Is There Evidence of Female Participation in the Ancient Olympic Games?

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History of Sport

Tutorial Paper 1: Women and Sport in the Ancient World

Is there evidence of female participation in the ancient Olympic Games?

According to the International Olympic Committee (IOC) there have been over 30,923 women participating in the modern Olympic Games over the period of 108 years since the first women participated at the 1900 Paris Olympic Games. At the latest Olympic Games held in Beijing, out of the 11,196 total athletes, 4,746 were women that were involved at the Games. Although female participation has grown, the number of female athletes is still less than half of those participating. Women are still fighting stereotypes that began with the Olympics in Ancient Greece where women were banned from watching and participating in the Ancient Olympic Games. Instead they fought back and held their own Olympic Games dedicated to the goddess Hera. [1]

Pausanias who was a Greek traveler and a geographer informs in his book of Elis that women were prohibited in watching the Olympic Games. [2] If women were caught entering the Olympic festival, their penalty was death by being thrown from a precipitous mountain with high rocks called Typaion. [3] Only one known married women called either Callipateira or Pherenike gain entrance to the Games. She was the daughter of Diagoras of Rhodes who was a famous boxer. As her husband was dead, she disguised herself as a gymnastic trainer and brought her son Pisirodos to Olympia to compete. Pisirodos was victorious and as excited as Callipateira was, she jumped over the enclosure in which they kept the trainer and enclosed herself which relieved her sex. The authorities let her go unpunished out of respect for her father, her brothers and her son, all of whom had won at the Olympic Games. For the future trainers, a law was passed that required them to strip before entering the arena. We don’t know whether Callipateira was the first mother to attend the Olympia but since she was discovered, she...
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