Saturday, November 12, 2022

Honoring Women Veterans: Telesilla of Argos, Plutarch, Virtutes Mulierum 245c-d

To the Veterans out there: Thank you for your service!

οὐδενὸς δ᾽ ἧττον ἔνδοξόν ἐστι τῶν κοινῇ διαπεπραγμένων γυναιξὶν ἔργων ὁ πρὸς Κλεομένη περὶ Ἄργους ἀγών, ὃν ἠγωνίσαντο, Τελεσίλλης τῆς ποιητρίας προτρεψαμένης. ταύτην δέ φασιν οἰκίας οὖσαν ἐνδόξου τῷ δὲ σώματι νοσηματικὴν εἰς θεοῦ πέμψαι περὶ ὑγιείας: καὶ χρησθὲν αὐτῇ Μούσας θεραπεύειν, πειθομένην τῷ1 θεῷ καὶ ἐπιθεμένην ἐν ᾠδῇ καὶ ἁρμονίᾳ τοῦ τε πάθους ἀπαλλαγῆναι ταχὺ καὶ θαυμάζεσθαι διὰ ποιητικὴν ὑπὸ τῶν γυναικῶν.

ἐπεὶ δὲ Κλεομένης ὁ βασιλεὺς τῶν Σπαρτιατῶν πολλοὺς ἀποκτείνας οὐ μήν, ὡς ἔνιοι μυθολογοῦσιν, ἑπτὰ καὶ ἑβδομήκοντα καὶ ἑπτακοσίους πρὸς ἑπτακισχιλίοις ἐβάδιζε πρὸς τὴν πόλιν, ὁρμὴ καὶ τόλμα δαιμόνιος παρέστη ταῖς ἀκμαζούσαις τῶν γυναικῶν ἀμύνεσθαι τοὺς πολεμίους ὑπὲρ τῆς πατρίδος. ἡγουμένης δὲ τῆς Τελεσίλλης, ὅπλα λαμβάνουσι καὶ παρ᾽ ἔπαλξιν ἱστάμεναι κύκλῳ τὰτείχη περιέστεψαν, ὥστε θαυμάζειν τοὺς πολεμίους.  τὸν μὲν οὖν Κλεομένη πολλῶν πεσόντων ἀπεκρούσαντο: τὸν δ᾽ ἕτερον βασιλέα Δημάρατον, ὡς Σωκράτης φησίν, ἐντὸς γενόμενον καὶ κατασχόντα τὸ Παμφυλιακὸν ἐξέωσαν, οὕτω δὲ τῆς πόλεως περιγενομένης, τὰς μὲν πεσούσας ἐν τῇ μάχῃ τῶν γυναικῶν ἐπὶ τῆς ὁδοῦ τῆς Ἀργείας ἔθαψαν, ταῖς δὲ σωθείσαις ὑπόμνημα τῆς ἀριστείας ἔδοσαν ἱδρύσασθαι τὸν Ἐνυάλιον


Inter res a feminis communiter gestas nulla nobiliior praelio est cum Cleomene ad Argos ab eis commisso Telesilla conciente poetria. Hanc ferunt illustri natam domo, cum valetudinaria esset deos de recipienda sanitate consuluisse: responso dato, ut Musas coleret, eae consilium secutam carminibus se et harmoniae dedisse: ita morbo cito levatam, et ob artem poeticam apud mulieres in honore fuisse. Cum autem Lacedaemoniorum rex Cleomenes multis necatis, non tamen, ut quidam fabulantur, septem millibus septingentis septuaginta septem, infestis signis urbem peteret: ardor & audacia incessit feminas aetate florentes incredibilis, ut adversus hostem pro patria propugnarent. Duce Telesilla arma capiunt, in pinnaculisque, stantes muros corona cingunt attonitis miraculo hostibus. Cleomenem multis amissis repellunt. Alterum regem, ut tradit Socrates, qui iam urbem evaserat, tenebatque, Pamphyliacum, Demaratum expellunt. Hac ratione cum conservata urbs esset: mulieres, quae pugnantes ceciderant, via Argiva humaverunt. Incolumibus concessum, ut virtutis monimentum Marti signum ponerent.


--Plutarch, Virtutes Mulierum, 245c - 245d; Translated into Latin by Hermannus Cruserius, 1580

There is no better example of women working on behalf of their community than what they did in defense of Argos against Cleomenes’ [assault], under the leadership of the poet Telesilla.

They say that Telesilla was born from a noble family, but was sent to the temple of the gods to cure her ill health. There she received a prophecy to worship the Muses, and so she obeyed the god’s command and studied poetry and song. She was healed of her illness and her art was the object of wonder among women.

When Cleomenes, the King of Sparta, killed a large amount of [Argive soldiers]—but not, as the rumor holds, 7,777 of them—he marched against the city with death on his mind. A bold wave of courage beset the young women, hoping to fight against the enemy in defense of their homeland. At the head of this counteroffensive was Telesilla, who took up weapons and, standing on the town’s battlements,  manned completely the circuit of defensive walls, and completely shocked the enemy by this sight.

They fended off Cleomenes’ attack, taking down many of his soldiers in the process. The other Spartan king, Demaratus, who according to Socates was able to broach the city walls and gain possession of the Pamphyliacum, was also routed.  And so they saved their city. The women who fell in battle were buried on the road into town, and the women veterans were granted a monument to Ares in honor of their valor.




Name:  Plutarch

Date:  46 – 119 CE

Works:  Parallel Lives



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



 Plutarch was a Greek author and Roman citizen who lived during the 1st century CE. He had minor governmental and religious administrative roles during his lifetime, but he is best known for his writings. He has numerous philosophical and historical works still extant, including the Parallel Lives, in which he compares the lives of a Roman and Greek statesman for moralistic purposes.


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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