Friday, May 19, 2006

Sacrifice as Assertion: Plutarch and the Spartan Woman

Peace, one and all...
Whilst I was working on some stuff last night, I came across an essay I wrote for my MA in Ancient History. I haven't read it in a long time and so I thought I'd post it here...
Ma'as salama,
Abdur Rahman

Sacrifice as Assertion: Plutarch and the Spartan Woman

Plutarch is, perhaps, an inescapable figure in ancient history and thought. He was born as Lucius Mestrius Plutarchus in the Greek city of Chaeronea during the mid forties CE, to a family which had been important there for a number of generations. In keeping with such a ‘pedigree’ Plutarch underwent a thorough education in rhetoric and philosophy, before eventually becoming a priest at Delphi
[1]. Plutarch was a pragmatic man, coming to terms with his knowledge of the glories of the Greek past and its present weakness[2]. He was also a prolific author: writing a vast corpus on everything from philosophical treatises to rhetorical ‘manuals’ and biographical accounts.

In the past, he has been severely criticised. He has been castigated for his ‘distance’ from classical Greece. Whilst this ‘lateness’ is a disadvantage in many respects, his accounts are generally plausible, if occasionally anachronistic
[3]. He has also been accused of a ‘lack of historical perspective’[4]. Plutarch answers this himself: ‘…I am writing biography, not history…’[5].

Plutarch is one of our main sources for the history of Sparta. This small, yet widely influential, city in the Peloponnese held sway in Greece during the late fifth and early fourth centuries BCE. Whilst little of its history remains uncontroversial, it does seem to have differed from other Greek cities in some important respects. Spartan society was divided into three major classes: the homoioi (or ‘peers’) who held full citizenship and property rights; the perioikoi (‘dwellers around’), ‘free’ but with less wealth and therefore less status; the helots, bound labour with few rights

Spartan administration is imperfectly understood. The city was nominally ruled by two kings with limited powers subject to check by ephors (or magistrates) and gerousia (or ‘council of elders’), although the relationship of these posts to one another is not fully known. The (in)famous education system (the agoge), which took boys from their parents at seven and gave them a military education in ‘barracks’, was designed to improve the city’s readiness for war. The success of which is shown by Spartan military pre-eminence (until the battle of Leuctra in 371BCE)

The women of Sparta are similarly elusive. In the ancient world, at least, Spartan women were thought to be far more ‘liberated’ than the rest of their Greek sisters (though, it must be said, that this belief was defined by its apparent difference from ‘general’ Greek norms). The growth of ‘feminist’ literature (which, amongst other things, seeks to understand the historical parameters of female experience) has made a re-evaluation of ancient attitudes towards Spartan women and their supposed ‘freedom’ both important and relevant. This essay aims to consider Plutarch’s use of the Spartan woman as an example of female ‘virtue’ in general.

Before we begin our investigation we should appreciate the limitations of our evidence. There are practically no surviving Spartan accounts of (or by) women
[8]. Most of the (roughly) contemporary literature comes from Athens, Sparta’s chief rival for most of the classical period, and has, therefore, a somewhat biased regard for its achievements. Plutarch, writing approximately 400 years after Sparta’s heyday, spent much of his ‘working life’ at Athens itself and viewed it as a major cultural centre, so bias and anachronism are perhaps inevitable. We should bear these points constantly in mind.

We should also take a moment to ponder what we mean by sacrifice. For the purposes of this essay, sacrifice refers to the voluntary act of relinquishing something in order to gain some ‘higher good’. In other words, sacrifice is not only financial. It can also be emotional, spiritual and physical. We are not so interested, therefore, in the social position of the person giving but rather in what their giving represents to Plutarch.

To answer the question in brief, then: whilst Plutarch’s conception of women’s role in ‘civilised’ society shares many features with that of his (mainly Athenian) ‘contemporaries’, it is different in some important respects. Like many ancient authors, he divides gender roles into active and passive and defines ‘virtue’ as how far a person accepts this division
[9]. This acceptance requires practical application; in a female context this means sacrifice. The stereotypical figure of the Spartan woman is used by Plutarch as a means of expressing this idea: those who attempt to utilise it are portrayed in glowing terms whilst those who do not are castigated. Also those who do sacrifice should use their moral superiority to educate their children, thereby ensuring the community’s growth.

