The Strong Spartan Women of Ancient Greece

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In education and intellectual cultivation, the Spartan woman was equal to the Spartans. It was a society which honoured both its women and its most glorious warriors. The Spartan man who died heroically in battle had the same status as the Spartan woman who died during childbirth. Their names were written on tombstones outside the town for everybody to remember them and keep them in their eternal memory.

What baffles historians to this day, is how could such an authoritarian, oppressive, and patriarchal Ancient Greece be so progressive as to allow women such a degree of freedom and education?

Historic information we have today on Spartan women comes from descriptions between the Archaic and Classical periods. When all other women in Ancient Greece lived in service to their male masters, the Spartan women seemed like the absolute exception.

Even in ancient Athens, Greek women had very few rights, despite the progressive nature of the city-state. Perhaps it was the fact that in Athens, the woman was the property of her husband but in Sparti, the strong and stoic Spartan woman was raised and controlled solely by the state.

The Spartan woman was typically not responsible for domestic duties such as cooking, cleaning, and making clothing. Her duty was education. She trained from a young girl and kept an athletic figure.

Historians attribute the unprecedented level of freedom she enjoyed to the fact that all domestic work in Sparti was done by slaves. In other cities, the Greek woman had to weave, the Spartan woman was free from such duties. Her only concern as a “Spartiata” was to serve the state.

In the popular Hollywood hit movie “300”, we even see a few instances where the Spartan women’s power and authority is portrayed. For example, when King Leonidas kicks the Persian messenger into the well, he first looks back for the approval and head nod of his Spartan wife. In other scenes, the Spartan women voices her views to counsel privately.

We know that Spartan women were known for their natural beauty and that cosmetics and enhancements were strictly prohibited. Spartan women were also given access to public education while other Greek girls were not, an advantage for Spartiatises. However, oddly they were not allowed to use their education to find a career or earn money. Their wealth was most likely derived from land holdings. Owning land for other women in the ancient Greek world was unheard of. 

 

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