In Ancient Rome and Ancient Greece, women were respected in different ways because of various reasons. The respect usually depended on woman’s wealth and social status. As Natalie Kampen tells, female personification appeared among the images of gods, barbarians, and soldiers.
However, only four images of women were in respect during those times: empresses, female barbarians, several women, who appeared at public event, and vestal virgins. (218) For example, one of the best representatives of empresses in the historical relief was Julia Domna.
This empress was considered to be a really clever, outstanding, and powerful woman. She appeared in public statuaries from time to time. However, with all her majesty, the number of written sources was poor, and nowadays people know a little about her life.
What actually made women powerful? How did religion influence the social status of women? Uta Kron underlines that the only sphere, where ancient women had a strong influence and were really independent, was the sphere of religion. During those times, Greek religion was a religion of cult.
Kron tells that women usually visited all women public celebrations.(140) Of course, a few notes may prove women’s involvement into public events, however, statuary and epigraphic may serve as good evidences to demonstrate that women have almost the same rights as the priests had.
Such dedication proves that it were women, who served as donors to numerous religious places. This is why religion played a very important role in the history of ancient women and made lots of women participate in social life of numerous ancient countries.
What kind of women did gain recognition and due to what reasons? Without any doubts, one of the most powerful and famous characters in Ancient Greece was Cleopatra. Julius Caesar and Mark Antony could not resist her charming and mind. She was a wonderful example of prudence and beauty simultaneously.
Mary Lefkowitz in her work Women’s Life in Greece and Rome described how easily and smart Cleopatra was able to behave herself with leaders, including Julius Caesar. (148) It is possible that her courage and abilities to seduce men allowed her to rule to words – Egypt and Rome at the same time.
Another category of women, vestal virgins, was also gratefully respected by Romans of all the times. Augustus’s dedication to the altar of Vesta on the Platinum is one of the brightest examples of men’s attraction to vestal virgins and their influence to social life and men’s decisions.
Jennifer Trimble mentions that female public imagery was developed during the times of Augustus. Such gendered ideas had also some impact on the affairs of state. When a leader began to respect some image or idea and stick to it, his people had nothing to do but accept their leader’s position and respect it.
Is there some kind of connection between wealthy women and public image that they show? Riet Van Bremen in his work Women and Wealth presents a wonderful example from life to get a clear answer to this question (223).
Menodora created a magnificent temple in honor of her dead son. In this temple, there were several cult statues; one of them was the gold statue of Fate personified.
Of course, the statue of her sick son was one a significant attribute in the temple. The temple was a good example of wealth woman’s public-mindedness. She wanted to remind each person of her reputation, her power, and her loss, that would probably make her stronger. However, it was only the image she tried to create.
Women may have lots of money and spend them as they want, however, these money will never save people from their faith. Women are powerful, however, the only thing they cannot win is another woman, called Fate.
Kampen, Natalie, B. “Between Public and Private: Women as Historical Subjects in Roman Art”, Women’s History and Ancient History. Chapel Hill, 1991: 219-248
Kron, Uta.: “Priesthoods, Dedications and Euergetism: What Part Did Religion Play in the Political and Social Status of Women?”, Religion and Power in the Ancient Greek World. Proceedings of the Uppsala Symposium of 1993. Uppsala, 1996: 139-182.
Lefkowitz, Mary, R. and Fant, Maureen, B. Women’s Life in Greece and Rome: A Source Book in Translation. The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1992: 147-149.
Trimble, Jennifer. “Replicating the Body Politic: the Herculaneum Woman Statue Types in Early Imperial Italy”, Journal od Roman Archeology 13, 2000: 41-68.
Van Bremen, Riet. “Women and Wealth”, Images of Women in Antiquity. Ed. A. Cameron and A. Kuhrt, Detroit: Wayne State UP,1983. 53-65.