The operation of this essential quality can be seen on several levels: firstly, a woman should sacrifice the possession of and desire for ‘unsuitable’ power (that is, ‘male’ authority). Secondly, this initial sacrifice should be paralleled by an attempt to control and balance her extremes of feeling. Thirdly, a woman should extend this by, where necessary, relinquishing her own personal ‘honour’ in the further service of virtuous ends. By not giving free rein to her ‘wilder’ impulses, a woman becomes more ‘virtuous’ and her effect on those around her grows in proportion. The women who reached this ‘pinnacle’ of sacrifice are not, as might be expected, meek and timid: indeed, they are portrayed as having a direct impact on the lives and well-being of not only their families but also the wider world in general. Thus, for Plutarch, Spartan womanhood offers an important example of how women in general should (and conversely, should not) act.

Whilst it is well beyond the scope of this paper to enter the important debate on female experience in the Greek world, we can perhaps draw together some key points as being (fairly) representative of some (principally Athenian) male views.

The ‘normative’ Greek view of women, or at least that initiated by Plato and Aristotle and later developed by others, saw Man as a unique animal in his possession of reason. Men, therefore, did and should attempt to mould and shape his surroundings, both behavioural and physical. Women, by contrast, being of this same essence but in a somewhat lesser degree, were there to be provided for and taught ‘fitting’ roles; in other words, to be shaped and acted upon

In general, Greek society was patriarchal; that is, legitimate authority was largely defined by and for men. Thus within the family new children had to be accepted by the father before being allowed to live
[11]. Property and the right to inherit were also largely in male hands[12]. Female education was mostly limited to ‘women’s duties’ such as housework and child-rearing. Aristotle remarked that while pregnant ‘… the body should be exercised, the intellect should follow a more relaxed regime…’[13]. This lack is confirmed by the existence of some women of greater learning, usually of an aristocratic background, who stand out in stark contrast to the majority (such as the poetess Sappho)[14].

On a broader level, women played no official part in politics; in most cases they could not hold office
[15]. The general sensitivity regarding female ‘participation’ is emphasised by its widespread condemnation. Such a ‘rule by women’ is equated with inevitable decline, as Aristotle argues: ‘An inevitable result under such a constitution is that esteem is given to wealth, particularly in cases where men are dominated by the women’[16].

An area of particular concern was female sexuality. In a patriarchy, the legitimacy of children becomes essential. Thus philosophers, such as Plato and Aristotle, went to great pains to decide the appropriate age for marriage and the ‘proper’ way to have children
[17]. Adultery laws sought to prohibit promiscuity: with punishments ranging in severity from monetary fine to summary execution[18]. On a somewhat more ‘popular’ level, (male) literature attempted to demonise those who, for whatever the reason, went against the norm. Simonides of Amorgos berates the woman who will‘…welcome any male friend who comes around with sex on his mind’ and praises she who ‘…does not take pleasure in sitting among the women when they are discussing sex’[19]. Whilst it seems certain that such attitudes were by no means universal, the desire to restrict female sexual activity was a key feature of Greek society.

To keep women from ‘straying’ it was felt better for them to remain at home. Sophocles exhorts women to ‘be women’ and stay inside, whilst Thucydides argues that ‘…the greatest glory for a woman is to be least talked about by men, whether they are praising you or criticising you’

Such ideas help explain the magnetic quality of the Spartan woman in ancient literature. The belief in their apparent ‘freedom’ exercised a major influence on much (principally Athenian) thought
[21]. Criticism about their active role in society was balanced and complicated, by their apparent beauty. Playwrights reflect this complex attitude. Thus Euripides accuses Spartan girls of being somewhat unstable and unchaste, whilst Aristophanes refers to their captivating appearance[22]. Again, it is not the purpose of this essay to examine ancient views of Spartan women or to open a discussion of this supposed ‘liberty’. It is enough to note that ancient views of women were characterised by a complex and sometimes negative attitude[23].

Plutarch remarks that ‘virtue is the same in man and woman’
[24]. Whilst the actual quality itself appears in both sexes, the division into specific gender roles means that its operation is not. In other words, ‘virtue’ for Plutarch is seen as how far a person adheres to their particular role and how they control themselves within it[25]. Men, as the active force, should initiate and take the lead, in external and internal affairs; ‘…the husband should rule the wife, not as a master rules a slave, but as the soul rules the body’[26]. Thus male control of society was seen as a natural feature of life[27]. Those men who ‘repudiate’ this essential cross the boundary of manhood into effeminacy. Plutarch accuses Egyptian men of this ‘crime’; ‘It is certainly no surprise that women take control of these men who shun liberty’[28].

