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The Womens Lives In Athens And Sparta History Essay

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Published: Mon, 5 Dec 2016

In ancient Greeks, two of the most remarkable civilizations were Athens and Sparta. Even though they both were in the Greek civilization, they differed greatly in term of politics, government structure, social lives, and cultures. Most importantly, geography was also the reason contributing to a number of differences between these two city-states even though they were located in the Greece. Due to the fact that Greek city-states had a mountainous geography, the mountains limited the development as well as the communication among those city-states. They cut off and separated them; each city-state valued only their own independences and cultures (The heritage of ancient Greece, p. 75). For example, Athenian valued art, literature and philosophy while Spartan valued strength, courage and military training. Thing that set the two civilizations apart was their social lives. In Athens, the citizens were taught to prepare for both peace and war. They focused on training their children to be scholar, and making the children to go through military training when they are 18 (Education in ancient Greek: Athens, para. 6). On the other hand, in Sparta, every citizen was expected to be tough and strong even from the time of birth. Every child must be inspected and chosen to be alive if the baby looked strong, and to be dead if the baby looked weak. From the age of 6 or 7, every child would undergo military training until they reached 18 (Education in ancient Greek: Sparta, para. 3). They spent most of their life in the barrack, and they were trained to be the best warrior of all ancient Greeks. Besides, Athens tried practicing democracy in their government structure, whereas Sparta was governed by the two kings. One ruled the government assembly, and another one led the militaries to the war. However, in both civilizations, the Athens and Sparta, men and women were treated differently as well. Women were seen to be inferior to men in almost every aspect of life. In Athens, women were not allowed in any kind of social activities. Their jobs are to watch over children and slaves. Even though in Sparta women were to be trained almost the same as men, they stopped the training and went back to the domestic affair when they got married. The purpose of their training is only to be strong so that their children would be born strong as well.

This term paper is mainly focusing on a discussion about the differences of the lives between women in Sparta and Athens in terms of social affairs, household, education, and religion. It will thoroughly answer four main research questions:

What were the women’s roles in social affairs?

Were those women able to step in the politic role?

What were their roles after getting marriage and divorce?

How did women play an important role in educational and religious sectors?

Therefore, reading this term-paper will help readers get to know and understand the differences of the lives of the women in Sparta and Athens. It might be contributed to the analysis of the relationship between Sparta and Athens in terms of some sectors whether or not they were unity since they both were parts of Greek civilization.

Women’s Lives in Athens Vs. in Sparta:

Social Affairs:


Women in Sparta were not allowed to join the public assembly; there were only men who were able to attend the assembly. However, women still had had much influence on the political aspects due to the fact that they could express their ideas through their husbands, who would deliver their thoughts to the assembly. In contrast, Athenian women from the rich family were not allowed to attend any political events besides staying at home to manage the households, ordering the servants to do all the housework, and occasionally joining the funerals or festivals. For the Athenian women from the poor family, they were still not able to join the political matters, but they had to stay at home, look after the house, take care of their children, or sometimes they had to help their husbands’ works as slaves (Women in Ancient Athens: Everyday Life, para. 3).

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Normally, fathers had to pass down their land properties to sons, but in Sparta, women also had right to own land; daughters were allowed to receive more than a third portion of lands from their fathers, but they could manage or rule them as they desired (Women in Sparta, para. 5). However, when women got married, their lands were not able to become their husband’s land, and when women got divorced, their lands were not distributed with their husbands as well. However, the husbands’ lands had to be passed down to their children. Therefore, Spartan women usually became wealthy on account of the inheritance from both their husbands and fathers. On the other hand, in Athens, land properties were willing to keep within the family only, and there were only sons, who had right to inherit the properties from their fathers. If the women had not had brothers, they would have married to their close male relatives, who would be able to receive the inheritance. Yet, if they had already got married, they would have been forced to divorce their husbands in order to marry to their close male relatives because this could keep the property within the family (Women in ancient Athens: Property, para. 1-2).

