In the Greek monastery of Mount Athos, nothing female is allowed. Men can enter, but not women; roosters, but no hens; horses, but no mares, bulls, but no cows. The border is patrolled by armed guards to ensure that nothing feminine passes the gates. It has been this way ever since an official proclamation by Byzantine emperor Constantine Monomachos in 1046.
In the 14th century, Serbian Emperor Dušan the Mighty brought his wife, Helena of Bulgaria, to Mount Athos to protect her from the plague, but she did not touch the ground during her entire visit, as she was carried in the hand carriage all the time.
There have been some notable attempts by women to intrude on the all-male sanctum:
- French writer Maryse Choisy entered Mount Athos in the 1920s disguised as a sailor, and later wrote about her escapade in Un mois chez les hommes (“A Month With Men”).
- There was an incident in the 1930s regarding Aliki Diplarakou, the first Greek beauty pageant contestant to win the Miss Europe title, who shocked the world when she dressed up as a man and sneaked into Mount Athos. Her escapade was discussed in the 13 July 1953, Time magazine article entitled “The Climax of Sin”.
- In 1953, Cora Miller, an American Fulbright Program teacher from Athens, Ohio, landed briefly along with two other women, stirring up a controversy among the local monks.
- On May 26, 2008, five Moldovans illegally entered Greece by way of Turkey, ending up on Athos; four of the migrants were women. The monks forgave them for trespassing and informed them that the area was forbidden to females.