Women in Ancient Egypt by James C. Thompson

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This tomb painting illustrating the reunion of a husband and wife in the after-life shows the very real affection that was considered the norm in Ancient Egypt.

Egypt treated its women better than any of the other major civilizations of the ancient world. The Egyptians believed that joy and happiness were legitimate goals of life and regarded home and family as the major source of delight.

It was taken for granted in the ancient world that the head of the house was the man. The true meaning of this fact for women varied considerably from one place and time to another, and the impact was much greater if the law drew a distinction between a man and a woman. Marriage and offspring were always considered desirable, but in some societies wives were simply domestic servants and offspring acquired importance only when they grew up. Undoubtedly there were a number of very strong willed women who disregarded custom and ruled their families with the sheer force of their personalities, but they were the exception.

Egyptian women were fortunate in two important ways:

While women could become Pharaoh only in very special circumstances, they were otherwise regarded as totally equal to men as far as the law was concerned. They could own property, borrow money, sign contracts, initiate divorce, appear in court as a witness, etc. Of course, they were also equally subject to whatever responsibilities normally accompanied those rights. Love and emotional support were considered to be important parts of marriage. Egyptians loved children as people and not just as potential workers and care-takers.

MARRIAGE

Athenian men married out of a sense of civic duty and put off the fateful day until the age of 30 or more, at which time they married girls of half their age whose youth made them more easily controlled. In contrast, Ancient Egyptian men and women valued and enjoyed each other's company. Love and affection were thought to be important, and marriage was...
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