“Man shall be trained for war, and woman for the recreation of the warrior: all else is folly.” —Nietzsche
Women and marriage
So far we have examined in detail the Spartan man. It is time to consider the woman and to direct our attention towards her. The Spartans were perhaps the clearest representation of women of honor in the Iron Age, raised under a system that brought out their best qualities. But is it a paradox that, under a resounding patriarchy, women might enjoy broad freedoms? Is it nonsense that in a military where women should have nothing to do, they had more rights than women in any other Greek state? The German ideologue Alfred Rosenberg wrote:
Sparta offered the example of a well disciplined state, and was devoid of any female influence. The kings and the ephors formed the absolute power, the essence of which was the maintenance and expansion of this power through the increase of the Dorian upper stratum with its disciplined outlook.
The Indo-Europeans were strongly patriarchal nations, whose most representative word was precisely “fatherland,” in Latin patria (father). In Germanic languages—German Vaterland and fatherland in English—the words mean “land of the fathers.” Sparta itself was patriarchal to the core, but as we shall see, the Spartans were not in any way unfair or oppressive to their wives. They enjoyed an impossible freedom in the effeminate societies where everything is focused on materialism and enjoyment of earthly, temporary pleasures, when the woman becomes an hetaerae: a passive object of enjoyment and distorted worship.
Sparta, a state so hard and so manly, was the fairest of Hellas in everything concerning their women, and not for mollycoddling, spoiling or flattering them. Sparta was the only Greek state which instituted a policy of female education, outside the knowledge of the home and children that every woman should own. Sparta was also the state with the highest literacy rate of all Hellas, because Spartan girls were taught to read like their brothers, unlike the rest of Greece where women were illiterate.
In the rest of Greece, sometimes, newborn girls (remember the myth of Atalanta), even if they were perfectly healthy (just like in China today) were exposed to death. Many parents almost considered a disgrace the birth of a girl, and finally all that was achieved was to produce an imbalance in the demographic distribution of the sexes.
But Sparta had more women than men, because their exposure of girls was not as severe; because girls did not pass the brutalities of male instruction, because they did not fall in battle, and because men were often on campaign. Spartans who felt at home should, therefore, always thought in terms of mothers, sisters, wives and daughters: the Homeland, the sacred ideal, had a female character; and protecting it amounted to protect their women. Men did not protect themselves: they were the remote shell of the heart, the sacred heart, and sacrificed themselves in honor of that heart. In Sparta more than anywhere else, females made up the inner circle, while males represented the protective outer wall.
Spartan girls received food in the same amount and quality of their brothers, which did not happen in the democratic states of Greece, where the best food pieces were for boys. Spartan girls were placed under an education system similar to the boys that favored their skills of strength, health, agility and toughness in outdoor classes, but trained by women. And they were not educated in that blind fanaticism inculcated to excel, sacrifice and desire—that feeling that among boys brushed the desire for self-destruction. For girls, on the other hand, the emphasis was put in the domain and control of emotions and feelings and the cultivation of the maternal instinct. It favored that youths of both sexes trained athletically together, as it was expected that the lads would encourage the fair sex to excel in physical exertion.
The hardness, severity and discipline of female education were, in any case, much lower than those of the Agoge, and there was much less emphasis on the domain of the suffering and pain as well as aggression. Punishment for Spartan girls was not even remotely as cruel as the punishment for boys, nor were torn out from their family homes at seven. After seeing the almost supernatural prowess that meant male instruction, the education of girls, despite being exemplary, is not impressive.
But why was all this about, apart from the fact that all men were active in the military and therefore needed more self-control and discipline? Simply put, the man is a ticking time bomb. In his insides it ferments and burns all kinds of energies and essences that, if not channeled, are negative when poured out as these forces come from the “dark side” which first inclination is chaos and destruction. The aggressiveness of man, his instinct to kill, his tendency to subdue others, his sexual boost, greatest strength, courage, power, will, strength and toughness, make that he has to be subjected to a special discipline that cultivates and channels those energies in order to achieve great things, especially when it comes to young healthy men with powerful, natural instincts—under penalty of which his spirits suffer a huge risk.
