Women in Ancient Sparta
Ever thought of those brave women in ancient Sparta? Women from the war-inclined nation were a special breed altogether. They were educated and athletic. Above all, they were good homemakers and mothers. If you are intrigued by the courageous women in ancient Sparta, read on and discover the various hidden facets about these ancient Greek women.
Revisit the History
The ancient laws of Sparta were manifested and written by a legendary lawmaker, Lycurgus, who reorganized the social and political structure of the polis in the 7th century B.C. He transformed it into a collective and highly-disciplined society. Healso devised the strictest military academy of the Agoge, wherein the Spartan boys were given training from childhood until they became adults.
The law reforms made by Lycurgus even included specific allowances and rules for the women of Sparta. Even though these rules and regulations made it appear as if the Spartan women were given more freedom when compared with an average Greek woman, they were really implemented in order to make sure that the society progressed as threatening, powerful, and disciplined. These women were perceived as the weapon and impetus by which Sparta continually advanced.
But there is no actual description or documentation which glorifies the ways of Spartan women. All historians still rely on the accounts of the Archaic Greek writers and poets, as well as other Greek literary figures in order to frame the pieces. They also sometimes rely on mythology to understand the culture and lives of the women of Sparta.
Lives of Spartan Women
It is a well-known fact that women of Sparta were renowned for their natural beauty. They were not allowed to wear any kind of enhancements or makeup. They were even imparted public education. This concept was completely radical and transforming – other Greek women were never formally educated. However, they were not to utilize their education to earn money or have careers. Most likely, Spartan women gained their income from their land holdings which they acquired via a public land distribution scheme. It is now known that is was unheard of for Greek women to own land..
As part of the formal education, a Spartan girl would have been allowed to exercise unclothed outdoors, similar to the Spartan boys. This allowance was new to the rest of the Greek world. An average Greek woman would have never been allowed to set foot out of doors, apart from collecting water. They were also not allowed to be naked with men in public. However, Spartan women not only worked out, but they also participated in athletics, such as footraces.
The allowances of athletics and exercise for women from Sparta, even though disapproved by the rest of the Greeks, were not considered a freedom move by the Spartans. This act was seen as a way to ensure that the fit and strong women of Sparta would reproduce, and their babies would become strong warriors. Their motives and methods were radical for the rest of the Greek world.
Another freedom which the women in ancient Sparta enjoyed was their ability to mingle with Spartan men in public. Apart from exercising with them, the Spartan women learned to trade political witticisms and conversations with the opposite sex. Actually, Spartan women were renowned for their outspoken nature and razor-sharp wit. There was a general consensus among the Greeks when Sparta fell from grace during the 4th century B.C.; if you gave a Greek woman an inch, she would definitely take a mile. But, the freedom and respect the women of Sparta gained in the early times, helped in creating a new beginning for women. Women were not perceived only as homemakers anymore, but were treated with more respect and dignity.