Cynisca of Sparta
Cynisca of Sparta (b. c. 440 BCE) was a Spartan royal princess who became the first female Olympic champion. Defying the traditional role of women in ancient Greece, she competed in the Olympic Games alongside the men and won. Her triumph in Greek athletics became a symbol of inspiration for women of future generations and her legacy is still remembered today.
Ancient Greek Clothing
Ancient Greek clothing developed from the Minoan Civilization of Crete (2000-1450 BCE) through the Mycenean Civilization (1700-1100 BCE), Archaic Period (8th century to c. 480 BCE) and is most recognizable from the Classical Period (c. 480-323 BCE). The simplified fashion of the later periods recommended Greek garments to other cultures who adopted and used them widely.
Pherenike the Female Olympic Trainer
Pherenike (l. c. 388 BCE, also known as Kallipateira) was an athlete from Rhodes who, because she was a woman, could not compete in the Olympic Games and, as a married woman, was not allowed to even watch them. Defying these rules and risking the death penalty, she disguised herself as a man to train her son to win.
An acropolis is any citadel or complex built on a high hill. The name derives from the Greek akro, "high" or "extreme/extremity" or "edge", and polis, "city", translated as "high city", "city on the edge" or "city in the air", the most famous being the Acropolis of Athens, Greece, built in the 5th century BCE.
Athens, Greece, with its famous Acropolis, has come to symbolize the whole of the country in the popular imagination, and not without cause. It not only has its iconic ruins and the famous port of Piraeus but, thanks to ancient writers, its history is better documented than most other ancient Greek city-states.
Temple of Athena Nike
The Temple of Athena Nike, on the southwest bastion of the Acropolis, is smaller than the other buildings behind it but no less impressive. It was completed in 420 BCE during the restoration of Athens after the Persian invasion of 480 BCE and was designed to greet those visiting Athena’s complex.
The Women of Athena's Cult
In ancient Athens, women had no life outside the home unless they were prostitutes or were engaged in religious activities such as festivals. Every Greek deity in every city-state had their own cult (sect) but the cult of Athena offered women positions of power and autonomy in a city-state that regularly denied them both.
Prostitution in Ancient Athens
Prostitution in ancient Athens was legal and regulated by the state. During the Greek Archaic Period (c. 800-479 BCE) brothels were instituted and taxed by the lawgiver Solon (l. c. 630 - c. 560 BCE), and this policy continued into the Classical Period (480-323 BCE). For many Athenian women, prostitution was the only way to make a living.
Satyrs (aka silens) are figures from Greek mythology who were followers of the god of wine Dionysos and who were often guilty of excessive sexual desires and overindulgence of wine. Men with a horse's tail and ears or men with goat legs, these shaggy and unruly creatures lived wild in the forests and symbolised the dangers of unrestraint.
Ganymede (pronounced GAH-nuh-meed) is a youth in Greek mythology who is abducted by Zeus because of his great beauty and brought to Mount Olympus to serve as cupbearer. The story first appears in Homer’s Iliad without any suggestion of a sexual connection, but Ganymede later became associated with male same-sex relationships and homoerotic passion.
Midas was a mythical king of Phrygia in Asia Minor who was famous for his extraordinary ability to change anything he touched into gold. This gift was given to him by Dionysos in thanks for his hospitality to the wise satyr Silenus. Midas also judged Pan a greater musician than Apollo and so was given ass’s ears as a punishment.
Sacred Band of Thebes
The Sacred Band of Thebes was an elite unit of the Theban army comprised of 150 gay male couples totaling 300 men. They were formed under the leadership of Gorgidas but first achieved fame under the general Pelopidas. They remained invincible from 378-338 BCE when the entire troop fell together at the Battle of Chaeronea.
Agoge, the Spartan Education Program
The agoge was the ancient Spartan education program, which trained male youths in the art of war. The word means "raising" in the sense of raising livestock from youth toward a specific purpose. The program was first instituted by the lawgiver Lycurgus (l. 9th century BCE) and was integral to Sparta’s military strength and political power.
Spartan women had more rights and enjoyed greater autonomy than women in any other Greek city-state of the Classical Period (5th-4th centuries BCE). Women could inherit property, own land, make business transactions, and were better educated than women in ancient Greece in general. Unlike Athens, where women were considered second-class citizens, Spartan women were said to rule their men.
Sappho of Lesbos
Sappho of Lesbos (l. c. 620-570 BCE) was a lyric poet whose work was so popular in ancient Greece that she was honored in statuary, coinage, and pottery centuries after her death. Little remains of her work, and these fragments suggest she was gay. Her name inspired the terms 'sapphic' and 'lesbian', both referencing female same-sex relationships.
Hellenistic & Roman Agora of Athens
Pericles’ agora of Athens flourished under Macedonian control. After Macedon was defeated by Rome, the Romans added to the district even before Greece was taken as a province and more so afterwards. The Roman version of the agora continued as the jewel of Athens until it was destroyed by invasions in the 3rd and 4th centuries CE.