Asceticism itself (as sacrifice) is much more typical of man than woman. In fact, the Indo-European woman was never subjected to disciplinary systems as severe as those of the ancient armies. She was considered by the men of old as a more “magical” creature because she was not hindered by the roars of the beast within. For all these reasons, it was fair that the male education was more severe and rigorous than the female: that is how you train the beast. “It is better to educate men,” Nietzsche put in the words of a wise man who suggested disciplining women.
The main thing in the female formation was physical and a “socialist” education to devote their lives to their country—like men, only that in their case the duty was not shedding her blood on the battlefield, but to keep alive the home, providing a strong and healthy offspring to her race, and raise them with wisdom and care. Giving birth is the fruit of the female instinct that renews the race: that was the mission inculcated in the girls of Sparta.
Spartan women ran, boxed and wrestled in addition of using javelin and disc. They swam, did gymnastics and danced. Although they did participate in sport tournaments, women were barred from the Olympics because of the rejection of the other Hellenic peoples, infected with the mentality whereby a “lady” should rot within four walls. We see that, while Greek sculptures represent well the ideal of male beauty (think of the Discobolus by Myron), they did not in the least approach the ideal of Aryan female beauty: all women in female statues represented amorphous, not very natural, non-athletic bodies albeit with perfect facial features. If the Spartans had left sculptures of women, they would have represented better the ideal of beauty because they, unlike the other Greeks, had a clearly defined feminine ideal: it was clear what a woman had to be.
As for female austerity, it was pronounced (though not as much as the one that men practiced), especially compared with the behavior of the other Greek women, so fond of the colors, superficiality, decorations, objects, and with a hint of “consumerism” typical of civilized societies. Spartan women did not even know the extravagant hairstyles from the East and they wore, as a sign of their discipline, their hair up with simplicity: probably the most practical for a life of intense sports and activity. Also, all kinds of makeup, decorations, jewelry and perfumes were unknown and unnecessary for Spartan women, which proudly banished all that southern paraphernalia. Seneca said that “virtue does not need ornaments; it has in itself its highest ornaments.”
One purpose of raising healthy and agile women was that Spartan babies, growing within solid bodies, were born as promising products. According to Plutarch, Lycurgus “made the maidens exercise their bodies in running, wrestling, casting the discus, and hurling the javelin, in order that the fruit of their wombs might have vigorous root in vigorous bodies and come to better maturity, and that they themselves might come with vigour to the fullness of their times, and struggle successfully and easily with the pangs of child-birth” (Life of Lycurgus, XIV).
Spartan women were prepared, since childhood, to childbirth and to the stage where they would be mothers, teaching them the right way to raise the little one to become a true Spartan. During this training, the Spartan women were often babysitters, acquiring experience for times when they would receive the initiation of motherhood. They married from age twenty, and did not marry men who surpassed them greatly in age (as in the rest of Greece), but with men their age or five years older or younger at most. Age difference within the members of a marriage was poorly viewed, as it sabotaged the duration of the couple’s fertile phase. The aberration of marrying girls of fifteen with men of thirty was not even remotely allowed, an aberration that did happen in other Hellenic states where parents came to force unions whose age difference was of a generation.
Nor was allowed in Sparta another abomination, which consisted of marring girls with their own uncles or cousins to keep inherited wealth within the family: an altogether oriental, anti-Indo-European and unnatural mentality. Other practices, such as prostitution or rape, were not even conceived. Or adultery. One Geradas, a Spartan of very ancient type, who, on being asked by a stranger what the punishment for adulterers was among them, answered: “Stranger, there is no adulterer among us.” “Suppose, then,” replied the stranger, “there should be one.” “A bull,” said Geradas, “would be his forfeit, a bull so large that it could stretch over Mount Taygetus and drink from the river Eurotas.” Then the stranger was astonished and said: “But how could there be a bull so large?” To which Geradas replied, with a smile: “But how could there be an adulterer in Sparta?”
Such, then, are the accounts we find of their marriages.
