When Cleomenes, king of Sparta, invaded the land of the Argives in 510 BC, he defeated and killed all the men of Argos in battle. So when Cleomenes led his troops to Argos there were no men to defend it.
Telesilla stationed on the wall all the slaves and all the males normally exempt from military service owing to their youth or old age. Also, she collected the arms from sanctuaries and homes, armed the women and put them in battle position. When the Spartans appeared, they made a battle cry to scare Telesilla and the other women, but Telesilla's army didn't scare, stood their ground and fought valiantly. The Lacedaemonians, realizing that to destroy the women would be an invidious success while defeat would mean a shameful disaster, left the city.
According to Pausanias, at Argos there was a statue in front of the temple of Aphrodite dedicated to Telesilla. The statues depicted a woman who holds in her hand a helmet, which she is looking at and is about to place on her head and books lying at her feet. The festival Hybristica or Endymatia, in which men and women exchanged clothes, also celebrated the heroism of her female compatriots. However, the statue seen by Pausanias may not have been intended for Telesilla; it would equally represent Aphrodite, in her character as wife of Ares and a warlike goddess (the books, however, seem out of place). The Hybristica, again, was most probably a religious festival connected with the worship of some androgynous divinity.
Herodotus (vi. 76) does not refer to the intervention of Telesilla, but mentions an oracle, told by a Pythian priestess, which predicted that the female should conquer the male, whence the tradition itself may have been derived. The oracle was:
"But when the time shall come that the female conquers in battle,
Driving away the male, and wins great glory in Argos,Then many wives of the Argives shall tear both cheeks in their mourning;"
Pausanias, also, mentions that at one of her ode she talk about a sanctuary of Artemis which is on top of a mountain.
- Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Telesilla". Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press.
- Pausanias: Description of Greece, ARGOLIS- 2.20.8 "Telesilla was a distinguished woman at Argos who was especially renowned for her poetry."
- Pausanias: Description of Greece, ARGOLIS- 2.20.9 "But Telesilla mounted on the wall all the slaves and such as were incapable of bearing arms through youth or old age, and she herself, collecting the arms in the sanctuaries and those that were left in the houses, armed the women of vigorous age, and then posted them where she knew the enemy would attack."
- Pausanias: Description of Greece, ARGOLIS- 2.20.9 "When the Lacedaemonians came on, the women were not dismayed at their battle-cry, but stood their ground and fought valiantly."
- Pausanias: Description of Greece, ARGOLIS- 2.20.9 "Then the Lacedaemonians, realizing that to destroy the women would be an invidious success while defeat would mean a shameful disaster, gave way before the women."
- Pausanias: Description of Greece, ARGOLIS- 2.20.8 "Above the theater is a sanctuary of Aphrodite, and before the image is a slab with a representation wrought on it in relief of Telesilla, the lyric poetess. Her books lie scattered at her feet, and she herself holds in her hand an helmet, which she is looking at and is about to place on her head."
- http://www.well.com/user/aquarius/lucian-amores.htm Telesilla, who armed herself against the Spartiates, and because of whom Ares is numbered at Argos among the gods of the women,...
- Pausanias: Description of Greece, ARGOLIS- 2.28.2 "On the Top of the mountain there is a sanctuary of Artemis Coryphaea (of the Peak), of which Telesilla mention in an ode."