“There is no beast, no rush of fire, like a woman so untamed. She calmly goes her way where even panthers would be shamed.”
― Aristophanes, Lysistrata


               As someone who gushes over statues of women the way others lick their lips in anticipation of a good meal, the prospect of uncovering numerous statues on my upcoming Mediterranean cruise caused me joy. But to my dismay, what I found was the equivalent of,  “I traveled from Barcelona to Athens via the Rock of Gibraltar and Istanbul and all I got was a t-shirt.” Yes, I found statues of women, but most of them were that of either the Virgin Mary, Mary Magdalene or goddesses such as Athena or unnamed, barely-clothed young maidens. Where were all the modern women who changed society by their incredible accomplishments? Where were all the ancient women who relied on their humanity, intelligence and strength to live harmoniously among the patriarchy? Were they all erased by history or merely ignored?

            I asked every tour guide on my trip if they could point out statues of women as we strolled along the cobblestoned streets, historic sites, eateries and museums (case in point: most of the guides were women so I figured that’d have a vested interest in my request-wrong!). Very few complied, except our guide in Athens who after a delicious authentic Greek meal, handed me (and my two travel mates) souvenirs of a white statue etched with the name “”Kapyatie.” He said we’d find the six sisters at the Erechtheion atop the Acropolis. We never made it. Turns out we didn’t have the correct paperwork needed to use the elevator. With an angry hand, I shoved the statue into my sac and forgot about her. When I was going through security (again) in Chicago, a scan revealed that the statue’s head had broken off in my carry-on. No worries, I thought, she’s mostly worthless. But when I got home, and held her in my hand, a connection to this small, fragile replica arose. Who was Kapyatie and why was she memorialized for all to remember?

            Kapyatie, which means “carved in stone” is a caryatid pillar that serves as an architectural support or column. Said to represent the pressure humans feel under the weight of destiny, philosophers believe these female figures symbolize courage. Despite the heaviness of the task, the maidens never abandon their post. Caryatids date back to 421-406 BC and while the Porch of the Maidens, originally clothed in bright colors was constructed in honor of Athena, the patron goddess of Athens, the maidens as a unit represent women doomed to hard labor.

            If you closely at the statues, you’ll notice they’re young, probably virgins, and elaborately dressed. It’s speculated they were sculpted to delight spectators with their beauty. Whether they were modeled after female deities or mortal women is unknown but it’s clear they were created to give the Greek community a supportive place to worship. To me, however, they provide a different message: Life is hard but for those that remain upright, sturdy and dignified, you’ll be rewarded with eternity glory.

Rock on, fair maidens! While you may appear complacent, it’s your understated elegance and hard exterior that survived the test of time. If anyone rebukes the importance of these six maidens, I ask this question: Centuries from now, who will be bowing at your feet?