Gender Roles in Ancient Greece and Egypt
Centuries of cultural and social evolution has afforded us the liberty to pride ourselves on being keen about who we are, what we want, and what we are willing to do to get it. It stands to reason that this evolution would be accompanied by opportunities and freedoms (generally speaking) enjoyed today which lend support to the varied expressions of self determined roles that often supersede fading gender prejudices. The trouble with freedom and opportunity often lays with the hesitant recipient whose boundaries and guidelines have suddenly been blurred, and who now must steer beyond confusion to reclaim his place in society. Fortunately, ancient cultures such as that of Greece and Egypt, which share credit for some of the freedoms we exercise today, were able to weather the issues of gender roles and still leave their mark in history, though their expectations of these roles were often quite different.
Both the Greeks (specifically Athenians and Spartans) and the Egyptians accepted obvious gender roles as that of male and female, with the exception of the Egyptian consideration of a third gender, which were eunuchs. The role of the eunuch in Egypt was assumed to be one of royal or religious service but may be much more according to art found in the and tomb of Niankhkhnum and Khanumhotep (Reeder, 2000).
The role of men in Greece and Egypt wove strong common threads found throughout every culture in ancient history. The classes for men usually fell under three categories: citizen, which gave men certain privileges and protection under the law; free, which restricted privilege but allowed them to come and go as they wished; and bond, which meant they were the property and slave of an owner and had no rights. The ongoing focus of ancient men was the perpetuation of the species (homo sapiens), whether by procreation, protection, governing, or merely maintaining life in peaceful times. They were rarely found...
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