In other Greek states, male nudity was common in religious and sport activities, and this was a sign of their arrogance and pride. Female nudity, however, was banned as the very presence of women in such acts. But in the processions, religious ceremonies, parties and sport activities of Sparta, girls were as naked as the young. Every year during the Gymnopaedia, which lasted ten days, the Spartan youth of both sexes competed in sports tournaments and danced naked. (This was another suggestion of Plato in his Republic as well as one of the observations made by Caesar on the Germans.) It was felt that, attending sporting events, the young Spartan would be able to select a well-built husband.
Today nudist activities of this type would be ridiculous because people’s nudity is shameful; modern bodies are flabby and lack normal forms. The modern individual tends to see an athletic body as an outstanding body, when an athletic body is a normal and natural body; it is the rest, non-exercised types which are not normal. Recall Nietzsche’s reflection: “A naked man is generally regarded as a shameful spectacle.” However, at that time, witnessing such a display of health, agility, strength, beauty, muscle and good constitutions should inspire genuine respect and pride of race. The Hellenes of the democratic states argued at the time that the presence of female nudity could cause leering looks, but the fact is that the Spartans took it all with ease and pagan nonchalance. Moreover, young Spartan women that identified an awestruck voyeur used a clever string of jokes that made him a fool in front of the entire stadium, full of solemn authorities and attentive people.
In some ceremonies, the girls sang about boys who had done great deeds, or dishonored that had led to bad. They were, in some way, the demanding voice of the Spartan collective unconscious, which ensures the courage and conduct of men. Not only in the songs appeared the pouring of their opinions, but in public life: they did not overlook a single one; they were not gentle, but were always criticizing or praising the brave and coward. For men of honor, opinions on the value and manhood were more important if they came from female voices worthy of respect: the criticisms were sharper and praises more restorative. According to Plutarch, the Spartan woman “engendered in young people a laudable ambition and emulation.” That is why relationships with women not softened them, but hardened them even more, as they preferred to be brave and conquer their worship.
And what was the result of the patriarchal education on the young girls? It was a caste of women on the verge of perfection: severe, discreet and proud. Spartan femininity took the appearance of young athletic, happy and free, yet serious and somber. They were, as the Valkyries, perfect companion of the warriors. Trophy-women insofar as they aspired for the best man, but physically active and bold; very far, then, from the ideal of “woman-object.”
In all Hellas, Spartan women were known for their great beauty and respected for their serenity and maturity. The poet Alcman of Sparta (7th century BCE) dedicated a poem to a woman champion competing in chariot races, praising her for her “golden hair and silver face.” Two centuries later, another poet, Bacchylides, wrote about the “blonde Lacedaemonian,” describing her “golden hair.” Given that the dyes in Sparta were banned, we can deduce that racism and the Apartheid instinct of the Spartans with respect to aboriginal Greeks was strong enough so that, no more and no less than seven centuries after the Dorian invasion, blond hair still predominated among the citizenry of the country.
In a comedy called Lysistrata, written by the Athenian playwright Aristophanes (444-385 BCE), there is a scene where a crowd of admiring Athenian women surround a young Spartan named Lampito. “What a splendid creature!” they said. “What a skin, so healthy, what a body, so firm!” Another added: “I’ve never a chest like that.” Homer called Sparta Kalligynaika, meaning “land of beautiful women.” On the other hand, do not forget that the legendary Helen of Troy, the most beautiful woman in the world, was originally Helen of Sparta: an ideal that was stolen by the East and that not only Sparta, but the whole Greece recovered through fighting and conquest.
Spartan women were superior in all respects to the other women of their time and, of course, today’s women. Even in physical virtues, courage and toughness they would outstrip most modern men. Their severity was the best company to their husbands and the best raising for their children, and she demanded the greatest sacrifices. An anecdote recounts how a Spartan mother killed his own son when she saw he was the sole survivor of the battle and that returned home with a back injury, that is, he had fled rather than fulfill his sacred duty: immolation. Another Spartan mother, seeing her son fled the combat, lifted her robe and asked in the most merciless crudeness if his intention was to, terrified, return from where he came. While other mothers would have said “poor thing!” and stretched their arms open, Spartan mothers did not forgive.
