Ancient Greece and Rome Women Term Paper

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Women in Greece, Rome

Although ancient Greece and Rome are heralded as forging the prototype of modern democracy, they were far from egalitarian societies. Half the populations of Greece and Rome had little to no social status or rights, as females were mostly cut off from public and political life. Ancient Greece and Rome were gender segregated worlds. Gender impacted roles and duties. Women were restricted access to education and were largely left out of the arts, literature, and athletic pursuits. In both ancient Greece and in ancient Rome, economic class and social status determined the actual day-to-day lives of women but even the wealthiest females in these societies enjoyed social or political parity with men.

Whether as a sign of global social progress or not, though, women did enjoy "a level of freedom they would not see again in Western Society until the last half of the Twentieth Century" by the end of the first century in ancient Rome (Thompson). This "freedom" is only meaningful relatively, due to the fact that women were at best support figures and never political leaders. Evidence does show that in general, women enjoyed more respect, however slight, in Rome vs. Greece ("Women in Ancient Rome"). For example, "Bereaved Romans often praised their mothers, wives and daughters on their tombstones," (Dixon). On the other hand, "many Athenian men seem to have regarded their wives as at best essential inconveniences," (Thompson).

Marriage and childbirth were the defining features of women's lives in ancient Greece and Rome. Both strictly paternalistic societies, females left their homes to live with their husbands and became what can easily be considered domestic slaves. Only wealthy women would enjoy some relief from household duties, as slave ownership was common among the rich in both ancient Greece and Rome. During the Archaic age in ancient Greece, land ownership was so severely restricted to men that a daughter would not inherit even if she had no brothers (Blundell). Similar institutionalized sexism still existed centuries later in ancient Rome. For example, the "Voconian law of 169 BCE that prevented men in the wealthiest class bequeathing large sums of money to a daughter" kept paternalism firmly in place (Thompson). The result of such laws ensured that women were stripped of their personhood, their economic independence, and their political rights in both ancient Greece and ancient Rome.

Histories of ancient Greece and ancient Rome were chronicled and compiled by men, making it difficult to piece together accurate pictures of what daily life was actually like for women in these societies. Moreover, almost no first-hand evidence exists as to what women in ancient Greece or Rome actually thought, felt, or did. As Blundell points out, historical documents such as the poems of Homer and Hesiod "present us with a male view of women's status and activities, and both involve a strong element of fantasy," (65). Roman history books… [END OF PREVIEW]

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