Women in ancient cultures - Sample Essay

The essay investigates the status of women in ancient cultures of Rome, Greece, Israel and Babylon. The attitudes towards women will be revealed through the ancient texts, historic studies and inscriptions. The essay will define the terms: “patriarchy”, “misogyny” and illustrate their meaning through the examples in ancient cultures. Also the texts will help to find out the views the societies of Rome, Greece, Israel and Babylon had concerning the rights of women, the esteem and respect in which their women were held. At the end of the essay conclusion will summarize the main findings of the study.

The low status of women in ancient Rome, Greece, Israel and Babylon was dictated by the social order of patriarchy. Patriarchy is a social system based on the authority of an elderly male (for instance, father, grandfather) over the entire family group. Also due to patriarchy ancient men had the role of decision-makers, which was evidenced by the existence of patrilineal descend systems, men’s better access to education, the prevailing majority of men in politics. Brosius M. (1998) in Women in Ancient Persia, 559-331 B.

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C. maintains that Greek and Near Eastern sources regard only the parents of heir as those who possess real political power and ensure the legitimacy of the right to rule. Brosius notes that New East inscriptions just honor king Hutelutus-Insusinak’s (C. 1120-1110 BC) mother, while to the father of the king more than gratitude is expressed. In fact the inscriptions of the Elamite honor two predecessors of the king: Kutir-Nahhunte ( 1155-1150) and SilhakInsusinak ( 1150-1120), who were his uncles. The biological father of the king, the third brother, did not live long to become a king.

The inscription of the Elamite states, that custom kingship was passed on among the uncles of Hutelutus-Insusinak. So, the inscriptions dedicated to the king Hutelutus-Insusinak acknowledge the royal predecessors, honoring the biological mother less than uncles, who are regarded as king’s fathers. In ancient texts the inferiority of women was shown in the way women were mentioned and described. The old Persian and the New East sources mention only the women who belonged to the reigning family, mainly mothers, daughters and wives of the kings.

The names mothers and wives usually accompany the names reigning kings, while the names of royal daughters are very few, mostly those are mentioned who married kings themselves (Brosius M. 1998). Brosius M. notes that the administrative documents of old Persia and the New East use only personal names of king’s wives, which implies that distinctive titles of royal women were unimportant. The term queen appeared much later than the term king. (Brosius M. 1998). The word referring a wife of a king in old Persian and the New East sources means a “royal woman” or “a woman in palace”. (Brosius M. 1998).

Keuls (1985) characterizes the ancient Greeks as an instance of men’s domination and sexual discrimination of women: ‘In the case of a society dominated by men who sequester their wives and daughters, denigrate the female role in reproduction, erect monuments to male genitalia, have sex with the sons of their peers, sponsor public whorehouses, create a mythology of rape, and engage in rampant saber-rattling, it is not inappropriate to refer to a reign of the phallus. Classical Athens was such a society. ” (p. 1). Also, Brosius M. holds, that no Persian texts evidence that the king’s mother owned land.

The status of landowner of a king’s wife after the succession of a new king remains not clear, since every new king would gift his own wife with royal land holdings across the empire (Brosius M 1998). The mother of Xerxes Atossa is written only in Darius’ inscriptions, and not mentioned in Aeschylus’ Persai. Some historians suggest that it occurred because by 475 BC her name was not known in the Greek world. Brosius M. adds that the Greek source omits the name of mother of Xerxes because Greek thought it was disrespectful to mention a name of a woman in public.



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