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The men of ancient Greece are well known, from Hercules to Alexander the Great. Greek women are rarely mentioned and one has to wonder why?

Ancient Greece was very much a patriarchal society. Sports were reserved for men. Literature, politics, philosophy and so on were as well. At least, this is what men wrote in the various publications we have from that time.

In truth, the position of women in ancient Greece was one best defined by the word separation. Women and men lived with very defined boundaries, boundaries controlled by the men. The home was the primary boundary. Greek women were married off at a young age to men much older than them. They were then moved into the household of their new husband.

This new household was not their personal kingdom. Instead, the mother of their husband ruled the household, a frightening thought for most modern women. In this role, the wife was often given little education and had no real status other than being the property of her husband with all that implies. In general, women were viewed as inferior beings with their primary use being childbirth. As you can see, not all of ancient Greece was particularly enlightened.

The one exception to this rule was Sparta. Sparta had an entirely different view of gender. Essentially, it ignored it. Women were on par with men. They were educated, could own land, have multiple husbands and participate in public life just as a man could. Alas, one has to imagine the women of Athens and Sparta must have looked at each other in shock given the different paths their lives took.

For all its amazing achievements, gender equality in ancient Greece was not one of them.
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