The first time Medousa had been molested, she was thirteen. She had been sent by her mistress to fetch some dresses, and she had to pass through one of the common rooms of the palace. Agis was there with several of his friends. Medousa tried to pass by unnoticed with her burden, but Agis saw her, and called out to her. One of the young men reached out and caught her by the wrist. His grip was cold, and painful. Medousa tried to pull away, but she was brought before Agis. He gripped her forearms and drew her down to the couch on which he was sitting. She was afraid to resist him too strenuously, given his station and hers. She dropped the dresses as she tried to get away.
“Please sir,” she protested, frightened. Panic began to build up within her as Agis groped and caressed her for the entertainment of his friends.
He and his friends laughed at her fear. Medousa squirmed as she felt Agis’ hands slipping into her clothes, roughly squeezing and kneading her breasts as he tried to kiss her. His breath was fetid with the smell of stale wine. Medousa tried to twist away from him. Agis’ friends gathered closer to watch, laughing. Several of them encouraged him.
“Come on, let’s have a look at her-!”
“You call that a kiss, Agis?”
“She’ll change her tune with a good prick or two in her!”
Agis exposed Medousa’s breasts as he slid his other hand down her body, trying to reach between her legs. Medousa’s vision blurred with tears as she pleaded with Agis to stop.
“What a shy little flower,” he teased her as his friends joined in mocking and groping the Helot. “And look how pious,” he remarked, observing the talisman of Athena Medousa wore beneath her clothing.
In a burst of panic, Medousa tore herself from Agis’ grasp and slipped through the knot of men surrounding the couch. Without stopping to pick up the dresses she’d been carrying, she fled the room, crying and trying to fix her clothes, followed by the laughter of Agis and his friends.
Medousa ran to Cynisca’s rooms, and sat down heavily on a couch. She was quaking with fear and shame. She tried to calm her breathing as her eyes filled with tears.
Cynisca found her there half an hour later.
“Chrysanthe…? What’s wrong…?”
Medousa wept, but remained mute. Cynisca pressed her.
“Tell me,” she insisted. “Are you alright? What’s the matter?”
Medousa looked up at her, unable to keep her tears in check.
“It was Agis,” she said finally. “He took liberties with me.”
“Did he?” Cynisca asked, sitting down next to her slave. “What did he do?”
“When I was going to fetch your dresses,” Medousa answered, her voice trembling. “He grabbed me, and fondled me…and…and…his friends with him…. They….”
Cynisca laid a hand on her shoulder as Medousa paused to re-establish control over herself.
“With the other slaves, I can look after myself,” she said, growing angry. “But Agis…. I can’t stop him if he wants to–”
“I’ll see to it,” Cynisca interrupted.
“You leave him to me,” she said firmly. “Neither he nor his friends will ever bother you again, I promise.”
Cynisca nodded. “I promise.”
Medousa broke down, crying.
“Thank you, Mistress.
“You’re not to worry about Agis, or anyone else, again,” Cynisca said. “What happened to the dresses?”
Medousa shook her head as she wept. “I’m sorry, mistress. I dropped them when I fled. I didn’t mean to–”
“It’s alright, Chrysanthe,” Cynisca told her. “Come on. We’ll go together to find them, and then you can come and help me try them on.”
The next day was a training day at the Agoge. Medousa always felt better when she could focus on her martial practice. They were brought to the edge of the field, hard by forested land. Chionis split them up into groups of two or three. Cynisca, Helen, and Medousa worked together. He arranged all the pupils with their shields, each by a large tree.
“Now,” Chionis instructed. “Keep your shields up. Cover your left breast and shoulder. Don’t rest it on yourselves, but hold it close. And keep your elbow in, close to your sides.” He walked up and down among his young charges, making sure they were in proper stance. He moved them close to the trees, so that their shields were pressed up against the trunks. After a few minutes, he stood back, and made a final check.
“Teacher, what do we do now?” someone called out.
Chionis smiled. “Push the tree over,” he said. “GO-!”
The girls all started straining and grunting, working to push over their assigned tree. Chionis walked up and down among them, adjusting their posture and giving them corrections. After several minutes, they started giving up, frustrated.
One of the girls angrily muttered “This is stupid! We can’t push down a full grown tree!”
Chionis looked over and called for everyone to rest. He called out to the girl who had made the complaint.
“Euole. Take up your position.”
She obediently trotted over to Chionis and took up an en garde position, kopis and shield ready.
“Put the sword away. You won’t need it for this exercise.” He looked down the line of students, considering.
“Chrysanthe! Face her.”
Medousa ran to take up position, facing Euole, her shield ready, but sword at her hip.
“GO!” Chionis shouted.
The girls lunged at each other, trying to use their shields to bash the other back. On the first pass, Euole deftly side-stepped Medousa’s initial charge, but Medousa shifted with her and lunged again. Euole tried to step around to her side, but Medousa was too fast. She struck Euole’s shield squarely with her own. Euole was sent flying back, and she fell heavily.
Chionis stood by, smiling.
“After a tree,” he said, “A man is easy.”
