Sparta was cut off from the rest of Greece by high mountains and wild country sides, there for Spartans developed their own ideas of society and government writing customer service complaint letter . A domineering society that focused upon its military strength, Sparta did not allow its citizens the lenient lifestyle of Athenians. The ideology of Sparta was oriented around the state. The individual lived (and died) for the state. Their lives were designed to serve the state from their beginning to the age of sixty.
Women’s lives were similar in many parts of ancient Greece, but the Greeks themselves singled out the city state of Sparta as being greatly different. The women of Sparta were granted an equal stake in the success or failure of their state. With their fathers and husbands constantly away training or at war, the women of Sparta were responsible for all else in Spartan society. Individual families headed by a husband were insignificant in Spartan society. Instead, the state laid down rules for everyone.
Boys were sent away from home at around the age of seven to be trained as soldiers where they lived in army barracks until they were around 30 years old, even then, the men might have been absent for months, fighting in battles. This resulted in the Spartan women having to be very self dependent, they had to manage households all alone. Unlike other Greek women, Spartan women could own land and property and make all decisions on how it was to be run. “‘When a woman from Attica asked ‘Why is it that you Spartans are the only women who can rule men? Gorgo replied, ‘Because we are the only ones who give birth to men. ’” (Plutarch, Sayings of Spartan Women, 240. 5 translated in Pomeroy, 2002, 60) “‘The licence of the Lacedaemonian women defeats the intention of the Spartan constitution, and is adverse to good order of the State. For a husband and a wife, being each a part of every family, the state may be considered as about equally divided into men and women; and, therefore, in those states in which the condition of the woman is bad, half the city may be regarded as having no laws.
And this is what has actually happened at Sparta; the legislator wanted to make the whole state hardy and temperate, and he has carried out his intention in the case of the men, but he has neglected the women, who live in every sort of intemperance and luxury. The consequence is that in such a state wealth is too highly valued, especially if the citizens fall under the dominion of their wives…the influence of the Lacedaemonian women has been most mischievous…when Lycurgus, as tradition says, wanted to bring the women under his laws, they resisted, and he gave up the attempt.
They, and not he, are to blame for what then happened, and this defect in the constitution is clearly to be attributed to them. We are not, however, considering what is or is not to be excused, but what is right or wrong, and the disorder of the women…not only of itself gives an air of indecorum to the state, but tends in a measure to foster avarice. ’” (Aristotle, Politics, 1269b12 translated in Lefkowitz and Fant, 1982, 39-40) “‘The mention of avarice naturally suggests a criticism of the inequality of property.
While some of the Spartan citizens have quite small properties, others have very large ones; hence the land has passed into the hands of a few. And here is another fault in their laws; for, although the legislator rightly holds up to shame the sale or purchase of an inheritance, he allows anybody who likes to give and bequeath it. Yet both practices lead to the same result. And nearly two-fifths of the whole country are held by women; this is owing to the number of heiresses and to the large dowries which are customary.
It would surely have been better to have given no dowries at all, or, if any, but small or moderate ones…Hence, although the country is able to maintain 1,500 cavalry and 30,000 hoplites, the whole number of Spartans citizens fell below1,000…’” (Aristotle, Politics, 1270a15 translated in Lefkowitz and Fant, 1982, 40) When Spartan girl turned six or seven, they were sent to school where they were taught how to wrestle, as well as perform gymnastics. They were also schooled on the ins and outs of combat, developing skills that could be quite useful if the time came. Boys and girls had their separate physical training, and could be seen naked at their exercises and games. ”- Victor Ehrenberg – Solon to Socrates, 1967 When historians take a closer look at the schooling during this ancient period of time, many theories were established where the belief that the boys and girls schooling were not that different developed. Some believe that the girls were trained just as hard as the boys. The reason why the Spartan women did not pass the time learning how to sew and cook a full-course meal was because , the Spartan women were expected to be strong.
It was thought that a strong woman would be able to produce strong, healthy offspring. “‘…Lycurgus, rather, showed all possible concern for them too. First he toughened the girls physically by making them run and wrestle and throw the discus and javelin. Thereby their children in embryo would make a strong start in strong bodies and would develop better, while the women themselves would also bear their pregnancies with vigor and would meet the challenge of childbirth in a successful, relaxed way. He did away with prudery, sheltered upbringing, and effeminacy of any kind.
He made young girls no less than young men grow used to walking nude in processions, as well as to dancing and signing at certain festivals with the young men present and looking on. On some occasions the girls would make fund of each of the young men, helpfully criticizing their mistakes. On other occasions they would rehearse in song the praises which they had composed about those meriting them, so that they filled the youngsters with great sense of ambition and rivalry…There was nothing disreputable about the girls’ nudity.
