The Inequality Of Women In Ancient Greece

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In ancient Greek, Roman, and Chinese societies, the ideal woman was subordinate to her husband. She was expected to obey without question and do what was best for her family. Xenophon’s Home Economics and Ban Zhao’s Lessons for Women, and the Roman Laws describe such women and marriages of the ancient world. Each of the three societies differed slightly, and some even had exceptions to the general belief of marriages in that time. Nonetheless, the writings from each of the societies illustrate the respect for women and the inequality among men and women in marriage.
Ancient Greece, 360 BCE, was a wonderful place to live for male citizens. Everyone else was relevant to society but did not exercise as much control officially as the male citizens
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Even though they were still unequal to men, they did gain more legal protection under the reign of Augustus. For instance, unlike ancient Greece, young Roman brides did not have to marry whomever their father/family chose for them. According to Roman Legal Codes, if the bride did not “resist the will of her father”, that was to be taken as consent to the marriage. (13) This may not seem fair, but it is a protective right that most women did not have in the past. However, even though the young woman could refuse, she had to have a good reason; for instance, the male must have been “unworthy on accounts of his habits or who is of infamous character.” (13) Albeit young brides had rights, young widows still had to rely on their fathers in 371 C.E.. If a widow was under the age of twenty-five, she had to get her father’s permission to marry again; however, if her father or family objected to her choice she could take them to court. The court would determine if both man and woman’s families and morals were equal. If they were, the two could marry. (13) Both examples of the young bride and young widow illustrate the inequality among men and women. Even after a woman had been married, she still had to jump through hoops to marry who she wished. Nevertheless, a woman still had legal means to overrule her father, which was a protective right most women did not have during this time period. When a marriage would come to an end due to divorce in 331 C.E. women and men were treated reasonably fairly. For example, a woman had to have a good reason to divorce her husband. According to Roman Legal Codes, she had to prove that her husband was “a homicide, a sorcerer, or a destroyer of tombs.” (14) On the flipside, a man also had to have a good reason to divorce his wife. He had to prove she was “an adulteress, a sorceress, or a procuress.”

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