Women in Athens and Sparta
“Men are free to roam outside, but the women must stay inside.” (Unknown Athenian), this was true for most of human history, and Ancient Athens was no different. However in Ancient Sparta it was much different from the rest of Greece, and for that matter a majority of civilizations. Usually when people think of Athens they think of the Golden Age of Athens (480-322 B.C.) and think that men and women are prospering throughout Attica and it was more like the Roaring 20s of the 20th Century. And when people think of Sparta they see a society hell bent of taking over Athens and crush anyone who stands in their way. In either case nobody really takes much time to ask what were the women doing during this time period because there are more interesting topics to learn about like the Peloponnesian Wars (431-404 B.C.) or the Battle of Thermopylae (480 B.C.) or the many famous philosophers of the time. However women have always been the cogs working behind the machine, some more than others, and when looking at Classical Greece we see the very predictable form of women to the very backward form of women, namely Athens and Sparta.
Women in Classical Athens weren’t very highly thought of and followed the predictable form of women living in a patriarchal society. The Greek historian Xenophon in Oeconomicus described women as things important for “…the production of children.”1 And “…offspring to support them in old age…” Women were always controlled by men, whether it is her father or her husband, and would be expected to keep the house clean and be in control of the slaves and care for the children. This meant that Athenian women had little to no freedoms, and weren’t allowed to leave the house except for religious festivals, funerals, or religious cults. She wasn’t to be seen inside or outside the house by the public, and if her husband had guests over she would be confined to her bedroom.2 If a household had no slaves though then a...
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Graham, Casey, Ancient Athenian Women, http://www.angelfire.com/ca3/ancientchix/, (10/7/2013).
Sayings of Spartan Women, http://penelope.uchicago.edu/Thayer/E/Roman/Texts/Plutarch/Moralia/Sayings_of_Spartan_Women*.html, Vol. 3, (2011), (10/7/2013), 455-469.
The Spartan Family, http://www.historywiz.com/didyouknow/spartanfamily.htm, (HistoryWiz, 2008) (10/7/2013).
Noreen Emmanuel, Adam Dewar, & Kerylin Foss, Women In Ancient Greece: A Comparison Between Athenian and Spartan Women, http://spartanwomen.tripod.com/, (Project History 1001 A virtual Museum Exhibit) (10/7/2013).
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