Monday, July 19, 2021

Challenging Gender Roles: One Proud Olympic Mama! Pausanias, Desc. Gr.

TRIGGER WARNING: forced gender reveal

In via quae Olympiam ducit cis Alpheum, Scillunte venienti, celsa crepidine praeruptus mons occurrit: Typaeum illum appellant. Hinc de saxo feminas deiicere Eleorum lex iubet, quae ad Olympicos ludos penetrasse deprehensae fuerint, vel quae omnino Alphaeum transmiserint, quibus est eis interdictum diebus. Non tamen deprehensam esse ullam perhibent praeter unam Callipatriam, quam alii Pherenicen nominant. Haec viro mortuo, cum virili ornatu exercitationum se magistrum simulans, Pisidorum filium in certamen deduxit: iamque eo vincente sepimentum id quo magistros seclusos habent, transiluit veste posita. Feminam tamen agnitam, omni crimine liberarunt. datum hoc ex iudicium aequitate, patris, fratrum, & filii gloriae, qui omnes ex Olympcis ludis victores abierant. Ex eo lege sancitum, ut nudati adessent ad ludicrum ipsi etiam magrstri.

κατὰ δὲ τὴν ἐς Ὀλυμπίαν ὁδόν, πρὶν ἢ διαβῆναι τὸν Ἀλφειόν, ἔστιν ὄρος ἐκ Σκιλλοῦντος ἐρχομένῳ πέτραις ὑψηλαῖς ἀπότομον: ὀνομάζεται δὲ Τυπαῖον τὸ ὄρος. κατὰ τούτου τὰς γυναῖκας Ἠλείοις ἐστὶν ὠθεῖν νόμος, ἢν φωραθῶσιν ἐς τὸν ἀγῶνα ἐλθοῦσαι τὸν Ὀλυμπικὸν ἢ καὶ ὅλως ἐν ταῖς ἀπειρημέναις σφίσιν ἡμέραις διαβᾶσαι τὸν Ἀλφειόν. οὐ μὴν οὐδὲ ἁλῶναι λέγουσιν οὐδεμίαν, ὅτι μὴ Καλλιπάτειραν μόνην: εἰσὶ δὲ οἳ τὴν αὐτὴν ταύτην Φερενίκην καὶ οὐ Καλλιπάτειραν καλοῦσιν.

 αὕτη προαποθανόντος αὐτῇ τοῦ ἀνδρός, ἐξεικάσασα αὑτὴν τὰ πάντα ἀνδρὶ γυμναστῇ, ἤγαγεν ἐς Ὀλυμπίαν τὸν υἱὸν μαχούμενον: νικῶντος δὲ τοῦ Πεισιρόδου, τὸ ἔρυμα ἐν ᾧ τοὺς γυμναστὰς ἔχουσιν ἀπειλημμένους, τοῦτο ὑπερπηδῶσα ἡ Καλλιπάτειρα ἐγυμνώθη. φωραθείσης δὲ ὅτι εἴη γυνή, ταύτην ἀφιᾶσιν ἀζήμιον καὶ τῷ πατρὶ καὶ ἀδελφοῖς αὐτῆς καὶ τῷ παιδὶ αἰδῶ νέμοντες—ὑπῆρχον δὴ ἅπασιν αὐτοῖς Ὀλυμπικαὶ νῖκαι—, ἐποίησαν δὲ νόμον ἐς τὸ ἔπειτα ἐπὶ τοῖς γυμνασταῖς γυμνοὺς σφᾶς ἐς τὸν ἀγῶνα ἐσέρχεσθαι.

--Pausanias, Description of Greece V.iv.7-8; Translated into Latin by Romulus Amaseus (1696)

On the road to Olympia, on your way to Scillus and before you cross the Alpheius, there is a really tall mountain with jagged rocks called Typaeon. According to the law of Elis, women who were caught at the Olympic Games on days when women were forbidden* (even women who were on the other side of the Alpheius) would be thrown from this mountain to their deaths**. But nobody was ever caught or punished, except Callipateira [although some say it was Pherenice, not Callipateira, who was caught].

The widow Callipateira dressed as a trainer and brought her son Pisirodus to Olympia to participate in the games. When he won, she leapt out of the dugout*** and her disguise was revealed. Outed as a woman, she nevertheless was freed of any charge out of respect to her father, her brothers, and her son (for all of them were Olympic victors). But they made the law that from then on, even the trainers had to be nude in the Olympics.

* Portions of the Olympic games were segregated by gender, but there were several documented women Olympic victors (including Cynisca and Bilistiche, both for chariot racing).  

**There are numerous examples of gender-exclusive rites in ancient Greek and Roman religion being profaned by intruders, including Alcibiades' intrusion of the Eleusinian Mysteries in 415 BCE and Clodius' intrusion of the Bona Dea Scandal in 62 BCE. 

*** A sectioned-off portion specifically for coaches and trainers



Name:  Pausanias

Date:  110 – 180 CE

Works:  Description of Greece



Region 1: Peninsular Italy; Region 2: Western Europe; Region 3: Western Coast of Africa; Region 4: Egypt and Eastern Mediterranean; Region 5: Greece and the Balkans



 Pausanias was a Greek writer who lived during the era of the “Five Good Emperors.” His work, the Description of Greece, is an important source for geographical, historical, archaeological, and cultural information about ancient Greece.


ARCHAIC: (through 6th c. BCE); GOLDEN AGE: (5th - 4th c. BCE); HELLENISTIC: (4th c. BCE - 1st c. BCE); ROMAN: (1st c. BCE - 4th c. CE); POST CONSTANTINOPLE: (4th c. CE - 8th c. CE); BYZANTINE: (post 8th c CE)

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