What Life Was Like For Women In Ancient Sparta

When you read about the people who lived in Greece in ancient times, it's almost always about men. The great men who developed the study of philosophy, and those who fought wars. The women in ancient Greece also had rich lives, but how they lived those lives depended on where they were. Women in Sparta, for example, had a lot of freedoms their counterparts in Athens never had.

Sparta is known for its military prowess. The movie 300 didn't lie when it portrayed Spartans as highly-trained soldiers. While women weren't part of the army, they held their own special place in Spartan society, according to Atlas Obscura. Historical records are sparse but evidence suggests Spartan women were also encouraged to be physically fit, not for battle but because strength was a virtue in Sparta. History also writes winning athletic competitions made women more attractive and ensured they would bear strong Spartans for battle. 

The key difference between Spartan women and those in other parts of Greece, however, is their relative freedom and education. In Sparta, women learned poetry, music, and art said Atlas Obscura. They were less concerned with domestic chores (mainly because they had slaves). Spartan women also owned land, a rarity in Greece at the time, which means they could earn their own money, explains the Ancient History Encyclopedia.

They had more freedom but were still not completely equal

The freedom of Spartan women, however, did not mean they were equal to Spartan men. While their education and physical health were important, Spartan women were still mainly prized for their ability to bear children, or as the Ancient History Encyclopedia puts it, as babymakers. Men who fathered multiple children were celebrated.

Women, though they can own land, cannot use their education to have a career. They did not have a voice in government. But, Spartan men respected their opinions. They were allowed to express their thoughts and be outspoken. Women were not completely equal with men in Sparta but at least they had a lot more freedom to be themselves. 

History notes Sparta began to fall after its defeat at the hands of the Thebans in the Battle of Leuctra. Many in ancient Greece even attributed the decline of Spartan society to its treatment of women, said the Ancient History Encyclopedia. What is clear is that Sparta was a place ahead of its time. It was a society that valued women's place in the world and what they can offer it. They weren't relegated to the sidelines and treated as second class citizens. Surely, Athenian women envied a little part of that.