The Women of Egypt
Amy Vander Molen
Cardinal Stritch University
Western Civilization 1
November 14, 2012
Women are a vital aspect of every society. But, depending on the culture and beliefs of the civilization, the female role can be more or less significant. This paper will examine the lives of the common traditional Egyptian woman as well as some of the royal Egyptian women: Hatshepsut, Nefertiti, and Cleopatra. Furthermore, this paper is going to discuss the differences between the female commoner versus royal women.
The Traditional Ancient Egyptian Woman
The ancient Egyptian society women were not viewed how the rest of the world traditionally viewed women. In ancient Egypt women were seen as near equals to men. They had rights as voters, legal rights, and economic rights. In this time period this near equal rights for women was practically unheard of. In some civilizations women were seen as nearly like property. Often time’s marriage to a woman was arranged by her father and he would often receive payment for his daughters hand in marriage (Tyldesley). During this time period women were primarily restricted to the home to do household work or rear the children. An ancient Egyptian woman was not only allowed to work outside the home but, they were allowed to own their own business and control private property such as land, servants, and livestock. Women who worked outside of the home often labored in housecleaning, the weaving business, or the business of consoling the souls of the sorrowed. Some women were often hired as musicians or dancers as entertainers (Tyldesley). Even with this freedom to work a woman still saw marriage and family as of vital importance. To get married and bare an heir was nearly a duty. In ancient Egypt there was no real word for the term marriage. There was no ceremony and no legal documents, just simply a man and a women were considered to be married when the woman left the safety of her family’s home and began living in a new home with a man (Tyldesley). Women were able to wed at a very young age, most times near the age a girl would start menstruating, around age 14. Unlike other cultures of the time women after being married still retained their independence. She would still retain control of anything she brought into the marriage, especially financially. By marriage she was entitled to two-thirds of her husband’s estate in the circumstance of his death. Egyptian women were also allowed to divorce. When a husband and wife wanted to separate the woman would collect her belongings and return to the home of her father, returning to circumstances before the marriage and relinquishing the marriage (Tyldesley). In ancient Egypt a man could marry multiple wives and often times they could be closely related. For the most part incest was discouraged. Only in the exception of the royals was incest commonly practiced. It was accepted in ensure a royal and pure bloodline within the empire. Multiple wives were common as a result of the importance of sexual intercourse in Egyptian society. Egyptians were intensely concerned with potency and fertility. Pregnancy was vital to becoming a successful woman. To become pregnant would establish a woman as a successful member of the community and be held in high regard by their husbands. However if a woman was unable to produce an heir, often times her husband would marry another or several women to produce a line of offspring suitable to the husband’s desires (Tyldesley). Hatshepsut
Hatshepsut was the older daughter of King Thutmose the first and his consort Ahmose. As it is common with the royals of Egypt she became the wife to her half-brother Thutmose the second. Thutmose the second was early to inherit the throne as his older brothers all had fallen ill and died. Hatshepsut gave birth to a daughter, Neferure, but was not fortunate to birth a son. When Thutmose the second died in approximately 1479...
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