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Title: Were Spartan Women who Died in Childbirth Honoured with Grave Inscriptions?: Whether to read ἱερῶς or λɛχοῦς at Plutarch "Lykourgos" 27.3
Contributor(s): Dillon, Matthew Paul (author)orcid 
Publication Date: 2007
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Abstract: Plutarch in his "Life of Lykourgos" 27 describes funerary legislation supposedly introduced to Sparta by the (mythical) lawgiver Lykourgos. This funerary legislation includes several features, some of which are striking. He allowed the Spartans to bury their dead intramurally, within the city, a practice wholly unknown amongst the other Greeks, except at Sparta's colony, Taras (Tarentum), in Italy, where this was also the custom. Funerary memorials ('mnemata') were permitted near sacred places at Sparta, confounding all Greek notions of the pollution of death and the aversion of the Greek gods to burials near their sacred places (esp. Hdt. 1.64.2). This Spartan practice was in order to accustom the young to the presence of graves so that they would not be frightened by them, and not fear pollution from touching a corpse or walking among graves. This would be in contrast, by way of example, with Theophrastos' "Superstitious Man (Deisidaimonias)" at Athens, who thought it better to avoid polluting by not stepping on a gravestone or seeing a corpse (Theophrastos "Characters" 16)...Spartan women who died while holding religious office were entitled to an inscribed gravestone, showing their importance in Spartan religion and in Spartan society more specifically. In the starkest terms, it can be suggested that Spartan women who died in childbirth could be seen as having made no contribution to the state by their attempt, and nothing in the evidence for Sparta indicates that these women were accorded any special status for their death. Yet it is known that the Spartans placed particular emphasis on religion and were guided by the gods, it could be argued, more so than any other Greek state. It was women who worshipped Sparta's deities who were honoured with an inscribed tombstone.
Publication Type: Journal Article
Source of Publication: Hermes: Zeitschrift für klassische Philologie, 135(2), p. 149-165
Publisher: Franz Steiner Verlag
Place of Publication: Germany
ISSN: 0018-0777
Field of Research (FOR): 210306 Classical Greek and Roman History
Peer Reviewed: Yes
HERDC Category Description: C1 Refereed Article in a Scholarly Journal
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