Thracian women are frequently mentioned in various Greek texts as wives, mothers, or slaves.
Thracian women sometimes formed a fourth line of battle, behind the men, encouraging the men to fight. When Alexander defeated the Thracians barring his way over the Heamus mountains, most of the men get away, but the women, however, who had followed the fighting men were all taken, together with the children and all the gear and stores. (Arrian). Polygamy was common among the Thracians, which means that property was probably passed down through the women. Thracian women also practiced suttee.
Foundry 28mm Thracian Women. http://www.wargamesfoundry.com/designer/saleh.htm These should be placed in the rear line, cheering on the men or taunting those who feel like running away! The figures are nicely painted. There is no evidence to suggest that Thracian women wielded swords or bows, though there are some accounts of them fighting as a last resort in defence of a fortification.
Herodotus V, 3
With the Thracians who live beyond Creston. it is customary for a man to have a number of wives; and when a husband dies, his wives enter into keen competition, in which his friends play a vigorous part on one side or the other, to decide which of them was most loved. The one on whom the honour of the verdict falls is first praised by both men and women, and then slaughtered over the grave by her next of kin and buried by her husband's side. For the other wives, not to be chosen is the worst possible disgrace, and they grieve accordingly. The rest of the Thracians carry on an export trade in their own children; they exercise no control over young girls, allowing them to have connexions with any man they please; their wives, on the other hand. whom they purchase at high prices from their parents, they watch very strictly.
Plato - Laws: Book 7
And what arrangement of life to be found anywhere is preferable to this community which we are now assigning to them? Shall we prefer that which is adopted by the Thracians and many other races who use their women to till the ground and to be shepherds of their herds and flocks, and to minister to them like slaves?
On p 7, Gold der Thraker there is a red figure amphora from Museum Antiker Kleinkunst, München showing a tattooed Thracian woman attacking Orpheus with a xiphos.
At http://www.beazley.ox.ac.uk/CGPrograms/Dict/image/ThracianWomanwithAxe.jpg there is a picture of a Thracian woman with a double-headed axe
Herodotus VI, 42
On his arrival in the Chersonese, Miltiades... made himself master of the Chersonese, kept a body of 500 mercenaries, and married Hegesipyle, daughter of the Thracian king Olorus.
On his mother's side, he was an alien, as her epitaph tells us:
Abrotonon is my name
A woman of Thrace, yet famous among the Greeks:
I was the mother of Themistocles
However, according to Phanias, Themistocles' mother was not a Thracian but a woman of Caria, and her name was not Abrotonon but Euterpe, while Neanthes even adds the name of the city she came from in Caria - that is, Halicarnassus.
«Left: a bejewelled (Thracian?) woman on a silver bowl from Moghilanska Mogila, Vratsa (Plate 18 from Z H Archibald, The Odryisan Kingdom of Thrace, 1998).
Sophocles, Antigone 956-976, Penguin
And Dryas's son, the proud Edonian king, | pined in a stony cell At Dinoysus' bidding pent | to cool his fire | Till, all his full-blown passion spent, | He came to know right well | What god his ribald tongue was challenging | when he would break the fiery spell | Of the wild Maenads' revelling | And vex the Muses' choir. | It was upon the side | of Bosporus, where the Black Rocks stand | By Thracian Salmydessus over the twin tide, | That Thracian Ares laughed to see | How Phineus' angry wife most bloodily | Blinded his two sons' eyes that mutely cried | For vengence; crazed with jealousy | The women smote them with the weaving- needle in her hand
On p 21, Gold der Thraker: "rotfiguriger Glocken-Krater, The Metropolitan Museum, Fletcher Fund " - a Thracian woman prepares to attack Orpheus .
