top of page

Women's Rights in the Land of Philosophy: Feminism in Ancient Greece

Updated: 5 days ago

Written by Arda Kizilkaya


Women’s rights are a core subject in gender equality in today's society, and the Constitutions around most of the world guarantee women's rights. But in earlier times before the Women’s Rights Movement began gender inequality towards women was widespread in history, including one of the most civilized ancient times Ancient Greece.



Ancient Hellinas, The Land of Philosophy:


Ancient Greek civilization otherwise known as ancient Hellinas, which existed around the 12-9th century BC, was a land of enlightened intellectuals that affected Western philosophy like Socrates, Pluto, Aristotle, etc. The religion of the ancient Greeks was Hellenic Paganism, which contained many gods and goddesses like Zeus, Athena, etc.



The Birth of Ancient Hellinas


We know very little about the earliest period of Hellinas, but what we do know is that the start of Greek civilization was in 1200 BC when the Mycenean society ended, but this is highly debatable since this is some writing from that time and at any point some new writings could be discovered. There were a lot of civilizations in ancient Greece, but the most dominant ones were Sparta and Athena. However, these civilizations thought one society could be dominant, so they went to war. The most known war between these two is the Peloponnesian War, from 431 to 405 B.C.E. The war was mostly at a halt until the Persian intervention where the balance of power shifted from Athena to Sparta. The war ended with a Spartan victory when they entered Athena.



Connectivity


One of, if not, the most important part of urban planning is connectivity. Interconnected street networks (The grid-like maps we discussed) help disperse traffic and make walking easier. Without this grid roads would be in a constant state of traffic jams and car transport would have been a nightmare. The other important feature of this concept is that it mostly uses narrow streets, boulevards, and alleys which makes walking pleasurable.



Athens


Athens began as a small community of the Mycenaean Civilization and grew into a city that, at its height, was associated with the development of democracy, philosophy, science, mathematics, drama, and many other aspects of world culture and civilization including the Olympic Games. The city was burned by the Persians, but was rebuilt by the statesman Pericles, and became the superpower of the ancient world through its formidable military and wealth. It fell to Sparta as a result of the Second Peloponnesian War



The Women's Rights in Athena


Although Athens was a democracy, women's rights were legally limited e.g. they generally couldn’t have their property, they were stripped of the right to vote, and they also couldn’t participate in the government. Athens was a patriarchy meaning that men had all the rights and advantages that women didn’t have like having access to education and power. In contrast, women were looked down upon and deemed idiots who didn’t know anything aside from housework and giving a male heir to the family. The Athenians also selected models for women based on divine and heroic orders. The divine order subjected the women's duties to their male counterparts, while the heroic order depicted Penelope as the absolute role model for Greek-Athenian women. Other women of literature like Clytemnestra demonstrated the vices of women and what the Greek-Athenian women should not be.



Sparta


Sparta was one of the most important city-states in ancient Greece and was famous for its military might. The professional and well-trained Spartan soldiers with their distinctive red cloaks and long hair were probably the best and most feared fighters in Greece. They reached their height after the Second Peloponnese War, taking Athens and knocking out its biggest enemy in the region.



Women's Rights in Sparta:


Spartan women had more rights than any other women in any other Greek city-state. Women could own property, own some land, were able to make business transactions, and were better educated than women in ancient Greece in general. The reason for that is most of the Spartan men went to war and were soldiers so the women were the main discipline area of the house and that granted them much greater autonomy than any other women in other Greek city-states.



References:

  1. Ancient Greek civilization - Sparta, Athens, city-states. (2022, July 26). Encyclopedia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/place/ancient-Greece/Sparta-and-Athens

  2. Greek religion. (2020, September 19). Encyclopedia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/topic/Greek-religion

  3. Mark, J. J. (n.d.). Athens. World History Encyclopedia. https://www.worldhistory.org/Athens/

  4. Mark, J. J. (n.d.). Spartan women. World History Encyclopedia. https://www.worldhistory.org/article/123/spartan-women/

  5. Peloponnesian War. (2023, July 20). Encyclopedia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/event/Peloponnesian-War












Comments


bottom of page