Wednesday, September 24, 2014


So guys, while a lot of Greek life sucked for women, check this out! The spartans were incredibly progressive in their attitudes towards women's rights:

            ?Women could own property---and did in fact own more than a third of the land in Sparta---and they could dispose of it as they wished.  Daughters inherited along with sons.  Unfortunately, when we get down to the particulars there are some gaps in our knowledge.  Attempts were made to get rid of the practice of needing a dowry to get married.  It is possible that endeavors by fathers to get around the law have led to considerable confusion in our eyes as to what was a gift and what was a dowry.  Daughters may have inherited half of what a son inherited; it is also possible that if you combine dowry with inheritance they ended up with a full share of the estate.
Spartan women had a reputation for boldness and licentiousness that other Greeks found unseemly.  Women’s tunics were worn in such a way as to give them a little more freedom of movement and the opportunity to reveal a little leg and thigh if they so desired.  Spartan girls competed in athletics at the same time as the boys and may have done so in the nude before a mixed audience.  Plutarch mentions nude rituals witnessed by young men.  The end of the fourth and the beginning of the fifth centuries BCE saw a decline in the number of men relative to women. Several men might share a wife and regard the children as their own.  The woman would clearly be the dominant member of any such family.  An unmarried man might approach a friend and ask if he could “borrow” his wife to produce a child for him.  If the husband had all of the children he wanted and approved of the suitor he might agree.  It is highly unlikely that the mature wife and mother lacked a strong voice in the arrangements, considering the power and status of adult women in everything else.  Since marriage existed strictly for the procreation of children and not as an answer to emotional or social needs the arrangement would not have had the same meaning to them as it might to us."

(full article:

So while Athens was screwing around with them fancy columns and oppressing their women, Sparta got awesome and gave women rights. Another interesting fact I read was that married women were given knives to defend themselves against their husband if spousal abuse became a problem so they could shank their faces and the next day Sparta would see the slashes and shun them.


Ross said...

The fact that Sparta was more progressive than Greece is funny considering the outcome of the Peloponnesian war. Athens, the all mighty Greek entity that gave little rights to women, surrendered to the Peloponnesian League, lead by Sparta. The reason they attacked Greece was because they saw how their power was growing and they were enraged at the wall they set up to defend from outside attacks, specifically from Sparta. Sparta knocked Greece of its high horse, showing them that their way of life was maybe not the best. The Spartan presence caused them to adapt to a new way of life, one that gave women more privilege than they were accustomed to having in Greece.

alex Monier said...

It's especially ironic considering that the Athenians thought of themselves as extraordinarily cultured what with their plays and marble statues and such. So while they were cultured in an artistic regards, they were incredibly unprogressive.

Joe D said...

I have always thought it interesting how societies cycle through phases of oppressing groups of people, but the power for the most part usually ends up in the hands of old, white men. For instance, women enjoyed a high degree of power in Sparta, but fast forward a thousand years and European women are in a worse place than they were in Sparta. In the United States, we started with sexist beliefs (overall), and even today some would argue that women do not receive the same rights that men do. Especially in today's age, when machines do most of the heavy lifting, there's no real reason for these remnants of chauvinism to still remain. I mean, if women approached equality in ancient Sparta, they should absolutely have had equal rights in Europe and America in the 1500s and beyond.