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Top 8 Famous Women of Greece

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Greece has no end of remarkable women - here is a look at just a few of the amazing Greek women who have affected history and the arts, and, often, both at once.

1. Penelope of Ithaca

Faithful Penelope, wife of wandering Odysseus, is renowned as the epitome of feminine fidelity. But that shortchanges this beautiful Greek queen, who raised her son Telemachus alone, ran an island nation, dealt with a chronically depressed father-in-law, and fended off a slew of suitors more than ready to declare her a widow - while forced by the customs of hospitality to keep them fed and bedded far away from her own tree-adorned chamber. She held up against some fearsome female competition, including Calypso and Circe. All was well in the end, when wandering Odysseus finally made it home, but don't sell short Penelope's achievements.

2. Dora Bakoyannis

Dora Bakoyannis
City of Athens Mayor's Office
A personal victim of terrorism (her first husband was assassinated,) then-Mayor Dora Bakoyannis promised the world that her city of Athens would be a safe haven during the 2004 Olympics - and she came through. Now, having served as Greece's first woman Foreign Minister, she is coping on a global level with increasingly complicated issues while attempting to return to political power.

3. Helen of Troy

With the "Face that Launched a Thousand Ships", revisionists insist that the Trojan War was not fought over a "mere" woman, but for economic reasons. Personally, I still favor the old-fashioned view. In any case, Helen's legendary beauty made a great excuse. By the way, she was also an excellent weaver, renowned for her fine handiwork, something she shared with long-suffering Penelope of Ithaca, but no one ever talks about that.

4. Sappho

Called 'The Tenth Muse' by Plato, Sappho's love poetry has persisted through the millennia. She was admired for her fine mind and monumental poetry during her lifetime, but it is her celebration of the beauty of the female form that tantalizes modern readers.

5. Melina Mercouri

Speak of Melina Mercouri in Greece and the Greeks around you will nod sadly and say "Ah, Melina!" softly. She won hearts as an actress, and minds and souls as the voice demanding the repatriation of the Parthenon Marbles during her stint as Minister of Culture. The movie "Never on Sunday" remains a modern Greek classic.

6. Queen Amalia

Whether you've stayed at one of the numerous hotels in the chain named for her or not, you've benefited from the works of this virtuous Queen. Among other accomplishments, she is the one who designed the National Gardens, an oasis of green, air-purifying gardens in the heart of Athens.

7. Maria Callas

Known both for her magnificent voice, tremendous acting skill, and her ultimately tragic love affair with shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis, Maria Callas graced the stage of the world's top opera houses, revolutionizing the standard by which opera stars are measured.

8. Helena Paparizou

Not a queen except in the pop sense, beautiful and talented Helena Paparizou perfectly blended traditional Greek music and dance with an irresistible beat, winning Eurovision 2005 and putting modern Greek pop back on the map with her hit, "My Number One". A follow-up attempt at Eurovision failed to bring home the medal, but Greeks still adore her.
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