Subjugating Ancient Women


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Subjugating Ancient Women Journal for Latin 3 3/26/2007

What I Learned

Women in the ancient world, and as little as hundreds of years ago did not have equal rights compared to men. Most ancient civilizations view women as inferior to men for a variety of reasons.

Women we viewed as the weaker of the two sexes. They were seen as being “natur[ly] dependent on and inferior to men.” Their “ignorance of business matters” had them on the level with slaves, prisoners, and drunks in Celtic Ireland. They were no allowed to testify in Jewish courts because they have “light, i.e. flighty, minds.”

Women were viewed as inferior because their menstruation was viewed as imperfect semen. Menstruation was a “mysterious, dangerous, and contamination event.” Aristotle said that this was why “women had fewer teeth then men.”

Women survived to adulthood less often the men. Many were exposed because the law said that a father must keep only 1 girl, but all of his sons. The social services of the city favor men over women and provided more benefits to boys.

Women were allowed to be a part of society only in approved roles. These were as part of the family, and not in public view.

Women were categorized primarily by their sexual roles. “A good daughter was a virginal daughter.” A proper daughter would bring honor to her family by not having sex before marriage. If she did, she could be put to death or sold into slavery by her father for dishonoring him.

These ideas are reflected in Roman literature. Aeneas in Vergil’s Aeneid, passed over the temptations of Dido for the “docile and obedient” Lavinia.

Personal Response

Ancient civilization’s views of women have continued almost unchallenged for thousands of years. Only recently have women fought for their rights.

The roots of these ideas are interesting. Almost all of our taboos and mores can be traced to basic human behavior, I believe. So it’s interesting to see how small differences can be exploited and expanded, for example ‘women are inferior because they are cool.’ That’s a large correlation to make.

The use of fables and stories to spread messages began in ancient times around the camp fire, and continues to today. Educational cartoons are all about integrating lessons in to shows to teach kids values and such. The anecdote is such a powerful means of communication because it connect to us and exploits our sense of empathy.