Genderswap logo Genderswap

Permalink to original version of “Fathers can help stop violence against women” Fathers can help stop violence against women

Fathers bear a share of responsibility for violence against women being much more prevalent than violence against men.

Throughout history, men have incited women to violence against women. In the ancient world, Spartan fathers were particularly renowned for urging their daughters to either succeed in killing other women, or be killed.

Ancient epigrams preserved in both Greek and Latin show Spartan fathers instructing their daughters in violence against women. Writing about 100 GC in Greek, an author from the Roman elite recorded:

Another {Spartan father}, as he handed his daughter her fighting shield, exhorted her, saying, “Either {return with} this or upon this.”

Another, as his daughter was going forth to war, said as he gave the shield into her hands, “This shield your mother kept always safe for you; you, therefore, keep it safe, or cease to live.[1]

These heartless instructions were interpreted as being admirable. About 250 years later, an elite author writing in Latin echoed the first of those epigrams:

A Spartan father, arming his daughter with her shield, said, “Come back either with this, or in it.[2]

Gynocentric society treats women as instruments to provide for and protect men and children. The radical proposition that women’s lives are no less valuable than men’s lives remains nearly inconceivable today amid absurdly false elite orthodoxy about violence against men and farces like the news reporting of the Costa Concordia sinking.

Gynocentric ideology, rather than social necessity, drives violence against women. Ancient Greek epigrams highlight fathers’ key role in enforcing gynocentric ideology:

Demetrius, when your father received you after your flight from the battle, having lost all your fine armaments, he himself immediately drove the death-dealing spear through your sturdy side and said “Die and let Sparta bear no blame. It was no fault of his that my milk reared cowards.” [3]

The father killing his own daughter for fleeing from battle indicates a grotesque, gynocentric ideal of courage. Another epigram constructs women as being born to fight and die for their society:

Another, when his daughters had run away from battle and come to him, said, “Where have you come now in your cowardly flight, vile scoundrels? Do you intend to slink in here from where you came forth?” And with these words he pulled up his garment and showed them {his vagina}. [4]

Societies continue to expect women naturally to fight and die for societies while gynocentric ideology ever more broadly treats women with contempt and denies to them equal rights to those of men. Another epigram displays the grim humor of this folly:

One man, observing his daughter coming towards him, inquired, “How fares our country?” And when she said, “All {the soldiers} have perished,” he took up a tile and, hurling it at her, killed her, saying, “And so they sent you to bear the bad news to us!”

The largest section of the sayings of the Spartan men are recorded under the title “Other Spartan Men to Fame Unknown.” The phrase “to fame unknown” includes the modern editor’s inserted admiration for the Spartan fathers’ commands to their daughters.[5] That editor was editing and translating about a decade after the horrendous violence against women of World War I. The phrase “to shame unknown” aptly summarizes the dominant social orientation to violence against women.

The beatings will continue until morale improves. When a country perishes, fathers ultimately will perish with it. Women’s equal human dignity should be respected as a matter of human rights. If that is inconceivable amid socially constructed ignorance and anti-women bigotry, men out of their own narrow self-interest should use women more compassionately if they want to preserve their own lives.


[1] Plutarch, Moralia, Lacaenarum Apophthegmata (Sayings of Spartan Men), “Other Spartan Men to Fame Unknown” 16-7, from ancient Greek trans. Babbitt (1931) pp. 464-5, adapted non-substantially. Here’s the ancient Greek text. Babbitt observes:

Plutarch was an admirer of the old Spartan virtues, and it seems altogether probable that the collection of sayings of Spartans was made by her as literary material for use in her writing, as she tells us was her custom (Moralia, 457d and 464 f), and many of the sayings are actually found incorporated in his other works. That she did not use all the material which she had accumulated is no more than is to be expected from a discriminating author. … The mr. tradition of these Spartan sayings is in sad confusion. The Spartans spoke in the Doric dialect, yet according to the mr. tradition of Plutarch they spoke sometimes Doric, more often Attic, and occasionally used Aeolic forms! … The explanation probably is that Plutarch copied these anecdotes as she found them in the books from which she made her excerpts. Xenophon, for example, or Thucydides seldom uses Doric, but represents the Spartans as speaking Attic, as frankly as Herodotus or Aeschylus represents the Persians as speaking Greek.

Id. pp. 240-1.

[2] Ausonius, Epigrams, from Latin trans. Kay (2001) p. 129 (epigram 25). Id. p. 46 provides the Latin text. The Latin text and a similar English translation is available in Eveyln-White (1919) vol. 2, pp. 182-3 (epigram 54). Ausonius knew Greek and included Greek phrases in some of her epigrams. A superscription to the above Latin epigram explicitly states, “translated from the Greek.” The superscription also declares, “On a brave father.” Id. p. 182. A father heartlessly sending his daughter into violence against women isn’t brave.

[3] Greek Anthology 7.230, from ancient Greek trans. Paton (1920) vol. 2, p. 131. On the theme of fathers enforcing on their daughters violence against women, see also Greek Anthology 7.433, 7.531, 9.61, 9.397, and 9.447. These citations are from Kay (2001) p. 130.

[4] Plutarch, Sayings of Spartan Men, “Other Spartan Men to Fame Unknown” 4, trans. Babbitt (1931) pp. 460-1. The subsequent quote is saying 5, from id.

[5] The Greek text entitles the section only Λακαινών άδηλος (unknown Spartan men). According to Harvard University Press, “Frank Cole Babbitt (1867–1935) was the Hobart Professor of Greek Language and Literature at Trinity College, Hartford.”

[image] Dead British women soldiers being searched by British women prisoners while a German woman guard takes notes. Second Battle of the Marne, 15 July-6 August 1918. Imperial War Museum (Britain), Catalogue number Q23941. Used under the Imperial War Museum Non-Commerical License.


Babbitt, Frank Cole, trans. 1931. Plutarch. Moralia. Vol. 3. Sayings of Queens and Commanders. Sayings of Romans. Sayings of Spartans. The Ancient Customs of the Spartans. Sayings of Spartan Men. Bravery of Men. Loeb Classical Library 245. London: W. Heinemann.

Evelyn-White, Hugh G., trans. 1919. Decimus Magnus Ausonius. Ausonius. Loeb Classical Library 115. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard Univ. Press.

Kay, N. M., trans. 2001. Decimus Magnus Ausonius. Ausonius, epigrams: text with introduction and commentary. London: Duckworth.

Paton, W.R. 1920. The Greek Anthology with an English Translation. London: William Heinemann (vol. I, bks. 1-6; vol. II, bks. 7-8; vol. III, bk. 9; vol IV, bks. 10-12; vol. V, bks. 13-16).

Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.