The Roles Of Women: Herodotus And Sima Qian

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Herodotus and Sima Qian are known as two of the greatest historians of their time. In comparing each of their writings several different roles that women were meant to fill become clear. Although these vastly different cultures had limited contact, women in Greece and China were very similar during this time period. Each writer gives distinct evidence of women fulfilling, or denying the roles placed upon them as wives, mothers, daughters, oracles, soldiers, commanders, gifts, property, and royalty. Sima Qian’s writing contains several different examples of the expected female role in Chinese society. He speaks of the basic nature of a man, which involved loving life, thinking of one’s relatives, and to take care of his wife and children (91). It is clear that the man is the one responsible for the well-being of his family …show more content…
Herodotus also mentions women in divinity, such as Athena, to whom Xerxes sacrifices oxen (57); and the oracles, who gave guidance from the gods to Croesus (42) and Leonidas (68). Herodotus also mentions the roles of women in other cultures. For example, the Massagetai men marry one woman but all are shared sexually, essentially as property; but in Egypt the roles of women included trading at the markets while the men stayed home and wove on looms (50). Egyptian women also could not serve as a priestess for a god or goddess and were forced to support their parents in life (50). Finally, Herodotus speaks of Persian culture in which the men have several wives. Boys are forbidden from their fathers till the age of five, for in case of death the father will be free of grief while the mother must suffer (48). This suggests that Persian women have a high tolerance for suffering. Clearly men have a higher social status than women in Persian culture, as “to call a man worse than a woman is the biggest insult of all

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