The Rise of Political and Legal Status of Women of Antiquity Past to Present

TheRise of Political and Legal Status of Women of Antiquity: Past toPresent


TheRise of Political and Legal Status of Women of Antiquity: Past toPresent

Thereis a great difference between the legal status of the women ofantiquity and the modern women. In the sixteenth, seventeenth, andeighteenth centuries, women were not granted to present themselves inthe patriarchal system. They were characterised by gender inequalityhence, did not have equal rights as men. During these centuries,political and cultural events increased women’s attentions. Forinstance, they could not vote, could not testify in court, could notsue or sued, rarely granted children custody in case of divorce,limited control over property, and were not allowed to join highinstitutions of education. On the contrary, they were expected toremain subservient to their husbands for the married, and to theirfathers for the unmarried. Further, there were limited occupationalchoices for women. The upper and the middle-class women remained athome, did household chores, and took care of their husband andchildren. On the other hand, the women from the lower class and poorfamilies did work outside their home whereby they would be hired aslabourers in mills and factories. Unfortunately, they were poorlypaid compared to their fellow men. This did not happen in just onecountry or one continent, but most parts of the world. Women all overthe world experienced similar discrimination. By eighteen century,women had started to participate in the political events. Inaddition, they had started enjoying few of social, legal, andpolitical rights that modern women take for granted. This essayutilizes the feminist theories to compare and contrast the politicalwomen of antiquity with political women of today. In particular, itwill compare and construct women’s legal status in the Greek worldand the women’s legal status in the Roman world, and theircurrently legal status.

Womenof Antiquity in the Greek World

Differencesof the status of the Women of Antiquity and the modern women inGreece evolved from the events that occurred around them.Nevertheless, the status of women underwent dramatic changes in thetwentieth century. Michael Scott analyses these change in his twobooks “Theplace of Women”and “TheRise of Women in the Ancient Greece”(Mosier-Dubinsky,2013).He describes all the changes in a Thucydides quotation that thegreatest women’s glory is to be talked among men in regardless itis a blame or praise. By 1957, women in Greece were given rights tovote, occupy prominent positions in offices and business, the rightto children custody, the right to inherit property, among others.According to Snyder(1999),women status in the ancient Greece varied from one state to another.For instance, women in the ancient Sparta, Megara, Delphi, Thessaly,and Gortyn had a right to own a land, including the most prestigiousproperties at the time. In legal position, Greece women could notinherit property, they could not appear in the court either aslitigants or as jurors, they could not give evidence under oathunless under special circumstances, they did not commit crimesbecause they were rarely in the public sphere, and they were alwaysunder male guardian throughout their lives. In addition, in thepolitical position, women did not have political rights. The Athenianlaw treated both girls and women as property that could be sold,bought, and beaten.

Womencould not inherit property

Beforeninetieth century, Greece women were not considered as full citizens.In addition, they were not entailed to political and civil rights.Consequently, they had limited rights to own a property, since,according to the constitution one had to be a full citizen toacquire or own a property. Nonetheless, they could be in possessionof the property through dowry, gifts, and inheritance, but through amale sibling. For example, daughters could not inherit from theirfathers, nor did not wives inherit from their husbands, but sisterwere allowed to inherit from their brothers. This only occurred whena brother died hence, the sister would claim the property (Katz,1992).Unluckily, their kyrios had the right of disposing of theseproperties at any time. In essence, property would only be managed bya man, father, husband, son, or brother.

Womenwere always under male guardian throughout their lives

Womenof Antiquity in Greece were always under law, either her father forthe unmarried women, and their husband for the married women. Therehad no legal personhood at any time of their life. According toGreece tradition, women assumed the position of oikos that was headedby kyrios (male) (Brulé,2003).Prior marriage, women were under the guardianship of kyrios, who waseither her father or another male relative. In marriage, the husbandwould take over the guardianship. For a woman to visit anotherhomestead, they had to acquire permission from the guardian.Accordingly, it was unlikely to find a group of women gatheredgossiping. Since gossiping was prohibited, no kyrios would permit hisoikos to go out gossiping.

Womenwere not approved to participate in legal proceeding.

