Born: c.440 BC, Ancient Sparta (Present-day Sparta, Greece)
Also Spelled: Kyniska or Kyneska
Cynisca was also the first woman in history to win at the Olympic Games. She competed with a chariot drawn by four horses—notably, however, she did not physically compete as a driver. Cynisca was a breeder and owned the horses that raced. Because her horses won, technically, Cynisca won. She won in both the 396 BC and 392 BC games but was not actually present to see her horses racing as women were not permitted at the games.
According to the ancient author Pausanias, Cynisca’s name meant “Female Puppy”, a reference to her grandfather’s love of breeding bloodhounds. Cynisca was a tomboy from childhood and was an excellent horsewoman. She was also wealthy enough to own her own team of horses, as referenced above.
Cynisca was eventually given a statue in the temple of Zeus at Olympia as well as other honors throughout Ancient Greece. Very little else of her life is known, but the fact that her story has survived at all is a testament to her abilities and might as a woman.
In July of 2022, Cynisca Cycling launched as an innovative brand inspired by Cynisca of Sparta’s story. Their goal is to help empower female cyclists from the United States to win in events around the world.
Located In My Personal Library:
Arsinoe of Egypt and Macedon: A Royal Life by Elizabeth Donnelly Carney