Women were, by contrast, conceived of as inherently passive: ‘If they submit to their husbands, they are praised. If they try to rule them, they cut a worse figure than their subjects’
[29]. Thus Plutarch has Megisto, leader of the imprisoned wives of Elis, answer her captor, Aristodemus, in this manner; ‘If you were a man of sense…you would not be talking to wives about their husbands; you would have sent word to them, for they are our masters…’[30]. A good woman was, therefore, one who lived her life through her husband; ‘… a wife should have no feelings of her own, but share her husband’s seriousness and sport, his anxiety and his laughter’[31]. Those who deny or repudiate their natural part in life therefore lack ‘goodness’. A domineering woman is criticised for her character;

‘Women who dominate fools rather than obey men of sense are like people who would rather guide the blind on the road than follow the sighted man who knows the way’

Plutarch uses the evocative figure of the Spartan woman to reinforce this point. The female opposition to Agis IV is portrayed in terms of greed and lust, whilst his supporters are lifted to the heights of virtue
[33]. The figure of the newly married, and ‘suitably’ passive, Spartan girl is another example. Her demure response receives glowing praise:

‘A Spartan girl, when asked if she had yet come to her husband, replied, ‘No, but he has come to me’. This is how the true housewife should be; she does not … take the initiative herself’[34].
To explore how and in what way Spartan women were seen by Plutarch as ‘good’ is, therefore, to understand his wider view of women in general.

Plutarch believed that this moral superiority required practical application in the wider world
[35]. In other words, women should instil the ‘correct’ gender role into their children. The educational influence of women, which Plutarch sees as vital, is thus a feature of all of his more ‘virtuous’ characters. The moral rectitude of king Agis is implicitly seen as the product of his mother and grandmother’s teaching (this is further emphasised by the care which Agis takes to win them over to his reform)[36]. Agiatis, the wife of Cleomenes, moulds her young husband’s nebulous ideas for reform into a concerted plan, whilst the salvation of the Chian exiles is credited to their wives, who ‘… taught them to be brave’ [37]. Chilonis’ passionate plea for the life of her husband is portrayed by Plutarch as an educational piece of rhetoric (of the type he himself liked to give)[38]. Cornelia, the mother of the Roman Gracchi brothers, is yet another important example. She is said to be directly responsible for their strict upbringing[39].

In contrast to much (Athenian) Greek thought, Plutarch believed it was possible for a woman to be educated in ‘higher’ learning
[40]. He attributes a trained and active intelligence to several key women. Thus during the preamble to his Virtues in Women he consoles the recently bereaved Flavia Clea with these words:

‘And so, when our good Leontis died, you and I had much talk, talk rich in philosophical consolation and now, in accordance with your wish, I have written up what was left over from our discussion…’[41].
Obviously Plutarch felt that Flavia was able to understand philosophical argument as well as read his subsequent account[42]. Timoclea of Thebes is another example, making a speech in defence of her city to Alexander[43].

Furthermore Spartan women are often portrayed by Plutarch as educated. This may well reflect a commonplace of Greek thought. Herodotus, in a story about espionage during the Persian Wars, relates that only the Spartan king’s daughter, Gorgo, could decipher the meaning of a message hidden within a bronze tablet
[44]. The speech which Plutarch puts into the mouth of Chilonis, daughter of king Leonidas and wife of king Cleombrotus, provides us with another example. In this passage Chilonis delivers a long and successful plea for her husband’s life, very much in the style of a professional orator[45]. Whilst it is true that speeches do not say much the about level of female education in ‘real life’ they do say a great deal about Plutarch’s perception, that he felt it possible and worthwhile and that he equates such learning with morality.

It is noteworthy that even in a passage without an overt reference to education Plutarch credits the Spartan woman with an inherent power to teach. Alcibiades, the enigmatic Athenian general, is said to have had a Spartan nursemaid as a child, implying that he owed some of his martial prowess to her
[46]. The same idea also underpins Plutarch’s account of the nudity of Spartan girls. He praises it for its ability to help young men find attractive brides and because ‘… there was no hint of immorality’ it serves to encourage the young men to compete with each other in ‘virtue’: ‘… so that they filled the youngsters with a great sense of ambition and rivalry’[47]. Guidance can thus be seen to have operated on several levels.

