Women and sport

P187In ancient Greece sportswomen were rare, though this differed from city to city. In Athens women rarely had the occasion to exercise, whereas in Sparta sport was an important aspect of their education. Romans considered light exercises, like running or ball-games, to be healthy for women too.

Women could not participate in the games for men. They were not even allowed as spectators. There is one important exception, though. Some noble ladies won an Olympic victory in the horse races. They did not, however, participate in the races personally, but were the owners of the horses. Indeed the owners, and not the jockeys, were proclaimed as victors.

P147The Heraia at Olympia were the only games for women in the classical period, as far as we know. In the Roman period, there were more possibilities to exercise for women. In the first and second century AD, other international (e.g. the Pythian, the Isthmian and the Nemean) and local games organized their own competition for women. Women could also act as organiser of games.

© KU Leuven, 2012