Olympics

The Heraean Games: an unmarried women’s-only Olympic Games

While the IOC continues to discriminate against Black women due to draconian hormone testing, it’s far from the first time the Olympics has been associated with sexism:

It’s true that women of all ages were allowed to enjoy the festivities and exhilarating athletic events in cities throughout the Peloponnese states, including Delos and Athens. But the Games in Olympia in the land of Elis—the city where the Olympics originated—retained its traditional, sacred ban of women. Elis decreed that if a married woman (unmarried women could watch) was caught present at the Olympic Games she would be cast down from Mount Typaeum and into the river flowing below, according to Greek geographer and travel writer Pausanias.

During these ancient times, women lived much shorter lives, were excluded from political decision-making and religious rites, were forced into early marriages, and then gave birth to several children. Despite the societal inequalities and oppression, women in Greece wanted to play—so they started their own Olympics called the Heraean Games.

The Heraean Games honoured Greek goddess and wife/half-sister of Zeus, Hera (hence the name), but documentation is sketchy, as is when the games started:

Scholars are unsure of when the Heraean Games began, some estimating that it could be as old as the first Olympic Games, which traces back to 776 B.C. In Pausanias’ detailed recording of the Heraean Games, the Temple of Hera in Olympia, and women at the Olympics, he states that the maidens’ footraces go back to “ancient times.”

More on theHeraean Games: Cynisca and the Heraean Games: The Female Athletes of Ancient Greece and The Women: Were The Ancient Olympics Just For Men?

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