Ancient Greek Women for Kids and Teachers Illustration

Ancient Greek Women

The men believed they were in charge in ancient Greece. But this was not as true as they thought it was.

In all of the Greek city-states, except for Sparta, it is true that women had limited freedom. They could not leave their house without their husband's permission. They could not even visit a temple without their husband's permission.  But nearly all husbands gave permission for the women to fill their water jugs or water vases a couple times a day from the village well. Hauling water was heavy work. Nearly all husbands allowed their women to attend the temples. They would be afraid not to, afraid the gods would be angry. Although it was true that women did need to have permission to visit with neighbors, permission was almost always granted. Most husbands were quite happy to have their chatty wives talk with somebody else. Nearly all husbands were also happy to have the chore of shopping for food in the marketplace graciously given to their wives. All of these things - at least twice daily trips to the well, at least one visit daily to the temple and the market - gave women a chance to visit and gossip with other women, while they were out and about. So, you might read on the web or anywhere else that women in ancient Greece were powerless and stuck inside their homes all day, that is not at all accurate.

And - this is important to know - in her own home, a woman was the boss. She did not have to ask her husband about anything if it happened in her home. She cooked and cleaned and sewed and raised the kids. Some women had slaves to do some or all of the work for them. Some women helped their husbands in the fields. But all women, with or without the help of slaves, ruled their house. Women ruled their central courtyard as well. They could sit outside and enjoy the day. They sewed and mended and cooked in the courtyard. They told stories to their kids in the courtyard. They educated their children to the best of their ability in their central courtyard. The courtyard was the heart of the ancient Greek home and family life. With control over activities inside the house and inside the courtyard, that alone gave women a great deal of power in ancient Greece. But it was still restrictive. Just having to ask permission to visit a neighbor was frustrating to some ancient Greek women, but that was the way of life all over ancient Greece, in all of the city-states, except in Sparta.

In Sparta, women had much more freedom. They did not need their husband's permission to leave the house or visit a neighbor or work in the fields or visit the market. They could run a business. They were trained warriors and had attended military school outside the home. The men did not even live at home in ancient Sparta. They lived in barracks. It was part of their military training, and their readiness for war, not to get too comfortable. They might visit their home, but they did not live there. So truly, Spartan women were not only in charge of their cozy homes, they were in charge of their lives. They were not equal to men. But they enjoyed far more freedom than women in the other Greek city-states. Sparta truly was unique.

Ancient Greek Weddings (such fun!) & Divorce

 The Constant Chatterbox - a story for kids

The Amazing Matchmaker - a story for kids

The Magic Wool - a story for kids

The Reluctant Oracle - a story for kids

QUIZ: Ancient Greece Daily Life (Interactive with answers)