Early Civilization Women's Rights

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Though patriarchy was nothing new in the ancient world, how did the evolution of the three major western religions (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) and the political disintegration of the Roman world by the early medieval period impact women? What effects did this have on attitudes toward women and their role in the church/faith? How did the expansion of customary laws (primarily Germanic and Islamic) reinforced by religious codification versus objective laws (Roman) alter the rights or value of women? How might this have been reflected in family life? On the other hand, what avenues for intellectual life and control over their person did some women have in the various cultures? How was this affected by religion? Do you think women’s roles in those same faiths and associated family life have changed in the modern world? Why or why not?

The fall of Rome’s power and rise of monotheistic religion was one of the greatest developments for women. In government-focused societies, they didn’t experience the same freedom that religion offers to most women. Religions such as Judaism, Christianity and Islam gave women the chance to be spiritually equal to their male counterparts, “it accorded women and slaves equal spiritual standing with free men” (Frankforter and Spellman 193). Though most of the sacred texts instructed women to obey (submit) their husbands, they promoted equality and the idea that everyone deserves the same respect and consideration because they are made in the image of their Gods.

However, as we know, people distort the words and concepts in these sacred texts. In theory, women were given certain respect and value. However, in practice they were often harshly treated for things such as adultery (whereas it was hardly as scandalous as a guy doing it), lack of reproduction, disrespect and other things of the sort. In fact, the fall of Rome is largely placed on women’s shoulders for their failure to produce sons and therefore rights were revoked...
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