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NIHIL NOVUM SUB SOLE

1001 deeds, sayings, curiosities and anecdotes of the ancient world

All the boys and all the girls: κόρους τε ἅμα καὶ κόρας (kórous te áma kaì kóras), πάντ᾽ ἄνδρα καὶ γυναῖκα (pánt’ándra kaì gynaîka).

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One of the most important changes that has been originated in modern society, in Western society and worldwide is that of equality between men and women, full legal equality real and only partly in status or social function.

This thankfully unstoppable trend is reflected on the language, which tries to avoid sexism or sexist connotation. In this attempt there is who uses both the article and other determinants in male and female forms  if the language has difference, as Spanish, or nouns in their own male and female forms if they had them (boys / girls, men / women ,...).

We know that in the ancient world women play a limited role in society, usually secluded at home ((or part of the home, in the gynoecium, from Latin  gynaeceum  and this from Greek  γυναικεῖος and this from γυνή, gyné, which means woman) and limited their role to procreation and childcare and housekeeping. But this general idea should be qualified and well-known reality with some accuracy.

Probably will surprise  modern readers some of the non-sexist linguistic formulas and many of the ideas  which Plato presents in his dialogues in them he designs his political system and a new ideal city, a new polis. He  does so it mainly in hisr dialogues Republc  and Laws.

Among those ideas will not produce  the least astonishment  those related to education and the role that women should play in society. Let's read some of the things Plato says on Laws, (translated by Robert Gregg Bury):

Athenian : …These examples it would well become the boys and girls  (…κόρους τε ἅμα καὶ κόρας…) to copy, and so cultivate the favor of the goddess, alike for service in war and for use at festivals. (Laws 796c)
     …………..
Athenian:… and thus I say that every man and woman ought to pass through life in accordance with this character, playing at the noblest of pastimes, being otherwise minded than they now are. 

Clinias:  How so?    (Laws 803c-803d)

   .........

These formulas should not be surprised if what he is proposing is a based and equal education and function  for boys and girls. So says a little later:

Athenian : …To pursue our subject,—we have described  buildings for public gymnasia as well as schools in three divisions within the city, and also in three divisions round about the City training-grounds and race-courses for horses, arranged for archery and other long-distance shooting, and for the teaching and practicing of the youth: if, however, our previous description of these was inadequate, let them now be described and legally regulated. In all these establishments there should reside teachers [804d] attracted by pay from abroad for each several subject, to instruct the pupils in all matters relating to war and to music; and no father shall either send his son as a pupil or keep him away from the training-school at his own sweet will, but every “man jack” of them all (as the saying goes) must, so far as possible, be compelled to be educated, inasmuch as they are children of the State even more than children of their parents. For females, too, my law will lay down the same regulations as for men, and training of an identical kind. [804e] I will unhesitatingly affirm that neither riding nor gymnastics, which are proper for men, are improper for women. I believe the old tales I have heard, and I know now of my own observation, that there are practically countless myriads of women called Sauromatides, in the district of  Pontus, upon whom equally with men is imposed the duty of handling bows and other weapons, [805a] as well as horses, and who practice it equally. In addition to this I allege the following argument. Since this state of things can exist, I affirm that the practice which at present prevails in our districts is a most irrational one—namely, that men and women should not all follow the same pursuits with one accord and with all their might. For thus from the same taxation and trouble there arises and exists half a State only instead of a whole one, in nearly every instance; yet surely this would be a surprising blunder [805b] for a lawgiver to commit.
Clinias: So it would seem; yet truly a vast number of the things now mentioned, Stranger, are in conflict with our ordinary polities. ….
Athenian: …but as it is, the man who rejects our law must try some other method, nor shall we be hereby precluded from asserting in our doctrine that the female sex [805d] must share with the male, to the greatest extent possible, both in education and in all else.
(Laws, 804c- 805d).

Note how the argument that only fools, including rulers, would do without half of the population and  would build half town instead of two cities is absolute and highly topical.

Anyone who is curious about proposals so old and modern should read Plato's cited dialogues. Striking passages in them, similar to that, are numerous. Unfortunately when Plato failed to realize his ideal city proposed in Sicily and it gave him some bitterness and a good dose of realism, as it is reflected in the Laws and in the Republic.

I delve into another time in these proposals of Plato, to which little attention indeed was done in ancient times, Middle Ages  and even sometimes in the Contemporary Ages.

   
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