Role of Women in Roman Society

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In Roman society, women were considered to be subject to men, and this was reflected by their position in society. This essay will examine the role of women in Rome by considering the typical upbringing of an upper-class girl, the legal rights of women, and the daily routine of upper-class women. How these factors combined to influence the position a woman held in Roman society and her household will also be discussed and examined. In early Rome, before the third-century BC, children were generally raised by their mothers or a female relative; however, by the first-century BC, this task had largely been passed onto wet nurses and slaves. A girl from an upper-class family would learn the skills of running a household, such as weaving and spinning, from an early age. She would then receive schooling in literature and Roman culture, and would possibly learn to play an instrument. When the girl reached a mature age, she would be trained in the managing of slaves and the budget of a household. In the writings of the early Roman historian, Tacitus, refers to the changing role of women in society by stating "in the old days, every man's son, the child of his loyal wife, was brought up not in the room of some hired nurse, but in the lap of his own mother… But nowadays the infant is handed over to some little Greek slave-girl.” Women were initially, in early Rome, given little individual freedom from men; however, by the first century BC, women began to experience greater freedom in a variety of roles. The law of ‘sui iuiras’ was introduced by the time of the Emperor Augustus, this law stated that a ‘matrona’, married woman, with three children or more, or a freedwoman with more than four children, would be legally independent, not requiring a guardian, if their husband died. As slaves became more prevalent in Rome, women were freed from their domestic duties and were allowed the freedom to attend more social events away from the home; some women also became managers of...
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