Above all, Plutarch believed that education should be practical: that is, it should offer women a moral example to follow. Indeed, he is critical of ‘…philosophers who exhort but offer us no instruction or suggestion. They are no better than people who trim their lamps but don’t put the oil in’
[48]. Indeed, much of his own writing was didactic in purpose[49]. In marriage such philosophy was designed to promote harmonious relations between a husband and his wife. Education was supposed to have a lasting effect: ‘If she knows geometry, she will be ashamed to dance’[50]. This meant that the husband had to understand and apply his dominant position. He should be the one to set the moral example for the woman to follow. Force, however, was a last resort[51]. Thus Plutarch plays up the importance of persuasion[52]:

‘The ancients set Hermes at Aphrodite’s side, knowing that the pleasure of marriage needed his word more than anything, and with them they set persuasion and the Graces, that married couples might have their desire from each by persuasion, not in conflict or quarrelsomeness’[53]
And again:
‘When their husbands take away their luxuries and extravagances, they fight and quarrel; but if they are persuaded by reason, they lay them aside without complaint and behave with moderation’[54].
Education for a woman was, therefore, directly related to an understanding of her passive role:
‘… there are many fine subjects of discourse, but none more important than marriage, whereby philosophy charms those who come together to share their lives, and makes them gentle and amenable to each other’[55].
This brings us to the motif of sacrifice: what did it signify and how did it operate?

Plutarch’s belief in female passivity is paralleled by, and perhaps springs from, his concept of religion. The two ideas being inextricably related in his mind. To relinquish something valuable to a deity brings the dedicatee a degree of divine influence. Indeed, to gain the ear of a particular god through expensive and valuable gifts, was the central feature of Graeco-Roman worship
[56]. The Vestal Virgins at Rome sacrificed their sexual lives in order to ensure the pax deorum, whilst Prometheus sacrificed his freedom for knowledge[57]. Plutarch reflects this idea in the Moralia:
‘In destroying the belief in immortality, the Epicureans destroy the sweetest and greatest hopes of the mass of mankind. What are we to believe of the good, who have lived pious and upright lives and expect no evil yonder but only things most lovely and divine? Athletes receive their prizes not during the contest but after they have won’[58].
This belief in an evolving and practical wisdom meant, in a female context, sacrifice. Primarily this meant relinquishing ‘male’ power (either power achieved, as position, or power desired, as ambition). By complying with the natural order and not entering the ‘risky’ world of politics a woman achieves respect and thus influence[59]. The figures of Agesistrata and Archidamia (Agis’ mother and grandmother) in the Life of Agis are significant in this respect. Despite their enormous wealth and influence, these two women become Agis’ principal supporters once convinced of the need for reform:
‘…inspired by the young man’s aspirations, the ladies…were filled with such great enthusiasm that together they urged Agis on and told him to proceed faster’[60].
Indeed, their aid proves crucial both in terms of the wealth at their disposal and their ability to mobilise female support[61]. Whilst the tone of this passage, and indeed the whole Life, suggests a rather more political motive for their support, Plutarch’s account seeks to emphasise the virtue in their ‘sacrifice’[62]. Thus when events come to a head and Agis is murdered, the deaths of Agesistrata and Archidamia are transformed into moral paradigms[63]. Plutarch has Agis’ mother die with the words ‘May this only be of service to Sparta’, whilst his grandmother is executed first because she ‘…she enjoyed the highest esteem amongst Spartiate women’[64].

Cratesicleia is given similar treatment. Upon being told of her assignment to Egypt as a hostage, she submits to her fate (not only passively but almost joyfully):
‘Was it this which you frequently meant to tell me but lacked the courage? Why ever don’t you hurry to put me on board ship and send me off wherever you think this old body of mine will be of the greatest service to Sparta, before old age disposes of it as it just sits here?’[65].
Her sacrifice is given religious sanction by Plutarch; ‘This is all that lies in our power; but our fortunes must be as heaven ordains’[66]. The short passage with which this life is drawn to a close again illustrates this point; her ‘virtue’ is referred to as being equal to that of men[67].

