The ancient cities of Sparta and Athens were two regions of the old Greek Empire that, at that time, exhibited great power and dominance in defense, economy, and geography over several other regions around. Although these cities were relatively far apart (Athens was located in the peninsula of Attica while Sparta was located in Lacinia, another big Greek city-state), they were also rivals. An intense rivalry existed between both of them for a long time; they came into conflict many times on many issues and also fought a war that occurred as a result of the conflicts they had on trade routes and the tributes collected from smaller states that depend on them.
However, that's not our concern in this article today. Even though these states were both under and within the Ancient Greek Empire, they still had their peculiarities, that is, things that made each one of them stand out to dominate other regions of the Empire.
We'll be examining some of their substantial differences and similarities. And by doing this, our focus shall be on the comparison of Spartan and Athenian women.
In ancient Greece, women were relegated to the lowest position. Even one of the greatest philosophers of the classical period, Aristotle, believed that women were the primary cause of disorder and evil in society. Also, he described them as being "utterly useless". He regarded them as the chief cause of the great confusion that could exist in society — other than a state's enemy.
Notwithstanding, Athenian and Spartan women still had their significant impact on the Greek empire, and even on the world at large, in their own simple ways. The substantial roles they played in the development and prosperity of their society cannot be overlooked. And this is why we're going to be focusing on the comparison of Spartan and Athenian women: what are the impacts they both played as well as the similarities and differences in their lifestyles?
One of the things to note about Spartan and Athenian women is the unique lifestyles they lived. These women had their profound differences as well as their similarities, especially in the roles they played in politics, the economy, and their everyday family lives; and this is what we'd be examining in the following two sections of this article.
One thing the Spartan and Athenian women share in common is their state of inequality with the men in their regions. As is expected of women in many societies today, both Athenian and Spartan women were expected to get married at a certain age. Even though they marry at different age ranges (an Athenian woman is expected to marry between the ages of 14 to 16 and a Spartan woman between the ages of 18 to 20), they were still subjected to arranged marriages by their fathers and brothers (Study.com).
In addition, they were also expected to give birth, as soon as they get married, to strong boys rather than girls. In Ancient Greek society, the chief roles of women (even in both the city-states of Athens and Sparta) were reproduction and home/children tending. Spartan and Athenian women were bound to giving birth and taking care of the home, their husbands and children.
Spartan and Athenian women also had limited rights. Even though in Sparta, women were offered more rights than those in Athens, women (the female gender entirely) were not allowed many rights as they ought to have, as the situation is in this 21st century. There's no right (or limited right even if there was) of assembly or association (Barbero, 2018; Pomeroy, 2002).
In Sparta where women had more rights, the right to public participation and ownership of properties were restricted to the aristocratic class.
Women in Sparta, in their early years, were given the education they needed while those in Athens were impeccably groomed for married life. Spartan women were taught how to defend themselves, read, write, run a business and manage their families' businesses (Pomeroy, 2002). Athenian women, on the other hand, were taught and groomed in house chores and duties. This was why Spartan women were good fighters and intelligent contributors in their general, social, traditional and religious and cultural organizations.
In the judgments of beauty, Athenian women considered pieces of jewelry and physical adornments as the ultimate. However, for Spartan women, the ability to fight skillfully was the ultimate presentation of beauty and strength. Sparta's women cared less for physical appearance and beauty and more for organization and defense (Post, 2015).
Spartan women enjoyed more freedom and rights than Athenian women. For example, a typical Spartan woman was allowed to own properties and even own fleets. They were allowed most of the things their men enjoyed (though limited) and were praised for their dedication to masculine tendencies. Spartan women also enjoyed education, they were taught to fight to defend themselves, read, write, speak publicly, and even own and control businesses (Pomeroy, 2002)
On the other hand, Athenian women had limited rights. They were inferior to their husbands and fathers and were expected to obey the dictates of their husbands and fathers no matter the case. They were not allowed to study or own and control properties like the Spartan women (Barbero, 2018).
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