Women: Roles and Cultures
HIS 103 WORLD CIVILIZATIONS
During the ancient civilizations, women had their place and their roles. In many countries, the women’s roles were very different and viewed as restricted. Women’s roles and lives have changed drastically over the years. From marriage to political affairs, times have changed. During some periods of time, women were controlled by men, forced into slavery, or to carry on a family tradition. From an island called Crete, to Mesopotamia where the land is between the Tigris and Euphrates, to Egypt and Greece. All of these countries had different roles for women and what were expected of them. Whether it may be by religion, marriage, education, or politics, each civilization had its own idea for women. Although women were restricted and had many rules for their lives, their statuses remained the same. Their focus for life was getting married, having a ceremony, bearing children, and learning their role as a wife. The first ancient civilizations started in Mesopotamia and Egypt in the Middle East, in the Indus Valley region of modern day Iraq. According to our text, “The word Mesopotamia comes from two Greek words: mesos, meaning "middle," and potamus, meaning "river," or more precisely, "land between the rivers."” (Mahdavi, 2012) Both of these civilizations had certain features in common. They built cities, invented forms of writing, learned to make pottery with the use of metals, and complex social structures with class systems. One of the greatest contributions from the Mesopotamia civilization was the first written law, Code of Hammurabi. According to our text, “The 282 statutes, preserved on an eight-foot-high stele (stone slab), show how the Babylonians dealt with a variety of issues from trade contracts and regulation, debt, marriage, and property rights to major crimes such as adultery and murder.” (Mahdavi, 2012) The laws purpose was to celebrate Hammurabi’s sense of justice and wisdom of his rule. Women’s roles played a major role in this code of law. Marriage was arranged for young people by relatives and bride-grooms father. “Within this marriage contract, a revision that the wife should not be seized for her husband’s prenuptial debts but is not responsible for her prenuptial debts, and that both are responsible for all debts after the ceremony.”(Hammurabi, 1780 BCE) Marriage was a four step process; first was the engagement, second was payments were made by the families of the bride and groom, next was the bride had to move into her father-in-law’s house, and lastly came the love-making. A marriage contract was made by the families and represented by their fathers. On the groom’s side of the family, a payment for the bride’s wealth was in order. The payment was for in case of a divorce or death. The bride’s side of the family had to pay a settlement and the amount that was equal to the bride’s wealth. The most important role in women was to bear children. If she could not bear any children, a second wife was asked to bear the children or they could adopt children. The father was head of the family and practiced over his wife and children until he passed away. Divorce was optional to the man but he had to restore the settlement and if the wife had children with him, she gained the custody of the children. “She was assigned a field of income so she could take care of her children. Women had to share their income with divorced husband and were allowed to marry again.”(Hammurabi, 1780 BCE) If she had been a bad wife, the husband could send her away or make her a slave in his house where she would have food and clothing available. If a woman felt that her husband was neglecting her then she could obtain a separation but she would have to prove her case. If she could not prove her case and was proved to be a bad wife, she was drowned in the river. Somewhat similar to common laws were The Egyptians. They are considered to be...
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