Ancient Greece has a reputation of favoring men. Women were looked at as submissive. Once a woman got married, she was under the control of her husband. Prior to that, her father or a male relative served as her guardian. As a result of this, people automatically assume that women played no role in Ancient Greek society at all.
However, this couldn’t be further from the truth. The reality is, how women were treated in Ancient Greece differed from city-state to city-state. Here is an overview on how they were perceived.
In general, women in Ancient Greece really didn’t own land. However, there are some documented instances from Delphi, Gortyn, Sparta, Thessaly, and Megara of women having their own private property, which gave them status and prestige. In other city-states, such as Athens, women were forbidden to own property.
Women were not permitted to become citizens in the Athenian city-state. Since they weren’t able to own their own property, they weren’t able to hold full citizenship rights. Interestingly enough, slaves were able to become citizens if they were freed.
Women actually had fewer rights than slaves because they were never allowed their own freedoms.Although they weren’t allowed citizenship status and were not able to own property, they still perceived themselves as being civilized.
Athenian women were also not allowed an education. Men were the only ones allowed in the schools. They also wore clothing that completely covered their bodies and were not able to walk where they wanted.
Since Sparta was a military society, that means that men were away from home all the time. They quickly realized that the women needed to have more rights. Basically, they were charged with maintaining the house-holds, especially while the men were away. They could also own property. In fact, at one time, Spartan women owned around 40% of the property.
Besides it being a practical arrangement, one big reason why Spartan women were given so much prestige was because they were the mothers of Spartan warriors. And, unlike their Athenian cousins, they were given plenty of freedoms. They wore short dresses and could go wherever they pleased. They were also highly educated.
At one time, it was believed that the way Athenian women were treated was typical of the other city-states. However, new evidence has been uncovered that suggests other city-states treated their women more like the Spartans did.
One theory suggests that because democracy was highly prized in Athens, women lived a restricted existence because the men believed that it helped prevent adultery. Establishing paternity of male children was essential in Athenian society because without it, the male children couldn’t become citizens.
To fully examine the role of women in Ancient Greece, it helps to contrast the lives of women in Athens and the women in Sparta. The Athenian women were given very few freedoms whereas the Spartans were allowed to own property, become citizens, and be educated. To say that all Ancient Greek women were submissive is incorrect.
This post was written by GreekBoston.com