Sport for women in Sparta

Spartan girls exercised much more than other Greek girls. Sport was an important part of their education, for Spartan girls had to become strong and healthy women to give birth to strong and healthy sons. They certainly participated in running and wrestling, perhaps also in javelin- and discus-throwing.

P181It were in the first place the unmarried girls who sported, but also some married and even pregnant women exercised. From the information given by the Greek authors is not clear whether boys and girls trained separately or together. The shyness that was elsewhere connected with female nudity, in any case did not exist in Sparta. When they practiced sports, the girls were naked or wore a light tunic that left the thighs bare.

Contests took place within the context of religious festivals. There were running contests in honour of Helen, Dionysos, Hera and local gods called the Driodones. At some festivals there was also dancing. The elements of sport and nudity in the festivals formed part of initiation rituals that had to prepare them for their life as a married woman. In this respect, the Spartan festivals can be compared with the Athenian intitiation ritual at Brauron.

© KU Leuven, 2012