What were some gender roles of women in ancient Greece?

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Kristen Lentz eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The gender roles of women in ancient Greece depended heavily on the culture of the city state in which they resided.  While some cultural elements such as polytheism were common to all Greek poli, the attitude and treatment of women was not uniform throughout the Greek world.  A close look at the cultures of Athens and Sparta effectively demonstrates the different roles that women played.

Women in Athens were married at a very young age and were immediately passed from father to a husband usually at least twice her age.  She would never enjoy freedom, and was seen belonging to either her father or husband.  An Athenian wife would have little education and would be expected to remain at home tending to domestic duties.  On the rare occasions that she left the house she would be heavily clothed and expected to keep her place.

The life of a Spartan woman was much different.  Due to their military culture, men were often absent from daily life in the city so women were held in much higher esteem since their role was vital in the daily culture of the society.  They married much later to ensure the bearing of healthy young warriors, and were expected to be healthy and physically fit to that end.  Spartan women were seen outside the home dressed much more comfortably than their Athenian counterparts.  They were better educated as they could own property, and even exercised with men and competed in athletic competitions.  While they weren't seen as equal to men, they were known to speak their mind in public and had much more rights that most women in the ancient world.