Homer, Illiad, XI
Tell me now ye Muses that dwell in the mansions of Olympus, who, whether
of the Trojans or of their allies, was first to face Agamemnon? It was Iphidamas son of
Antenor, a man both brave and of great stature, who was brought up in fertile Thrace the
mother of sheep. Cisses, his mother's father, brought him up in his own house when
he was a child- Cisses, father to fair Theano. When he reached manhood, Cisses would have
kept him there, and was for giving him his daughter in marriage, but as soon as he had
married he set out to fight the Achaeans with twelve ships that followed him: these he had
left at Percote and had come on by land to Ilius. He it was that naw met Agamemnon son of
Atreus. When they were close up with one another, the son of Atreus missed his aim, and
Iphidamas hit him on the girdle below the cuirass and then flung himself upon him,
trusting to his strength of arm; the girdle, however, was not pierced, nor nearly so, for
the point of the spear struck against the silver and was turned aside as though it had
been lead: King Agamemnon caught it from his hand, and drew it towards him with the fury
of a lion; he then drew his sword, and killed Iphidamas by striking him on the neck.
So there the poor fellow lay, sleeping a sleep as it were of bronze, killed in the defence of his fellow-citizens, far from his wedded wife, of whom he had had no joy though he had given much for her: he had given a hundred-head of cattle down, and had promised later on to give a
thousand sheep and goats mixed, from the countless flocks of which he possessed. Agamemnon son of Atreus then despoiled him, and carried off his armour into the host of the Achaeans.
When noble Coon, Antenor's eldest son, saw this, sore indeed were his eyes at the sight of his fallen brother. Unseen by Agamemnon he got beside him, spear in hand, and wounded him in the middle of his arm below the elbow, the point of the spear going right through the arm. Agamemnon was convulsed with pain, but still not even for this did he leave off struggling and fighting, but grasped his spear that flew as fleet as the wind, and sprang upon Coon who was trying to drag off the body of his brother- his father's son- by the foot, and was crying for help to all the bravest of his comrades; but Agamemnon struck him with a bronze-shod spear and killed him as he was dragging the dead body through the press of men under cover of his shield: he then cut off his head, standing over the body of Iphidamas. Thus did the sons of Antenor meet their fate at the hands of the son of Atreus, and go down into the house of Hades.
A description of the relief shown above (from the Perseus project, but the photographs are my own or from Opperman's Thraker):
: London 2155... Votive relief to Bendis, a Thracian deity whose cult was introduced into Athens toward the end of the 5th century. Her sanctuary was located in the Piraeus, where this relief was said to be found. The goddess stands at the right dressed in a short chiton-like garment with overfold reaching to the hips. The lightweight cloth produces many folds, especially where the dress is caught up by the animal skin worn from the left shoulder and wrapped tightly around the waist. It is a garment similar to one often worn by Greek Artemis. However the close-fitting long sleeves, resembling an element of Oriental costume, apparently belong to a garment worn beneath the chiton. For a similar representation see the inscribed figure of Bendis on the skyphos in Tubingen (Univ S/10 1347). The hood is also Eastern in style. Over the chiton and skin she wears a Thracian mantle fastened in front by a round brooch. Her legs are protected by long, leather boots. Her left hand is raised, capping the point of a long spear. With her right hand she appears to offer a round object to her worshippers, usually identified as a patera, though possibly the wreaths mentioned on the Copenhagen relief .
Appian, The Civil Wars, IV, X, 75
He [Brutus] had a large force of cavalry, light-armed troops, and archers. He had a high opinion of of his Macedonian soldiers and he drilled them in the Roman way. While he was stll collecting soldiers and money a piece of good luck came to him from Thrace, of the following sort. Polemocratia, the wife of one of the Thracian princes, whose husband had been killed by his enemies, being alarmed for her son, who was still a boy, came to Brutus bringing the boy, whom she placed in his hands together with her husband's teasures. Brutus delivered the boy to the inhabitants of Cyzicus to be cared for until he should have leisure to restore him to this kingdom. Among the treasures he found an unexpected quantity of gold and silver. This he coined and converted into currency.
Aeschines Against Ctesiphon 172 (Loeb)
[3.172] Here he married a woman who was rich, I grant you, and brought him a big dowry, but a Scythian by blood. This wife bore him two daughters, whom he sent hither with plenty of money. One he married to a man whom I will not namefor I do not care to incur the enmity of many persons,--the other, in contempt of the laws of the city,1 Demosthenes of Paeania took to wife. She it was who bore your busy-body and informer. From his grandfather, therefore, he would inherit enmity toward the people, for you condemned his ancestors to death and by his mothers blood he would be a Scythian, a Greek-tongued barbarianso that his knavery, too, is no product of our soil.
