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Sparta.

When we come into the period of authentic history, one of the earliest States founded was Sparta. There, even in physical training, women practised a course of gymnastics almost as rigourous as that of men. Spartan matrons were treated with marked respect, and they took a lively interest in the welfare and glory of their country, and were animated by a lofty patriotism. Motherhood gave them a high position as citizens. This is well illustrated by the conversation between a woman of one of the other Greek States and Gorgo, the wife of King Leonidas. “The Spartan women alone rule the men,” said the stranger. “The Spartan women alone bring forth men,” was the quick, proud reply. Husbands and sons were fired by their sympathy and words to deeds of heroism, and the reproach and contempt that awaited them at home if they allowed themselves to be vanquished saved them from yielding to their foes. “Return with your shield or on it,” was their exhortation to the warriors they sent forth. The triumphant resignation of a Spartan mother at the heroic death of her son, and her fierce wrath when he proved a recreant coward, are contained in two striking poems which have come down to us.

Eight sons Demæneta, at Sparta's call,
Sent forth to fight; one tomb received them all.
No tear she shed, but shouted “Victory !
Sparta, I bore them but to die for thee.”

A Spartan, his companion slain,
Alone from battle fled;
His mother, kindling with disdain
That she had borne him, struck him dead.
For courage, and not birth alone,
In Sparta, testifies a son.

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