The Roles and Status of Ancient Egyptian and Greek Women

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In any society, the role and status of women have always been a factor to consider more so due to its comparison to that of men. Throughout history, women have had to take up diverse roles with respect to cultural norms. Today, women all over the world can enjoy some rights that ancient societies did not accord to them. Different cultures have treated women in different ways based on their beliefs and practices. In consideration of this, this paper will compare and analyze the roles and status of ancient Egyptian and Greek women; two of the most advanced civilizations during this time.

One major comparison between the women from the two backgrounds is that of their status. Kinias explains that in ancient Egypt, women basically enjoyed the same rights as men. This is to mean that they were allowed to basically do what men could easily do; more so in regards to legally owning land and property. The same legal and economic privileges were accorded to Egyptian women as the society respected and valued them. However, the same was not true for Greek women who were considered to be submissive to men at all time and as such could not own any form of property. In general, Greek women had few rights but as (Cartwright) explains, the status of women in Greek was subject to the State from which a woman belonged to. For instance, women from Athens had much fewer rights unlike their counterparts from Sparta who considerably enjoyed almost the same rights as men.

Spartan women gained the right to own land and property because of men were mostly away from home. As such, it became adamant for the society to formulate laws that would make women in charge in the absence of men. More importantly, they become the head of their homes while the men were mostly away for war. Furthermore, Spartan women were highly respected because they gave birth to strong men who were famously known for their brevity and war skills. As such, it can be said that unlike the other states, Spartan women almost enjoyed the same status as those of Egyptian women.

In regards to roles, women from Egypt were more than just mothers and caregivers. They could hold important jobs and the society allowed them to get educated based on the career one wanted to explore. It is important to emphasize that married life was also important for Egyptian women. Therefore they too, took their time to nurture for their children and care for their families. The only difference with those from Greece was that ancient society considered their only role and importance to be that of being mothers. Ancient Greek women were expected to be married, bare children and to have their place constantly at home (Cartwright). Employment opportunities were rare for most Greek women unless you were to consider how the Spartans treated their women thus being the only Greece State where women could take up different jobs.

In consideration of their relations to men, there was a huge difference between the ancient Egyptian and Greek women. The latter was basically under the control of the males in their lives. According to (Joo et al), Greek women, still in regards to the State, were considered under the submission of the males in their lives. This is to mean that any unwed Greek woman was under the control of their father and male relatives. Once married, the control shifted to their husbands. The status of reek women was too attached to that of men to the point that they were not allowed to freely walk or visit places if they were not accompanied by a man.

Greek men become responsible for their women such that they not only controlled all forms of property but made it such that any legal proceeding that a woman wanted to undertake had to be supervised by a Kyrios (Cartwright). This meant that women had no legal powers and the only way they could do anything legally was when their issue or concern was taken up by a male figure. For Egyptian women, who were equals to men, they had the right to not only take up legal roles but to legally defend and protect what was rightfully theirs. In addition to being capable of owning property, Egyptian women had freedom and independence from the men in their lives. Unlike the Greek woman, an Egyptian woman could walk alone and legally represent herself in any matter. Moreover, they had the capacity to choose whom to marry and divorce where necessary. Such a status was unheard of for Greek women.

Another comparison between the two groups of ancient women is that during this time, The Egyptian woman faced only one kind of discrimination; that of social class. Kinias explains that in ancient Egypt, gender discrimination was not as common as social discrimination where social class played a key role in determining the kind of respect one was accorded. Women of higher social rankings were more privileged to play important and influential roles. A good example is that of Queen Nefertiti who was very influential and could at times represent her husband in political matters (Khalil et al). The same could not be said of the ancient Greek women who, regardless of social class were subjected to the same kind of gender discrimination. Joo et al further explain that even women who were married into high ranking families could not escape the reality of their womanhood to the point that there was no big difference between them and their slaves with regards to how the society viewed and treated them.

In conclusion, it can be noted that the comparison and analysis of the ancient Egyptian and Greek women reveal that indeed the modern woman has come a long way as far as her place in any society is concerned. Such is true in that ancient Egyptian women enjoyed a status and played roles that the modern woman can now enjoy. For the Greek women, it can be said that their society has truly evolved with time. Both Egyptian and Greek women held the status and played the important role of being mothers, wives, and homemakers. However, what set the two women apart is who their respective societies treated them outside the home setting. Ancient Egyptian women earned their respect subject to the cultural norms of ancient Egypt was equality for all was highly emphasized on. But for the Greek women, their society considered men to be the superior and as such their status and roles as discussed above.

Works Cited

Cartwright, Mark. “Women in Ancient Greece.” Ancient History Encyclopedia, 27 Jul 2016. Web., 27 Nov 2018

Joo, Jae-Hwan et al. “Ancient Greece: Religion and Gender Roles.”, n.d. web, 27 Nov 2018.

Kinias, Alexandra. “Women Rights and Status in ancient Egypt.” Women of Egypt Mag, 14 Jun 2017. Web, 27 Nov 2018.

Khalil, Radwa et al. “How Knowledge of Ancient Egyptian Women can influence Today’s Gender Role: Does History Matter in Gender Psychology?” Frontiers in Psychology 7:2053 (2017).

November 13, 2023



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