In the Household:


Not only in the social affairs but also in the household, women roles were not similar to two civilizations like: Spartan and Athenian in the ancient Greece. In the household, there were several different points in Sparta and Athens. First, marriage in Sparta; Spartan women seldom married before the age of 18 because they could finish their education and especially they thought that if they got marry at 18 age up, they would have a healthy baby, while men were supposed to marry at the age of 20 after “they completed in the secret police force where young Spartan men were authorized to patrol the country side which called Krypteia” (“Married in ancient time”, para1.). In wedding day, “…women had to shave the hair in the scalp and took their husbands’ cloak and scandals. Curiously, husband had dinner alone in the messes, after he would bring her to bed…” (“Women in the ancient Spartan”, para13). In contrast, marriage in Athens was far much different from Sparta. Arranged marriage was occurred in Athens society that women had to follow their fathers’ decision before doing anything, particularly marriage. Athenian women who reached between the age of 14 and 15 were married with a 30-year-old man. The distance of ages made their husband or his relative controls their dowries. On the night before the wedding day, the bride and groom took rituals baths, and sang hymns to Hymen. The father sacrificed to Hera, Zeus, Artemis, Aphrodite, and Peitho. During wedding day, William (1999) added that bride traveled from her home to groom’s home by chariot which accompany by her relatives who carried the gifts that included baskets jewelry, mirrors, perfume and furniture while friends of groom and bride played the music to worship gods.


After they got married, motherhood in Sparta was higher honored, and they pushed fun at the men who had done something wrong and praised the courageous man. For instance, as they handed their shields to their sons: “Return with your shield or upon it” (Mary, para. 16). In addition, women enjoyed high authority and prestige within Spartan society, and their views. Yet, in motherhood in Athens, after marrying and having children the women were in charge of all household duties even though they were either rich or poor, they had to look after and to take care of members in the family when they were sick. More than that, in the rich family, slave could be employed to do the household works instead of wife’s duties. Whereas in the poor family wife did everything for survive especially they served as a slave in to support her economy in the family like shopping for food, making the families clothing and retrieving water.

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In Sparta, since women Spartan used to have education, physical education, and Gorgo (2009) said that they had “…35% of own land and all prosperities in Sparta…” (para. 7) which propelled the Spartan women to have the equal right to the men to divorce, while they were distinguish with each other. While in Athens, women’s right was unprotected by law because they played few roles in the society; as a result, divorce was rarely occurred in Athens society.


In the ancient Greek city-states, education was an important part of the society and politics. Much like other parts of the culture of ancient Greeks, men and women’s education were different from each other. Unlike most part of modern education system, the ancient Greeks education system divided the class of men and women distinctively. The two ancient Greek cities had two main types of education. One is general education and the other is physical education.

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On term of general education, Spartan women

were raise from their childhood to be a good mother.

They were taught at home by their mother to read

and write. Sarah B. Pomeroy (2002), an author of

the book “Spartan Women”, even mentioned that

because Spartan women were married at the age of 18,

they have lots of times to spend for education. They

learnt reading, writing and other “mousike” skill,

likes music, dancing and poetry (p. 4).

On the other hand, Athenian women were different. The Athenian usually taught their people literature, art and philosophy. Though the Athenians citizen valued intellectual minds, their women were not allowed to have much education. Unlike Athenian men who were very well-educated, Athenian women were only taught the domestic skills. Because of their weak role as only a caretaker of the house, women were not expected to learn as much as men. Since women in Athens were not allowed to go out much, they leant everything at home from their mother and other old women; what they learnt included reading and writing skill and the other domestic skill like cooking, weaving, and other housework skill.

However, there are few special cases of women that have very high education. In Athens, There were two women who were known to have studied with Plato in his Academic. Their names were: Lasthenia of Mantinea and Axiothea of Phlius. As for Sparta, Sarah B. P. (2002) also raise that there were one Spartan female philosopher: Chilonis, was one the follower of Pythagoras (p. 10).

Physical Education:

In the field of physical education, the Spartan was the one who focused most on it. Spartan women were trained as much as men. They were expected to have a strong body so that they can produce strong babies. There was no record that their training was as strict as men but the girl seemed to practice similar version of training. The girl entered the barrack for women in the age of 6 or 7. In there, they were training in gymnastic, wrestling and combat skills. Though Spartan women were not training to go to war, their purpose of the training is to have a strong body so that their baby would be born strong too. An online article, Women of Sparta, mention that Spartan women “were trained in athletic events such as the ‘javelin, discus, foot races and arranged battles'” (as cited in Eric Hibbision, 2005, para. 4). When a girl reached 18, she must go through a skill and fitness test to see whether she can be marriage and be allowed to leave the barrack and return back home. If she is unable to pass the test, her citizenship would be taken, and she would become a member of the middle class. All women in Sparta were trained to have both tough-mind and body; they were expected to defend their city when the men were away on war.

