Women in Ancient History

Topics: Ancient Rome, Woman, Roman Empire Pages: 6 (2214 words) Published: January 11, 2009
Women in Ancient History

In Ancient societies such as those of Greece, Mesopotamia, Egypt, China, Rome, and India, women have been consistently been classified as less than men. Regardless of location, early civilizations other than Africa had patriarchal social and family structures. Equal treatment of women was not yet conceived in ancient civilizations. Citizen and non-citizen, free born, freed and slave, father and children, male and female---each had a different standing in law. Unfortunately, the majority of women were on the losing side of the law. In Mesopotamia, a woman's rights were never equal to those of men. It was nearly impossible to be respected if you were not married. However, in the early Neolithic period, women were free to go out to the marketplaces, buy and sell, attend to legal matters for their absent men, own their own property, borrow and lend, and engage in business for themselves. High status women, such as priestesses and members of royal families, might learn to read and write and be given considerable administrative authority. Numerous powerful goddesses were worshiped; in some city states they were the primary deities. However, these do not cancel out the negative things. Especially in the later period of Mesopotamian history, women were confined to their houses to birth and raise children. They were not allowe4d to divorce their husbands, and Hammurabi's code indirectly degraded women. In ancient India, women occupied a very important position. Literary evidence suggests that kings and towns were destroyed because a single woman was wronged by the state. To instill such high ideals in human kind, Indian ancestors created a plethora of goddesses who enjoyed equal status with their husbands. The concept of Ardhanareeshwarar, where God is depicted as half-man and half-woman, is a concrete example to support this argument. In many philosophical texts God is referred to a Tat, meaning It and that God is beyond gender. And, one would find a comparable Goddess for each God. Further, we know for a fact that ancient India was permissive; women could have multiple husbands, widows could re-marry, divorce was permitted for incompatibility or when estranged. Compared to the status of women in other ancient societies, Indian women enjoy equal status socially, economically, and politically. As a child, A Hindu girl is supposed to remain in the custody and care of her parents. Once married, she becomes a property and responsibility of her husband, who is supposed to take care of her needs and expectations and keep her in his custody. As his wife, she performs four roles: the husband's servant, his minister in decision making, as a mother to his children, and as a lover in his bed. When she becomes old, she lives in the house of her son or sons and has to lead a very solitary and forlorn life. Although the early Chinese dynasties had no real commitment to subordination of women, Confucian teachings were adopted and led to the diminution of the status of women over time. Confucian interpretations enforced male authority and patriarchal customs. According to the Confucian structure of society, it was the obligation and duty for women to obey their husbands. The effect of which had women at every level of the social hierarchy occupying a position lower than men. Most Confucians accepted the subservice of women to men as natural and proper. At the same time they accorded women's honor and power as mother and mother-in-law within their family. Chinese literature on educating women about self-discipline, etiquette, relationships with in-laws, household management, humility, and chastity was not uncommon. Biographies written about admirable women emphasized their unselfish loyal and self-sacrificing willingness to do anything to help their husband and his family. Although ideology is one thing and the reality of the lives of women often another, the long shadow of basic beliefs about...
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