Just as a mother nurses a child, the society of ancient
a romanticized idea of being united with a person one loves dearly was
furthest thought from the mind of a woman living in ancient
In ancient cultures, women were seen as objects for they were “given” in marriage by the father to the bridegroom. Thus, “the word for marriage...betrays its function and character. It was called ekdosis, loan, and so marriage was a transaction” between two men (Arthur, p. 86). Marriage was seen as an exchange and another opportunity for men to maintain the superior position. Marriage was seen as a “practical business arrangement, not a love match” (Demand, p. 11). Additionally, in marriage, the issue of property aroused much conflict, supporting inequality between male and female.
distribution and ownership of inheritance was quite unfair and
complicated. In ancient
only circumstance in which a female inherited property was through a
sibling: “wives did not inherit from husbands, nor daughters from
sisters could inherit from brothers” (Pomeroy, p. 20).
This example indicates that a female only
obtained possession of inheritance if a brother passed away and the
could then claim his property.
Essentially, property “was managed by the (husband, father,
(Demand, p. 12). Additionally, young
girls were restricted from getting married if they “had no dowry”
108). Dowry, a form of property or
inheritance, was more or less seen as a necessity in order to be
marriage. As you can see, the
circumstances of gaining inheritance were restricted and limited for
the laws were generally more favorable towards men.
The inequality that existed between men and
women within the society of ancient
social life of women in ancient
Females were occupied with nurturing their children and carrying out household duties. Restricted and secluded within the household, women were compared to “mere adolescents” (Pomeroy, p. 21). Living and working in the home, various responsibilities were imposed on women: “the functions of wife and mother that women had always performed were now construed as a necessity and a duty” (Arthur, p. 85). The two primary functions for women of the 4th century, were child-bearer and housewife.
Bearing children, one of the main roles of women, was especially demanding and stressful. It was distressing because women were not given a choice about carrying on their family’s name. If a mother did not give birth to a male child, her daughter would be compelled to carry on the responsibility of producing a make heir: “When there is no son, a daughter can prevent the extinction of the oikos by producing a son” herself (Pomeroy, p. 25). Giving birth to a girl was seen as an embarrassment and disgrace. After giving birth to a daughter, a mother would “turn her head away” from her husband “in shame” (Demand, p. 6). A father would not even consider his own daughters as his children: “men often do not count daughters when asked how many children they have” (Demand, p. 6). Females were neglected and looked down upon starting the day they were born. The strain and pressure of carrying on the name of the oikos, a household, lead to the following several appalling situations.
Early marriages led to shocking and disturbing age gaps. It was seen as the norm for fourteen-year-old girls to marry men of the age of thirty. Because “the average age of death for men” was forty-five, many “fertile women without a husband” were left behind. As a result, many “children would be orphaned early in life” (Pomeroy, p. 27). Furthermore, early marriage and “childbearing” (Demand, p. 102) led to countless “death(s) of a young mother in childbirth” (Pomeroy, p. 27). To give an idea of the great number of deaths that occurred due to early childbearing, “the death rate of women during childbirth” can be “compared to the death rate of men during war” (Carlson). Before newborn babies could reach the age of one, “nearly fifty percent of all infants died” (Carlson). Additionally, all children the women gave birth to would “belong” to the husband’s family more so than to the wife’s side of the family (Thompson). Here, the children can be seen as an issue of property. Other than playing the role of the child bearer, females served as housewives.
Overall, the society of ancient