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The Spartans were renowned throughout the ancient world for their strict military discipline, particularly the powerful men that were bred and trained in their systems. However, it was not only the men who were physically fit and dominant – the females in Spartan society also held their own, and were trained just as hard as the men. Spartan girls were not brought up to perform such tasks as spinning and weaving – these tasks were fit only for slaves – but partook in a certain amount of physical training with the boys (although they were excluded from military training), took part in various singing and dancing competitions, played instruments and recited poetry.[1] Spartan women were very unique in the ancient world, particularly in the areas of education and training, their roles and positions in Spartan society and their place in public life.


The women of Sparta were highly valued and respected, particularly for their roles as mothers and nurses. Spartan women also had a reputation for fitness, physical beauty and a strong, independent character. The purpose of a girl’s education in Sparta was to produce healthy bodies, so that, according to Lycurgus, ‘the fruit they conceived might take firmer root and find better growth, so that they, with this greater vigour, might be more able to undergo with the pains of childbearing’.[2] According to Plutarch, the girls were organised into bands, similar to the boys groups. He also states that they sometimes exercised together in a large group, participating in such sports as running and wrestling. The girls exercised with the boys to not only increase their physical resilience and make them tougher, but also to encourage competitiveness and equality, and to promote the two sexes not to be embarrassed around each other.[3] To encourage their own physical fitness as…...

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