Pausanias V 6, 7

Women were not allowed to attend the Olympic games. Pausanias tells which punishment they could except.

On the way from Skillous to Olympia, before you cross the Alpheios, there is a precipitous mountain with high rocks. This mountain is called Typaion. The Eleans have a law that women are cast down from this mountain when they are caught coming to the Olympic games or even just crossing the Alpheios on the days prohibited for them. It is said, however, that no woman was even caught, except only Kallipateira. Some people who call her Pherenike instead of Kallipateira. When her husband had died before her, she completely disguised herself as a male trainer and brought her son to Olympia to fight.  When Peisirodos had won, Kallipateira jumped over the fence, which kept the trainers out of the ring, and her clothes fell off. They discovered that she was a woman, but let her go unpunished, out of respect for her father, brothers and son, all Olympic victors. But a law was passed for the future that trainers had to enter the games naked.

Greek

The Greek word for woman, ‘gunè’, is normally only used for married women. Unmarried girls probably could attend the games.
Kallipateira was the daughter of the famous athlete Diagoras of Rhodes. He had another daughter, Pherenike, who also had a son who won the Olympics, hence the confusion about the name.

Pausanias' books about Elis

© KU Leuven, 2012