The Exclusion of Women in Political Systems in Ancient Rome and Greece

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The Exclusion of Women from Political Systems in Ancient Rome and Athens

Ancient Rome and ancient Athens in Greece were two thriving civilizations that dominated the Mediterranean area. The way in which both of these civilizations structured their government, allowed for them to become prospering civilizations in the ancient world. Athens and Rome had different approaches to how to govern their civilizations, yet both civilizations extended power to their citizens by allowing them to participate in the governance of their society. However, the term ‘citizen’ did not include women. Women were entirely excluded from the political system in both civilizations. In Athens and Rome, equality between men and women was almost unknown. Men felt women were incapable of being able to participate in politics. Even though, ancient Rome and Athens had unique approaches to try to spread power by broadening the participation of citizens in their government, both civilizations were alike in excluding women from the political system, and viewing them as subordinate to men. The Greek population was made up of many independent states, which were known as poleis. Each polis had their own identity and form of government, which is the reason the Greeks could be known as the Athenians or the Spartans. The Athenian’s political system was based on the belief of democracy. The meaning of democracy comes from the Greek word, demos, a word meaning neighborhood or affinity group. An Athenian leader Pericles stated, “We practice a politics that does not emulate the customs of our neighbors . . . Because we are governed for the many and not for the few, we go by the name of democracy.” Athenian democracy was built on the foundation that not one person governed, but all citizens of Athens voted about laws and policies. The Athenians valued their democratic system because it was structured in a way that not one individual or group could gain power. Therefore, the power was shared, and the citizens of Athens took part in the decision making process. If they needed to vote whether to raise taxes or build an army, all the citizens decided, not just a few elected officials. However, all citizens in Athenian government translated to only males who owned property. The people participating in the government were not a direct representation of the actual population of Athens. According to the philosopher Aristotle in Politics, “A husband and father rules over wife and children . . . over his wife a constitutional rule.” Aristotle believed that women were inferior to men, and the husband’s rule over is wife is like a “constitutional” government. Therefore, women were not to take any part in the governance of their own polis. They could not hold a political office, own property, or have any representation in the government. As a result, Athenian democracy was not the way we think of a democratic system today, where all people, including women are allowed to participate in the government. According to Aristotle in Politics, “For although there may be exceptions to the order of nature, the male is by nature fitter for command than the female. . .” He believed women were subordinate to men, and because Athenian women were not part of politics, they were often looked down upon. They were forced to live in seclusion, and were not to venture outside of their homes. A respectable Athenian woman was not to be seen by other men outside of their family. Her only job was to raise the children and make sure the household ran smoothly. Therefore, if the purpose of establishing a democratic system was to broaden the participation of people in the government as much as possible, excluding women from the system was not actually contributing to this purpose. According to The Republic, Plato states “Then we must conclude that sex cannot be the criterion in appointments to government positions. . .Hence women will have the rightful opportunity to...
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