Callipateira at the Olympics


Callipateira (sometimes Pherenice) was the mother of an athlete, Peisirodus, who competed in the Olympic Games of ancient Greece. To do so she disguised herself as a trainer despite her mere presence there being illegal. When her son won she was jumping over the area where the trainers were kept (I suppose for a better view?) when part of her clothing came off and the men there discovered she was a woman. Now normally the punishment for breaking the ban on women, according to Elean law, was to throw them off the nearby Mt. Typaeum. I know you must be thinking how horrible this is but Pausanias states that it hasn’t ever actually been used and Callipateira was the only woman ever caught. Out of respect for her father, brothers and son (all past Olympic victors) they forgave her but did make a new law that all trainers would strip before entering the arena.

Pausanias, Description of Greece – Book 5, Chapter 6

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