The classical period of Rome and Greek was notable for great monuments, art philosophy, architecture, and literature. The status of women of that time was not at all improvised, though there were great rulers like regent Queen Cleopatra of Macedonia of Epirus (Greece:344-30 B.C.E). They were considered inferior to men in all fields. In ancient Sumerian civilization, women were regarded as second-class citizens without power, prestige, or status.
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Men got control over the state, economy, administered the courts and schools, manipulated theology and ritual. Even if they worshipped women deities, they disregarded women in social status. Polyandry prevailed in most of the ancient Greek and Roman civilizations, but men were allowed to keep one or more concubines. But there had been a sea change in their attitude. Here, Harriet Crawford makes it clear when he says: “The Sumerians put the domination of men over women into law. If a husband died, the widow came under the control of her former husband’s father or brother, or if she had a grown son she was put under his control.
A woman in Sumer had no recourse or protection under the law. A woman’s power, if she had any, was the influence of her personality within her family.” (The Sumerians, 1999). The classical period is believed to have started with Homer in the 8th century. In the classical period of Greece, there was a large difference between the statue of women in the great cities, Athens and Sparta. The women of Sparta enjoyed more freedom than that of the women in Athens.
Very strict coaching was provided for the men to obtain the power to defend their country and “Girls were required to run and exercise so that their babies would grow in strong and healthy mothers. To make them brave, Lycurgus ordered that occasionally the girls had to dance and sing naked in front of all the young men. Therefore the girls were ashamed to be fat or weak, and they were happy to display their beauty to such an appreciative audience. In their songs, the girls praised the men who were brave and strong, and they made fun of those who were weak and cowardly, so they sharpened the men’s love of glory and fear of shame.
Thus the women of Sparta got a taste of higher feelings, being in this way admitted to the field of action.” (Plutarch). Women in Sparta wore loose garments and were given the freedom to take part in sports, in politics, and in the owning and running of businesses and farms. They even possessed forty percent of the real estate. At the beginning of 500 B.C.E. the women in Egypt possessed legal independence and from then on disposed of themselves freely.
The system of monogamy existed during that time. Absolute equality of spouses was recognized in marriage. Strictly monogamous, the marital union was based on the mutual consent of the partners and imposed on the spouse’s identical obligations. With the beginning of the 26th dynasty (663-525 B. C. E.) and its centralized monarchy; the infidelity of the husband, as well as the wife, permitted the injured spouse to obtain a divorce at her or his own profit. However, the educated women thus were seen by Plato as equally a fortunate thing for the state as men and wished to restrain the expansion of too much freedom for women by with permission restraining their lifestyle.
The ancient people in China worshipped their chief goddess His Huang Mu (Queen Mother Goddess of the west, found in the classic tale “Journey to the West”). They believe that this goddess is capable of immortality. She is a force who had the power to dispute the cosmic harmony that was an obstacle for women who aspired to raise political guidance. Buddhism, as practiced in China and Japan, also granted women some areas of empowerment. Women went on pilgrimages to Buddhist temples; sometimes they gave public lectures for the period of the reign of Wu Zetian (625-705 C.E) women enjoyed relatively high status and freedom.
Gender inequality is a phenomenon causing concern in Indian society; Indian society is highly prejudiced against the female gender. Basically, a male dominating society’s decision-making at the family and political level is almost single handled. (But the joint ruler of the Gupta Empire, Queen Kumaradevi Licchavi (320-335 C.E.) was an exception). Handled by the men, customs such as dowry are worsening the process of subjugating women in society.
Later, social awareness about women’s vital role in the development of a community or the country has been subjected to changes in the Indian context. Therefore in India, there has been a change in the perception of gender equations in favor of women. In ancient India, rural Indian women are extensively involved in agricultural activities. The mode of female participation in agricultural production varies with the landowning status of farm households.
When analyzing the status of women in Greece, Rome, China, and India in the classical age, it is understood that women in Greece and Rome enjoyed more freedom than the womenfolk of China and India. In all these countries men occupied the state, economy, and politics. In Greece and Rome, they also possessed the courts and schools, manipulated theology and ritual. The women in China and India had been treated with a divine concept.
But the families were male dominating. The advent of Buddhism brought notable changes in China women and in their families. It led to their participation in public gatherings. They also visited Buddhist temples. The women in classical Greece and Rome were insisted to participate in the national formation. So they were given strict coaching to defend their country. The participation of Indian women in agriculture helped to form a stable family system, and later it paved the way for maintaining the existing family system.
At the beginning of classicism in Greece and in Rome, there existed polyandry, later the system is totally changed and they followed high morals in family and in religion, but the Indian society is highly intolerant against the female gender. Like women in classic Greece and Rome, the Chinese women were aspired to raise political leadership. To conclude, women in these four countries enjoyed only limited freedom in the classical age and gradually they attained social order and stability.
The Sumerians: Writing and Religion. 1999. Macro History and World Report. Web.
Plutarch. Lycurgus: The Father of Sparta. Web.