As suggested above, sons were not the property of the father in Lycurgan Sparta, but the common property of the state. Unlike other Greek and Roman states, in Sparta the decision to raise a child rested with a council of elders who checked babies for health and stamina. If one was ill born and deformed it was discarded, as life “which nature had not well equipped at the very beginning for health and strength was of no advantage either for itself or the state.”
In many cases, Spartan children were not even the product of random parentage, “but designed to spring from the best there was.” Eugenics. During his time of exile, Lycurgus noticed something peculiar about Greek men. In Athens, Plutarch explains, he saw men arguing over the particular breeding stock of certain dogs and horses. And yet, these same men sired children even though “foolish, infirm, or diseased, as though children of bad stock did not owe their badness to their parents.” Marriages and births were carefully regulated, then, always with an eye to the physical and political wellbeing of the city.
Because of the Lycurgan exaggeration of the Greek educational ideal, Plutarch exclaimed that the education of Spartan children began before birth – an extraordinary concept, considering the 7th Century (B.C.) context. In reality it began prior to conception. Which brings us to Spartan women as mothers. Uniquely in the Classical Greek world, Spartan women exercised alongside men. They ran, wrestled, and threw the discuss and javelin, so that they might struggle successfully and easily with childbirth, and that their offspring would have a “vigorous root in vigorous bodies.
Mark Dyal, Lycurgus & the Spartan State.