Tacitus wrote that the mothers and wives of the Germans (whose mentality was not too different from the Spartan) used to count the scars of their warriors, and that they even required them to return with wounds to show their readiness of sacrifice for them. The Spartans believed that in their wives lived a divine gift, and it was not to be the women who would convince them otherwise, so these women sought to maintain the high standard of the devotion their men professed.
Furthermore, women were convinced that in their men lived the nobility, courage, honesty, power and righteousness typically of the male, along with the notion of duty, honor and the willingness to sacrifice; and men also sought to keep up with such an ideal. Again, we find that the ancient woman did not soften the man, but helped to improve and perfect him because the man felt the need to maintain the integrity before such women; so women remained alert and they did the same with them, having in their minds that they themselves were ideals for which their men were willing to sacrifice themselves. Thus, a virtuous circle was created. The woman was a motif not to give up the fight, but precisely a reason to fight with even more fanaticism.
Other Greeks were outraged because the Spartan women were not afraid to speak in public; because they had opinions and, what is more, their husbands listened. (The same indignation the Romans experienced about the greater freedom of Germanic women.) Moreover, since their men were in constant military camp life, Spartan women, like the Vikings, were responsible for the farm and home. They managed the home resources, economy and self-sufficiency of the family, so that the Spartans relied on their wives to provide the stipulated food rations for their Syssitias. Spartan women (again, like Germanic women) could inherit property and pass it, unlike the other Greek women. All this female domestic administration was, as we see, similar in Germanic law, where women boasted the home-key as a sign of sovereignty over the holy and impregnable family house, and of faithfulness to the breadwinner. Home is the smallest temple that may have the smallest unit of blood, the cell on which the whole race is based: the family. And the bearer of the key had to be forcibly the mother.
A society at war is doomed if the home, if the female rear, is not with the male vanguard. All the sacrifices of the warriors are just a glorious waste, aimless and meaningless if in the country no women are willing to keep the home running, providing support and spiritual encouragement to the men in the field and, ultimately, giving birth to new warriors. A soldier far from home, without country, ideal and a feminine image of reference—a model of perfection, an axis of divinity—immediately degenerates into a villain without honor. Conversely, if he is able to internalize an inner mystique and a feminine symbolism that balances the brutality he witness day after day, his spirit will be strengthened and his character ennoble. Sparta had no problems in this regard; Spartan women were the perfect counterpart of a good warrior.
Even marriage was tinged with violence. During the ceremony, the man, armed and naked, grabbed her arm firmly and brought the girl “by force” as she lowered her head. (According to Nietzsche, “The distinctive character of a man is will; and in a woman, submission.” In Spartan marriage this was truer than anywhere else.) This should not be interpreted in a literal sense of rapture, but in a metaphorical sense and ritual: a staging of Indo-European mythologies are numerous with references of robbery, kidnapping—and the subsequent liberation—of something holy that is necessary to win, earn the right to own it. The fire from the gods, the golden fleece, the apples of the Hesperides, the grail of Celtic and Germanic traditions and the sleeping Valkyrie are examples of such sacred images. Cherished ideals not to be delivered free but conquered by force and courage after overcoming difficult obstacles, and thus ensured that only the most courageous were able to snatch it and own it, while the weak and timid were disqualified in the fight.
On the other hand, can we not find a similarity between the Spartan marriage ritual and the Indo-Iranian sveyamvara marriage by abduction allowed to warriors, and in the case of the Sabine abducted by Latins in the origins of Rome, and the same type of marriage allowed to the old Cossacks? In the Indo-Aryan writing, the Mahabharata, we read how the hero Arjuna abducted Subhadra “as do the warriors,” marrying her. Again, it was not a literal rapture but rather the conquest of the sacred through respect and strength what rendered the sacred fall before the hero.
