Women Of Greece Essay, Research Paper
If you were a woman how would you rather be treated? If you are the relaxed, dependent type, perhaps you would find the life of the typical Athenian woman agreeable. Athenian women spent most of their lives indoors doing mostly domestic activities. But if you are an independent type of lady, who enjoys exercise, not overly modest, and do not mind sharing your bed with more than one man, then you would probably enjoy the life of a Spartan woman. The basic similarity between the lives of the women in these two city-states was that they had the same overall role: bearing strong children.
The soldier-centered state was the most liberal state in regards to the status of women. Women did not go into military training but they were educated in a similar fashion. Their daily life was spent outside doing physical training. The women were required to do physical training just as vigorous as the males of Sparta; contests of running and strength existed for each sex. The motive for these physical activities for the women was so that they would be able to be strong mothers. The state determined if children, male and female, were strong or weak. Weakling children were left in the hills to die of exposure. In Alkmans? Partheneia, the women of Sparta were permitted to exercise nude, which supposedly added to their beauty. The contests were where young men could see were intended to incite men to marry.
The upbringing of an Athenian woman was quite different. Her status in Greek society was just a small step above slaves. At birth an Athenian girl was not expected to learn how to read, write, or even earn an education. Menander commented on the teaching of reading and writing to women, ?What a terrible thing to do! Like feeding a vile snake on more poison.? They had no legal or political rights. They spent most of their day inside in the women?s quarters. Training in household skills was considered the only education a woman needed. It was believed that a woman could not act independently so she was required to have a guardian whenever she left her house.
Marriage in Sparta was an odd event. The husband carried his bride off by a sort of force. The superintendent of the wedding comes and cuts the bride?s hair close to her head, dresses her in a men?s clothing, and leaves her upon a mattress in the dark. The husband comes in with regular clothing on and proceeds to undress and have relations with his wife, staying some time together. Then he returns to his apartment with the other young men because he is not allowed to live in his own house until he is around thirty. The wife has to use her wit to find opportunities to have their ?meetings? so that others wouldn?t know what they were doing because ?it was ordained that it was shameful for a man to be seen going into or coming out of his wife.? This was to keep their feelings for each other fresh and lively, not dulled by easy access and long continuance with each other. Spartan women were married at the age of about 18 to 20 years. This shortened the years of being able to bear young but was supposedly good for the woman?s fertility. The main duty of the woman was to bear healthy strong children.
Athenian women were married at around the age of fourteen to an older male. Her father would arrange the marriage with the husband to be. The wedding day was most likely the first day that she would see her husband. The ceremonial sacrifices were made to Hera, Zeus, Artemis, Aphrodite, and Peitho. The ceremony was held at the father?s home where there was a feast and wedding hymns to be sung. After much partying and singing. The woman is announced to be the ?preparer of food? by giving her a sieve of barley, which was also a symbol of fertility. She enters into the wedding chamber where the consummation takes place and is closely guarded by a friend. The woman?s domestic work was minimal and her general purpose as a wife was to have healthy children.
Another unique aspect of the Spartan society is that the women were allowed to hold property. Aristotle who censured Sparta for her economic arrangements states that, ?nearly two-fifths of the whole country belongs to women, because there are many sole heiresses and also because the Spartans give large dowries.? Women were allowed to keep their dowries after divorce and they kept their inheritance until a male heir came along. The threat of divorce, when seen as realistic, gave power to a woman who had brought her husband great wealth. This freedom was quite frustrating to Aristotle and he deems it as one of the defects in the Spartan system. A citizen might admire another man?s spouse for the splendid children she bore her husband and for her own wifely virtues; then, if he gained the husband?s consent, he could beget children upon her.
Also an elderly man with a young wife, might introduce his wife to a younger man of whom he approved and adopt any offspring of their union. In this way Spartan women were liable to the state to breed children.
Athenian women were not allowed to own property. Their dowries were given to the father?s brother. If the woman?s husband died she had to move out of her husband?s house and move to her father?s brother?s house and it was his responsibility to find her another husband. She in a way was a form of property and she did not even own herself. Her only purpose was producing healthy children. This was a source of power as seen in Aristophanes? ?Lysistrata,? the women?s obvious power was through using or withholdin