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Spartan Women

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Author Topic: Spartan Women  (Read 4280 times)
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« on: February 17, 2007, 09:32:55 pm »

Were Spartan Women Remnants of the Amazons?

Research concerning the Amazons and Spartan women is at best sketchy, however, it is evidenced by many historians that the Amazons did have some elements and influences in common with Sparta. Spartan women had much more political freedom than within other cities such as Athens. A Spartan woman was expected to be fierce and be able to defend her land. This can be exemplified in the goddess Artemis. The patroness of Sparta and of the Amazons Artemis was the goddess of the wild hunt, protectoress of animals, protector of women, young girls, and youth, with a connection to adolescence and childbirth (The Amazons in later Hellenistic periods were associated with Dionysus the god of wine, as either his allies of his opponents.). Though the worship of Artemis was common through out the Greek world, only in Sparta was a warrior spirit and sense of equality allowed to flourish among the upper-class Spartiate men and women.

Was Sparta influenced by Amazon women? If so what are the differences and similarities between the two cultures? The answer to any of these questions is not entirely clear in that there is a limited amount of information on the Amazons. It is not beyond speculation to say that if the Amazons did exist that they lived largely within a matriarchy (female dominated), rather than in a patriarchy (male dominated) as in Sparta. It is also not unlikely that the Amazons had different ideological concerns than the Spartans. Perhaps the Spartans created their view of women from the stories they heard, or from actual meetings with the Amazons? Or perhaps the law giver Lycurgus, who upon hearing tales of the Amazon battles in the Trojan war, was inspired to raise the status of women, and give them the same brisk upbringing as a Spartan male. It is unlikely that the Spartans simply allowed women the right to own and take over their land if their husbands were away at war, and take a second husband if need be, overnight. Such a right on it's own remains contradictory to the rest of Greece, which did not allow women to own land (and also excluded many other rights as well), or in some cases did not allow them to take a second husband if the first died. It is more than likely that the women of Sparta were allowed to own land in times of war, simply because Sparta feared a revolt from the helots, and required strong women to fend off such an attack. In such a case, the reasoning of Plutarch on the Amazons would seem to fit, that the women fought among the men as near equal.

Did the Spartans originate from the Amazons? No definitive answer can be given, there is a possible influence, but it is unlikely that the two interbred or otherwise, and a limited number of resources leave many questions concerning the Amazons and the Spartans open to interpretation and further research.
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