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Wednesday, April 22 • 9:20am - 9:40am
Initiation, Cultic Ritual, and Girls’ Foot Races at Artemis Brauronia  

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Today, running is considered a purely athletic activity, a test of physical strength, speed, and endurance which is unquestionably secular. For the ancient Greeks, however, running had more complex cultural and religious purposes, even for females. On the surface, given that athletics test physical strength and power, the existence of female athletics in ancient Greece is difficult to conceive, given the nature of Greek society, which promoted the subjection and inherent weakness of women. Yet, pottery shards found at Brauron in Attica depict young girls engaged in what appears to be competitive footraces clad in both short tunics and in the nude. For the ancient Greeks, footraces, erotic pursuits, and ritual were all inextricably linked and represented the taming of a “wild girl” into a marriageable Greek woman. This paper seeks to explore the significance of ancient Greek female athletic activity and its critical relationship with girls’ initiatory rites. As evidence for my claims, I will use contemporaneous textual records and archaeological evidence from the Temple to Artemis at Brauron, an important cultic location for elite Athenian females. Athletics for ancient Greek women were markedly different than the athletic games of their contemporary male counterparts and even further removed from our modern conception of athletics.


Wednesday April 22, 2015 9:20am - 9:40am PDT
406 Wilma Sherrill Center

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