Home Historical Period Ancient History The Life of Women in the Ancient Civilizations

The Life of Women in the Ancient Civilizations


Women in ancient Egypt

The woman in ancient Egypt was equal to the man. From a young age, they were though that they have their own place in society that does not underestimate them or in modern term, it will not discriminate. Girls and boys are allowed to play together, to study the same subjects at school etc. At the age 12-14, it was time for the girl to marry. The marriage was not forced in Egypt. Girls and boys were allowed to choose their spouse and ask for approval from their father. They were usually encouraged to marry someone they know from their childhood, so after marriage, the woman will stay a close friend, but also a lover, wife, and mother to the husband. Although many pharaohs married their sisters, the incest marriage was not allowed among the common people. The woman was even allowed a premarital agreement in her favor. In case the couple divorced, the kids always went with their mother and the father was forced to pay alimony until she remarried or asked him to stop. In many paintings and inscriptions, the husband and wife are depicted doing different activities together, like dancing, eating, drinking, working in the fields etc. All this was based on the main value of ma’at or harmony and balance in all aspects of life, on which the Egyptian society was built on.

Women in ancient Hellas

Unlike the Egyptian woman, the Hellenic woman had very few rights compared to man. The rights of woman in ancient Hellas varied from polis to polis, but in general, the man had the last word everywhere. They were not allowed to vote, own or inherit land and their only purpose was to give birth to children who can serve the polis. Most of the babies that were abandoned were female. Girls and boys were educated in a similar way, with more attention on dancing, gymnastics, and music. The main purpose of the education for girls was to prepare them for raising a family without stimulating any intellectual development. Also same as boys, girls were thought pederasty. This was a sexual relationship as a mentor between an adult woman and an adolescent without any physical contact. Marriage was arranged when the girl was 13 or 14 years old by the father, or if she had no father then by the closest male relative. After marriage woman were not allowed any contact with males outside the family. They were expected to raise the kids and take care of the household. They were under complete control of their husbands. They had to be faithful but they were not allowed to expect the same from their husband. After the death of the father of the wife, all land went to her brothers, or to her husband if she didn’t have a brother. The only personal property that was allowed for a woman to own was jewelry and clothes. Divorce could happen only in three situations: rejection from her husband (no reason was needed), the wife leaving the family home and when the father asks for his daughter back. The last situation was only possible if the wife didn’t have children.

Women in ancient Rome

The life of the Roman woman wasn’t much different from the one of the Greek. She didn’t get any education until she was married. Marriage was arranged by her father when the girl is 14 years old. The Roman family was usually dominated by paterfamilias, the oldest member. They took care of the household and controlled the slaves in the house. The property was always in the hands of the husband or male member of the family. Women were allowed to own property in very rear cases but they were considered incapable to control it. Divorce was easy to get but the children always stayed with their father, or if the father was dead, they belonged to the closest male relative.  In the late Empire, and especially after Christianity became legal, divorce became harder to get. Woman was not allowed to participate in political assemblies or hold a political position, but in rear cases, the wife’s used their husbands to gain political power.