Sample History Research Paper on Compare and Contrast Athens Women and Spartan Women

Compare and Contrast Athens Women and Spartan Women

In the ancient Greece, Sparta and Athens were bitter rival cities. The cities are very close physically but have very diverse way of life, lifestyles and ideals. Both of these cities hold great importance for Greece and the world as a whole (Fleck and Andrew 116). Athens is still the major city of Greece. It is the political, economic, cultural life and financial hub of Greece. A visitor to Athens would never fail to feel the sense of democracy, art and freedom among its citizens.

On the other hand, Sparta is a town next to river Evrotas. It is the military state of Greece and is usually considered the defender of Greece. In the modern days, part has become the administrative centre of Laconia. The mentioned differences between Athens and Sparta could be seen among their citizens, especially their women. This essay looks at the variations between the women of Athens and those of Sparta.

Athens Women

Athens females had few choices in regard to the things they could engage on. Those who were lucky learned how to read, play musical instruments and afford a few slaves to help them with their house chores (Pomeroy).The Athens women had no right to own property nor to vote. These women had no choice when it comes to marriage, they would not choose their spouse. Men would just pick any girl they feel attracted to and the girl would have to comply and move in with her new husband. The females were not allowed to sell nor own anything that has high value.

The women who were considered respectable were not allowed to take a walk in the centers and towns; they would only be seen occasionally attending religious services or visiting a neighbor. Young girls would be married off to men at a very tender age (Kreilinger 230). She is expected to be virgin by the time of marriage and the man pays dowry for having her as a wife.

Every respectable woman had to stay home, bear children and remain pretty for the husband. In many cases these women had slaves to help in grocery shopping, cleaning and cooking (Pomeroy). Once the woman gets her first child, it was impossible for her to go back to her father’s house.

A woman would find it so difficult to divorce her husband, but a male partner could without difficulty divorce his wife. It was however not impossible to divorce a husband and all the properties that the husband took from the girl’s family were returned back to the father or any remaining male guardian (Pomeroy). This meant that the woman remained with nothing if she divorced her husband. She would also lose all her children to the husband.

When the husband feels that his wife is not behaving in the right manner, he had the right to lock her in the house. The only public places an Athens woman was supposed to be seen were religious events, funerals, and weddings. The women gave birth at home and in most cases they lacked the help of a trained midwife. The available contraceptives were not easily accessible to the women. Mortality rate of mother and the child was high (Pomeroy). Despite all the troubles the women went through during child birth, the father was still the one to decide if the new born lived or not.

This state of the deciding children kept and others left to die is what is known as the infanticide. Deformed or unwanted children left to die in the hands of the agents of death such as asphyxiation, dehydration, exposure among others.

The less well thought-of classes were mainly slaves, the underprivileged, pornoi, and hetaera.  The hetaeras (also known as Courtesan) were free to move to any place they wanted to go at any time. This class of women had education in various areas such as conversation, dance, music and singing as ways of making men happy (Kreilinger 230). They were mostly educated and intelligent women who would entertain their male guests intellectually. Although many never considered them respectable enough to be wives, they still enjoyed much freedom than the respected wives.

Pornoi (considered prostitutes) had less respect and their activities were mainly in brothels or in the streets. The brothels were a little expensive and most of them were under ownership of the state. Poor women carried out their activities in the fields, marketplace or cheap inns .Their value was less than those of the prostitutes but higher than the value of the salves.

The slaves were common in many households in the ancient Athens and were mostly involved in the domestic chores within and around the house (Pomeroy). The slaves had no authorized option available for them and this meant that they were at the mercies of their mistresses and masters without any rights. One exception however existed in the classes of Athens women by the name of the priestesses

The priestesses were responsible for organizing and conducting annual religious events that happened every year in the ancient Athens. This class of women enjoyed high status, remained unmarried and had relative freedom (Kreilinger 230). It is believed that without the efforts of these men, many of the annual events would not have succeeded.

In a normal day, the house wife’s task involves supervising slaves and doing small chores. She would care for and raise her children, clean the house and the items used in the house and then prepare herself well for her husband who would come home late(Pomeroy). The house remained her sphere of influence as long as the husband allowed her to, because he could over-rule her decisions anytime he wishes.

Citizen wife received more respect despite the control from their husband; they were also sheltered unlike the other classes of Athens women. Those from wealthy family could spend the whole day relaxing without working; they would be supervising the slaves as they carry out various functions necessary to keep the house clean and running (Kreilinger 230). The wives also had the power to give any illegitimate child legality and give citizenship to alien children.

Spartan Woman

Spartan women were known to be strong in regard to mental and physical aspects. They were more educated especially in music, philosophy, arts and war among others. The Spartan woman also enjoyed more rights than Athens woman and were considered the alpha woman of Greece (Turner 231). They were accorded more power and afforded most equality by the state. The women had to conform to the laid down rules despite their extensive freedom. The Spartan state had rules to be followed for the well-being of its citizens and for continued success.

In their 18thbirthday, these women would be subjected to a physical test (Figueira 268). The successful completion of this test would earn the young woman full citizenship of the state of Sparta. This rite of passage earned her permission to get married and accorded her more rights that Athens women would only dream of.

The health of the Spartan woman was of great importance. The healthy women were seen as potential mothers of strong and healthy children. The physical exercise before the test that the Spartan women went through made them exact opposite of their fellow women from Athens (Figueira 268). The women become of good shape and sturdy by foster and not only by personality.

It therefore goes without saying that it was more beneficial being a Spartan woman as compared to other women. They were not discouraged from eating more and any girl who ate a little would be encourage to indulge more. Drinking of wine was not a preserve only for the men, but women were also allowed to quench their thirst with the plenty wine that was available to them. The Spartan woman also had the most attractive body shapes, attribute majorly from the exercise they were involved in.

Unlike the Athens females, the Spartan girls were married in their late teens or near the beginning of their twenties. The exercise they got involve in made them strong and ready for childbirth. The main reason for marriage was for child bearing and Spartan women were believed to give birth to healthy babies (Turner 231). Their marriage was referred to as the captured marriage. The people from the brides place would capture and shave her head, then dress her in a man’s cloths. The bridegroom would then come to start a secret marriage with her but would only be together when the man reaches the age of 30 years.

Works Cited

Figueira, Thomas J. “Gynecocracy: How women policed masculine behavior in Archaic and Classical Sparta.” Sparta: The Body Politic (2010): 265-296.

Fleck, Robert K., and F. Andrew Hanssen. “The origins of democracy: a model with application to ancient Greece.” Journal of Law and Economics 49.1 (2006): 115-146.

Kreilinger, Ulla. “To Be or Not to Be a Hetaira: Female Nudity in Classical Athens.” Images and Gender: Contributions to the Hermeneutics of Reading Ancient Art. Fribourg and Göttingen (2006): 229-237.

Pomeroy, Sarah. Goddesses, whores, wives, and slaves: Women in classical antiquity. Schocken, 2011.

Turner, Susanne. “‘Only Spartan Women Give Birth to Real Men’: Zack Snyder’s 300 and the Male Nude.” Classics for All: Reworking Antiquity in Mass Culture (2009): 128-49.