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Greek and Roman Women in Ancient Times Essays

Greek and Roman Women in Ancient Times Essays: ..

Women, or more correctly, girls, were usually married by the time they were twelve years old, sometimes even younger. In our modern world, this seems scandalous, but everything must be put into societal contexts. Life expectancy was very different in ancient Rome compared with today. Granted, some people would die of old age, but the majority only reached their twenties and thirties, if they were lucky. Girls married very young. Many died in childbirth or because they were weakened from having too many children without reprieve. A funerary inscription to a woman named Veturia provides a good example of this: she was married at eleven, gave birth to six children, and died at twenty-seven. Women were expected to have as many babies as they could because they were never sure how many of the children would reach maturity. Cornelia, mother of the Gracchi, gave birth to twelve offspring, but only two boys and one girl survived.

Their influence with other characters and their purpose or role, often underestimated like women themselves, will be this essay’s main subject.

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Any historical investigation into the lives of ancient women involves individual interpretation and much speculation. One can read the ancient sources concerned with women and their place in society, but to a large degree, they are all secondary sources that were written by men about women. No ancient journals or personal diaries written by Roman women were uncovered, so it is not known what their hopes and dreams were, or if they had any. What Roman women felt about most political issues and the numerous wars and upheavals is also a mystery. Nor can we read about what women thought of slavery, marriage, or the fact that they had no legal rights over their children or even themselves. The scope is truly limited, but many questions can still be asked and considered, such as: what was the role of Roman women in their society? Were they considered citizens who had personal freedoms, or were they sequestered away and given little or no education? Was individuality and personal choice a part of women's lives, or were they overshadowed by the patriarchal society of which they were a part? The answers may be difficult to uncover, but they are important questions to ask when one realizes that so much of Roman civilization went on to lay the foundation of our own modern society. Understanding the past makes the present that much clearer and hopefully provides insight into the future, thereby helping society not to make the same mistakes again.

Although the role of women in ancient Rome was primarily child-bearing, women also played an important role in raising the children. This differed greatly from the Athenian tradition which placed both the cultural and educational aspects of raising boys exclusively in the hands of men. In the Roman world, women were encouraged to teach their children Roman culture. When the boys grew up, the mother would spend both her money and time to advance their political careers.Even the girls would receive this sort of home education because they would be expected to teach their own children one day. In , Quintilian reports that Cornelia, mother of Tiberius and Gaius Gracchus, played a major role in their education and cultivation. Roman women had children, but they were not exclusively "tools of reproduction" -- they "were also a fundamental instrument of the transmission of a culture ... [and] it was their job to prepare them to become ... " Who were they preparing to become Roman citizens? Were only the males given citizenship, as was the case for centuries in Athens? This is a difficult question to answer.

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When looking at the sources for ancient Roman women, it is quickly evident that most of them deal with the aristocracy. It was men from the upper classes who received the best education and the best positions in society, and this enabled them leisure time to reflect on their world and to write about it. As is the case with most people, they wrote about their own experiences and when it came to women, it was their own relatives and wives they wrote about. Certainly, aristocratic women and those from other upper levels of Roman society did not make up the majority of the female population, but it is pieces of their lives that we have to look at. Evidence for what poorer women suffered during the Roman Republic and the Empire is very fragmentary, however, women of all economic levels shared one overwhelming pervasive role and responsibility, no matter the social position they possessed: that of child bearer.

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By the late nineteenth, early twentieth centuries, serious challenges to accepted beliefs about gender were mounted in both Japan and China. Although concerns about women’s position had been expressed earlier, the concept of women’s liberation became a major motivating force within the era’s nationalist, reform, and revolution movements. Male nationalists initiated the discussion by arguing that an improvement in the status of women was essential to their country’s acceptance by other technologically advanced nations. A core of educated women in both Japan and China joined the call by speaking and writing in public for the first time. Conservative nationalists and traditionalists in Japan and China at different times reacted by mounting long campaigns against any change in gender roles. Ultimately female activists were labeled unseemly, unfeminine, and too western.

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However, there were a lot of other goddesses in Greco-Roman pantheon, which revealed that women in ancient Greece and Rome were primarily viewed as wives and mothers. For instance, Aphrodite and Venus (Image 4) were goddesses associated with love affairs. In fact, these goddesses were among the most popular and respectable goddesses in Greco-Roman pantheon. At the same time, they performed an extremely important role since they served as models for Greek and Roman women. The honor and respect these goddesses received from ancient Greeks and Romans stimulated women to follow their lead and focus on their family life. Aphrodite and Venus were actually symbols of love and women naturally believed that being a good wife was a great virtue that made them similar to goddesses who were concerned with love and family life.