Perhaps the central figure in this respect is Chilonis. As the daughter of one king (Leonidas) and the wife of another (Cleombrotus) she not only held power but was used to wielding it. Thus when conflict ensues and her father is driven into exile she accompanies him and becomes a supplicant of Athena
[68]. When Leonidas returns in triumph, she chooses to plead for her husband’s life. Plutarch’s treatment of this episode is important. In this long rhetorical speech he dwells on the size of her sacrifice:
‘When now you enjoy the triumph of again being king in Sparta, must I then accept life in this sad plight, or am I to put on a glittering royal costume after witnessing the slaughter of the husband I married when I was young?’[69].
Indeed, her sacrifice is directly portrayed as an effective, assertive correction to Cleombrotus’ crimes:
‘…as both wife and daughter it has been my role to share the misfortunes and disgrace of those close to me. In my husband’s case, even if he did have some justification, I deprived him of it when I took your side…’[70].
It not only won her the reprieve of Cleombrotus but ‘Everyone was astonished and moved to tears at the woman’s goodness and devotion’[71]. Thus sacrifice can be seen as the means by which a woman could affect the male world. That Plutarch equated such sacrifice with virtue is illustrated by his remark concerning Chilonis’ husband. Because he could not, or did not want to relinquish his ambition, he fails to see in his life that which has true worth:
‘As a result, if Cleombrotus had not been totally consumed by futile ambition, he would have realised that because of his wife his exile was of greater value to him than the kingship’[72].
Indeed, Plutarch places Chilonis above her husband here, demonstrating how sacrifice was supposed to elevate women. Even when subject to such men this ideal could be put into practice[73].

Agiatis, the widow of Agis, was forced into the marriage by Leonidas. Plutarch informs us that after some initial protest she sacrificed her independence and ‘…made the young man a loving wife’
[74]. As we have already seen above, she is portrayed as being directly responsible for his ‘virtuous’ lifestyle[75]. This sacrifice and attention to duty caused Cleomenes’ frequent return from campaign (which was considered unusual enough for direct comment)[76]. His method of coping with her death reveals Plutarch’s satisfaction at her ‘training’ of him:
‘Though he was stricken with grief…he in no way disgraced or abandoned his resolve and loftiness of mind …when day came he went down to Sparta, and after discharging his grief at home with his mother and children, he at once turned to making plans for the welfare of the state’[77].
The sacrifice of grief, inherent in Cleomenes’ stoic display, typifies another feature of this motif in Plutarch. Emotional control helps the woman to develop a particularly potent character. Thus, as he points out:
‘It is not only ‘in Bacchic revels’ that a good woman should avoid corruption; she should also realise that the distress and emotional disturbance of mourning stands in need of control not in order to resist feelings of affection … but to resist licence’[78].
Cratesicleia is an excellent illustration of such moral power. When she has to depart to Egypt as a hostage she sacrifices her own sorrow and urges Cleomenes to do likewise: ‘Come now, king of the Spartans. When we emerge we want no one to see us in tears nor doing anything unworthy of Sparta’[79]. Plutarch sums up his opinion of sacrifice in his encomium of Panteus’ wife: ‘… her discretion endured in death, and she maintained the watch over her person which she kept in her lifetime’[80].

In certain circumstances, the emotion of honour (or time) should also be relinquished for the sake of ‘virtue’, particularly where sex or patriotism were concerned. In his Sayings of Spartan Women Plutarch describes a girl who had become pregnant (although involuntarily) and had induced a miscarriage without uttering a sound; ‘For the encounter of propriety with impropriety served to override her tremendous pain’
[81]. This quality is seen as firmly embedded in Spartan society:
‘We must remember that the Spartans, whenever any question of honours arises, always give first place to their country’s interests; they refuse to … understand any other conception of justice, except for such action as they believe will make Sparta great’[82].
We should also remember that Plutarch credits Spartan success to the education of the young, which is again firmly credited to the women. It is worth remembering that it is a Spartan woman who hands her son his shield and warns him to return ‘… either with this or on this’[83]. Other disappointed mothers have gone so far as to kill their disappointing offspring[84]. The sacrifice of children (the future ‘honour’ of the family) is here portrayed as one of the most noble and is performed by a Spartan woman.

In an episode which strongly asserts his mother’s training, Cleomenes refuses to commit suicide after the battle of Sellasia; ‘…my opinion is that neither you nor I should abandon our hopes for our country’

The relinquishing of a minor honour for the sake of greater virtue is a recurrent theme in the Life of Cleomenes. Thus Cleomenes himself, no doubt remembering the teachings of Agiatis, refuses to take a cup of wine upon returning from a battle: ‘… he would neither allow himself to take a drink despite a raging thirst, nor though utterly exhausted to sit down’
[86]. That he also refuses to allow his concubine to attend to him is, perhaps, another indication that Plutarch is trying to emphasise the importance of Agiatis.

