The Matriarch and the Rebel

Eucleia, the ancient Greek female personification of glory and good repute, is the youngest of the Charites. At least two statue bases in the sanctuary were votive offerings by a woman named Eurydice. One of the inscriptions, dating back to 340 BC, reads “Eurydika daughter of Sirras to goddess Eukleia.” Eurydice is the paternal grandmother of Alexander the Great. Her great-granddaughter, a niece of Alexander the Great, was also named Eurydice. Both women were as far removed from the stereotypical docile and subdued image that Eucleia represented.

Sensational Lives of Ancient Courtesans

One day, the 19th century courtesan Esther Guimond was traveling through Naples when she was stopped for a routine examination of her passport. When asked her profession, she quietly and discreetly told the official that she was a woman of independent means. Seeing the puzzled look on the official’s face, she exasperatedly declared, “Courtesan! Take care to remember it!”

Telesilla and the Brave Women of Argos

An ancient oracle told by a Pythian priestess says, “But when the time shall come that the female conquers in battle, driving away the male, and wins great glory in Argos, then many wives of the Argives shall tear both cheeks in their mourning.” The female whom this oracle refers to was Telesilla.

Anna Perenna and the Ides of March

The assassination of Julius Caesar on the 15th of March 44 BC was a turning point in Roman history. Since then, the Ides of March became notorious as being associated with death. However, long before the Ides of March became associated with Julius Caesar’s murder, it was a day of celebration for the ancient goddess Anna Perenna, a goddess beloved by the common people.

The Romance and Adventure of Bhadda Kundalakesa

The Therigatha (“Verses of the Elder Nuns”) is a collection of short poems by and about the early enlightened women in Buddhism. These women were the theris (“senior ones”) among ordained Buddhist women. They bore that epithet due to their religious achievements. Most of the gatha (“poems”) in the anthology are the songs of their experiences. With some of its poems dating as early as the late 6th century BC, while the poems of the Therigatha are clearly nowhere near as old as the poetry of the Rig Veda, for example, which had been orally transmitted since the 2nd millennium BC, the poems in the Therigatha are still some of the early poetries of India.

Unveiling the Mysteries of Benzaiten, Goddess of War, Music, and Culture

Benzaiten is one of Japan’s most complex and popular syncretic deities who has long ago been conflated and associated with other divinities from the Hindu, Buddhist, and Japanese pantheons. Her many forms range from a two-armed beauty playing music to an eight-armed martial deity holding weapons and a divine representation of the supreme Shinto sun goddess, Amaterasu. Benzaiten is also an agricultural deity invoked for rain and harvests. This patronage earns her a place as one of the shichifukujin (‘Seven Gods of Fortune’)

Baubo, the Great and Forgotten

In 1898, a group of German archaeologists working in the Demeter sanctuary at Priene unearthed a peculiar set of Hellenistic female figurines. The head of each of these figurines sits directly on her legs. Each figure also has long hair that drapes around her back resembling a lifted veil. These figures represent Baubo.

Diotima and the Philosophy of Love

Symposium, a philosophical work by Plato written between 385 and 370 BC, is about a friendly competition between speeches given by famous men at a banquet. During the talk, Socrates says that a priestess from Mantinea named Diotima taught him “the philosophy of love” when he was young. Socrates also says that Diotima slowed down the spread of the Plague of Athens, which destroyed the ancient Greek city-state of Athens in the second year of the Peloponnesian War (430 BC). Aside from these few details, we don’t know much about Diotima as a person, until now.