Women’s empowerment: Sparta. Gorgo’s world

Throughout human history (sadly up until the 20th century) women have been denied fundamental rights. The right to gain property, the right to vote, reproductive rights, the right to speak, etc, etc.

There are very few exceptions. One of the most famous ones: the ancient city-state of Sparta.

Spartan women received education, they trained in sports, were free to share their opinion (even on military matters), were legally able to own property, and were raised from young girls to become strong women. This liberty and equality that women enjoyed in Sparta, was admired and envied by the rest of the Greeks.

 

According to Plutarch, once an Athenian woman asked the Spartan Queen, Gorgo ,

‘Why are you Spartan women the only ones who can rule men?’

Gorgo replied:

‘Because we are also the only ones who give birth to men!’

 

Gorgo was married to the legendary King Leonidas and she was the daughter of King Cleomenes I. She was allowed by her father to attend important meetings even when Gorgo was just a 9-year old girl.

Gorgo
Imaginary portrayal of Gorgo, Queen of Sparta

There’s a famous incident when one of the most powerful rulers of the Mediterranean, Aristagoras of Miletus, visited Sparta on a diplomatic mission. During this very important meeting, King Cleomenes allowed his daughter Gorgo to sit next to him. Aristagoras, shocked, requested Cleomenes to send Gorgo out of the room before he began talking to him; but Cleomenes told him to say on, and not mind the girl.

So Aristagoras began with a promise of a huge amount of money if the king would grant him his request and when Cleomenes shook his head, Aristagoras continued to raise his offer till it reached five times the original amount! Then Gorgo spoke:

‘Father,’ she said, ‘get up and go, or the stranger will certainly corrupt thee.’ Then Cleomenes, pleased at the warning of his child, withdrew and went into another room. Aristagoras after this, quitted Sparta for good.

running girl 5
Found in Sparta: bronze figure of a running girl wearing a short tunic (British Museum)

Published by George Kokkos

Having studied Ancient History and Archaeology both in Britain and in Greece, George took part in different excavations, worked as a translator, private tutor. Since 2010 he focuses solely on Educational Tourism as a tour creator & manager. An aspiring science popularizer and indefatigable lecturer in academic or tourism settings, George's mastery is to make accessible complex and profound subject matter that can then be appreciated by an extremely broad audience. George has just published a book on Ancient Greek philosophy, while his main focus the last five years is the history of the ancient Athenian Democracy and her impact on modern-day republics. George has lectured extensively on the value of Democracy in schools, universities, the European Commission Learning Centre etc.

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