The women of ancient Sparta, those who were born to Spartan parents, had many roles. They were very important and essential for the stability and running of the ancient warrior society. The woman’s role in Spartan society was highly regarded by the state as equal in importance to that of a man’s, but they could not rule or hold public office. They were given the freedom, power, respect and status that was unheard of in the other polis, along with the rest of the classical world.
Since the time of Lycurgus, the Spartan lawgiver, the women of Sparta were very much aware of their role in society. These roles were in regards to motherhood, ownership and maintenance of land, religion, education, marriage and their strong influence and power in society.
In Xenophon’s explanation of the Spartan constitution, the central and most important role in Spartan society for the Spartiate or free woman was to continue Sparta, through childbirth. Spartan women were highly valued as the mothers of warriors and they had to maintain their fitness to ensure healthy pregnancy and childbirth. Since Sparta was regularly at war for much of its five hundred year history, it was a woman’s role to bear and rear healthy children, in particular, strong and brave sons to serve in the Spartan army.
Females were encouraged to participate in physical training so that they could give birth o healthy babies. According to Xenophon, Lycurgus decreed that “women should take as much trouble over physical fitness as men...on the grounds that if both parents were strong, the offspring would be more sturdy and the women themselves would be able to bear the pains of labour.”
The role of motherhood was so important that mothers who had numerous sons were given special status and according to Xenophon, “Spartans value motherhood so highly that there were only two ways a Spartan would receive their name on a gravestone: death in battle or death in
Bibliography: Hurley, T., Medcalf, P., Murray, C. and Rolph, J. 2008, Antiquity 2, Oxford University Press : Victoria. Stevens, V., Merchant, W., Hampson, M. and Bradshaw. G. 2006, HSC Ancient History, Macmillan Education Australia : South Yarra. Pomeroy, S.B. 2002, Spartan Women, Oxford University Press : New York Jovy Celestino