Gender Issues in the Roman World

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The artifacts of the depict the material culture in the Roman world and have one of the most exceptional qualities of the archaeological data from the Roman world that can be used in the exploration of gender issues as well as the class dynamics in the Roman city by the involved periods.[1] It is of the essence to note the various assumptions that were considered in the artifacts regarding the gender as well as the status as depicted in the artifacts of the Roman world. In the Working with Evidence, there are presentations of various kinds of material that can be used in making conclusions about a past culture. Furthermore, Pompeii is exhibited as the window that shows how Pompeii was in its period.

            There are various artifacts found used in the description of the Pompeii culture that includes the Pompeii Banquet that is a graffiti, which is abounded and much of it is sexual. The graffiti depicts the dynamics in the class by that time when slavery was rampant. Terentius Neo and his wife are sitting while a person that appears to be a small child offers a shoe for Neo to put on his foot.[2] Besides, the fact that there is no difference in the color between the ones owning the slaves and the slave shows that race was not one of the distinguishing factors of slavery in Roman slavery. Notably, the individuals that practices professions like Neo who were considered to be in the upper class could acquire slaves anyhow. The graffiti depicts the manner in which couples of high stature would attend banquets as guests while the slaves would offer various services to them including serving drinks and food, dancing presenting acrobatics, as well as singing to entertain the elites who intern displayed their excessive wealth as well as generosity. 

            On the flip side, the Scene in a Pompeii Tavern depicts the gender issues that existed in the city. Firstly, the image in the far left shows a prostitute who kisses a man with an ironic caption stating that I don't want to. The picture presents the various actions that women in the Roman city were forced either directly or indirectly to do by either the society or the people in the upper class.[3]

For instance, the prostitute probably would not wish to be a sex worker but is so poor that she only had one way to get the daily bread, as well as other needs, which is through the prostitution. There are several actions that women in the Roman city involved themselves in unwillingly including serving their owners as slaves beyond the mere slavery such as engaging in sexual acts with them just because they were slaves and were owned. In the second image, two customers are served by a barmaid having a cup and a large jug. The two compete for the attention of the woman portraying the manner in which the women in the society are perceived. Finally, in the third image that is at the far right, two men are playing dice as they argue. The set of images portrays the society as a whole and the manner in which different gender is perceived. The men all the men in the image are served by the women starting with the prostitute who kisses the man to the barmaid while all the men in the images are in pursuit of enjoyment. The one being kissed enjoys the company of the prostitute, the two at the bar are not only there to drink, but they also want the barmaid's attention. Finally, the last two men are enjoying themselves by playing dice. Markedly, the society is depicted to have hard working women looking for livelihood as men either lazy around or enjoy themselves.[4]     

            Gender issues in the Roman city are exhibited in the image of Mystery Religions: The Cult of Dionysus that was painted in the wall of the Villa of Mysteries wherein a woman is presented to be undergoing initiation. It was a process in which the initiates were forced to temporarily abandon the conventional inhibitions as well as the social restrictions. The woman undergoing the dramatic phase would be ritually whipped in a process that is graced by the naked and ecstatic dance by a devotee with a pair of cymbal above the head as well as a companion holding a rod of the Dionysus’ sacred phallic symbol.[5] Notably, such initiation processes followed various long chains of either trials or purification since they were considered sacred, besides, the gender involved would be regarded as either pure or an adult ready to take the adulthood responsibilities like marriage after the initiation. Notably, the processes also symbolized the symbolic death of the initiate in the process, her achievement of a mystic union with the god as well as the reborn stage where she becomes a new member of the cult community following the initiation. Therefore, gender was characterized by various steps that were divided by the ritual initiation processes.           


Penelope m. Allison. Characterizing Roman Artifacts to Investigate Gendered Practices in Contexts Without Sexed Bodies.

Strayer, W. Robert. Ways of the World: A Brief Global History with Sources, Vol I:3rd Ed.


Strayer, W. Robert. Ways of the World: A Brief Global History with Sources, Vol I:3rd Ed

[2] Ibid., 222.

[3] Ibid., 223.


Penelope M. Allison. Characterizing Roman Artifacts to Investigate Gendered Practices in Contexts Without Sexed Bodies.


[5]Ibid., 48.

November 13, 2023

History World


Roman Empire

Subject area:

Ancient Rome

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Expertise Ancient Rome
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