The Life of a Woman in Ancient Greece and Rome

Women in ancient Greece and Rome struggled to exist. It wasn't just a struggle to be equal to men, but even to be seen was unheard of. Some women married, some had demeaning jobs, and others were slaves. Their role in society was essential, however, no matter how poorly they were treated.

Goddesses

In ancient Greece and Rome it was common to believe in different Gods and Goddesses. A Goddess is a female deity. Deities were believed to be holy, divine, sacred, and often times immortal. There are many associations with Goddesses, but the more common associations were Earth, Household, Mother, and Love. People would prey to Goddesses for things they lacked in their life. They may prey for their children, love, and even beauty.

Education

While boys were allowed to learn in school, the women of ancient Greece were often educated at home by their husbands or brothers. Women were not allowed to spend a lot of time pursuing their education as they were needed to support their men and take care of the home. They had to be educated somewhat to help educate their children. The Hetaera, a group of women trained as prostitutes, were educated outside the home on things like entertaining and conversation. They were meant to sit and have conversations with men during long food festivals and therefore needed to have a higher education. While a woman's education was limited there were things they were allowed to learn.


Marriage

The singles life wasn't accepted for woman in ancient Greece and Rome. Marriage was arranged by the parents of the bride and groom. A financial contribution or dowery was made by the bride's father. Women married between the ages of 14-18 and were raised to obey their husbands. Wives weren't fully accepted by their husband's family until a child was conceived. Weddings consisted of rituals, were not resided over by priests, and were completed in three parts; pre-wedding ceremonies, the wedding itself, and post wedding ceremonies.


Private Life

The private life of married women was based around their household and the wishes of their husband. Their job was to raise their kids and tend to the house, the needs of her husband, and the make sure the slaves are doing what they should be. It was rare that a wealthy women ever left the house, they sent slaves to the market and lived in a special part of the house. Their children lived with them until the age of 7. Their role was to raise the children and tend to the various household chores while instructing daughters on how to run a household, all the while staying out of sight.


Public Life

The public lives of women were determined by the type of women they were. Married women were allowed to associate with other women but never men. The non-married women played a huge part in society. It was believed that wives were there to bare legitimate children and keep the house, but the women like the heteras, were like call girls and were their to entertain the men. Ancient Greece was a time before dating services, but it was full of brothels. While they did have sex occasionally with the men, women like the heteras had other duties as well.

Legal Status

The legal status of women in ancient Greece and Rome was practically non-existant. From the time they were born women were owned. They were owned first by their father and then by their husband. Women were not allowed to sue people, be in government, or even own houses.


Men's Opinions

The man's opinion was what mattered in ancient Greece and Rome. Their role was to run the government, among other various jobs. Men believed that wives should be seen and not heard. They often kept separate rooms in the house because male visitors weren't allowed in the rooms where the wives and children regularly were. Their opinions about women were the only opinions that mattered and often times women were treated no better than a domestic slave.


Occupations

The non-married women had occupations. Those occupations almost always involved entertaining. While some were slaves, most women were prostitutes. The hetaeras were a step up from regular prostitutes as they were also trained in dance and conversation. While prostitution was the main occupation for women there were others as well. Some of these occupations were dancer, poet, midwife, or entertainer.

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