Famous Spartan Women
1. Helen of Sparta / Troy
- Extraordinarily beautiful. 'Face that launched 1000 ships.'
2. Gorgo- daughter of King Kleomenes and wife of Leonidas.
- Mentioned by Plutarch and Herodotus- "only Spartan women give birth to real men"
- Herodotus: Tell Kleomenes- "Daddy send this foreigner [Aristogoras] away before he corrupts you". Figuring out exiled Demaratus' secret message about the Persian invasion.
3. Cynisca: 'little pup'
- First woman to win in Olympics- though women weren't allowed. Trained winning horses.
- Sister of Agesilaus (Xenophon may have known her).
Plutarch- Sayings of Spartan Women
"Let the poor cowards be mourned, but with never a tear I do bury you, my son, who are mine, yea, and Sparta's aswell."
- Mother learns of son's death. Mourn cowards: brought disgrace. Honour the dead- brought glory to Sparta.
"Ill report is spread about you: either clear yourself of this, or stop your living"
- Letter from mother to son who fled battle. Either prove accusations wrong or kill yourself in shame.
"Say not so, strangers; Brasidas was a noble and gallant man, but Sparta has many better than he."
- Brasidas' mother refutes claims that he was the best. Even a man like Brasidas isn't exceptional in Sparta.
Plutarch- Life of Lycurgus
Exercised: discus, javelin- physical fitness.
Immodest: exercised/danced/sang nude.
Unusual marriage ceremony:
- Woman captured, head shaved, sack and belt, dark room
- New husband goes back to male dorm- sneak out at night to visit her.
Spouses may not see each other until after the births of several children.
Reinforces gravestone, chapter 44.
Due to physical fitness: girls "would meet the challenge of childbirth in a succefful and relaxed way."
"Girls would make fun of the youung men"- instruct them on their behaviour.
Xenophon- Chapter 1, Spartan Society
Exercised as much as men: become strong parents for strong children.
Job was child-bearing only- key role for Spartan success. Helot women did other jobs.
Married at 'physical peak' for fertility.
No adultery: open marriages with husband's permission. All for strong children.
Only had a gravestone if they died in childbirth: for glory of Sparta. (Like hoplites only had one if they died in battle).
Marriage wasn't really a concept of love.
Deeply misogynistic views:
Blame for fall of Sparta.
Caused panic and disruption when Thebes invaded.
Lycurgus couldn't control them: gynocracy. They 'lived luxuriously' compared to men.
Owned 2/5 land. -Caused decline in population by unequal wealth distribution.
Prevents thriving population- depriving men?
Had more power when men away (true).
Larger roles than any other Greek women. Kept life going when men away.
Have significant influence: if men fight all day, women have to watch out for helots.
Comedy, physically fit (bibasis - heel to buttock jumps)
Lusted after by Greek world (+Athens). Pokes fun at 'Athenian concept' of 'thigh flashers'