700 BCE to 323 BCE (Archaic period and Classical period of Greece)

The life of girls in ancient Greece varied slightly depending on the city-state. But in general, girlhood was spent in preparation for the girl’s marriage. In the first six years of their life, girls spent their time with their mother and nurses (and perhaps female slaves). Around the age of seven, while boys went to public schools, girls stayed at home to learn how to run a household and to weave textiles. If her father permitted it, a girl could also learn to read, write, and arithmetic. Apart from attending domestic education, young, virgin girls in rich families also perform many religious duties, carrying water or baskets in religious processions. Poorer girls, however, had to start a much harder life early. They worked in the fields, doing all kinds of hard physical labor. Girls in Athens usually married around fourteen, which put an abrupt end to childhood.

Ancient Sparta was the only Greek city-state where girls were able to attend public schooling including physical education. They could even participate in some games at Olympia! Unlike Athenian girls who were discouraged from going out of the house, Spartan girls went wherever they wanted. They married late, too – Spartan girls rarely married before the age of 20. However,  in other aspects of girlhood, Spartan girls were no different than Athenian or other ancient Greek girls. They had no right to participate in politics and were often seen as second citizens to men.

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