Historians have spent a long time attempting to establish what exactly life was like for women in ancient Greece. Like all studies of ancient Greece, they focus primarily on the two most powerful city-states in the Hellenic world, Athens and Sparta. Since the majority of the primary documents deal with these two cities, historians are only able to decipher a fragmentary view of what life was actually like for the entirety of society, let alone what life was like for women specifically. Nevertheless, researchers have dug through the chronicles of primary sources available in order to provide the most accurate depiction of Greek women possible. Researchers generally start by analyzing both Sparta and Athens separately in order to uncover how they viewed the role of women in their own society. Then, by comparing how these two societies treated women, a more complete image of their experience in ancient Athens and Sparta becomes evident. Modern historians have thus arrived at the general conclusion that Athens was a place where women were second-class citizens, barred from political practices and social events while being confined to the home for much of their time.
Sparta on the other hand, was a place where women exercised a good amount of freedom when compared to their Athenian counterparts. All the same, women in both Sparta and Athens fulfilled very similar roles, albeit in differing ways. As mentioned previously the sources available to researchers on ancient Greek women are relatively scarce. They are not completely unavailable however, and have been provided to researchers by ancient authors such as Aristotle, Plutarch, Xenophon, and Thucydides, just to name a few. Unfortunately, all of these sources do come with their own set of biases. Authors only write to serve a purpose or convey some message, thus their writings -intentionally or unintentionally- are tilted to fulfill their own goals, making it the job of the researcher to recognize this bias and attempt to mitigate any prejudices that become apparent. The majority of what historians know about women from Sparta comes from Plutarch’s Life of Lycurgus, the semi-mythical lawgiver of Sparta. After reviewing the text, it becomes apparent that the primary role of women in Sparta was to create strong Spartan men.
The Term Paper on Describe the Social, Cultural and Political Features of Classical Athens and Ancient Sparta
Sparta then experienced a period of great wealth and power in the Greek region until, the Messinian people who had been enslaved by the Spartans revolted wanting their freedom and land back. It took Sparta twenty years to conquer the revolt and it became clear that the Spartans had to change their way of life. So, they turned themselves into a military state, establishing their military power ...
Hence why Lycurgus is said to have “exercised the bodies of young women” so the “children they were bearing should have a strong beginning in strong bodies and they should grow better”. Since Spartans relied on a powerful military in order to keep their servants, the helots, at bay from revolting, the main role of women was to create the next generation’s army in order to ensure the continuation of Spartan society. Men and women were even encouraged to forgo “jealousy” and made it “honorable for men to give the use of their wives to those whom they should think fit, that so they might have children by them”. This oddity is attributed to the fact education was mandatory for all Spartan children. Consequently, it can be inferred that children were seen more as the property of the state rather than of their biological parents. Nevertheless, it illustrates the importance of reproduction to Spartan society. Xenophon develops this point when he states that Lycurgus “took from the men the liberty of marrying when each of them pleased”, saying “they should contract marriages only when they were in full bodily vigor, deeming this … conducive to producing excellent offspring”. This shows that reproduction was not only encouraged, but also that who procreated and when they did so was important so they could create healthy robust children.
Although the women were veritable factories for the Spartan war machine, they were not simply empty vessels waiting to be filled. They actually experienced a good amount of freedom when compared to their Athenian counterparts. Women’s education in Sparta, like their male counterpart’s, was controlled by the state, a benefit unheard of throughout the rest of ancient Greece. In addition, CSUN Spartan women did not marry when they were “of tender years, but [when] in their full bloom and ripeness”, allowing many of them to pursue their education for the same length of time as modern students. They most likely learned cultural norms through differing types of performance art, specifically choruses sung at festivals or during early plays, along with reading, arithmetic and writing. The purpose of these performances by young maidens was twofold: first to entice young men to marry, along with instilling both men and women with the idea of what a good Spartan should be. In addition to having a great deal of freedom in education, Spartan women were also able to own land. In his work Politics, Aristotle points out that “about two fifths of the whole land are in the possession of women”.
