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DISCLAIMER: My only knowledge about fate is the Fate/Zero and Unlimited Blade Works anime adaptations, as well as the Fate/Extella video game. This is something I'm genuinely curious about.

The Fate franchise is all about summoning Heroic Spirits to participate in the Holy Grail War. It is filled with fictional depictions of historical and mythical figures, such as Hercules, Achilles, King Arthur, Alexander the Great, and more.

There are many instances of turning male historical figures into female Heroic Spirits, including but not limited to King Arthur, Nobunaga Oda, Musashi Miyamoto, Francis Drake, and many more.

However, the reverse doesn't happen. Female historical figures stay female when summoned as Heroic Spirits and aren't turned into males.

Why is this? Is it for artistic reasons? Story-telling reasons?

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The in-universe explanation for this is that these characters WERE female in history, it's just that the legends that became their legacy portrayed them as male. In the case of Saber she was seen as a young boy whose ageing was halted when 'he' pulled the sword from the stone.
(Her full story is up on the F/SN wiki, some parts of it are pretty ridiculous though)

With Saber being the flagship Heroic Spirit of the Fate universe her backstory is by far the most elaborate and fleshed out, but it is assumed that other supposed-to-be-male characters have similar backstories/explanations.
One notable exception / edge case is Astolfo (The Rider for the Black team in Fate/Apocrypha) who is supposed to be male in the Fate universe as well, but just looks feminine, even though the wikis insist that this is androgynous: enter image description here

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