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Spartan Women Paperback – July 11, 2002

ISBN-13: 978-0195130676 ISBN-10: 0195130677 Edition: 1st

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Editorial Reviews


"Spartan Women is a book that all ancient historians and classicists should add to their reading lists and personal collections. Sarah B. Pomeroy is already a scholar of great reputation in women's studies in the classical world, and this book adds to her reputation as a trailblazer in this dynamic field. Pomeroy has created a new classic that I predict will be part of the academic canon for years to come." --HISTORY: Reviews of New Books

"Sarah Pomeroy's new book is a pioneering and important work, a thorough and painstaking study by perhaps the leading scholar of ancient Greek women's history. Thanks to this groundbreaking book, historians are now in a much better position than perhaps ever before to treat the daughters of Helen not as exemplars or myths but as real human beings." -American Historical Review

"The book makes a valuable contribution to ancient Greek history and will immediately take its rightful place as the standard work in any language on a major but astonishingly long-neglected topic.... Pomeroy's female-oriented interrogation of the record is one that needed to be made, and in so doing she has significantly advanced our understanding of a critical--and diagnostically interesting--chapter in the history of women."--Bryn Mawr Classical Review

"Spartan Woman is a landmark in the history of ancient women because it attempts for the first time to offer an account of the lives of both elite and non-elite Spartan women and to do so by sifting through a very difficult body of evidence.... In Spartan Women, readers will find an exhaustive survey of the available information on the subject."--New England Classical Journal

"The world's top scholar on women in antiquity examines the lives of citizen women in militaristic Sparta.... Her analyses of women's health, education, fitness, wealth, leisure, self-image, social prominence, and religious power are cogent.... Pomeroy's book offers the best current account of the central role of women in Spartan society.... Highly recommended."--Choice

"Spartan Women is a masterly synthesis of its subject that is not only enriched by nearly a generation's accomplishments in the historiography of women, but also informed by a wise empathy for its subjects. An invaluable resource for students of antiquity, this book will also be provocative reading for anyone fascinated by the variegated textures of women's historical experiences."--Thomas J. Figueira, Rutgers University

"Drawing in part on approaches to women's history adapted by feminist historians, Sarah B. Pomeroy offers the most detailed study of Spartan women to date. Her thematically-organized chapters stress how Spartan women differed from their contemporaries, especially Athenians. Her appendix describing and evaluating the full range of our fragmentary historical, literary, and material sources illuminates the special challenge that she undertook in writing this book."--Helene P. Foley, Barnard College, Columbia University

"Spartan Women is the first full-length historical study of its elusive subject ever published. This is not surprising. The sources--meticulously laid out here in a wide-ranging appendix--are a historian's nightmare. Through this minefield Professor Pomeroy moves sure-footedly, armed with encyclopedic knowledge, a papyrologist's precision, speculative courage, and what Dr Johnson memorably described as 'a bottom of good sense.' No one will ever say the last word on any aspect of Spartan culture; but Spartan Womenis a wonderfully thorough, sane, and for the most part convincing exploration of a controversial topic."--Peter Green, University of Iowa

About the Author

Sarah B. Pomeroy is Distinguished Professor of Classics at Hunter College and the Graduate Center, City University of New York.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 216 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (July 11, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195130677
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195130676
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 0.7 x 6.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #306,042 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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See all 8 customer reviews
Pomeroy organizes the sources and does a fantastic job focusing in on one subject.
Pomeroy does an excellent job of delineating these various traits that separated them from alternative Greek social norms.
D. Roberts
For those interested in classical history or women's history, I highly recommend this work.
doc peterson

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

25 of 26 people found the following review helpful By D. Roberts VINE VOICE on July 26, 2004
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a one-of-a-kind exhaustive study on the lives of Laconian women. As Sparta was a closed society, not a whole lot is known about how the men lived, and even less is known about its female denizens. The sparse availability of primary sources on Spartan women makes any study of them rather difficult.

Sarah Pomeroy has consolidated just about everything we know, we think we know as well as what we might hypothosize about knowing about the lady Spartans. This book is a well-researched treatise on what their lives were, or at least could have been like some 2,500 years ago.

Ironically enough for a militaristic state, Spartan women enjoyed myriad freedoms and rights that were denied basically all other women of the classical age. As we look in hindsight, these factors weigh in to give them much more historical interest than women in other Greek city states. Pomeroy does an excellent job of delineating these various traits that separated them from alternative Greek social norms.

This book is highly recommended for both aficionados as well as persons interested in historical women's studies. Either way, this text has a wealth of information that will elucidate the lives of both Spartan women as well as Spartan men.
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18 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Fifth Generation Texan on November 10, 2002
Format: Paperback
All those intriguing images of Spartan women from art and literature! Of course I wanted to know more about them. But how? Archaeologists and historians have interpreted such facts as survived, along with surviving propaganda written about them at the time – all of it in classical languages that I could not read – according to their own (and often quite male) biases. That is why I am so grateful for Sarah Pomeroy’s book. An expert on women and families in Ancient Greece, Pomeroy is also a resourceful scholar of the utmost integrity and common sense who works her way around and through the omissions and layers of bias to provide a portrait of Spartan women that is richer and more realistic than any hitherto available. This is the most interesting book I have read this year.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By J. Lindeen on November 8, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In Archaic and Classical Greece (800 to 500, and 500 to 330 B.C.E), there was but one place in the Greek world where women were approximately equal to men: Sparta. Girls were provided with an education that, intellectually, was at least equivalent to that of boys. In contrast to Athens, where girls were "given in marriage" by age 15 by their male guardians to someone at least twice their age, Spartan women had a voice -- a stong one -- in agreeing to the man they would marry. Certainly life was difficult in those times, but women engaged in athletics, hunted in the mountains, and managed the family property when their husbands were away on frequent and extended military duty. Battle deaths for Spartan soldiers were so high in the Fifth and Fourth Centuries that from one-third to 40 percent of property in Sparta was owned by women. Sarah Pomeroy is a leading scholar of the topic and the period, her book is the leader in this field, and I was delighted to receive a copy of it promptly and at a fair price. I recommend it most highly.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Arnold E. Bjorn on January 18, 2015
Format: Paperback
While historians in antique and modern times alike have perhaps overemphasized the "alien" elements of Sparta's culture, it is clear that this Greek city-state was in many respects genuinely different from her contemporaries. Uniquely for her time, she subordinated the privileges of her citizens to the greater good of the State. In a day when mass education at public expense was elsewhere not even considered in theory, Sparta enlisted all her children in a state-run school until well past present-day high school graduation age. An egalitarian and collectivist ethos was consciously fostered, along with patriotism and civic responsibility. Every male citizen was expected to be a soldier first and foremost, putting the public welfare above his own. Only reservists held the right to vote, and only veterans of long military service could be elected to the Spartan Senate.

This military republic, instituted before the more liberal democracy of Athens saw the light of day and in an age when primitive monarchy and a largely night-watchman state were otherwise the norm, has been differently assessed in different times and places. Many modern observers have found a hint of fascism in Sparta's intensely nationalist and "militarist" civic-duty ethic. But in Antiquity her efficient and "idealistic" system inspired much admiration throughout the Hellenic world and beyond. Plato based his utopian Republic in large measure on Sparta's constitution, which was also praised by such intellectuals as Critias and Xenophon. Aristotle, on the other hand, perhaps the greatest Greek philosopher of all, was harshly critical of Sparta.
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