It was altogether modest, and there was not hint of immorality. Instead it encouraged simple habits and an enthusiasm for physical fitness, as well as giving the female sex a taste of masculine gallantry, since it too was granted equal participation in both excellence and ambition. As a result the women came to talk as well as to think…’” (Plutarch, 2nd century A. D. , Life of Lycurgus 14. 1-4 translation in Fantham, 1994, 62) Marriages were generally arranged between families; however, the bride and groom often knew each other.
The average age for Spartan women to marry was age eighteen and was in keeping with the Spartan philosophy that maturity was essential to producing healthy and robust offspring. In preparation of the marriage, the bride was dressed like a young male with hair cropped short possibly to denote the transition in the female’s role in Spartan society. The marriage was consummated during a symbolic abduction of the bride. After marriage, the bride continued to live in her own home usually until her first pregnancy and the groom lived in the men’s communal barracks until he attained age thirty.
Before the husband could live openly with his wife, the couple arranged secret meetings for the purpose of having sexual intercourse. In Spartan society, marriage was primarily for the purpose of producing healthy offspring for the state. Xenophon and Plutarch reported that Spartan husbands often shared their wives with another man in order to produce more children. It was considered acceptable for an older man with a young wife to grant permission for a younger man to have sexual intercourse with her as a means of begetting more physically fit children.
In addition, a Spartan man, who wanted children but did not want to enter into a marriage arrangement, could request permission of a woman’s husband to share her sexually. There is no indication that the Spartan women objected to such arrangements; and, since many Spartan women owned land as well as managed the household, they may have seen it as an opportunity to supervise a second household; and, after all, a married woman’s duty in Spartan society was to beget and rear strong children for the state.
Regardless of the motivations, it does appears that some ancient historians like Plutarch saw these Spartan customs being the reason adultery, illegitimacy and prostitution did not exist in Sparta. “the men of Sparta always did what their wives told them, and let women take part in public affairs…” – Plutarch Motherhood was of primary importance for Spartan women. For much of its five hundred year history, Sparta was at war, therefore, in this “militaristic” society, it was a woman’s duty to bear and rear healthy children in particular strong and brave sons to serve in the Spartan army.
The woman’s role in Spartan society was viewed by the state as equal in importance to that of a man’s. So important was the role of motherhood that mothers with numerous sons were afforded special status and those dieing in childbirth were the only women for whom markers were placed on their graves. As a result of the men in Spartan society generally being absent from the home in the early years of marriage and because of their military occupation, the care of children was for the most part left in the hands of the mother.
Since girls remained at home until their marriages, they may have had more opportunity for contact with their fathers especially if their fathers were older. As boys resided at home only until age seven, contact with their fathers would have been rare. Therefore any emotional bonds that children may have formed during their early years would have mainly been with theirs mothers. Mothers encouraged bravery in their sons and did not tolerate cowardice in battle, neither did they mourn the loss of their sons in war.
They took pride in the fact that their sons died defending Sparta and were known to kill their sons who had displayed signs of fear during battle. “Because Damatria heard that her son was a coward and not worthy of her, she killed him when he arrived. This is the epigram about her: His mother killed Damatrius who broke, the laws, She a Spartan lady, he a Spartan Youth. ” (Plutarch, Sayings of Spartan Women, 240. f2) “’As a woman was burying her son, a shabby old woman came up to her and said, ‘You poor woman, what a misfortune! ‘No, by the two goddesses, what a good fortune,’ she replied, ‘because I bore him so that he might die for Sparta, and that is what has happened for me. ’” (Plutarch, Sayings of Spartan Women, 241. 8) By contrast, Spartan women lived in a closed society that, although militaristic, was basically patriarchal. In ancient Sparta women may have dominated their households and owned much of the private property as well as being wealthy in their own right; however, there is no indication that, other than being permitted to freely and publicly comment on political matters, they had any governmental authority.
Although they were considered to have had significant influence and control over their men folk, this appears to have been more in the domestic and economic arena as a result of inheritance customs, the frequent but not total absence of their husbands, and an educational system that emphasized their role in Spartan society. Unlike the Amazons, the primary function of Spartan women was to produce strong children for the state in particular warrior sons – not warrior daughters – and their physical education and training was to enhance their ability to create strong children and to withstand childbirth not to create a female warrior society.
The short skimpy tunics worn by Spartan women may have resembled those outfights depicted in ancient art as worn by Amazons; however, there is no mention of the physical mutilation of Spartan females. Spartan women honoured goddesses like Artemis and Hera in ritualistic religious and athletic performances as it related to their roles as fertility and marital deities. Outside Sparta, Spartan women were looked upon as being rather immoral as a result of the wife-sharing custom, to bold and outspoken and, in general, criticized for not being the traditionally subservient female.