Womenof Antiquity in Greece were not permitted to conduct any legalproceeding. In such a situation, their kyrios would represent them.In addition, women could not appear in the court either as litigantsor as jurors. Furthermore, women rarely went outside their homecompound hence, they rarely committed a crime (Plant,2004).It was the husband responsibility to provide for the family.Therefore, women responsibilities were just to sit at home, take careof the children and the husband, and do the house chore. Eventually,the women did not have a reason to go outside their home compound. Inaddition, women were not allowed to be seen gossiping with otherwomen. This minimises the chances of women accusing each other.According to the Greece tradition, women could not give evidenceunder the oath unless under special circumstances. Commonly, womentook an oath during wedding ceremonies only.

Womendid not have control over their marriage

Normally,marriage is the most significant decision that a woman can make. Itis the process of moving in and being united to the person that oneloves. Unfortunately, ancient Greece women did not have directcontrol over it. Their male counterparts controlled everything to dowith marriage. Women were given little voice to give their views inthe whole process. It was not their responsibility to choose theirlife partner or the time to get married. Winterer(2004), states that whenever a woman was to get married, her malerelatives gave her out, and the woman had no legal bearing on thecontract. In most cases, women dreaded their marriage life ratherthan looking it as the happiest life. Sadly, according to ancientculture, Greece women were regarded as “objects” given tobridegroom by their fathers. Therefore, marriage was like an exchangewhere men acquired another status of superiority in the society. Inmarriage, all properties belonged to the man, including the wife andthe children. If a husband would die, they his son would inherit theproperty rather than his wife. Accordingly, if a son died before hemarried, his father would inherit the property all by his own. Due tothis property limitation, women did not gain much influence ineconomic and political operations.

Womendid not have political rights

Womendid not have a right to vote neither to participate in any politicalrally or meeting. Besides, women were not in possession of nationalidentity cards and were not allowed to participate in the principleand practise of Greece democracy. In the ancient days, women whoexercised any degree of political power were considered as anomaliesand were viewed with suspicion and fear (Winterer,2004).This is especially true in Greece where women were excluded from allgovernment activities.

Onthe contrary, Spartan women in Greece were different from otherwomen. They enjoyed respect and power than any other women in Greece.Besides, they would take responsibility for their husband’sproperties while they were away in military activities. As early assixteen century, Spartan women already owned an approximate ofthirty-five percent of Spartan land and property. Two centurieslater, women were the wealthiest Spartans (Tanenbaum, n.d). Normally,men were busy with military activities hence, women took advantageto manage their own properties, as well as those of their malerelative. Besides, Spartan women wore different dress code comparedto other Greece women. For instance, they wore a short dress and hadthe right to go wherever they wanted, unlike other Greece women whowere heavy and long clothes and were always at home. Furthermore,both Spartan boys and girls received an education. Based on thevarious law of Greek, people argue that Sparta women were unusualamong women of antiquity in Greece. Other people argue it is otherwomen who were unusual due to their low status.

Politicaland Legal status of Roman women

Womenof antiquity in Roman lived under the restriction that never appliedto the Roman men. Although women knew that they were unfairlytreated, but they did nothing to stop it. Similar to Greece women,Roman women also held more or same legal and political status.However, these statutes have gradually changed as time has passedmoved on. In ancient time, a Roman woman belonged to her fatherwhether she was married or not. Secondly, in the case of a divorce, aRoman woman would automatically lose her children to his husband.Thirdly, Roman culture did not allow women to inherit property,initiate divorce, have independent wealth, or leave a will. Fourthly,Roman women did not have political rights. They could vote or hold anoffice in the government. Fifthly, women were not allowed to havepersonal names.

Womenwere always under a male guardian

Accordingto Romans, a static universe is the most stable society. Therefore,the Roman law worked hard to maintain its dynamic society as staticas possible. They believed stability was accompanied by power,wealth, and specialness that would differentiate them from othercommunities. According to the Roman family law, a man had completeauthority over his wife and children. Traditionally, women wereviewed as weak in the mind. Therefore, they believed that womenshould be under the control of a male guardian. The guardian would beher father, her husband, a male relative, or any other male appointedby the husband, father, or an official of the state. Nevertheless,the laws and social confinements also regulated women actions. Unlikethe Greece women, Roman women had little person freedoms, personal,or individuality choice. In Rome, women were forbidden to drink wineor alcohol, and the law stated this offence was punishable by death.Therefore, the male guardians could kiss women on the mouth to smellout whether they smelt alcohol. Macdonald(2000),in his book “Memorable Deeds and Saying” gives an example ofIgnatius Metallus, who beat his wife to death after realising she hadbeen drinking wine. Roman believed wine lead to adulterousrelationships that were also against their laws. During the marriage,the wife was a property of her husband whom had the right to punishher in any way. For instance, killing her, beating her, or sellingher a slave. However, the latter punishment was abolished in 100 BC.Accordingto Roman law, a daughter was permanently attached to her family evenafter marriage. However, even in marriage, women would be attached tothe husband’s family as well. Nevertheless, the legal connectionbetween the daughter and her father remained forever even after dowrynegotiation. Specifically, a Julia always remained a Julia from theJulian clan. Consequently, children born by the woman belonged to herfather and husband, but not herself or her mother. Surprisingly, eventhe upper women, freeborn, rich, beautifully adorned, well-educatedand talented women, such as Poppaea Sabina, wife of Emperor, werealso stuck to a male guardian.

