a look at a stele that represents Telesilla as a composer of songs, you can’t help but to notice the honor of having being placed in front of a seated statue of Aphrodite. This statue is positioned close to the theater of Argos. You’re probably wondering why Telesilla was recognized as a warrior of her time. Could it have been that when the Spartan Cleomenes bested the Argive army, it was Telesilla who is believed to have given arms to the Argive women. There is a tale that says when the Spartans caught sight of their enemy, they actually retreated because they feared they would lose and it would have been shameful to lose to women. This account has been debated upon. There is also a tale that sees Telesilla revving up the army with her poetry.