Greek and Roman women lived in a world where strict gender roles were given; where each person was judged in terms of compliance with gender-specific standards of conduct. Generally, men were placed above women in terms of independence, control and overall freedom. Whereas men lived in the world at large, active in public life and free to come and go as they willed, women's lives were sheltered. Most women were assigned the role of a homemaker, where they were anticipated to be good wives and mothers, but not much of anything else. The roles of women are thoroughly discussed in readings such as The Aeneid, Iliad, Sappho poetry, and Semonides' essay.
Most women in ancient Rome were viewed as possessions of the men who they lived with. Basically they were handed from their father to their new husband at the time of their marriage and submitted any property they owned, or dowry they were given, to their husband. There were however two types of marriage in ancient Rome, Manus and sine Manus. Under the first type, Manus, the woman and all of her property and possessions were placed under the control of her husband and he could do with them how he pleased. Under the second type, sine Manus, the woman remained under the control of her oldest male relative, usually her father or brother. This type of marriage gave women a lot more freedom because they could carry out their own cash businesses, own their own property, and accept inheritance money (Gill, 5).
Aside from the two different forms of marriage that was allowed, marriages in ancient Rome were very similar to those of the ancient Greeks. Girls married young, usually in their early teens, and many marriages were arranged by the family, usually the male head of the home. The woman was given very little say in whom or when she married, but she was permitted to turn down the offer if the man was of shocking character (Gill, 5). A man could divorce his selected wife for any reason that he desired, though if the reason was other than adultery then the man was forced to give up one half of his property to his wife. Greek woman were possessions to society as well, they had limited freedom, but could not own any property because they were not considered citizens.
The Greek and Roman societies were a very patriarchal society. This is reflected throughout the myths in classical mythology. By looking at the many pieces of literature involving Greeks and Romans we will see that the roles women portrayed are very different from women’s roles in today’s society. Although there are a few similarities to women’s roles in today’s society, their roles are more like those women in the past. We can see this by looking at the qualities of Greek and Roman female gods and looking at the roles women play in the myths.
In the Aeneid the Roman poet Virgil presents many different people that play roles in the life of Aeneas. From gods and goddesses to mortal men and women, every personality has some...