Chionis was often unconventional in his training methods. In addition to his novel way of training his pupils in phalanx technique, he had his own way of teaching the girls how to fight.
When he taught wrestling, he started the girls out in standard methods of attack and defense; but after several weeks, he began to throw in variations of his own.
“When you move in, you must break your opponent’s root. So–Hit her. Hard.”
“In wrestling?” one of the girls asked, puzzled.
Chionis nodded. “A good punch or two will startle your opponent, and break their fighting rhythm. When you’ve stunned them, then you can lock them up and throw them however you like without resistance.”
Khalkiope raised her hand. “But, that’s boxing, isn’t it? That’s not wrestling– Or will you also teach us how to wrestle while we box, too?”
“I’m teaching you how to fight,” Chionis replied. “Not how to play at sports.” He paused, smiling. “And yes; we will be learning to maneuver our legs like wrestlers when boxing.” He continued cheerfully, “Most boxers will never expect it. A good leg sweep will take ’em right down.”
As they worked, they heard the noise of a small crowd from across the meadow, away from the tree-line of the woods where they were working. Helen nudged Cynisca.
“Boys….” She said, giggling.
Cynisca laughed at her. “Don’t you think of anything else?”
Helen laughed with her, and swept her legs out, sending her down to the ground. She leapt upon her friend and they wrestled, still laughing at one another. “I’ll teach you some respect,” she yelled as she tried unsuccessfully to pin Cynisca.
Medousa looked across at the approaching boys. It would end up being another picnic, she thought, disappointed at the thought of the break in training. She gazed keenly across the field.
“Mistress? I think that’s your brother’s barracks.”
Cynisca and Helen paused to look.
Teachers and trainers walked to and fro amongst the youths as they all sat together, talking, eating, and flirting. Agesilaus found his sister and her friends, and sat with them. Helen was playfully resentful as Agesilaus’ presence discouraged some of the potential suitors that might have come to greet her.
“You’re a thoughtless and insensitive clod!” she teased him.
Agesilaus laughed. “Cynisca and Chrysanthe don’t seem to mind,” he retorted.
“Well, they should,” Helen shot back. “Why, Chrysanthe attracts more suitors than I do! Why she puts up with you….”
“I’m just as glad to have my mistress’ brother here; all the ‘suitors’ I attract are disrespectful and lacking in manners.”
“Don’t exaggerate,” Helen told her. “They’re just as good as mine.”
“I’m not exaggerating–What about Elphenor?”
“Okay–What of Ikaros?”
Cynisca and her brother laughed at them.
“Well, to be fair, I expect a lot of those boys expected Chrysanthe to be more than just our beloved Helot,” Agesilaus teased.
“You mean she’s not?” Helen interjected.
“Hmph,” Cynisca sniffed in reply to her brother’s comment. She put an arm around Medousa’s shoulders in a comradely embrace. “When Chrysanthe finishes the Agoge with me, she’ll be a full citizen, as good as any of them.”
Not long after, as they worked at combat drills, Medousa was talking with Helen. They had been paired up for pankration drills, and were taking a short break. Commenting on the picnic they’d had the other day, Medousa couldn’t help but wonder why Agesilaus came to sit with his sister and her friends.
“He and Cynisca have always been very close,” Helen noted. “Surely you’ve seen that.”
“Yes– But it just seems that he has so few friends of his own.”
“Ah. That’s because of his leg,” Helen told her. “The others don’t like to play with him cos he’s lame.”
“But he can do anything any of the others can do,” Medousa remarked.
Helen shook her head. “It doesn’t matter. He’s got a defect.”
The next time Medousa was accosted, it was by Gallus, one of the servant boys. He was older than Medousa, and used to cut wood for the kitchens. His manners were most coarse. He caught her in a corridor as Medousa was heading to her room. She was going to change and then tend upon her mistress at supper.
This time, however, when molested, Medousa did not freeze as before. Gallus was insistent and brutal, groping and fondling Medousa’s nethers while pinning her up against a wall, despite her struggles. She was taller than he was, and difficult to hold, but he was strong.
He tore her dress, the gown sliding down until it caught at her waist, being help up only at her hip. Gallus bunched up some of the material in his hand, clamping Medousa’s mouth shut with it.
There was a faint noise just then, as of someone approaching from a distance. As he glanced around at the sound, Medousa jabbed an elbow hard into Gallus’ lower ribs, and as he gasped, she twisted herself around, turning into him, releasing the arm he had trapped, and brought up her fist hard into the corner of his jaw by the neck.
Gallus fell like a sack of grain, tearing Medousa’s dress the rest of the way down as he did so. Medousa didn’t wait– she ran for her room, without looking back.
Maia came down the passageway in time to see Medousa disappearing half-naked around a corner. Glancing down, she saw Gallus lying against the wall, stunned, and staring up at her, uncomprehending. Maia looked down upon him, displeasure darkening her face.
“Are you so fatigued that you feel the need to nap here in the corridor?”
“What…? I– I, uh….” Gallus struggled to focus.
