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Sunday, June 13, 2021

What Was it Like to be a Woman in Ancient Sparta ?

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Spartan Women

Spartan women were very famous in Ancient Hellas, because they had more freedom than anywhere else in the Hellenic World. To all other Greeks the Spartan women held a reputation of being insane and controlling of their husbands. Compared to the Athenian women, Spartan women could inherit property and were better educated.

Youth

After their birth the girls were given to their mothers so they could take care of them. Girls and boys were fed equally so they could grow up to be physically strong and healthy so they could bear children without complications. Compared to their boys who were separated from their mother at the age of 7, it is believed that the girls stayed with their mother for their entire education period.

Education

To be literate was a pleasure reserved only for the Elites. According to sources from the classical period literacy in Sparta was present, but only a few women were able to read and write. For example, there are anecdotes that were written by Spartan mothers to their sons that had gone to war. Apart from reading women in Sparta were also taught how to play music, to dance, and recite poetry. Sometimes these were preformed at the same time. Women were also taught how to play instruments, this could be seen on the statues that had survived till this very day. As for physical education spartan women were taught how to ride a horse, running, fighting, throwing disks and spears and the traditional show of force. During their education young spartan men and women showed their athletic skills by performing them through war games while they were naked. Spartan women also participated in races during festivals from which the most famous were the games dedicated to the goddess Hera.

Marriage

During the marriage ceremony, the same night the woman’s hair would be cut short, she would be dressed in a mans clothes and sandals, and be left in a dark room, where after some time she would be visited by he husband and ritually trapped by him. Married women were forbidden from growing their hair long. So because spartan men spent most of their time in the barracks, the women had free reign in their homes and led the community socially and politically. Contemporaries often would critique Sparta and laugh at the Spartan men for letting their women control them. Also, they were critical of them for possessing vast amounts of wealth, and that they let Sparta fall from the leader of the Hellenic World just because they let their women enjoy the luxury. When they asked Queen Gorgo why are you Spartan women the only ones who can rule men , she replied: ”Because only Spartan women give birth to men”.

Role In Society

According to spartan law the most important role for spartan women in Spartan society was the bearing of children, this was on the same level as the training of a Spartan warrior in the army. Women were to give birth to as much man as possible, they took great pleasure in raising up their children. Having sons that were cowards was shameful, but for those that died in battle, Spartan women celebrated since they know their sons died bravely.

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