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Women Of Ancient Babylon Essay

1854 words - 8 pages

Some aspects of the lifestyle ancient civilizations lived almost seem appalling or intolerable when compared to the very developed and carefully shaped the world inhabited today. One of these characteristics of previous societies that prove to be rather challenging to conceive in current times consists of the lack of rights, privileges, and equity women had. Society maintained this assumption of a man’s superiority up until the women’s rights movement of the early twentieth century; yet with the two sexes essentially equal in America today, imagining a restricted life as a female proves unfathomable. Looking back at the history of human kind, men almost always subdued women and treated them as property. When focusing on the first civilizations appearing thousands of years ago, particularly in the west, the differences between men and women in most cultures remained accentuated, strict, and very structured. However, each different society allotted different regulations pertaining to women for their citizens to abide by. One of these ancient cultures consisted of Babylon. With the evidence provided by Hammurabi’s Law Code, it remains clear that ancient Babylonian women exercised little rights and privileges, forced to mainly maintain the structural unit of family and the home.
Most women in Babylonian society took the role of an obedient wife first and foremost. Because Hammurabi’s Code lists a compilation of laws, most of what the primary sources depict about wives and women in general consists of actions or attitudes that should be avoided by women for fear of punishment. One behavior that the law code focuses on to a great extent consists of adultery or the coveting of spouses, an act that the Babylonians had very little tolerance for. “If the wife of a seignior has been caught while lying with another man, they shall bind them and throw them into the water. If the husband of the woman wishes to spare his wife, then the king in turn may spare his subject” (Hammurabi). This law demonstrates not only the distain for women who cheated in ancient Babylonian culture, but also emphasizes the control the husband had over the life of his wife. A man had a decision to spare his wife in these particular circumstances as if she was an unruly pet or piece of property. Therefore, one infers that life for women in Babylon contained a constant need to assure a clean reputation and loyalty to the husband.
While penalties for adultery appear very serious and severe, divorce seems to be a common occurrence in Babylon and punishments for incorrect divorce procedures mostly result in a fine. In addition to a man’s control over a woman’s sexuality, men held the power to divorce their wives for almost any reason in particular while the law required women to provide a sufficient reason to initiate divorce. For example, a man could divorce his wife simply for her inability to produce children. “If a seignior wishes to divorce his wife who did not bear him...

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