The Corinthian Girl

The Corinthian Girl
Christina Balit
Otter-Barry Books

To the ancient Greeks, female babies were dispensable: it was up to the father to decide whether or not to participate in a special naming ceremony giving the child the right to be a citizen. Sometimes it was a difficult decision for girls were expensive and one day would need a dowry, and so it was for the father of the Corinthian Girl in this story.

He wraps the child in swaddling rags, ties a Doric coin around her neck and leaves her on a stone bench, hoping somebody – perhaps a childless couple, or a merchant wanting a slave – might take her away.

Eventually an elderly slave from Athens takes her home to his master’s house where he raises her with the other slaves. Now the Master of the house, Milos, happened to be an ace javelin thrower and Olympic hero, with just one of his sons, Dion, still at home.

Sometimes Dion would invite the Corinthian girl to play with him and one morning his father stops to watch them. Wondering who this athletic girl is, he calls his son to bring her to see him right away.

Next day sees the start of a year’s training for the Corinthian girl in preparation for the Heraean Games (women only version of the Olympics), during which time she becomes super tough, lithe, fast and courageous.

When spring comes Milos, Dion and the girl go to the stadium of Olympia for the games. There, not only does she prove unbeatable in every event she enters, but she is given the name Chloris by Milos who also announces to the crowds that she is his adopted daughter.

As Chloris carves her name on the column of Hera’s temple somebody in the watching crowd sees the coin around her neck and remembers …

Christina Balit’s painterly illustrations have a power of their own, capturing superbly the slave girl’s spirit, determination and athleticism. Although the characters in her exciting, inspiring story are inventions, the details of place and time are accurate. Further details of the Heraean Games are given in a final factual spread.