3,172,n1. In 451/0 Pericles carried a measure which excluded from citizenship all who could not show pure Athenian blood through both parents. By the close of the Peloponnesian war this restriction had fallen into neglect, and in 403 the restored democracy passed an enactment excluding from citizenship children born of a foreign mother after that date. If Demosthenes mother was born of a Thracian mother and after 403 (neither fact is certain), she could not bear legitimate children to her Athenian husband.
Left: from p 34, Gold der Thraker: "rotfiguriger Krater, Museum Antiker Kleinkunst, München" - a tattooed Thracian woman
Demosthenes Funeral Speech 31 (Loeb)
[60.31] The Hippothoontidae bore in mind the marriage of Alope, from which Hippothoon was born, and they knew also who their founder was; about these mattersto avoid impropriety on an occasion like this1 I forbear to speak plainlythey thought it was their duty to be seen performing deeds worthy of these ancestors. It did not escape the Aeantidae that Ajax, robbed of the prize of valor, did not consider his own life worth living.2 When, therefore, the god was giving to another the prize of valor, at once they thought they must die trying to repel their foes so as to suffer no disgrace to themselves. The Antiochidae were not unmindful that Antiochus was the son of Heracles.3 They concluded therefore that they must either live worthily of their heritage or die nobly.
60,31,n1. Alopes son was said to have been twice exposed, and twice rescued and suckled by a mare. The use of mares milk as a food prevailed among the Scythians, as the Greeks knew well from their colonists in the region of the Black Sea, if not from Hdt. 4.2; Gylon, grandfather of Demosthenes, had lived in the Crimea and was said to have married a Thracian wife. The orator was sometimes twitted by his opponents about his Thracian blood. He may have been sensitive. Consequently the attitude here revealed might be construed as evidence for the genuineness of the speech.
Aristophanes Acharnians 282
Phales, friend of good old Bacchus, party-mate when evening nears, 265 lover of lads and lover of lasses, greetings after six long years! Glad am I to see my village, glad at last to have my peace, free at last from war and pillage, 270 from General Lamachus released! Its far, far nicer, Phales, Phales, to catch a slave-girl stealing coal, that Thracian girl of Strymodorus, to throw her down and give her a roll 275 and put her berry on my pole! Phales, Phales, if you drink with us and happen to get hung over, in the morning youll get a cup of peace to drink, and over the fireplace Ill hang my shield.
Aristotle Rhetoric 1412a
Jokes that turn on the word are produced, not by giving it the proper meaning, but by perverting it; for instance, when Theodorus said to Nicon, the player on the cithara, "you are troubled" ( qra/ttei); for while pretending to say "something troubles you," he deceives us; for he means something else.8 1412a,n8. According to Cope, *qra=|tt ei)=, "you are no better than a Thracian slave-girl."
[1412b] Therefore the joke is only agreeable to one who understands the point; for if one does not know that Nicon is a Thracian, he will not see any joke in it.
Left: Gilt silver jug from Rozogen, (from the area inhabited by the Getae or Triballi) first half of fourth century BC. A Thracian Goddess (probably the great Mother Goddess) with a bow and arrow, riding a lioness
Aristotle Constitution of the Athenians 14.4 (Loeb)
[14.4] In the twelfth year after this Megacles, being harried by party faction, made overtures again to Peisistratus, and on terms of receiving his daughter in marriage brought him back, in an old-fashioned and extremely simple manner. Having first spread a rumor that Athena was bringing Peisistratus back, he found a tall and beautiful woman, according to Herodotus a member of the Paeanian deme, but according to some accounts a Thracian flower-girl from Collytus named Phye, dressed her up to look like the goddess, and brought her to the city with him, and Peisistratus drove in a chariot with the woman standing at his side, while the people in the city marvelled and received them with acts of reverence.
http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/cgi-bin/image?lookup=1992.11.0129 - male actors dressing as Thracian women.
