Women in the ancient world had few rights, they differed from country to country or, in the case of the women of Athens and Sparta, from city-state to the city-state. The women of the city-states of Athens and Sparta had profound differences in their roles in the political and the daily lives of their families and their cities. When it came to the difference in levels of power and the rights of women, Sparta was a leader in its time. At the same time, their rights as citizens were almost the same. While they did not take an active part in politics, they had opinions and ideas like women all over the world. Their thoughts, deeds, and opinions rarely recorded or if they were, the male historians or philosophers of the time recorded them. What were roles did the women in ancient Athens and Sparta? Were they citizens, did they have personal freedoms? On the other hand, did they in a time when the beginnings of democracy were happening were they less than a second-class citizen? The misogyny and patriarchal societies continued throughout the ancient and classical periods only beginning to change in the Hellenistic era.
Women in antiquity did not have an easy lot in life. They had few, if any, rights. Surviving early records of the civilizations of antiquity from ancient Greece, Egypt, China, and Rome suggest the diversity of women’s roles differed little from region to region. There were a few exceptions, mostly concerning women of nobility and the city-state of Sparta. Excluding the rare instances mentioned most antique women were generally limited on education, mobility, and almost all possibilities interfering with domestic or childbearing responsibilities. The limited social roles of women in antiquity suggest the perceived common position for women was in the home. Occupied with running the household, weaving and child rearing the antique woman had little time to involve herself in the political goings on in her area.
A Woman’s father controlled her before her marriage and after the responsibility fell to her husband to control her. Most women in ancient and classical times married in their early teens to a much older husband. Marriages were arranged and often the bride did not meet her husband until the betrothal details had been worked out. Virginity was an important requirement for women in antiquity, as was fidelity. It was imperative that a man is the father of his children, especially since citizenship in some city-states and countries hinged on the birthplace of the parents. Mason writes, “The very definition of an Athenian involved not only being born of an Athenian father, but also of an Athenian mother properly given in marriage by her kin”.
Ancient women had very few legal rights. In most ancient societies, a woman could obtain a divorce. She could not own land or dispose of the property as she chose. They were unable to participate in politics or buy and sell goods or services. Men made all the decisions for a woman from...