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Status of women in ancient societies Essay

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Updated: Apr 11th, 2019

In the ancient times, different communities had different ways in which they treated their women. In some cases, women were being treated in the same way as children while in others, they were given an equal treatment with their male counterparts. This depended much on the beliefs in the respective societies as well as the culture passed down over the generations.

In the Ancient Egyptian society, women were treated in a totally different way compared to their counterparts in the Ancient Greece society. Women in Ancient Egypt enjoyed equality with men and were accorded the same rights especially in the economic aspects. This was not the case in Greece where there was a high level of gender inequality and women were treated as being lesser than men.

In many societies, it was unheard of to hear of women who were allowed to stand on their own without the support of men. This used to happen in Egypt where women were allowed to own and manage property and in this case the term property included land, slaves, money, livestock and other portable products.

With Greek women however, they could not carry out any legal activity or acquire property without the consent of a man. The designated males who would stand in for them were referred to as Kourios and this would be either the father or brother or husband. They would be the ones to sign these contracts on behalf of the women and in reality they would be considered the legal owners of the property (Blundell 1995, p34).

While this was happening in Greece, the Egyptian women on the other side were even entitled to receiving inheritance from their parents under their own names and just like the modern woman; they were allowed to seek employment. In a marriage set up, women fully owned what they brought in though the husband had the freedom to use this property.

The wife would also inherit two thirds of the entire wealth in case the husband died and the rest would be subdivided among the children and other relatives. From this therefore, we find that an ancient Egyptian woman was more or less treated like the modern woman of today unlike their Greece counterparts.

Egyptian women were allowed to rule and this is evidenced by the artifacts and paintings from the ancient times. One such artifact is a drawing of Queen Nefertiti showing the Queen leading a convoy. This is an indication that the Queen was on the lead since the husband is seen immediately behind her.

The fact that she is also seen riding a personal chariot is an illustration that she was being accorded a lot of respect from the society. Besides this painting there is also a sculpture of Nefertiti’s burst which indicates the high status that the queen was given.

This applied to all other women in the community since as a rule; women were to be respected, adored and admired. This explains even why they were able to rise to power in the first place. Egypt was renowned for having the first women leaders in the days when they were ruled by Pharaohs.

In Greece however, things were different and this is also depicted in their artifacts and drawings. Women would never be leaders and their main job was considered to be that of bringing up children and tending to the the households. (Capel and Glen 1996 p12). They were given in marriage to their father’s choices of men irrespective of whether they loved the man or not.

The place of women in ancient Greece is illustrated more clearly by the sculpture of Nikandre Kore from the Island of Delos. In this sculpture, there are inscriptions of the life of Nikandre but she is described in relation to the male figures in her life that is the husband, father and brother.

Her personality is attributed to them and despite her attempts to make independent decisions, these were not recognized. This artifact is sufficient illustration of the treatment women were being given in ancient Greece in that they were denied the right to express themselves in who they were but instead they were being viewed through the eyes of the male figures in their lives.

According to the Egyptian mythology, women were considered sacred and this explains the huge number of goddesses. Besides being given a high place in the society, they were also associated to issues of fertility and life bearing and barren women would seek their blessings in order to conceive.

They would bring gifts mostly foodstuffs when they wanted to get children. The goddesses were given different roles depending on their lives on earth and the circumstances under which they died. In most cases however they were considered to be having the powers to protect and give life (Robins 1993, p10).

An example of this is Osiris’ wife who is said to have been murdered by her brother and transformed to a goddess after that. She was renowned for blessing funerals but besides this, she would also protect the female species as well as give life to the barren. From this therefore we can deduce that even in Mythologies, women were still accorded high respect hence given such dutiful responsibilities.

The Greek mythologies also recognize women unlike the Ancient practices. One of the greatest figures in these Myths was Artemis the goddess of children and hunting. She was a strong woman who dared ask her father never to force her into marriage.

Artemis was a strong figure and she was known for revenging in very crude ways. from this, we can tell that she was feared since her actions always caused an irreversible damage. This means that being a woman; she did bow to the pressures of the society but her way through life and eventually emerged as a strong goddess.

At some point it is said that a certain hunter happened to see her when she was naked and the result was that he was transformed to a deer and his own dogs instructed to eat him up to pieces.

This shows a lot of supernatural powers which men bestowed on the women in Myths despite the low status they placed them in reality. As a conclusion therefore, we can deduce that the Mythical treatment of Women is almost similar to the both the Greek and Egyptian culture, despite their differences in real life situations.

Works Cited

Blundell, Sue. Women in Ancient Greece. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 1995. Print.

Capel, Anne K, and Glenn Markoe. Mistress of the House, Mistress of Heaven: Women in Ancient Egypt. New York: Hudson Hills Press in association with Cincinnati Art Museum, 1996. Print.

Robins, Gay. Women in Ancient Egypt. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 1993. Print.

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