In the society of Sparta, each individual was not a big matter. Everyone lived for their community mission: to strengthen their state. The Spartan built no walls because they accepted any challenge for external invasion. There were no fires because they wanted to remain in darkness. They hardly said a thing. That’s why the word “laconic” originated from the Spartan Province of Laconia. We often see them as selfless warriors who knew to sprang their spears in battle. But on the other side of these warriors, they treated their women with fairness, compared with people in the same period. Here is a blog post about the Spartan Women Life.
Hardly can we find a tribe in the ancient world that educated their women. Through the ancient writers and poets from the 8th century BC to 4th century BC, we learn some key information about Spartan women life.
The ancient Greek women often lived with many burdens on their shoulders and with servitude. By contrast, the Spartan women were not the same. While the Athenian women had few rights and they were almost in control of their husbands, Spartan women were under the control of the state. Greek women literally lived their lives within the threshold while the Spartan women could exercise and play to enjoy life. An exceptional offering to the Spartan women was education.
While the helot slaves worked for the Spartan textile industry, the women could have more free time to train themselves both physically and mentally.
The role of the Spartan women was to stay healthy and fit to be ready to birth children to Sparta. A way to encourage the healthiness of the mother was allowing her to hold her intellectual prowess to wit against any man.
Although these women could not join the agoge, Spartan military training school, they could exercise foot races alongside the men. Still, there have been debates whether these special rights were offered to all Spartan women or the elite class only.
Fit and Free
For the Ancient Greek women, they had to wear things like corsets, breast supporter bands, girdles, etc. to better their appearance. They also had to wear long dresses. Any women naked or showing off their curves would violate a taboo.
But the archaeological artifacts and some literal texts revealed that the Spartan women could wear short dresses – the Chiton. This type of dress revealed their legs. But if we consider the amount of training exercise that the Spartan women took up every day, this all made sense.
The Spartan women could run, throw javelins, wrestle, etc. just like men. They believed that as long as the mothers were as fit as the men, they could bear the healthiest children. The women in Sparta were also given nutritious food to ensure this fact.
Marriages at this time were often contractual. The female average age for marriage was 18 while that of males was normally 30. We might think this was a huge age gap But this was normal back then. In Athens, the female age for marriage was 14 though. For the Spartan men over 30 years old who failed to have themselves a wife would be called “useless” for the state.
Yet, many men failed to do so. Many Spartan men hesitated to enter a marriage. Because after all, they were separated and lived among the same-sex groups from the age of seven until the time they complete their military service. Accordingly, they found it quite difficult to communicate and treat their women.
Blame on the Spartan women
Things quickly changed. Sparta endured a tragic loss in Leuctra in 371 BC followed by many helot revolts. The state became weaker and weaker as time passed by. Many uprisings happened in the community. But instead of blaming the policies and wars, the majority of Spartan men pointed their fingers to the women.
The famous Grek philosopher, Aristotle blamed Spartan women as the main reason for the faults of the Spartan civilization due to freedom, education, and prestige. By the time the Hellenistic Period had begun, the access to education for Spartan women was blocked. Many later Spartan kings attempted to restore these basic rights for the women, yet failed.