“Get up!” the nurse barked “Get up and go tend to your duties!”
Fear helped Gallus to clear his head. He rose unsteadily and hurried off toward the kitchens. Maia watched him as he left, then turned and went to inform Cynisca.
Cynisca found Medousa sitting on the edge of her cot, hunched up and shaking, covering herself with her arms, and reciting hymns to Athena. Her body was aquiver with a combination of rage, fright, and shame.
“Chrysanthe…?” Cynisca called as she entered. Medousa quickly composed herself as her mistress sat down next to her, trying to cover herself with what was left of her clothes. “Medousa…?” She laid a hand on Medousa’s shoulder.
Medousa looked up at Cynisca, fighting back tears. After a moment, Cynisca rose.
“Put on a tunic and come with me,” Cynisca ordered her.
“Wh- Where are we going?” Medousa asked.
“Just for a run. Come on.”
Cynisca led Medousa out of the house, and then without any preliminaries, started running. Cynisca ran slowly enough to stay close to her Helot. Sometimes she jogged along behind her, prodding her onward, and sometimes she ran ahead of Medousa, trying to get her to run harder. Cynisca had always been a faster runner than her servant, but she was careful not to get too far ahead of her this time. She kept close to her Helot, spurring her on to go as fast as she could.
They pounded along the road leading away from the palace. They cut across into the fields, passing by the town, and then headed into the countryside. They ran on and on, until the sun disappeared below the horizon. And then they ran even further. Cynisca dashed ahead of Medousa as darkness fell. Medousa loped along, her heart hammering in her chest, sweat pouring off her as she tried to keep up with her mistress.
Medousa’s eyes were fixed on Cynisca’s form racing along ahead of her. She focused on the muscles in Cynisca’s thighs and buttocks sliding smoothly and rhythmically under her skin, her tunic plastered to her torso with perspiration. Eventually, as the first stars came out, Cynisca slowed to a brisk walk, and trotted along at her Helot’s side.
“And now,” Cynisca said, getting her wind back, “Tell me what happened.”
“I was attacked by Gallus, Mistress.”
“Medousa,” Cynisca began, using her real name. “You don’t have to call me ‘Mistress’ when it’s just us. ‘Cynisca.’ Call me by my name.”
“Yes, miss– Cynisca….”
“Who is Gallus?”
“One of the kitchen boys. I suppose he found me pleasing… I fought him off. How did you know?”
“Maia saw most of it in the hallway and came to me. She said she saw the boy attack you, and that you left him almost unconscious in the corridor.”
“He would’ve taken me against my will had I not,” Medousa said.
Cynisca nodded as they continued on. “There may yet be trouble,” she pondered out loud. “If you injured him as badly as Maia reports, his pride will have taken a worse beating from you than his head. He may seek to retaliate.”
Medousa looked up, frightened.
“I wouldn’t want that to happen to you,” Cynisca continued quietly.
They walked on. As the moon was rising, they came to a small lake set about with willows on its banks. Cynisca pulled off her tunic and hung it on a branch to dry, and slipped into the water. She looked back at Medousa who stood on the bank, watching her.
“What’s the matter, Medousa? Come on–Hang up your clothes to dry and have a swim with me. Then we’ll head back.”
Medousa hesitantly took off her tunic, wrung it out, and hung it up next to Cynisca’s. She gazed at Cynisca’s form as she moved smoothly through the dark water, the moonlight sparkling on the pool’s surface, gently illuminating her features. After a moment, Medousa realized that she was staring at Cynisca’s body. She shivered, yet suddenly felt warm. Then, she entered the water with her mistress.
They swam laps back and forth across the pond a few times, then they came out and laid down on the bank as they waited for their clothes to dry.
“Medousa,” Cynisca asked as they laid next to each other in the moonlight. “Do you suffer this kind of treatment from boys a lot?”
“It feels that way sometimes, Mistr–Cynisca.”
Cynisca startled Medousa by shifting so that she was resting her head on Medousa’s breast, using her Helot as a pillow. Such familiarity! Medousa knew she should feel uncomfortable, but somehow, she didn’t. It felt somehow natural to her. Yet because it felt so natural, she felt anxious. If Cynisca noticed her discomfort, she gave no indication.
“I shall have an example made of Gallus,” Cynisca decided, turning to look Medousa in the eye. “I’ll see to it that no one in the palace ever tries to harm you again.”
Cynisca lay back on Medousa’s breast again, looking up at the moon. For a moment, Medousa thought she had dozed off. Presently, Cynisca stood.
“Come on,” she said, taking down their tunics. “Let’s get back.” She handed Medousa her tunic, and slipping them on, the two set off at a slow jog back to the palace.
They returned home very late indeed. Cynisca had Medousa’s cot moved from the servants’ quarters to a small room adjoining her own. Worn out, Medousa fell into a deep a dreamless sleep. She slept until quite late into the next day, and Cynisca suffered no one to rouse her.
When she finally did rise and set about her duties, Medousa noticed that Gallus had been dismissed from the household. He was never again seen up the hill.