WOMEN IN ANCIENT ROME

 

In theory Roman women were little better off than their sisters in Athens.  Under Roman law women went from the authority of their fathers to the authority of their husbands, and even a wealthy, old widow needed a male to supervise her finances, but by the beginning of the First Century BCE women began to achieve greater freedom in practice if not in theory. 

Generalizations on the status of women in the ancient world are always difficult, and never more so than in the case of Rome where theory and practice were often so far apart.  Athenian men regarded their wives as at best essential inconveniences, but Roman men placed a very high value on marriage, home and the family and this made quite a difference to society's treatment of women. 

At no time in Rome's history were women allowed to hold office.  In the early days of the Republic women were not even allowed to make suggestions.  By the beginning of the Empire many men were seeking and following the advice of their wives.  It was all right to do so, provided the advice was given in private and the husband did not make a big deal of it.  Respectable women were not supposed to be wandering around alone outside, but somehow they managed to have a life beyond the home.

Outside of the lower classes women could not work but they did not want to do so either.  In fact "work" was seen as something to be done by slaves and low class people who did not know any better.  Nevertheless women were demanding and getting greater freedom.  Some men objected, of course, but their cries of protest were in vain.  Emperor Augustus introduced a series of laws to promote traditional values but even he was unable to stem the tide of progress.  It is interesting to see the same issues being argued about two thousand years later.

 

CLICK ON THE FOLLOWING FOR INFORMATION ON THE LIVES OF WOMEN IN SPECIFIC AREAS OF ANCIENT ROME

The Augustan Reformation

Intrigue and the Emperor's Women

Julia, Daughter of Augustus

Justinian's Law as it Applied to Women and Families

Legal Status of Women in Ancient Rome

Vestal Virgins

Women and Marriage in Ancient Rome

Women and Slavery in Ancient Rome

 

 

HOME