http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/cgi-bin/text?lookup=cb+boston+90.156.(robin - Vase Pictures of several Thracian women killing Orpheus
Two Thracian women catch Orpheus by the hair; one pierces him with a long spit, the other attacks him with a sword; he tries to beat the first off with his lyre, but stumbles and falls. Three other women race up, armed with spits1 and sickle.2 Two Thracian youths look on, the older lurking behind a bush, the younger in a more manly attitude, n1. Helbig spoke of a goad, Edward Robinson of lances and staves, Guthrie of spears, but they are all spits. n2. In Hausers view (Jb. 29 p. 26) the sickle on our vase is simply the true Thracian form of knife and sword, the a(/rph, described as ma/xaira kampu/lh, or the *Qra|kiko\n ci/fos e)pikampe/s, evidence for which is given by Thomaschek Die alten Thraker i, 119 (Wiener Sitzungsberichte 1893). I regard it as an ordinary sickle.
The harpe or sickle of Perseus is sometimes seen to be a combination of knife and saw: a surgeonly instrument, the knife for the flesh and the saw for the bone.
Catalog No.10738. Florence PD 462, fragment of a calyx-krater. Suppl. plate 11, 7. Orpheus moves to left holding a stone. He wears a short chiton, richly adorned, with sleeves; a spangled tiara;12 studded belt and cross-bands; a wrap, which slips off his right thigh. [vol. ii p. 76] He must have been looking back. A fair-haired Thracian woman grasps him and is about to stab him with a spit. She wears a peplos-like garment, earrings, necklace, bracelet. Another Thracian woman rushes at Orpheus, dressed in a short chiton, again richly adorned, and bracelets. Both women are tattooed on the arm: the designs are rosettes (suns?), saltire, pairs of stripes, fawns at gaze.13 White lines indicate rocky ground. At the top of the fragment, the lower part of a sapling.
Left: detail of one of the pictchers from the 4th century BC Rozogen treasure, showing the Thracian mother goddess.
Thracian women are the only women allowed to enter sanctuary of Herakles at Erythrae: Paus. 7.5.8:
At last a man of Erythrae (his name was Phormio) who gained a living by the sea and by catching fish, but had lost his sight through disease, saw a vision in a dream to the effect that the women of Erythrae must cut off their locks, and in this way the men would, with a rope woven from the hair, tow the raft to their shores. The women of the citizens absolutely refused to obey the dream; [7.5.8] but the Thracian women, both the slaves and the free who lived there, offered themselves to be shorn. And so the men of Erythrae towed the raft ashore. Accordingly no women except Thracian women are allowed within the sanctuary of Heracles, and the hair rope is still kept by the natives.
This king, too, left a pyramid, but far smaller than his fathers, each side twenty feet short of three hundred feet long, square at the base, and as much as half its height of Ethiopian stone. Some Greeks say that it was built by Rhodopis, the courtesan, but they are wrong; [2.134.2] indeed, it is clear to me that they say this without even knowing who Rhodopis was (otherwise, they would never have credited her with the building of a pyramid on which what I may call an uncountable sum of money was spent), or that Rhodopis flourished in the reign of Amasis, not of Mycerinus; [2.134.3] for very many years later than these kings who left the pyramids came Rhodopis, who was Thracian by birth, and a slave of Iadmon son of Hephaestopolis the Samian, and a fellow-slave of Aesop the story-writer.
But on the first journey, the Hyperboreans sent two maidens bearing the offerings, to whom the Delians give the names Hyperoche and Laodice, and five men of their people with them as escort for safe conduct, those who are now called Perpherees1 and greatly honored at Delos. [4.33.4] But when those whom they sent never returned, they took it amiss that they should be condemned always to be sending people and not getting them back, and so they carry the offerings, wrapped in straw, to their borders, and tell their neighbors to send them on from their own country to the next;
[4.33.5] and the offerings, it is said, come by this conveyance to Delos. I can say of my own knowledge that there is a custom like these offerings; namely, that when the Thracian and Paeonian women sacrifice to the Royal Artemis, they have straw with them while they sacrifice.
