Friday, 12 January 2018


A new historical heroine - well, two if you count the artist!

Timoclea of Thebes (1659) by Elisabetta Sirani of Bologna
 The story of Timoclea of Thebes deserves to be better known, not just because she does a feminine Leonidas -

Well, well, well

- but because she both revenges herself on her rapist, and outfaces Alexander the Great.

Timoclea was an aristocratic woman of the walled city of Thebes in Greece, when it was overthrown by Alexander of Macedon. It was a brutal defeat; the Greek soldiers slaughtered about 6000 inhabitants and enslaved 30,000. A Thracian captain (the Thracians were vassals of Alexander) raped Timoclea and then asked her whether she had any treasure hidden away anywhere. "Sure," she said; "I hid it all down this well, over here in the garden." When the dumbass bent over to look, she pushed him in and dropped heavy rocks on him until he was dead. Of course the Thracians took Timoclea captive and dragged her before Alexander, outraged at her unsporting behaviour.

Alexandre et Timoclée (1782) byJean-Charles Nicaise Perrin
Timoclea stood up before the conqueror and basically told him she didn't give a shit. Her brother Theagenes, she told him, had been the last commander of the Theban Sacred Band (an elite force of homosexual couples) who had stood up against Alexander's father Philip at the Battle of Chaeronea in 338 BC and had died "for the liberty of Greece". (Trans: "fuck you, Alex")

Now that's courage! And Alexander was so impressed that not only did he waive any punishment, he ordered Timoclea and her children freed.

And the artist of the pic at top? Here's her self-portrait:

Elisabetta Sirani (1638-1665) was a woman painter, one of the most famous in Italy at the time, and the teacher of other painters both male and female at the school she founded. She was incredibly prolific, producing about 200 painting before her tragically early death at the age of twenty-seven. In fact she was so prolific that she had to stage a demonstration in front of her detractors to prove that yes, she could knock out a portrait that fast.

You can find more of her work and her life story here

Of course, like many other women painters of the Renaissance, she did a hardass Judith and Holofernes picture:

(Some while back I did a fairly extensive post on artistic depictions of the biblical heroine Judith - "virtuous and godly heroine - avenging proto-feminist icon - sadistic femme fatale".)

As Sirani would say: THIS IS BOLOGNAAAAAA! 😀

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