Being a Spartan Women was better than being an Athenian Women. Discuss
Sparta and Athens, although both in the same country, had completely different ways of living. A big difference in their lifestyle were the roles of women. Whilst Spartan women had an incredible lifestyle of exercising and financial control, Athenians were kept inside all day as a matter of respect for its society, though which one was better?
In Sparta, women were allowed to go out freely and had to address economic affairs as their husbands and sons were almost always away, whether in the syssition or training in the agoge. They were also allowed to drink and eat freely during pregnancy, increasing the chance of a healthy baby. Furthermore, they were allowed to freely exercise in public. In Sparta, it was a common sight to see naked women in the streets exercising as it was a militaristic state. They also took part in all the singing and dancing competitions, with accounts claiming that they played the lyre at many festivals. From this it seems that being a Spartan women was far better than being an Athenian women.
However, Athenian women were also allowed to do certain actions that Spartan women could not do, although limited. Athenian women were allowed to spin and weave and could even go to parties shared with men, though they were chaperoned. They were also forced into marriage at the age of adolescence (14), which can be seen as a good thing because the life expectancy in those times would have been quite low. Despite this, Athenian women were often degraded in their society. They were given minimalistic education and were mostly confined to their houses – unless they were being chaperoned to a party. They were also expected to listen to the ‘master’ of the house and tolerate their husband’s adultery, although if a women performed such an act they would be severely punished. Divorce was incredibly hard to come by in Athens as well, and they were under control of the kyrios. Whilst this is the case, Athenian women that were dutiful could educate their daughters as well as control the household. Therefore, Athenian women have a much more rewarding society in terms of what they have to experience, though in a harsh regime.
It is also worth mentioning that in Sparta and Athens, the women both share equal legal rights. Apart from this they are almost direct polar opposites. This is because whilst Spartan women were allowed to ‘share’ with another man whilst their husbands were off in a war, Athenian women were confined to their husband. Following this point, Athenian women were forced into marriage, whereas Spartan women were given time to decide who they wanted to be with. Though whilst Athenian women were allowed to take care of their children and have a rewarding pregnancy, Spartan women just had the role of producing the husband’s next of kin, degrading their value in society. Also whilst Spartan women had no career (apart from dealing with their husbands finance), Athenian women were allowed to pursue a job. However like Sparta, women were allowed to go to festivals and there were even a few women only festivals throughout the year.
In conclusion, I believe that being a Spartan women was much better than being an Athenian women because they had a much more freedom in society. However I do think that Athenian women did not have such a bad lifestyle as they were allowed to bond with their children, whilst limited, meaning they had a more rewarding society.