The Info List - Cynisca

/sɪˈnɪskə/ or Kyniska (Greek: Κυνίσκα; born c. 440 BC) was a Greek princess of Sparta. In 396 BC, she became the first woman in history to win at the ancient Olympic Games.


1 Early life 2 Olympic Games 3 Culture 4 See also 5 References 6 External links

Early life[edit] Cynisca
was born around 440 BC in the ancient Greek city of Sparta
and was the daughter of the Eurypontid king of Sparta, Archidamus II, and Eupoleia. She was also the sister of the later king of Sparta, Agesilaus II. She is said to have been a tomboy, an expert equestrian and very wealthy, the perfect qualifications for a successful trainer. She was exceedingly ambitious to succeed at the Olympic Games
Olympic Games
and the first woman to breed horses and win an Olympic victory, according to Pausanias.[1] Her name means 'female puppy' in Ancient Greek. She was named after her grandfather Zeuxidamus, who was called Cyniscos.[2] It is possible that this name related to a specific kind of dog in Sparta, the female bloodhounds which were famous for their ability to find their quarries by their scent. Olympic Games[edit] While most women in the ancient Greek world were kept in seclusion and forbidden to learn any kind of skills in sports, riding or hunting, Spartan women by contrast were brought up from girlhood to excel at these things so as to produce strong children, by going through early training similar to that of their brothers. The ancient Olympic Games
Olympic Games
were almost entirely male-only and women were forbidden even to set foot in the main stadium at Olympia, where running events and combat sports were held. Women were allowed to enter only the equestrian events, not by running but by owning and training the horses. Cynisca
employed men and entered her team at the Olympics, where it won in the four-horse chariot racing (tethrippon Greek: τέθριππον) twice, in 396 BC and again in 392 BC. The irony is that she probably didn't see her victories. There have been some speculations over the motives of Agesilaus in directing his sister to join the equestrian competitions. One explanation is that he wanted to rekindle the warlike spirit in the Spartan society, which had given ground for the sake of a win in the Olympic Games. Another possible reason is that Agesilaus wanted to display Cynisca's abilities, or promote women generally. According to Xenophon, she was encouraged to breed horses and compete in the Games, by her brother Agesilaus II, in an attempt to discredit the sport. He viewed success in chariot racing as a victory without merit, which was only a mark of wealth and lavish outlay due to the involvement of the horses' owner, while in the other events the decisive factor was a man's bravery and virtue.[3][4] By having a woman win, he hoped to show the sport to be unmanly, but Cynisca's victories did not stop wealthy Spartans engaging in the sport. However, Cynisca
was honored by having a bronze[5] statue of a chariot and horses, a charioteer and a statue of herself in the Temple of Zeus in Olympia, by the side of the statue of Troilus, made by Apelleas, and an inscription written declaring that she was the only female to win the wreath in the chariot events at the Olympic Games.[6] The first person in the inscription indicates that Cynisca
was willing to push herself forward and Xenophon
says that this inscription was Agesilaus' idea.[7] In addition to this, a hero-shrine of Cynisca
was erected in Sparta
at Plane-tree Grove,[8] where religious ceremonies were held. Only Spartan kings were graced in this way and Cynisca
was the first woman to receive this honor. The inscription from Olympia (c. 390-380 BC) reads:[9]

English Kings of Sparta
are my father and brothers Kyniska, victorious with a chariot of swift-footed horses, have erected this statue. I declare myself the only woman in all Hellas to have won this crown. Apelleas son of Kallikles made it.

Ancient Greek Σπάρτας μὲν βασιλῆες ἐμοὶ πατέρες καὶ ἀδελφοί, ἅρματι δ’ ὠκυπόδων ἵππων νικῶσα Κυνίσκα εἰκόνα τάνδ’ ἔστασεν μόναν δ’ ἐμέ φαμι γυναικῶν Ἑλλάδος ἐκ πάσας τόν[-] δε λαβεν στέφανον. Ἀπελλέας Καλλικλέος ἐπόησε.