The importance of emotional discipline is underlined by Plutarch’s criticism of those do not have it. He criticises women who cannot, or will not, take their grief ‘in hand’:‘… the cries and wailing with which they polish and sharpen the edge of pain and never let others reduce it’
[87]. Such emotional ‘indulgence’ goes against the very root of Plutarch’s ideal of feminine passivity; the ideal woman being a reflection of her husband’s mood[88]. Likewise, Circe fails to understand this cardinal point, for all her power. Plutarch’s remark is illustrative. These are the consequences of a lack of true understanding:
‘Circe had no profit from the victims of her potions, for she could not use them for anything when they became pigs and asses; it was Odysseus, the man of sense, who consorted with her wisely, whom she loved so much’[89].
‘Uncontrolled’ women are hereby equated with greed and selfishness. The devout Plutarch warns his readers of this ‘danger’ by recalling an apparently well known oracle concerning the dangers of greed to Sparta: ‘They should rather remember the earlier oracles which instructed them to beware of avarice as fatal to Sparta’[90]. We have seen how Plutarch uses the metaphor of sacrifice as an acid test of feminine ‘virtue’, he uses the reverse to signify female ‘vice’.

Thus a woman who crosses the gender boundary can never attain what she truly desires. Those who want a recognised role in society, like Agis’ opponents, can never have it because they are unable to make a ‘leap of faith’, as it were. It is only by the sacrifice of wealth, influence and even their very lives which lifts these women above their opponents in Plutarch’s eyes
[91]. Likewise, those fail to overcome their desires fall into greed and lust, as is illustrated by his description of the motivations of Agis’ female opponents, who are only concerned to protect their privileged position; ‘… which seemed to them with their lack of taste to be true happiness…’[92]. Timaea, wife of an earlier Agis, falls into a similar trap by having an illicit affair (resulting in a unwanted pregnancy) with the Athenian Alcibiades[93].

Furthermore, behind the figure of Epitadeus (whom Plutarch credits with responsibility for the land problems which began the whole episode) such women can be recognised, as those who welcomed his proposals ‘…out of greed’, with the effect that ‘… wealth was concentrated in just a few hands and the city was generally impoverished’
[94]. Indeed, the fall of Agis is explicitly said to be due to Agesilaus’ avarice, whose grasping nature portrays the opposite of male ‘nature’ as the women of Sparta show that of women[95]. The decline of Egypt is also attributed to ‘uncontrolled’ women. Ptolemy IV was ‘… completely preoccupied with his women and festivities and revelry…’, so much so that during his father’s reign ‘… the kingdom was plunged into such a lax, drunken state, with women wielding extensive power’[96].

If Plutarch’s belief in the inherently active and passive natures of men and women seems rather old-fashioned, we should bear in mind that such a distinction underpins much of our own values. Even in our own society, women and men are seen as inherently different and, although it may not always be consciously stated, men are still widely held to be more active, as women are felt to be more passive. The desire to place limitations and restrictions on female sexuality is still a feature of our own times. A recent, and somewhat trivial example being the Spice Girls. By portraying the band members as outspoken, brash and extrovert, ‘Girl Power’ reminds us that, for many women, the reality is different.


ARISTOTLE (trans. Sinclair, T.A., rev. Saunders, T.J.) (1981) The Politics, London: Penguin Books.

Barnes, J. (ed. & trans.) (1987) Early Greek Philosophy, London: Penguin Books.

Beard, M. et al (1998) Religions of Rome, Cambridge: Cambridge UP.

Cartledge, P. (1978) ‘Literacy in the Spartan Oligarchy’ JHS 98, 25-37.

Cartledge, P. (1981) ‘Spartan Wives: Liberation or Licence?’ CQ 31, 84-105.

EURIPIDES (trans. Vellacott, P.) (1972) Euripides. The Orestes and Other Plays, London: Penguin Books.

Hawley, R. & Levick, B. (eds.) (1995) Women in Antiquity: New Assessments, London: Routledge.

HERODOTUS (trans. Waterfield, R.) (1998) The Histories, Oxford: Oxford UP.

Hornblower, S. & Spawforth, A. (eds.) (1996) The Oxford Classical Dictionary, London: Oxford UP.

Jones, C.P. (1971) Plutarch and Rome, Oxford: Oxford UP.

Martin, T.R. (1996) Ancient Greece. From Prehistoric to Hellenistic Times, London: Yale UP.

PLATO (trans. Saunders, T.J.) (1976) The Laws, London: Penguin Books.

PLUTARCH (trans. & ed. Russell, D.A.) (1993) Plutarch. Selected Essays and Dialogues, Oxford: Oxford UP.

PLUTARCH (trans. Scott-Kilvert, I.) (1965) Makers of Rome, London: Penguin Books.

PLUTARCH (trans. Scott-Kilvert, I.) (1990) The Age of Alexander, London: Penguin Books.

