Ancient Olympic Fun Fact 6

2012 is significant in that it is a presidential election year, a leap year, and a summer Olympic year! The modern Olympics, of course, were inspired by the ancient Greek Olympics, a subject I’ve been researching for my work in progress. So in these months leading up to the 2012 London Games, I’ll be posting weekly tidbits about the original athletic festival that started it all.

Here’s this week’s fun fact:

Olympic trainers also had to be nude.

According to Pausanias, the requirement for athletic trainers to be sans clothes was a later development, due to an incident involving Callipateira or (Pherenice), a woman from a famous athletic family. In Book 5 of the Description of Greece, he explains:

She, being a widow, disguised herself exactly like a gymnastic trainer, and brought her son to compete at Olympia. Peisirodus, for so her son was called, was victorious, and Callipateira, as she was jumping over the enclosure in which they keep the trainers shut up, bared her person. So her sex was discovered…

I’m not sure how exactly she was climbing that she’d expose her private parts, but at any rate, she got caught. As mentioned in Fun Fact 3, she should’ve been cast down Mount Typaeum. However,

… they let her go unpunished out of respect for her father, her brothers and her son, all of whom had been victorious at Olympia. But a law was passed that for the future trainers should strip before entering the arena.

So things ended well for Callipateira, but she pretty much ensured that no other woman would repeat her stunt.

Tune in next week for more about the ancient Olympics!


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