Culture[edit] Cynisca's win in the Olympics had a great impact on the ancient Greek world as other women, not only Lacedaemonians, later won the chariot racing, including Euryleonis, Belistiche, Zeuxo, Encrateia and Hermione, Timareta, Theodota (both from Elis) and Cassia. However, none of them was more distinguished for their victories than she was.[1] Zoe Karelli, a modern Greek poet, wrote a poem for Cynisca's love for the horses and her Olympic win which made her name famous in Greek history.[10] This Spartan princess is frequently used until today as a symbolic figure of the social rise of woman. See also[edit]

another celebrated Spartan woman who won the two horse chariot races in 368 BC.


^ a b Pausanias, Description of Greece, 3.8.1–3. ^ Herod, vi 7 ^ Xenophon, Minor Works, Agesilaus 9.1 §6. ^ Plutarch, Parallel Lives, Agesilaus 20.1 ^ Pausanias, Description of Greece, 5.12.5. ^ Pausanias, Description of Greece, 6.1.6. ^ " Cynisca
of Sparta". About.com. Retrieved 2008-03-28.  ^ Pausanias, Description of Greece, 3.15.1. ^ IvO 160 ^ Ολυμπιακοί Αγώνες Γυναικών! (in Greek). www.metafysiko.gr. Archived from the original on 2007-11-19. Retrieved 2008-03-29. 

External links[edit]

The No Woman Rule in Ancient Olympics Spartan Olympic Victors The Spartans on Channel 4 Pausanias, Description of Greece, online at Perseus


Paul Cartledge, The Spartans: An Epic History, 2nd edition 2003. Stephen Hodkinson, Property and Wealth in Classical Sparta, The Classical Press of Wales, 2000. ISBN 0-7156-3040-7 S. B. Pomeroy. Spartan Women (Oxford ; New York : Oxford University Press, 2002). G. P. Schauss and S. R. Wenn (eds). Onward to the Olympics: Historical Perspectives on the Olympic Games
Olympic Games
(Waterloo, Ont., Canada: Wilfrid Laurier University Press, 2007).

v t e

Ancient Olympic Games


Foot races

Diaulos Dolichos Hoplitodromos Stadion

Horse races

Apene Chariot of polos Decapolon Kalpe Keles Perfect chariot Polos Synoris Synoris
of polos Tethrippon Tethrippon
of polos


Boxing Pankration Wrestling


Herald and Trumpet contest Pentathlon


Acanthus of Sparta Agasias of Arcadia Agesarchus of Tritaea Alcibiades
of Athens Alexander I of Macedon Anaxilas
of Messenia Aratus of Sicyon Archelaus I of Macedon Arrhichion
of Phigalia Arsinoe II Astylos of Croton Berenice I of Egypt Bilistiche Chaeron of Pellene Chilon of Patras Chionis of Sparta Cimon Coalemos Coroebus of Elis Cylon of Athens Cynisca
of Sparta Damarchus Demaratus
of Sparta Desmon of Corinth Diagoras of Rhodes Diocles of Corinth Ergoteles of Himera Euryleonis Herodorus of Megara Hiero I of Syracuse Hypenus of Elis Hysmon
of Elis Iccus of Taranto Leonidas of Rhodes Leophron Milo of Croton Nero
Caesar Augustus Oebotas of Dyme Onomastus of Smyrna Orsippus
of Megara Peisistratos
of Athens Phanas of Pellene Philinus of Cos Philip II of Macedon Philippus of Croton Phrynon
of Athens Polydamas of Skotoussa Pythagoras of Laconia Pythagoras of Samos Sostratus of Pellene Theagenes of Thasos Theron of Acragas Tiberius
Caesar Augustus Timasitheus of Delphi Troilus
of Elis Varazdat
of Armenia Xenophon
of Aegium Xenophon
of Corinth

Lists of winners

Ancient Olympic victors Stadion race Archaic period Classical period Hellenistic period Roman period

Olympia Archaeological Museum of Olympia Statue of Zeus at Olympia Temple of Zeus at Olympia Modern Olympic Games Ancient Greek
Ancient Greek