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Text: Euphiletus: A Husband Speaks In his Own Defense
Exhibit Artifact List
Eastern Section of the Parthenon Frieze: Slab
Attic Red Figure Chous
Attic Red Figure Pyxis
Attic Red Figure, Hydra
Spartan Woman Running
Text: the politics of Aristotle
Text: Euphiletus: A Husband Speaks In his Own Defense
Text: Sophocles, Tereus
Exhibit Primary Text List
Exhibit Design

Women In Ancient Greece: A Comparison Between Athenian and Spartan Women

            The primary text Euphiletus: A husband speaks in his own Defense Is a great depiction of the attitude of Ancient Athenian men toward their wives.  The text demonstrates once more how little power women in Athens have in their relationships compared to the women of Sparta.  Coming from 400 BCE the text details the trial of Euphiletus, a man from Ancient Athens who when he found out his wife was having an adulterous relationship, murdered her lover.  Further evidence of her status was that it was considered to be primarily the fault of the male because she could not possibly have come up with such a scheme on her own.  All the while it was considered to be somewhat acceptable for the man to have relationships with women other than his wife.  The text was written by the speechwriter Lysias.  It is yet another demonstration of how women in Athens were afforded less rights during the same time period than their counterparts in Sparta.


            This is yet another sharp contrast between women in Sparta and women in Athens.  Women in Sparta could and did engage with men other than the one which they were married to.  It has been examined and it would appear that often times the paternity of children in Sparta was difficult to determine because of the wives multiple relationships.   “Part able paternity was certainly used in a society like Sparta where male mortality and the absence rate of men were high and women were seldom at physical or economic risk.”  (Pomeroy, 2002)  On the flip side while Spartan men were monogamous, it is quite possible that women in Sparta could be described as polygamous on occasion. (Blundell, 1995 Pg.154)


“What I have to prove, I take it, is just this: that Eratosthenes seduced my wife, and that in corrupting her he brought shame upon my children and outrage upon me, by entering my home; that there was no other enmity between him and me except this; and I did not commit this act for the sake of money, in order to rise from poverty to wealth, nor for any other advantage except the satisfaction allowed by law.”  (Lualdi, 2004 Pg. 62)


            It becomes obvious that this was not the practice in Sparta, where women had freedom over their relationships.  However, in Athens it was viewed as a desecration of the family honor that the wife was seeing more than one man.  It was not tolerated primarily because the women in Athens were like property, and if they engaged in a relationship with another man it was like trespassing by that man.  While Spartan women were loaned out by their husbands it is often thought that it was only after the woman had been consulted by the man requesting the loan.  This was prior to the man who was requesting the loan of a wife going to the husband to ask for the loan.  It was even to the extent that if the husband in Sparta was gone too long as she deemed it, she could marry someone else. (Blundell, 1995 Pg. 154)

Project History 1001 A Virtual Museum Exhibit.  Noreen Emmanuel, Adam Dewar, & Kerylin Foss.