In Spartan marriage, then, we see how the Spartan woman was elevated to the status of a divine ideal and not given by her parents to a man chosen by them (as in other rituals of marriage, which makes the bride an object of barter), but the brave man had to earn her. In fact, in Sparta it was not allowed that parents had anything to do with the marital affairs of their offspring; it was the couple that decided their marriage, allowing that preferences and the healthy instincts of the youths would be unhindered—making it clear that to possess a woman of the category of the Spartan it was not enough wealth, parental consent, marriage arrangements, dialectics, seduction or false words. It was necessary to make an overwhelming impression; be robust and noble and genetically worthy.
Also, the Spartan marriage ceremony—dark and almost sinister in its direct crudeness—is the height of the patriarchal warrior society, and one of the most eloquent expressions of patriarchy that governed in Sparta. Lycurgus sought to establish military paranoia and a perpetual environment of war even in marriage. Just as children had to procure their food by hunting and gathering and rapine and pretending to be in the enemy zone, an adult man should also win his chosen one by pretending to be into fringe, hostile territory—“abducting her” in remembrance of a hard and dangerous time that was not kind for romance and lovers. This again made evident how little parents were involved in a plot like this: in ancient times, if they refused to consent to the marriage, the young man performed a daring raid and, with the complicity of his fiancée, “abducted her.”
With the Spartan marriage system it was also subtly implied that, as Nature teaches, not everyone was entitled to a female. To be eligible for this right it was necessary for a man to pass a test: eugenics, child rearing, education, entry into the Army Syssitias and the mutual fidelity of a young female belonging to the same call-up year, which in turn he gained through observation and knowledge at sporting events, popular and religious, and a long loving friendship whose latent purpose should remain hidden from the rest of society. Throughout all these phases the man conquered his beloved girl. The unconquered woman had to prove nothing. She chose her fiancé and had the say as to accept her future husband. Ultimately, it was she who willingly indulged in complicity, leaving herself to be ritually “kidnapped” by the man of her choice.
After the ritual, the bride was taken to the house of her in-laws. There they shaved her head and made her wore clothing like a man. Then she was left in a dark room, waiting for the arrival of the groom. All this is extremely difficult to understand for a modern Western mind and it is not from this point of view we should try to understand it, but putting us at the time and bearing in mind that both Spartan man and woman belonged to an Order.
This last—totally sordid—phase served to impress upon the newlyweds the notion that the secrecy and discretion of their relationship was not over, and that they had not yet earned the right to enjoy a normal marriage. For the woman it implied initiation, sacrifice and a new stage. She was stripped from her seduction skills and her awareness of being attractive. For the man, it was beneficial to make him appreciate what really mattered of his wife: not clothes, hair or ornaments but her body; her face and character.
Consuming an act in these gloomy conditions and absolutely hostile to romance and sexual arousal was for both the man and the woman the least imaginable stimulating, so that gradually they became accustomed to the physical sensations arising from the sexual act, but without the additional psychological stimuli such as a more feminine look in the woman and a gentler environment—stimuli that tend to boycott male stamina, moving him to abandon himself to pleasure and rest on his laurels. Therefore, this staging was not much inspiring sexually in short term, but instead was very stimulating in long-term in a subtle way: slowly, it was blown into the hearts of the lovers the longing for that which was not still allowed.
So, by the time a woman had re-grown abundant hair, and the pseudo-clandestineness of the relationship was dissipated over time, both male and female were well experienced adults who knew what they wanted and, despite it, had not suffered any loss in sexual desire but rather were more than ever prepared to appreciate and enjoy what meant a free physical relationship.
Lycurgus established that a man should be ashamed to be seen with his wife in loving attitudes so that the meeting took place in private and with greater intimacy and passion, and that the surrounding secrecy and hostility favored the magic of the union: the feeling of complicity and the true romance, which always has to have some secrets. (Plato said that holding hands and fondling should be the maximum carnal love shown in public.) The objective of this measure, too, was to promote mutual thirst for true knowledge, fascination, mystery, magic: the sacred short-circuit between man and woman, and—let’s say it—the curiosity of the forbidden, so that their relationship had no public at all, but a private matter, and to encourage that a man and a woman would not get tired of one another. The Spartan couple should have, then, a powerful sexuality that oozed from healthy bodies and pure spirits, resulting in a clean eroticism and a positive lust necessary for the preservation of the race. In the words of Xenophon:
He [Lycurgus] noticed, too, that, during the time immediately succeeding marriage, it was usual elsewhere for the husband to have unlimited intercourse with his wife. The rule that he adopted was the opposite of this: for he laid it down that the husband should be ashamed to be seen entering his wife’s room or leaving it. With this restriction on intercourse the desire of the one for the other must necessarily be increased, and their offspring was bound to be more vigorous than if they were surfeited with one another [Constitution of the Lacedaemonians, 1].