Indivorce, Roman women would automatically lost their children to theirhusband

Amongthe Romans, divorce was legal though in most cases in was arelatively informal affair. In case it did happen, the wife wasexpected to go back to his father’s house, and the father wasexpected to take back the dowry. In addition, the wife could notcarry any her children since the law stated that the fatherautomatically take custodian of the children. According to ValeriusMaximus divorces, such were common before the first century (Bauman,2002).At this time, divorce was a socially acceptable as a social norm. Astime progressed, especially during Julius Caesar and Cicero era,divorce became a “shame-free” subject mostly associated withsocial disgrace. Furthermore, women were not allowed to initiate adivorce. Since most marriages were arranged, the woman was expectedto cope with every situation that she faced in marriage. The husbandhad the power to make all decisions by his own concerning the familyissues.

Romanculture did not allow women to inherit property

Romanwomen did not have any public right. They could not inherit propertywith their own name, as well as sell or buy property. As far as thelaw was concerned, a wife together with her children all belonged toher husband.

Inaddition, women could not accuse another person. In courtproceedings, women would not appear as witnesses including drawing upthe last will. The law belittles women to a minor, slave, or personsincapable of being efficient witnesses. Further, women were notallowed to initiate a court case without the help of a male guardian.The ancient Roman law stated, “A woman is not capable of being awitness and cannot start a law case because of their sexual infirmityand public life ignorance.”

Romanwomen did not have political rights

ThoughRoman women did not have many political rights, they played asignificant part in the political life of the country. Unlike theGreece women, Roman women acquired Roman citizenship through theirhusbands (Bauman,2002).Similarly, the law excluded them from public activities. Forinstance, they could not vote, serve in the military, or hold apublic office. Roman law insisted that no woman could be a Romansenate emperor, join the army, or govern a province. Women were notcertified to make a will, as well be a beneficially of a will. Underspecial circumstance, their male guardian could guarantee thempermission for legal the transaction though it was not easy. Althoughwomen did not have political power, they exalted themselves throughtheir husbands.

Womenwere not allowed to have personal names

AncientRoman women did not posses names of their own but acquired femininenames from their father’s name. They would take their fathers nameand feminine it. For instance, Julius Caesar has named his daughterJulia. Julia is a feminine version the correspond to Julius.Corresponding, there are many “Julias” in Rome, members of theJulius family (Kleinerand Matheson, 1996).This made it easy to differentiate women from different families bynames. In addition, it eliminates chances of two people from the samefamily getting married.

Women’slegal status in the Greek world and women’s legal status in theRoman world today

Duringthe past decades, the political and legal status of Greek and Romanwomen has changed. This is because of improved education, influencefrom other cultures, and development of civilization. Unlike in theancient time, women are now in a better position, they are educated,and possess many rights. For instance, in 1983, the Greece governmentpassed a family law that advocated for gender equality in marriageand divorce (Mosier-Dubinsky,2003).In addition, the law abolished dowry, as well as offered equalcustodian rights of the children. The family law also liberalised thedivorce law and decriminalised adultery.

Todaymarriages are not arranged. Both Greece and Roman women have a rightto marry a man for their choice. Unlike in the ancient days where agirl was married off after puberty, now they have a right to acquireeducation, and get married later at their own time. Additionally,young Greece woman can now have a relationship with a man with nofear (Goff,2004).Similarly, Rome women also marry men of their choices. Christianityhas also played a significant role in Roman marriage. Unlike in thepast centuries, woman position in marriage has changed on thepositive side. Christians are using ant-divorce legislation toprotect the desires of women. In case of divorce, Christians ensurethat the women are not left to wonder in the streets. Unfortunately,the cases of divorce have tremendously increased.

