The Women of Ancient Greek Times
In Ancient Greek times around 4BC, women were typically subordinated. An example of this treatment can be seen in the lives of women living in Athens. In contrast, a neighboring area, Sparta, illustrated a different way of life for their women. Sparta was located in the south-central portion of the Peloponnesian and was a more isolated culture. It was dependent upon agriculture while Athens was cosmopolitan and dependent on manufacture and trade. With the separation of the two areas, was also the separation of ideas and understandings, and as a result, the concept of a women and her status was quite different in the two societies due to patriarchy. Differences were mainly seen in education, marriage, and motherhood.
The democracy of the Athenian society existed with patriarchy. As a result, the Athenian society made a major shift in the worship of Goddess to God. Harriman said, The Athenian democracy began to definitive form Its laws served to crystallize the subordination of women , (55). An athenian woman was practically an object herself. She could not own property and was excluded from becoming a citizen. (Taylor, 1999). If the husband died, she became a practical slave very few rights. In general, the woman was the subject to a life of subservience. The women were legally dependent upon her husband or father. All in all, she was encouraged to a have a quiet lifestyle, very much unlike that of a Spartan woman.
As a result of the males of Sparta always at war, the women had more freedom. They had many rights that Athenian women did not have. Sparta was considered extremely secretive and suspicious of outsiders (Sickinger, 1997). The women could own a control property. A woman was expected to overtake her husband s property when he was away at war to guard it from outsiders. The society that existed in Spartan was solely to benefit the state (Taylor, 1999). Therefore, this meant producing the best warrior possible. Basically a strong woman would produce strong offspring. Mothers were highly honored. A mother who died in childbirth, as well as a man who had died in batter, were the only two individual whose names were recorded on their tombs. Spartan women were proud of who they were, wives and mothers of soldiers.
An Athenian woman was seen as impulsive, less rational, emotional, and weaker than males. The status of the Athenian women was minimal and only a small step above slave (Sickinger, 1997). She lacked experience in the world and was dependent upon man. Women were on Earth for the sake of procreation, to bear sons, and to live with her father and then husband s name. During a girls life, she was not expected to earn an education, nor learn to read or write. The education they did receive involved spinning, weaving, and other domestic arts (Hooker, 1995).
On the otherhand, the education of Spartan women was to be taken seriously as a result of the men off at war. They could not enforce patriarchy while they were away. As a result, women had more freedom. Education was instituted as a state policy for both man and woman (Hooker, 1995). This education was not solely academic. They were taught how to read and write. In addition, physical education taught them to protect themselves. A female s education was equivalent to that of the male, which included athletic events such as javelin, foot races, staged battles, and discus. They were also taught that their lives should be dedicated to the state (Hooker, 1995).
Marriage was another good example of how the two Greek societies differed in ideas about women. In Athens, girls were raised to be kept and protected. They barely left their household (Taylor, 1999). Women did play an important role in the 120 festivals, which took place every year. This was the only contact that women had with the outside world. In this particular society, marriage was seen as the most ritualistic aspect of life (Taylor, 1999). The wedding was arranged by the father of the bride. During the next few months, several different events took place before the wedding. First the girl gave away all of her toys to the Temple of Arthemis, her hair was cut, and even sometimes her girdle was offered to Athena Apatoria (Taylor, 1999). Secondly, the bride was taught specific domestic duties that she would perform for the rest of her life. Next a series of rites followed and then came the night before the wedding. On this night, the couple takes ritual baths and the father makes sacrifices to the g-ds of Hera, Zeus, Artemis, Aphirochite, and Peitho (Taylor, 1999). The marital contract was between the groom and the father while the bride s dowry was given to the father s brother. If a wife was widowed, it became the father s brother s duty to find her another husband (Sickinger, 1997).
In the Spartan society, marriage was seen as a non-ceremonious event. Unlike other Greek societies, a woman was not married until later when she was at least 18 to 20 years of age (Taylor, 1999). This was based on the grounds that she was fully matured. The idea of how a woman was married was said to reflect the desire to produce vigorous offspring. The woman was abducted in the night by her suitor, her head shaved, and then put into men s clothing. She was then placed on a straw pallet in the dark where her and her suitor would meet to make offspring (Sickinger, 1997). Any Spartan man could abduct a wife and this lead to a system that consisted of many husbands and one wife and vice versa (Taylor, 1999). When children were born, mothers of wealthy families had very little to do with its upbringing. Instead, the slaves took care of the upbringing. The limitations of intercourse were thought to increase ones eagerness and therefore increase the chances of a stronger offspring. Women did many different things to excite the man and which would then result in stronger offspring. Such an example of this is to go about her business, either athletics or cheering for the husband in the nude (Harriman, 58).
As a result of patriarchy, the Athenian society like most other Greek societies, regulated the status of a woman. She became a piece of property and was not allowed to become a citizen. In contrast, the women of the Spartan society had a great deal of freedom and owned property as well. This was the result of their husbands fighting at war because of Sparta constant warfare and their inability to control patriarchy. Consequently, the two societies took on different views of a women and her status in many areas such as marriage, education, and motherhood.
Sickinger, J. (1997). Retrieved September 19, 2000 from the World Wide Web: http://mailer.fsu.edu/ jsicking/cla3501/summer/lec15.html
Taylor, J. (1999, April). Retrieved September 20, 2000 from the World Wide Web:http://www.anthro.mankato.msus.edu/prehistory/aegean/amazons/linksandbibliography.html