PALAISTRA (Palaestra) was the goddess or spirit (daimona) of the sport of wrestling. She was a daughter of the athlete-god Hermes.
HERMES (Philostratus Elder 2.32)
CLASSICAL LITERATURE QUOTES
Philostratus the Elder, Imagines 2. 32 (trans. Fairbanks) (Greek rhetorician C3rd A.D.) :
"[Ostensibly a description of an ancient Greek painting at Neapolis (Naples) :] Palaistra (Palaestra). The place is Arkadia (Arcadia), the most beautiful part of Arkadia and that in which Zeus takes most delight--we call it Olympia--and as yet there is no prize for wrestling nor even any love of wrestling, but there will be. For Palaistra, the daughter of Hermes, who has just come to womanhood in Arkadia, has discovered the art, and the earth seems to rejoice at the discovery, since iron as an instrument of war will be laid aside by men during the truce, and the stadium will seem to them more delightful than armed camps, and with naked bodies they will content with each other. The kinds of wrestling are represented as children. For they leap sportively around Palaistra, bending towards her in one wrestler's posture after another; and they may be sprung from the earth, for the maiden shows by her manly aspect that she would neither marry any man willingly nor bear children. The kinds of wrestling differ from one another; indeed, the best is the one combined with boxing.
The figure of Palaistra, if it be compared with a boy, will be that of a girl; but if it be taken for a girl, it will seem to be a boy. For her hair is too short even to be twisted into a knot; the eye might be that of either sex; and the brow indicates disdain for both lovers and wrestlers; for she claims that she is able to resist both the one and the other and that not even in a wrestling bout could anyone touch her breasts, so much does she excel in the art. And the breasts themselves, as in a boy of tender years, show but slight signs of beginning fullness. She cares for nothing feminine; hence she does not even wish to have white arms, and apparently even disapproves of the Dryades because they stay in the shade to keep their skin fair; nay, as one who lives in the vales of Arkadia, she begs Helios (the Sun) for colour, and he brings it to her like a flower and reddens the girl with moderate heat. It shows the skill of the painter, my boy, that the maiden is sitting, for there are most shadows on seated figures, and the seated position is distinctly becoming to her; the branch of olive on her bare bosom is also becoming her. Palaistra apparently delights in this tree, since its oil is useful in wrestling and men find great pleasure in it." [N.B. Olympic victors were crowned with the wild olive, hence it is the favourite of Palaistra.]
- Philostratus the Elder, Imagines - Greek Rhetoric C3rd A.D.