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The Role of Women in Classical Societies

By Edited Jul 18, 2015 0 0

Rome, India and China all have certain ways they expected their woman to act and live their lives.  While Indian men wanted their woman to be slaves to them, Rome followed closely behind India with wanting their woman to be property of their men and according to the Ban Zhoa China felt more educated woman would be beneficial.  Common themes exist in these three societies as well as differences.  Attitudes toward the woman in all three societies come from teachings of a great teacher or historian.  Religion plays a role in justifying the proper role of women in India and Rome.

One common theme regarding attitudes toward the treatment of women in India, China and Rome is the strong belief in loyalty.  The woman must have an extreme amount of loyalty to her husband to be considered a good wife.  The wife must be loyal or she would be punished.  In India Rama’s story of Indra, Sage Gautama and Ahalya set the rules for loyalty within a marriage.  Rama’s story consists of Ahalya cheating on her husband Sage Gautama with God Indra when he was disgusted as Sage Gautama.  Ahalya had no idea God Indra was disgusted as Sage Guatama but she was still punished by her body being hardened “into a shapeless piece of granite” (Reilly 111).  Later when Sage Gautama’s resentment toward his wife vanished he case a spell on her that turned her whole body into eyes and she became known as the “thousand-eyed god” (Reilly 111).  All Indian women took this story very seriously because the story taught women if they were to do anything disloyal to their husband they would be punished severely.  In China woman showed loyalty by taking care of their men by “preparing food” and “bringing sons and grandsons into the family” (Reilly 125). Roman standards of woman consisted of being a good mother and being “loving and obedient to her husband” (Reilly 135).

            In India woman were looked at as slaves to their husbands.  A wife would be severely punished if she ever did anything that was against her husband’s rules.  Rome is similar to India in that they consider their wives to be property of their husbands.  A woman in Rome was to live “in absolute subjection to her husband” (Reilly 135).   According to the Ban Zhao China believed that woman should be more educated to “cultivate their qualities of intelligence, moderation and gentleness” (Reilly 127).  They were not just slaves to their husbands.  They were treated with more respect. 

All three of the societies had teachings from great teachers and historians that influence their attitudes toward woman. India’s woman got their loyal attitudes for their husbands from the Rama’s story of Ahalya.  The story scared all women into thinking they must serve their husbands or terrible things will happen to them. China treated their women based on teachings from the Ban Zhao.   In Rome Cato’s teachings of woman’s inequality were the bases for the attitudes toward woman. 

Religion plays an extreme role in creating and justifying the proper role of women in India’s society.  India’s bases for believing woman should be loyal servants to their men comes from a story of the Gods when God Indra betrayed Sage Gautama by having relations with his wife.  Ahalya was punished forever for not being loyal to her husband.  Religion plays a role in justifying the proper role of woman in Rome because the Virgin Mary was loyal to Joseph in the bible and she set some standards for the women of Rome.

 India, China and Rome’s classical societies all have interesting ways of treating their woman.  Both India and Rome had similar beliefs in the way a woman should live.  Both believed that woman should be loyal servants to their husbands and serve his every need and fulfill his every wish.  Early Chinese beliefs were the same way in thinking the wife should serve and take care of her husband and family.  It was the Ban Zhao teachings in China that gave woman more respect.   In today’s society typically both spouses are treated fairly equal.  When a couple decides to have children often the woman will stay at home and tend to the children and house.  In this situation our society takes form similar to the classical societies of India, Rome and China.  Our society is a less extreme version of them and the woman decides to take care of her children and tend to her husband; it is not forced upon her.

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