PLUTARCH (trans. Scott-Kilvert, I.) (1960) The Rise and Fall of Athens, London: Penguin Books.

PLUTARCH (trans. Talbert, R.J.A.) (1988) Plutarch On Sparta, London: Penguin Books.

Pomeroy, S.B. (1975) Goddesses, Whores, Wives and Slaves, London: Pimlico.

Powell, A. (ed.) (1989) Classical Sparta. Techniques Behind Her Success, London: Routledge.

Powell, A. & Hodkinson, S. (eds.) (1994) The Shadow of Sparta, London: Routledge.

Rawson, E. (1969) The Spartan Tradition in European Thought, London: Oxford UP.

Russell, D.A. (1973) Plutarch, London: Duckworth.

Stafford, E.J. (forthcoming) ‘Plutarch on Persuasion’.

THUCYDIDES (trans. Warner, R.) (1972) Thucydides. History of the Peloponnesian War, London: Penguin Books.

Van Hooff, A.J.L. (1990) From Autothanasia to Suicide, London: Routledge.

[1] Hornblower & Spawforth; 1996; p.1200 (also for bibliography). Jones; 1971; pp.14-27.
[2] See his Rules for Politicians; Russell; pp.1993; pp.140-182 (henceforth referred to as Rules).
[3] Nikias 21-23 in Scott-Kilvert; 1960; Cf. Thuc. 7.42-50.
[4] Hornblower & Spawforth; 1996; p.1201.
[5] Alexander 1in Scott-Kilvert; 1973; p.253.
[6] The meaning of the word helot is unclear. Cartledge; 1981; pp.84-105; Martin; 1996; pp.75-79.
[7] Hornblower & Spawforth; 1996; p.1623.
[8] With the single exception of Alkman’s fragmentary Partheneia. Indeed, the ancients seemed to have generally believed Sparta to be illiterate (Plato Protagoras 342aff.; Isokrates Panath. 209; cf. 251). This view has been largely undermined by Cartledge; 1978; 25-37.
[9] It must be noted that Plutarch’s very division still confines female participation to what a man thinks it should be.
[10] It cannot be overstated that this is a highly condensed summary of one possible ancient view. The modern conception of Greek views of women is a hotly debated and controversial area. For discussion and bibliography see Pomeroy; 1975 & Hawley & Levick; 1995.
[11] Represented by the Amphidromia ceremony which ‘introduced’ the child to its new family and household gods (Pomeroy in Hawley & Levick; 1995; p.114).
[12] Property ownership in Ancient Greece is a tricky subject. In some places women could own property and inherit. Usually, however, this was often only where no male heir was available or when a widow became responsible for her husband’s property (see ibid; p.115; Pomeroy; 1975; p.73). Sparta seems to have been unusual in that women seem to have been able to inherit and own property in their own right (see Hodkinson in Powell; 1989; pp. 79-121, for notes and bibliography).
[13] Aristotle Politics 7.16.1335b12; p.442.
[14] Hornblower & Spawforth; 1996; p.1623-4. The royal women of Sparta are a good example (see Hdt. 7.239; p.488).
[15] Though in Plato’s utopian republic women over forty could (Laws 6.785; p.269).
[16] Aristotle Politics 2.1269b29; p.141.
[17] Aristotle Politics 7.1334b29; p.440; Plato Laws 6.775; p.255.
[18] Monetary punishment at Gortyn (Pomeroy; 1975; p.40): summary execution (ibid; p.81-82). Solon argued that an adulterous woman should be enslaved (ibid; p.86), whilst Plato suggests a more social punishment by ‘infamy’ (Laws 6.785; p.268).
[19] Quoted in Pomeroy; 1975; pp.50-51. Euripides Andr. 595f; 724f.
[20] Ant. 578ff; in Hornblower & Spawforth; 1996; p.1623; Thuc. 2.46; p.151.
[21] Aristotle devotes a lot of attention to this subject: Politics 2.1269b12; p.142; 1269b39; p.143. Also Whitby in Powell & Hodkinson; 1994; p.104.
[22] Euripides: Andr. 804f; 831; 919; 595f; 930f. Aristophanes: Lys. 78-80; 1306-15 in Harvey in Powell & Hodkinson; 1994; p.38.
