For many centuries, beliefs about the roles of girls and women in ancient Greece centered around how limited and hidden their lives were. Women were kept out of the public sphere, denied citizenship, and held no legal or political standing. Excluded from the polis, women were relegated to the oikos, or household, as wives, mothers, and daughters.
Much of this notion originated in written sources from classical Greece. Xenophon, Plato, and Thucydides all testified to the so-called inferiority of women to men. Writing in the fourth century B.C., Aristotle stated, in his Politics, that “again, as between the sexes, the male is by nature superior and the female inferior, the male ruler and the female subject.” Many of these texts originated in Athens, which had the most restrictive attitudes toward women. Other city-states, like Sparta, had greater freedoms for women, who were encouraged to exercise and train.