Bearded Women Were Harbingers Of Danger Sent By The Greek Gods?


(The statue of Pallas Athena (modified with a beard) in front of Parliament Building, Vienna, Austria, [Public Domain] via Creative Commons)


In the ancient Anatolian region of Caria, the people of Pedasus had an interesting and unique way of surviving the turbulent times of history. With the help of the priestesses of the local temple of Athene (or Athena), Pedasus could often predict when danger was imminent.

The ancient Greek historian, Herodotus, briefly described the peculiar (most likely folkloric) defense mechanism that was reportedly used by Pedasus—bearded ladies. More accurately, holy bearded ladies. Herodotus wrote that when trouble was approaching, the priestess of Athene in Pedasus would grow a long beard. Whenever the people of Pedasus saw that their priestess was bearded, they would send out messages of warning to their neighbors and allies to prepare for an incoming threat. Though Herodotus, himself, sounded a bit skeptical of the bearded priestesses, he noted in The Histories that Pedasus was supposedly warned of danger in this fashion in at least three instances.

For those wishing to hear Herodotus’ words on this matter, his description was as follows: “Inland, east of Halicarnassus, there were the men of Pedasus. These people used to get warning of any impending disaster to them and their neighbors by the priestess of Athene growing a long beard, a thing which has actually happened on three occasions” (The Histories, Book 1, section 175).



Written by C. Keith Hansley


  • The Histories by Herodotus translated by Aubrey de Sélincourt and revised by John Marincola. New York: Penguin Classics, 2002.

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