Women of Sparta and Athens
Women of Sparta and Athens
The role of women in Ancient Greece all depended on the city where one lived. In Sparta, women were more valued and respected by men, so the men were willing to give them more rights and opportunities to make their own decisions. In Athens, men had a more traditional view on women and believed that they shouldn’t belong in society; so therefore, men primarily monitored the women actions. Sparta lies in the Peloponnesus, in the south. The Spartans set up a brutal and strict system of control. Assemblies made up by male citizens approved the major decisions in Sparta.
Since the men of Sparta valued how women looked, beautiful and attractive women were granted more opportunities which eventually led to having more rights. Attraction was what Spartan people cared about most. In order to assess the women’s beauty, men would inspect the women while they were completely nude. Women had mirrors all over, so they were constantly looking at themselves and fixing themselves. They obsessed over their looks and appearances. Once a man was pleased with the woman, he would take her and marry her. Men also prized beautiful women and sought them as brides, even breaking some of society’s rules to win them. ”.
The people with the best looks were the most respected and noticed by people. “In Sparta beautiful people were highly self-esteemed: the best-looking man and women were most admired”. Women who weren’t beautiful didn’t get chosen by the men to wed, and therefore lived with their father and barely had any rights and freedom at all. The men only marry the beautiful women and once you are married you are given much more freedom and rights to live by.
The men of Athens believed that the women had a specific role in society. While the men were off making decisions, they expected the women to be at home taking care of the children, household, and monitoring the slaves. “Courtesans we keep for pleasure, concubines for daily attendance upon our person, but wives for the procreation of legitimate children and to be our faithful housekeepers, that is all. ” (Nardo, 57). The men used poor and lower class women for their own pleasure, and they used their wives to take care of the children and to be their personal housekeepers.
The way the men talk about their wives is like they are referring to them as their salves, they don’t give them any respect at all. Beauty wasn’t valued in Athens, it was much more important to be at home and keep it clean while caring for the children and slaves. The women covered their body and were usually by themselves. If they were to ever go out, they had to be accompanied by an escort. The Athenian women weren’t granted many rights because the men just didn’t believe that they should be given rights. They thought it was much more important for the women to be at home watching over the kids, and slaves while keeping the house tidy.
So therefore, the Athenian men didn’t prioritize women’s rights because they strongly believed that their place was at home. “The process that we go by today, a young women meeting an eligible young man, falling in love, and deciding to get married-was largely unheard of in Athenian society”. The way the Athenian marriage process took place was the bride got married off to the husband by her father. The bride was legally incapable of arranging her own marriage. The purpose of marriage was not for love, rather babies, money, land or what ever the husband and the father of the bride agree on.
It wasn’t unusual for marriage to take place with man and women not knowing much about each other. The women would mostly get married off for the first time between ages 14 and 18. It didn’t matter if the brides were responsible or not, the men would make all the important decisions about the household. “For a women must love her husband even when she has been married to an insignificant man and not provoke a contest of pride” (Lefkowit, 2005). Even if a woman is unhappy in her marriage arrangement there is nothing she can do to change it, she cannot leave, or rebel.
In Athens, marriage wasn’t highly valued; the marriages were based solely on the bride’s father and husband’s decisions and deals. The Athenian women did not have any say or opinion on who or when they marry. The husband and father made deals and controlled their marriages completely, while the women were pushed aside with no voice. In Sparta, the man chose a woman who was cross in age who he wished to marry. The marriage remains a secret, and they live apart, until the bride gets pregnant and they can move in together.
The brides had to be a responsible and capable bride, because they managed most of the household and children. The women in Sparta “largely took precedence over men in that sphere”. The Spartan men had to choose their bride wisely, and had to make sure that they were fit to the job of running the household, and making important decisions. In Athens, the men considered themselves the leaders, and they felt that the only role of a women was to stay at home and watch over it, have babies, and keep the population growing and healthy. The men were the leaders, the women lived in fear of the men.
They were not allowed to own land under any circumstances. They were not allowed to appear in court. They were not allowed to arrange their own marriage, and they were not allowed to go out of the house by themselves, only accompanied by their father or husband. The men created strict laws that separated them from the women, and told the women exactly what to do, and how to act. The women were considered only citizens and nothing else; they played roles in religious festivals, but they had absolutely no real decisions in law or society.
In Athens, the men were the leaders, and believed that the women were only good for the little side things, like watching over the household, getting pregnant, and keeping the population growing, they did not believe that they were capable for anything else important which is why they were given no real rights. The men of Athens were considered “like god” and had insane muscle and strength; the women were looked at “imperfect beings” and got pushed aside by the men with no roles to protect them. In Sparta, the women had active roles in the community and specific institutions.
In Sparta, unlike in Athens, it was very important to be fit and strong; they cared a lot about military training, war and fighting. The women engaged in many physical training similar to the train that the men went through, but not as intense. If they were ever needed, the women were capable of stepping in and fighting. The women of Sparta were very outspoken and were not as afraid to stand up to the men, because they were not treated as differently. Women were allowed to own land, even if she had brothers, a women can share the inheritance of her father, if she had no brothers, she can inherit all the land.
The women were fit, smart, and confident about themselves, therefore more capable of taking on role in society. The Athenian men passed a law that strictly controlled women’s social and sexual behavior and limited what the are able to own, and inherit. They had limits on the number of women who could participate in funerals, the women were not allowed to pay tribute to the family of passing (shiva call), and when this was allowed on special circumstances, there was a limit of no more than 5 woman; they made a rule that the women were not allowed to leave the tomb before the men at a funeral. imited the amount of women allowed in church, and religious festivals. The purpose of the men strictly restricting the woman’s rights and limiting exactly what they are and are not allowed to do, was to force them to be at home, producing more child to keep the population flowing, and to watch over the land within the family.
University/College: University of Chicago
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 20 September 2016
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