Cynisca or Kyneska was a Greek princess of Sparta. She became the first woman in history to win at the ancient Olympic Games.
Cynisca's win in the Olympics had a great impact on the ancient Greek world as other women, especially Lacedaemonians, later won the chariot racing like Euruleonis, Belistiche, Timareta, Theodota and Cassia. However, none of them was more distinguished for their victories than she was.
This Spartan princess is frequently used until today as a symbolic figure of the social rise of woman.
when? born c. 440 BC ...............where? Sparta ..... Greece in antiquity
Cynisca is said to have been a tomboy, an expert equestrian and very wealthy, the perfect qualifications for a successful trainer. She was exceedingly ambitious to succeed at the Olympic Games and the first woman to breed horses and win an Olympic victory, according to Pausanias.
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 so as to produce strong children, by going through early training similar to that of their brothers.
The ancient Olympic Games were almost entirely male-only and women were forbidden even to set foot in the main stadium at Olympia, where running events and combat sports were held. Women were allowed to enter only the equestrian events, not by running but by owning and training the horses. Cynisca employed men and entered her team at the Olympics, where it won in the four-horse chariot racing twice, in 396 BC and again in 392 BC.
Cynisca was honored by having a bronze statue of a chariot and horses, a charioteer and a statue of herself in the Temple of Zeus in Olympia, by the side of the statue of Troilus, made by Apelles, and an inscription written declaring that she was the only female to win the wreath in the chariot events at the Olympic Games. The first person in the inscription indicates that Cynisca was willing to push herself forward.
In addition to this, a hero-shrine of Cynisca was erected in Sparta at Plane-tree Grove where religious ceremonies were held. Only Spartan kings were graced in this way and Cynisca was the first woman to receive this honor. The inscription from Olympia (c. 390-380 BC) reads: