Augustana Observer

Augustana Observer

Augustana Observer

Power outage rocks campus
Power outage rocks campus
Jack BrandtSeptember 13, 2023

Letter to the Editor: Equality in history


To the Editor:
In his 9/26 column (“Gender Tough Subject in High School Athletics”), in order to demonstrate a historical pattern of gender inequity in sports, Daniel Hamilton stated that “The ancient Greeks banned women from competing in the Olympics”; “there were no female Roman Gladiators”; and “the idea of women participating in sports was all but unheard of up until the previous century.”
While Hamilton’s overall point is well taken –the ancient world was far more gender-segregated and misogynistic than our own– I’d like to offer a few clarifications.
Although women were banned from participating in the ancient Olympics, there were women’s athletic games on the site of ancient Olympia as early as the 6th century BC. The women’s events were dedicated to the goddess Hera and known as the Heraean Games.
In addition, we have clear evidence of the existence of female gladiators: a 1st/2nd century marble stele found near Bodrum Turkey depicts two women, identified as Amazon and Achilia, confronting each other in gladiator attire. Recent studies of a 2000 year-old bronze statuette, now in Hamburg, Germany, suggest that this figure depicts a female gladiator as well.
Finally, women in ancient Sparta were not only permitted, but even encouraged to participate in athletics, as it was thought that strong, healthy women were more likely to produce healthy babies (and thus strong warriors — or childbearers — once the children grew up).
In Athens, women were far more sheltered, but Athenian girls did participate in running races at initiation rituals dedicated to Artemis in nearby Brauron.
I invite readers interested in learning more about these subjects to consider my Women in Ancient Greece course (CLAS 240), which runs this winter term, and my course on Women in Rome (CLAS 340).
Thank you,
Kirsten Day
Associate Professor of Classics

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Letter to the Editor: Equality in history