The only women that are mothers of men : Plutarch's creation of the Spartan mother

Source document: Graeco-Latina Brunensia. 2014, vol. 19, iss. 1, pp. [77]-92
  • ISSN
    1803-7402 (print)
    2336-4424 (online)
Greek, Ancient (to 1453)
License: Not specified license
In the opinion of some researchers, the family was not highly valued in Sparta. Nevertheless, certain pieces of evidence confirm that the Spartans appreciated their families more than we previously thought. The author who most influenced the ancient and modern image of Spartan mothers and their role in society is Plutarch. Unfortunately, his accounts on Sparta are in part a figment of literary imagination and present the Spartan mirage. Plutarch depicts members of both the royal families and of the elite as they rear their offspring, indicating the essential role the mothers played in both the private and public spheres. The question is whether Plutarch's works are a reliable source for Spartan history. This paper focuses on Plutarch's portrayal of the Spartan mother in Sayings of Spartan Women, as compared to the one in the rest of his works. Most apophthegms focus on a relationship between a mother and a son ‒ on the role a mother plays in creating a Spartan citizen. Her attitude to her offspring supposedly mirrors the customs and expectations of their state and society. Thus, in this paper I present the Spartan mother, a literary composite of virtues and a model parent, as not necessarily equal to actual women of Sparta who lived in the complex realities of that city-state.
  • This article is realised as a part of the Project The Eastern Mediterranean from the 4th century BC until Late Antiquity, is realized within International Ph.D. Projects Programme of Foundation for Polish Science co-financed from European Union, Regional Development Fund within the frameworks of Measure 1.2 Strengthening the Human Potential within the Science Sector of the Operational Program Innovative Economy.
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