Women are better drivers than men. For many years there have been multiple arguments and disagreements on whether men are better drivers than women. However driving is not all about driving a car. How often do you hear that a man is the driving force of his home or his family? You don’t, because it is a woman’s roll to be the driver of her home and family. A woman is what makes a home a home and ...
Women would generally obtain these properties through large dowries given in marriage, or through inheritance as is evident when Aristotle laments the practice of giving large dowries saying “it would be better if there were no dowries, or if they were small or at any rate moderate”. Women’s ability to become the sole proprietors of land was something relatively unheard of in the Hellenic world, hence Aristotle’s confusion and desire to reduce the amount of land held by them. Athenian women’s role was identical to that of Spartan women in respect to their importance in reproduction. Thucydides states that Pericles encouraged procreation and saw a “double benefit” in the birth of a newborn son, not only did the birth “help you [Athenian mothers who lost sons in the Peloponnesian War] forget those who are no more” but also deliver Athens “from a shortage of men”. Although adultery was taboo in Athens, wife swapping did occur in cases of infertile marriages, as is evident in On the Estate of Menecles written by Isaeus. Isaeus states that Menecles, who was unhappy with his childless marriage desired him to “give her [Menecles’ wife] in marriage to another man”.
For both societies, wife swapping in the case of infertility was encouraged since reproduction meant the procreation of children, which in turn allowed for the continuation of Grecian society. In contrast to Spartan women, who were publically educated and exercised outdoors, Athenian women were confined entirely to the home. However, like Spartan women Athenian women were in charge of domestic affairs. According to Xenophon, a desirable wife should take “great care that she should see, hear and talk as little as possible”. Xenophon goes on to say “houses are needed for the nurture of new-born children”, then begins to list other responsibilities involving the wide variety of domestic tasks that needed to be completed. These tasks included accounting matters, the production of clothing, along with ensuring a fully stocked pantry. Thus, the women in Athenian society were completely in charge of domestic affairs, a parallel with their Spartan counterpart, but on the other hand they were expected to stay out of the way in order to be considered a good wife, where as Spartan women took a more active role in the public sphere. Another contrast between Athenian and Spartan societies is actually caused by the fact that in both women were expected to rear children and handle domestic affairs.
The world today would look strangely incomplete if we eliminate the roles of women in social, political, technological or any field for that matter. She is growing stronger by the day, marching pace by pace with men and is probably beginning to lead the race. She stands tall; shining like a star in the sky whose light is undoubtedly indispensable for the very existence of life. Women in ancient ...
Athenian women married much younger than their Spartan counterparts did, for instance Socrates wife was less then fifteen years of age. This ensured that Athenian women were kept indoors from birth, to marriage, to death. Whereas mentioned previously, Spartan women were enrolled in public education from an early age; Athenian women were not, so something needed to be done in order to keep them busy. Aristotle laments these liberties given to the women of Sparta saying they “live licentiously with regard to every kind of license and luxuriously”. The most strongly held parallel between Athenian and Spartan women had to lie in ensuring the continuation of society through reproduction, and it can be inferred that this was the main role of women in Hellenic society. However, this role would affect Athenian and Spartan women in unique ways, and would cause their socialization into society to differ. This can most likely be attributed to the Spartan’s militaristic society. Gorgo the wife of king Leonidis gave the reason for women’s dominance in Sparta best when replying to a foreign woman’s statement that, “the women of Lacedaemon were the only women in the world who could rule men”. “With good reason,” Gorgo replied, “for we are the only women who bring forth men”.
In most of the ancient Greek world, gender roles were fairly static throughout time and outside circumstances had little or no influence on gender construction. Men functioned within the public sphere, whereas women were restricted to the private, domestic sphere. This was the typical gender construction of most ancient societies, and remained so in much of the world until modern times. Unlike the ...