[23] For an investigation see Rawson; 1969; pp.32-56; Cartledge; 1981; pp.84-106.
[24] Virtues in Women 243; Russell; 1993; p.305 (henceforward referred to as Virtues).
[25] Moralia 452e, 459b & 528c in Russell; 1973; p.90.
[26] Advice on Marriage; ibid; 33; p.292 (henceforth, Advice).
[27] As do most other Greek authors such as Plato and Aristotle.
[28] Cleo. 37; p.103.
[29] Advice 33; p.291. Reputation is important for Plutarch. See Moralia 170a in Russell; 1973; p.81.
[30] Virtues 15; p.319.
[31] Advice 14; p.287. See also ibid; 9; p.286; 12; p.286; 39; p.290-2; Virtues 242; p.305.
[32] Virtues 6; p.285.
[33] Agis 7; p.59; 7; p.58.
[34] Advice 18; p.287.
[35] Thus Plutarch’s belief in the importance of details becomes clear (see Moralia 82b in Russell; 1973; p.87).
[36] Agis 4; p.56; Agis 6; p.58.
[37] Cleo. 3; p.72; Virtues 3; p.308.
[38] Agis 17; pp.66-7.
[39] Tib.Gra. 1; Scott-Kilvert; 1965; p.154. Although she is not Spartan the connection is underlined by Plutarch’s twinning of these two lives with his account of Agis and Cleomenes. One should also remember that Cornelia was the daughter of the famous Roman philhellene, Scipio Africanus.
[40] Pomeroy; 1975; p.74.
[41] Virtues 242; p.305.
[42] For an examination of Spartan female literacy see Cartledge; 1978; pp.31-32.
[43] Virtues 27; p.263.
[44] Hdt. 7.239; p.488.
[45] Agis 17; Talbert; 1988; pp.66-7.
[46] Lyk. 16; p.24.
[47] Lyk. 15; p.26; 14; p.24.
[48] Rules for Politicians 1; ibid; p.142.
[49] Alexander 1; p.253.
[50] Moralia 145c in Russell; 1973; p.91.
[51] The truly wise did not need to force their opinions on others: ‘The lover of beauty and wisdom, who in his actions consorts with virtue and follows her ways, may be expected to keep his lofty thoughts to himself, and to need no panegyrist or audience’ (Moralia 80e in Russell; 1973; p.87).
[52] Stafford; forthcoming; p.17.
[53] Advice 4.; p.284-5.
[54] Advice 12; p.286.
[55] Advice 138; p.284.
[56] Beard et al; 1998; pp.112-3; 215-6; 297f.
[57] Van Hooff; 1990; p.116f; Hornblower & Spawforth; 1996; pp.1253-4.
[58] Moralia 1105c in Russell; 1973; p.80.
[59] Agis 2; p.53.
[60] Agis 7; p.58.
[61] Agis 6; p.58.
[62] Agis’ main supporters are his uncle Agesilaus, his mother Agesistrata and his grandmother Archidamia, implying that their motives were not perhaps as altruistic as Plutarch would have us believe. For this kind of idea see Hodkinson in Powell; 1989; p.112.
[63] Agis 19-21; pp.69-70.
[64] Agis 20; p.69.
[65] Cleo. 22; p.90.
[66] Cleo. 22; p.90.
[67] Cleo. 39; p.105.
[68] Agis 11; p.62.
[69] Agis 17; p.66.
[70] Agis 17; p.67. Also see Virtues 15; p.319f and the story of Megisto.
[71] Agis 17; p.66.
[72] Agis 18; p.67.
[73] Virtues 19; p.325.
[74] Cleo. 1; p.71.
[75] Cleo. 3; p.73.
[76] Cleo. 22; p.89.
[77] Cleo. 22; p.89; also 29; p.96.
[78] Consolation 4; p.298.
[79] Cleo. 22; p.90.
[80] Cleo. 38; p.104.
[81] Sayings Unknown 26; p.162.
[82] Agesilaus 37; p.65.
[83] Sayings Unknown 16; p.161.
[84] Sayings Unknown 1; p.159; 5; p.160.
[85] Cleo. 31; p.98.
[86] Cleo. 29; p.96.
[87] Consolation 7; p.300.
[88] Advice 14; p.287.
[89] Advice 5; p.285.
[90] Agis 10; p.60.
[91] See van Hooff; 1990; passim for a discussion of the ultimate sacrifice of suicide.
[92] Agis 7; p. 59.
[93] Agisilaus 3-8; pp.25-37.
[94] Agis 5; p.57. Especially since Plutarch sees much Spartan wealth being concentrated in female hands (see ibid 7; p.58).
[95] Agis 13; p.63.
[96] Cleo. 33; p.100; 33; p.99. See also 13; p.37.


Post a Comment

<< Home