How, then, did the Spartans manage to be with their wives? In the Syssitias, a man stood quietly and left the room, ensuring that nobody saw him (at night it was forbidden to walk with a lighting of any kind, to promote the ability to move in the dark without fear and safely). He entered his home, where he found his wife and where happened what had to happen. The man then returned to the Syssitia with his comrades in arms, wrapped in a secrecy that almost touched the squalor. Nobody noticed anything. The sexuality of the couple was strictly private, even furtive and pseudo-clandestine so that no person would interfere with it and make the relationship stronger and, to quote again Plutarch, that their minds were always “recent in love, to leave in both the flame of desire and complacency.”
Were Spartan relations normal, natural or desirable? No. Quite the opposite. They created a most unpleasant weather, far from corresponding to some sort of “ideal.” No sane person would want such a relationship as a way of seeking pleasure. For the Spartans, however, as a result of their peculiar idiosyncrasies, it “worked.” And yet, we see that boredom, repetition, lack of curiosity and monotony, the real demons in modern couples (and not an infrequent cause of dissatisfaction, infidelity, breakups or perversions that emerge when breaking the routine) were uncommon in Spartan marriages.
Spartan privacy and discretion were, in fact, the opposite of the relations of our days: pure appearance and social desirability with a public, not private basis. Spartans understood this important issue and lived in conformity with it. They favored the meeting of men and women in popular events, but they kept loving relationships strictly private. (Millennia later, the SS also understood it, and on their tables of values they firmly stamped: “Maintain the mysterious appearance of love!”) The strength of their love came from themselves, unlike the infantile current relationships whose fuel is the external world outside the couple, without which the couple is empty and cannot function.
Spartan Romanticism was the epitome of love in the Iron Age: love in a hostile area and in difficult times. Marriage relationships were designed for the exchange to be beneficial. Today, the marriage almost invariably castrates man, making him fat, cowardly, lazy, and turning the woman into a manipulative, hedonistic, whimsical and poisonous individual.
On the other hand, there was another controversial Spartan measure that had to do with the need to procreate. If a man began to grow old and knew a young man whose qualities admired, he could present him to his wife to beget robust offspring. The woman could cohabit with another man who accepted her, if he was of greater genetic value than her husband (i.e., if he was a better man). This was not considered adultery but a service to the race. Also, if a woman was barren or began to decline biologically, the husband was entitled to take a fertile woman who loved him, and he was not considered an adulterer. In Viking society (the kind of society that came from the ancient Dorians) if a woman was unfaithful with a man manifestly better than her husband, it was not considered adultery.
The above may seem sordid and primitive; it may seem an annulment of the individual or of the order, and “reduce a man to the status of cattle,” but with the strong desire of offspring in Sparta they cared little about selfish or individual desires. To the forces of Nature and race personal whims are unimportant; what matters is that the offspring are healthy and robust, and that the torrent of children is never extinguished. These peculiar measures, that in an undisciplined people would have provoked chaos, in the Spartans, used to discretion and order, did not cause any problems. On the other hand, we must avoid falling into the trap of thinking that all couples “got laid.” In the majority of cases both partners were healthy and fertile and did not need of any “assistance.”
What was considered the birth in Sparta in the context of this natural mindset? A good way to explain it is quoting an Italian Fascist slogan, “War is to the male what childbearing is to the female.” The duty of man was sacrificing his strength from day to day and shed his blood on the battlefield, and women’s to struggle to give birth and raise healthy children. Since their childhood that was the sacred duty they had been taught.
