Let's Talk Suds
As the saying goes behind every great woman (or man) there is a great man. Greece, with the Olympic Games, The Iliad and the Odyssey, that of classical Greece, expressed in architecture, drama, science, mathematics and philosophy. The the Greek city-states formed the Hellenic League in 481 BC, led by Sparta, which was the first historically recorded union of Greek states since the mythical union of the Trojan War. Spartiate men underwent the rigorous agōgē training regimen, and Spartan phalanx brigades were widely considered to be among the best in battle. Spartan women enjoyed considerably more rights than elsewhere in classical antiquity. Kay's husband, James, was from Sparta born in 1908, was in the army, before immigrating to the U.S.
At age 20, the Spartan citizen began his membership in one of the Syssitia (dining messes or clubs), composed of about fifteen members each, of which every citizen was required to be a member. Here each group learned how to bond and rely on one another. The Spartans were not eligible for election for public office until the age of 30. Only native Spartans were considered full citizens and were obliged to undergo the training as prescribed by law, as well as participate in and contribute financially to one of the Syssitia. Spartan men remained in the active reserve until age 60. Men were encouraged to marry at age 20 but could not live with their families until they left their active military service at age 30. They called themselves "homoioi" (equals), pointing to their common lifestyle and the discipline of the phalanx, which demanded that no soldier be superior to his comrades. Insofar as hoplite warfare could be perfected, the Spartans did so.
Women of Sparta
Spartan women, of the citizenry class, enjoyed a status, power, and respect that was unknown in the rest of the classical world. The higher status of females in Spartan society started at birth; unlike Athens, Spartan girls were fed the same food as their brothers. Spartan law forbade the marriage of a girl until she was in her late teens or early 20s. The reasons for delaying marriage were to ensure the birth of healthy children, but the effect was to spare Spartan women the hazards and lasting health damage associated with pregnancy among adolescents. Spartan women, better fed from childhood and fit from exercise and even competed in sports, stood a far better chance of reaching old age than other Greek cities. Spartan women wore dresses (peplos) slit up the side to allow freer movement and moved freely about the city, either walking or driving chariots. Spartan women were also literate and numerate, a rarity in the ancient world. Furthermore, as a result of their education and the fact that they moved freely in society engaging with their fellow (male) citizens, they were notorious for speaking their minds even in public.
'Why are Spartan women the only ones who can rule men? Because we are also the only ones who give birth to men.'
Gorgo, Queen of Sparta & Wife of Leonidas