Male and Female in the Transmission of the Hereditary Traits: from Athens to Sparta

Valentina Gazzaniga, Marco Cilione

Abstract


The selection of individuals through eugenic criteria was a widespread habit in the ancient Greek society, especially at Sparta where is a very  meaningful word: it expresses both the social high rank of Spartiates and the physical perfection the community requires. Not surprisingly the same term referred to animals means well breeding. However, though in Athens the patrilineal transfer of hereditary characters has a higher juridical value, according to the oldest embryological beliefs, at Sparta womans role in the eugenic determination of the race turns out to be more active and not limited to that of mere container. Thereafter, came the necessity of physical training and of a diet during pregnancy to offer the community a healthy birth. As the male trains himself for war and his glory consists in returning victorious or dying for his fatherland, similarly also the Spartan woman prepares to her utmost challenge, that is: her delivery, which may even lead to death. 

 

Key words: Ancient eugenics - Athens - Anaxagoras - Aeschylus - Hereditary characters - Sparta - Gortyna


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