For the other ancient Greek city-state, Athens, women were not even allowed to participate in most of the social affair not to mention military training. Athenian women’s jobs were only to be a house caretaker and to look over the slaves.


The citizens in ancient Greece city states and in as much as Athens and Sparta are polytheism which worships to the same twelve gods and goddess who are related to each other. Also known as the Olympian gods, they dwelled on the highest mountain which is called mount Olympus.

As said in an online article, The Olympians, after overpowered his father, Zeus became the most powerful and the ruler of Olympian gods. He was known as the god of the sky. He made his present to the surface by causing thunders and lightning with his weapon which is the thunderbolt. The eleven more gods and goddess are Hera, Poseidon, Hades, Aphrodite, Apollo, Ares, Artemis, Athena, Hephaestus, Hestia, and Hermes (Hunt, J.M.). The name of Athens was name after Athena, the goddesses of strength and war (Athena, Goddess of Wisdom and Patron of Athens, para. 5); however, Athenian women seem not to receive what seems to be physical training.

On the other hand, the cult of Sparta women with her husband and children was not solidity since the married couple can’t live together until the man reach the age of 30 and their children had to leave at the early age in other to be educated which mainly focus on the improving strength and surviving in a brutal life a lone. Therefore, the loyalty of the women in Sparta was more likely to the state then their family. More over as said previously that Spartan women also received the practice which is similar to the practice where all men have to take in the training. They received the pride from their physical.

The story and history of ancient Greece was recorded by high educated men. There is little known from women in ancient Greece cities state. As we can see that there were fewer goddesses among the Olympian gods.


Amongst civilizations, there are affinities and differences, as did the Athens and Sparta. Art, literature, and philosophy are the most precious elements that Athenian honored; in contrary, things which the Spartan considered valuable and sacred were might, bravery, and military power. In addition to the differences above, roles of people in each society were distinctive in which women were regarded differently in Athens and Sparta civilization. In social affairs, women of Athens were restricted to have no connection with or influence on politic matters at all, on the other hand, Spartan women, even though not permitted to take part in politics (the Assembly), had indirect influence on those matters in that they could share their ideas with husband directly. Furthermore, in Athens civilization, inheritance rights could only be in the hands of sons, not daughters. Daughters in Sparta, in contrast, were obliged to inherit property, notably land, from their parents, while sons could not. Moreover, marriage was also different in the two civilizations. Women in Athens were required to marry men chosen by their parents in the arranged marriage. Women in Sparta, in contradictory, hold the rights to make their own decision over their spouse choice. After the wedding, as mothers, women in Athens were destined to hold household obligations only and were considered less important if compared to those in Sparta who were more respected. Levels of education brought to women in those two civilizations were diverse. Women in Athens received only narrow general education, that is, domestic affairs, while Spartan women received better education, basic reading and writing and academic literature study. In addition to the general education, physical education received by women was unequal. All Athenian women acquired educationally were the tough training of household obligation. Different from those, Spartan women were trained as hard as men to be sufficiently strong in the belief that they could defend the city in the event of absence of men.

After the elaborate discussion about the distinctions between women of Athens and Sparta, we can finally conclude that conditions of life are diverse from place to place and from time to time. Life of women in Sparta is such an illustration of the modern-world sexual equity promotion. And it is vividly true that treatment for women in the two civilizations was unfair. But did they seek out discontent? And were the world today to turn into the world in that epoch, would women endure the hardship of this treatment? Albeit women are believed to be not as physically strong as men, they do possess the great natural gifts-accuracy, intelligence, flexibility, and communication skills. Unlike women, men tend to be more contentious, aggressive and violent. From our perspective, we strongly believe that roles of women in society of Sparta civilization were very vital and we wholeheartedly encourage and demand that women be able to get more involved in social matters as much as men do in the real-world present time.


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