http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/cgi-bin/image?lookup=1990.01.1137 - Thracian woman with curved blade
http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/cgi-bin/image?lookup=1992.06.0854 A Thracian woman
http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/cgi-bin/image?lookup=1992.06.0859 A Thracian woman
http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/cgi-bin/image?lookup=1992.06.0861 Three Thracian women, one with curved blade
http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/cgi-bin/image?lookup=1992.06.0862 Thracian woman with spear
http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/cgi-bin/image?lookup=1992.06.0864 Thracian woman with curved blade
http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/cgi-bin/image?lookup=1992.06.0866 Thracian woman with double-headed axe
Gold seal-ring. 5th century BC.
Malkata Mogila near Shipka, Kazanlak region.
Museum of history, Kazanlak.
Vergils Aeneid 1.317
Harpalyce. There is more than one mythological character of this name; but the one meant here appears to be a Thracian princess who took to the woods upon the dethronement of the king her father.
Plutarch Cimon 4.1 (Loeb)
[4.1]Cimon was the son of Miltiades by Hegesipyle, a woman of Thracian stock, daughter of King Olorus, as it is stated in the poems of Archelaus and Melanthius addressed to Cimon himself. That explains how it was that the father of Thucydides the historian and Thucydides was connected with the family of Cimon was also an Olorus, who referred his name back to that of the common ancestor, and also how it was that Thucydides had gold mines in Thrace.
«Ostrusha tomb, 4c. B.C. Young woman in the temple of the god Sabazios. The ceiling of this tomb was covered with similar paintings, but this was the only one to survive.
The Thracian king Phineus, his wife, and other Thracian women
http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/cgi-bin/image?lookup=1992.06.0859&type=vase Tattooed Thracian woman described below:
Side A: Thracian women, with characteristic tattoos on their arms, and dressed in chitons, run toward Orpheus with a variety of weapons. The left figure is armed with a rock and drapes her himation over her arm, the central one deals the death blow to Orpheus with a spear. The hero falls, holding his lyre up, his himation slipping off and wound bleeding (in added purple). The woman at right is about to hurl a large rock at him.
Side B: A woman runs left with one arm covered by a himation the other wielding a spear. Her hair is bound up with a fillet. Two others run right, one with a curved knife or sickle, the other with an axe and arm draped with a himation. Her hair is up and tied with a fillet.
http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/cgi-bin/image?lookup=1992.06.0867&type=vase another woman from same vase with tattooed arms
http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/cgi-bin/image?lookup=1992.06.0855&type=vase tattooed woman spears Orpheus from same vase
http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/cgi-bin/image?lookup=1990.01.1175&type=vase - maybe picture of Thracian woman
A seated mother hands an infant boy to a standing woman, perhaps a nurse, who gazes across at the beardless youth standing at right, possibly the father. The mother sits to the left on a klismos, her feet resting on a low stool in the form of a rectangular block. She wears a chiton, himation, and sakkos. The latter, decorated with dotted lines and zigzags, has a small top-knot indicating it is made in the "sprang" technique. A laurel wreath hangs on the wall above the woman. The young man wears a himation and rests his weight on a tall staff, which he holds with his left hand; his right hand rests within the himation. His right leg is relaxed, with the foot drawn back. The nurse bends to receive the child, who reaches out to her with both hands. The string of charms across the infants chest are to protect it from sickness. The nurse wears a chiton and a belted tunic of Thracian type, with long sleeves and dentilated borders; it indicates that she is of barbarian origin and is probably a slave. Behind and to the left of the nurse is a tall loom, consisting of a framework of slender poles, lashed together and well-braced. The threads of the warp are drawn with fine relief lines, and there are ten small weights at the ends. The cloth being produced is rolled up at the top, but enough is visible to see that it has a dark, sawtooth pattern along the sides, a motif common on Thracian garments, such as the long cloak called a zeira.
http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/cgi-bin/image?lookup=1990.01.1530&type=vase - ziera on loom
http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/cgi-bin/image?lookup=1990.01.1532&type=vase close-up of nurse
http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/cgi-bin/image?lookup=1992.11.0238&type=vase Thracian woman
http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/cgi-bin/image?lookup=1992.11.0239&type=vase Thracian woman
http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/cgi-bin/image?lookup=1992.11.0240&type=vase Thracian woman
http://www.perseus.tufts.edu/cgi-bin/image?lookup=1992.11.0101&type=vase tattooed woman kills Orpheus
Suppose thou hadst wedded a prince of Thrace, the land of flood and melting snow, where one lord shares his affections with a host of wives, wouldst thou have slain them? If so, thou wouldst have set a stigma of insatiate lust on all our sex.