Athenian women on the other hand were said by Aristotle to lack the qualities of authority present in adult men, and thus were locked away in the house where they could do the work that was “natural” to them, while interfering as little as possible. Sara Pomeroy in her book Goddesses, Wives, Whores and Slaves talks about how the Greeks treated reproduction in terms of agriculture, the man possessed the visible “seed” and would “plant” it in a women’s “field” in order to procure offspring. From this idea, an analogy can be created that accurately describes the differences between Spartan and Athenian women. If women were the field, in Athens the goal was to guard your field while paying enough attention to it so it could produce an adequate amount of produce, or in this case offspring. In Sparta the idea was more progressive, by preparing their “fields” for planting through fertilization, or in this case exercise and education. Spartans attempted to not only produce enough offspring, but also offspring that would be capable of surviving the harshest conditions.
Aristotle, Politcs, II. 1270 A 23-9, in The Greek City States: A source book, translated by P.J Rhodes. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007)
Isaeus, On the Estate of Menelaus, 6-9, in The Greek City States: A source book, translated by P.J Rhodes. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007)
Plutarch, Life of Lycurgas, 14. ii-iv, in The Greek City States: A source book, translated by P.J Rhodes. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007)
Plutarch, Life of Lycurgas, in The Internet Classics Archive, translated by John Dryden. <http://classics.mit.edu/Plutarch/lycurgus.html>, retrieved on Dec. 02, 2009.
Thucydides, Pericles on Athenian Wives, II. 44. i-iii,45. ii, in The Greek City States: A source book, translated by P.J Rhodes. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007)
Xenophon, Oeconomicus, vii. 3-6,8,20-5,35-6, in The Greek City States: A source book, translated by P.J Rhodes. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007)
Xenophon, Xenophon on The Spartans, in The Internet Classics Archive. translated by John Paul Adams <http://www.csun.edu/~hcfll004/sparta-a.html>, retrieved on Dec. 02, 2009. Pomeroy, Sarah. Goddesses, Wives, Whores and Slaves: Women in Classic Antiquity. New York: Schocken Books, 1995.
PERSIAN WAR The Persian war was a great war. It was fought between Greece and Persia. Even though the war was fierce and there were many casualties the outcome was great for Greece. It brought the Greek city-states together and it also boosted their morale and gave them the confidence they needed to become an even greater empire. Athens was the wealthiest Greek city-state in 500 B. C. But they ...
[ 1 ]. Plutarch, Life of Lycurgas, 14. ii-iv, in The Greek City States: A source book, translated by P.J Rhodes. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007), p.165 [ 2 ]. Plutarch, Life of Lycurgas, in The Internet Classics Archive, translated by John Dryden. , retrieved on Dec. 02, 2009. [ 3 ]. Xenophon, Xenophon on The Spartans, in The Internet Classics Archive. translated by John Paul Adams. , retrieved on Dec. 02, 2009. [ 4 ]. Plutarch, Life of Lycurgas, in The Internet Classics Archive, translated by
John Dryden. , retrieved on Dec. 02, 2009. [ 5 ]. Plutarch, Life of Lycurgas, in The Internet Classics Archive, translated by John Dryden. , retrieved on Dec. 02, 2009. [ 6 ]. Aristotle, Politcs, II. 1270 A 23-9, in The Greek City States: A source book, translated by P.J Rhodes. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007) 173. [ 7 ]. Ibid, 173.
[ 8 ]. Thucydides, Pericles on Athenian Wives, II. 44. i-iii,45. ii, in The Greek City States: A source book, translated by P.J Rhodes. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007), 167. [ 9 ]. Isaeus, On the Estate of Menelaus, 6-9, in The Greek City States: A source book, translated by P.J Rhodes. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007) [ 10 ]. Xenophon, Oeconomicus, vii. 3-6,8,20-5,35-6, in The Greek City States: A source book, translated by P.J Rhodes. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007), 170. [ 11 ]. Ibid, 169
[ 12 ]. Xenophon, Oeconomicus, vii. 3-6,8,20-5,35-6, in The Greek City States: A source book, translated by P.J Rhodes. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007), 168. [ 13 ]. Pomeroy, Sarah. Goddesses, Wives, Whores and Slaves: Women in Classic Antiquity. New York: Schocken Books, 1995. 5.