In this environment, a Spartan woman who refused to give birth would have been as unpopular as a Spartan man who refused to fight, for the woman who refuses to give birth sabotaged the sacrifice of the young warrior just as the man who refuses to defend home sabotaged the efforts of the young mother who gives birth. It would have been more than a sacrilege: a betrayal. Artemis, the most revered female deity in Sparta, was, among other things, the goddess of childbirth, and was invoked when the young women were giving birth. In any case, labor for Spartan women should not have been traumatic, first because since their childhood their bodies were hardened and they exercised the muscles that would help them give birth; secondly because they conceived their children while they were still young and strong, and thirdly because they gave birth under a happy and proud motivation of duty, aided by a knowledge and a natural medicine confirmed by many generations of mothers and Spartan nurses.
The great freedom of women in Sparta did not imply that women were handed over leadership or positions of power. The woman was not the driving, but the inspiring, generating and conservative force. She did not dominate but subtly influenced, strangely reaffirming the character of men. A woman could be a priestess or a queen, but not meddled in the affairs of political and warrior leadership, because that meant taking a role associated with the masculine side. The woman was a pure ideal that must at all costs be kept away from the dirty side of politics and war command, but always present in society and in the thought of the warrior, because that was where resided her mysterious power. It was in the mind of men where the woman became a conductive force, meaning memory-love (in terms of Minni) and inspiration.
To Gorgo, queen of Sparta, wife of king Leonidas, a foreign woman once said that only Spartan women kept any real influence over men, and the queen answered, “because we are the only ones who give birth to real men.” Again, they had influence over men, but not power. In ancient Scandinavian meetings, as an example of the value of the feminine influence, only married men were allowed to vote. The man was the one who made the decisions, but it was assumed that he was not complete until he had at his side a complementary, feminine spirit, a Woman who could transmit certain magic everyday, and inspired him with her reflections and only then he was allowed to vote. In practice, every marriage was a single vote. On the other hand, in the other Hellenic states the female presence was banished, thus unbalancing the mentality and behavior of the warrior, and finally facilitating the emergence of pederast homosexuality. The whole issue of Spartan femininity was really inconceivable in the rest of Greece.
The Athenians called the Spartan women fainomérides (“those that show the thighs”) as a reproach of their freedom of dress. This was because the Spartans were still using the old Dorian peplos, which was open in the waist side. It was part of a women’s fashion, more comfortable and lighter than the female clothing in the rest of Greece: where fashions flourished of extravagant hairstyles, makeup, jewelry or perfumes. It was a fashion for healthy Spartan women. But the rest of Hellas, as far as women are concerned, was already infected with Eastern customs: which kept them permanently locked up at home; where their bodies weakened and sick minds developed. The Athenian poet Euripides (480-406 BCE) was shocked at the fact that the “daughters of the Spartans… leave home” and “mingle with men showing her thighs.”
(*) The very image of Helen of Sparta has to be purified. Far from the common vision that Hollywood has shown us, her spirit became disordered by the outburst of Aphrodite. Helen, the highest ideal of Hellenic beauty and femininity, was kidnapped by the East, hence the remarkable swat of the Greeks. Upon her arrival in Troy, Helen recovered memory, recalled she was the queen of Sparta, was married to King Menelaus, and they had two daughters; and bitterly regretted and wept for her mistake.
Helen cursed her luck and Aphrodite by her deception, she considered herself captive despite being treated like a princess, and despised her “husband” Paris (as is evident when she contemptuously rejects him after having behaved like a coward before Menelaus, for whom she reserved her admiration). Lamenting her fate, she wished to be recovered by her lawful husband, as attested by the scene where she has her window in form of open arms as to communicate the permanence of her love. Once she was recovered for Greece, Helen returned to the Spartan throne with honors, serving as queen again, as seen in the Odyssey when Telemachus, son of Odysseus, goes to Sparta to inquire about the fate of his father. It is then that Penelope, wife of Odysseus and mother of Telemachus, laments that her son goes to Sparta, “the land of beautiful women.”
(For the other half of this book on Sparta
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