He too left a pyramid, but much inferior in size to his father's. It is a square, each side of which falls short of three plethra by twenty feet, and is built for half its height of the stone of Ethiopia. Some of the Greeks call it the work of Rhodopis the courtesan, but they report falsely. It seems to me that these persons cannot have any real knowledge who Rhodopis was; otherwise they would scarcely have ascribed to her a work on which uncounted treasures, so to speak, must have been expended. Rhodopis also lived during the reign of Amasis, not of Mycerinus, and was thus very many years later than the time of the kings who built the pyramids. She was a Thracian by birth, and was the slave of Iadmon, son of Hephaestopolis, a Samian. Aesop, the fable-writer, was one of her fellow-slaves. That Aesop belonged to Iadmon is proved by many facts- among others, by this. When the Delphians, in obedience to the command of the oracle, made proclamation that if any one claimed compensation for the murder of Aesop he should receive it, the person who at last came forward was Iadmon, grandson of the former Iadmon, and he received the compensation. Aesop therefore must certainly have been the former Iadmon's slave.
Left: from p 34, Gold der Thraker: "rotfiguriger Krater, Museum Antiker Kleinkunst, München" - a tattooed Thracian woman with a long sword.
Rhodopis really arrived in Egypt under the conduct of Xantheus the Samian; she was brought there to exercise her trade, but was redeemed for a vast sum by Charaxus, a Mytilenaean, the son of Scamandronymus, and brother of Sappho the poetess. After thus obtaining her freedom, she remained in Egypt, and, as she was very beautiful, amassed great wealth, for a person in her condition; not, however, enough to enable her to erect such a work as this pyramid. Any one who likes may go and see to what the tenth part of her wealth amounted, and he will thereby learn that her riches must not be imagined to have been very wonderfully great. Wishing to leave a memorial of herself in Greece, she determined to have something made the like of which was not to be found in any temple, and to offer it at the shrine at Delphi. So she set apart a tenth of her possessions, and purchased with the money a quantity of iron spits, such as are fit for roasting oxen whole, whereof she made a present to the oracle. They are still to be seen there, lying of a heap, behind the altar which the Chians dedicated, opposite the sanctuary. Naucratis seems somehow to be the place where such women are most attractive. First there was this Rhodopis of whom we have been speaking, so celebrated a person that her name came to be familiar to all the Greeks; and, afterwards, there was another, called Archidice, notorious throughout Greece, though not so much talked of as her predecessor. Charaxus, after ransoming Rhodopis, returned to Mytilene, and was often lashed by Sappho in her poetry. But enough has been said on the subject of this courtesan.
Athenaios, Deipnosophistai, 4.131b-c, p 260, Archibald
Anaxandrides, ridiculing in Protesilaos the wedding dinner of Iphikrates, when he married the daughter of the Thracian king, Kotys, says '...there were purple rugs spread out in the market place, right up to where his boat was moored. At the dinner were huge crowds of butter-eating types, the great unwashed. Kotys himself, girded, carried in the sauce in a goldern pitcher. He had had a go at tasting the mixing bowls and so got drunk before the other guests. Antigeneidas played the flute, Argas did the singing, with Kephisodotos of Acharnai on the harp. Their works celebrated now Sparta with its broad acres, now seven-gated Thebes. The groom received as presents a herd of chesnut horses, a herd of goats, a golden sack, ... a limpet-shaped vase, a pitcher of snow, a pot of millet, a cellar of onions twelve cubits deep and a hecatomb of octopuses.'
Add text from Archibald pp 258-259 (women's burials)
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