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And what a fine trait this was in him, and betokening how lofty a sentiment, that, being content to adorn his own house with works and possessions suited to a man, and being devoted to the breeding of dogs and horses in large numbers for the chase and warfare, he persuaded his sister Cynisca to rear chariot horses, and thus by her victory showed that to keep a stud of that sort, however much it might be a mark of wealth, was hardly a proof of manly virtue. Xenophon, Agesilaus

Cynisca (or Kyniska) (Κυνίσκα) was a Spartan princess who was born around 440 BC. She was the daughter of Spartan king Agesilaus II. She became the first woman in history to win at the ancient Olympic Games. (While most women in the ancient Greek world were kept in seclusion and forbidden to learn any kind of skills in sports, riding or hunting, Spartan women by contrast were brought up from girlhood to excel at these things and to disdain household chores.)

Although the ancient Games were almost entirely male-only, women were allowed to enter the equestrian events - not by running, but by owning the horses. Cynisca won in the four-horse chariot race in 396 BC and again in 392 BC.

In Olympia, Greece, Cynisca had an inscription written declaring that she was the only female to win the wreath in the chariot events at the Olympic Games.

In fact, "Cynisca" may not have been her true name, but a nickname (meaning "Puppy"). Very little is known of her other than her Olympic victories.

Pausanias mentions a statue of Cynisca produced by the sculptor Apellas.


{Three hexameters followed by a pentameter)

Kings of Sparta were my fathers and brothers,
and I, Cynisca, winning the race with my chariot
of swift-footed horses, erected this statue. I assert
that I am the only woman in all Greece who won this crown.

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