Further,both Roman and Greece women have now acquired most political rights.In nineteenth century, women in most parts of the world, includingGreece and Rome, started fighting for their rights to vote,participate in government procedures, and law-making processes. Afterthe Second World War, the Greece women formed organisations to fightfor fundamental changes in their society. In addition, they wanted tobe recognised as full citizens of Greece. In the meantime,industrialization, urbanization, and subsequent growth of middleclass resulted in the enormous changes in the Greek society. In 1950,women were permitted their rights to acquire full citizenship, aswell as to vote. This has enabled them to hold prominent offices inthe government and businesses. Unfortunately, women movements werefacing a lot of challenged especially from the military government.For instance, in 1930s, the government had tried to crash the Leagueof Women’s Right. Later in 1967 and 1974, the military regime ofPapadopoulos demanded women subservience especially on the dresscodes (Macdonald,2000).This encouraged women even to fight for more rights, and demandliberation and equality.

Onthe other hand, Roman women have also acquired political rights afterRome upgraded to an empire. Unfortunately, they did not acquire theright to vote or hold an office. Today, women are no longer regardedjust as homemakers only, but women of substance. Nevertheless, familyvalues are still intrinsic, and still women still play their role ashomemakers. For instance, there are several politicians women holdinggovernment offices.

Inthe current world, both the Roman and the Greece women can nowinherit property, own property, buy, or sell a property. Forinstance, after Greece women were given political rights, they werealso entitled to national identities. Correspondingly, this enabledthe work and makes their own money hence, buy their own properties.The law also entailed them the right to inherit their father andhusband’s properties. By the nineteenth century, the Greecegovernment came up with Married Women’s Property Act to protectwomen’s property that they inherited from their husband. Accordingto research, there were many cases in courts concerning selling ofproperties by women. This is a clear testimony that women are now inpossession of properties as well, they are conducting transactions.Likewise, Roman women have the right to conduct business hence, owntheir own money. However, the Roman law has also changed, and womenhave a right to own properties. For a long time, Roman women had noright to own property, open a bank account, or buy wine a pub.According to (Mosier-Dubinsky,2000),even the middle-class women did not handle money. For a woman to havea job or handle funds was regarded as a sign of financialdesperation. Today, due to the citizenship that Roman women have,they can engage in any business and enter into contracts. Indeed,some Roman women have sizable fortunes that they have eitherinherited or bought from their profits. In addition, women arenowadays educated hence, they can work and earn their own money.Furthermore, they are now knowledgeable that they are equal to menand should be entitled to equal political and legal rights. Theirrole can now be compared to the US women who are able to have acareer, work, own land, and have freedom of speech. For instance,Cornelia, a mother of Gaius Gracchus and Tiberius, was a wealthywoman who raised her two sons all by herself. She took theresponsibility to educate her children and handle the family propertywithout the help of a man.

AlthoughGreece and Roman women are still under the male guardian, theguardians are not very strict (Schidel,1995).Nevertheless, daughters are under the rule of their fathers whilewives are under the rules of their husbands. However, wives are nowparticipating in family developments. They can now contribute theiridea, and if they are good, the husbands are usually ready toimplement them. Fortunately, fathers are now giving their daughters achance to live. This is unlike in the olden days where a father wouldchoose life and death over his daughters. Besides the first daughter,the law of Romulus gave fathers permits the father to either keep orkill others daughters. Nowadays, girls that are born are privilegedto life their full lives.

Indeed,the political and legal status of Greece and Roman woman are changed.Typically, the changes are on the positive sides. As discussedearlier, both women of antiquity in Greece and Roman did not enjoymost political and legal rights. For instance, women could notinherit, own, buy, or sell property. In addition, women of antiquityin Greece and Rome did not have political rights. They could notvote, hold a political position, or join the military. Besides, theycould not participate in legal proceeding unless under thesupervision of their guardian. However, this has changed, and womenare more independent than those olden days. Women have the right toinherit, to own, buy, or sell a property. Further, they have gainedfull citizenship of their country hence, they can vote or joinpolitical activities. Since women are now more educated, they arepermitted to join legal proceeding. In fact, there are trained femalejudges and lawyers. Unlike in the ancient days, women have rights tochoose their marriage partners, and can initiate divorce. In essence,the status of women has dramatically changed.


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