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Women in Ancient Civilizations

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The role of women in different civilizations, even though on different spectrums of the world, had many similarities and only a few differences. Women in these four civilizations: Greece, Egypt, China, and India faced many of the same hardships, struggles, and prejudices. Some of this treatment of women didn't even end until present day (1920's). In some of these civilizations women were able to rise up somewhat in their communities but it didn't come without some kind of interference.

When it came to the rights of these women, they really didn't have any at all. In Greece women were considered to be second class citizens at best. All women were forbidden to own property, inherit their own name, vote, or attend political debate. Men viewed them as nothing of real importance. To them they were irrational, fearful, and only to be used for their physical desires. They were considered to be the ward of a man (Sacks 263). Women in Egypt were treated fairly well compared to the others. They shared the same legal and economic rights as men they were capable of owning land, slaves, and could acquire possessions for themselves in many ways. Elite women did have more rights and opportunities than the nonelite but they were both very fortunate. Regardless of class though, all women had only a few main concerns and expectations. They were all expected to get married and raise a family, maintain the management of the household, and bearing and rearing children (Harrison 510).

The rights of women in China and India were similar as well. In India the rights of women have barley changed since ancient times. Women in this country are not allowed to own property, show their faces in public, and are the complete property of a man (www.geocities.com/hinduism/hindu_women.html). The women of china were also inferior to men. For around two thousand years they lived under the rules and laws set by Confucius. The Confucius doctrine said that women weren't equal to men because they were unworthy and incapable of an education. These women were the property of men from birth till death (Andrea and Overfield 82-90).

Their rights were not only limited to their families though in some cases there were actual laws passed that limited the rights of women. In ancient times The Code of Hammurabi for example had several laws that restricted women when it had to do with marriage and what a husband could do. One law stated: "If the wife of a free man has been caught while lying with another man, they shall bind them and throw them into the water" (Spielvogel 9). It says nothing about whether a woman would have caught her husband cheating. There are even examples of this in our present day. The male supremacy doctrine of 1873 was used in many ways so that men could have control over women. It restricted women from holding office, owning land, etc. (McClean 153).

The treatment of women in terms of marriage and education differed in every civilization. The education of women in Greece was minimal. There is some evidence that some women were formally educated as much as men but those women were from the upper class. Even those not from the upper class were somewhat educated in the arts (www.ws.web.arizona.edu/ws200/fall97/grp3/part2.htm). The same education applies for the women of Egypt. They all had some type of education but the elite education was always much better than that of the nonelite (Sacks 35). Some Chinese women were educated in ancient times but not many. Women started to really become educated when they became viewed as equals during the 19th and 20th centuries (Dillion 344). The women of India were completely denied the right to an education. There is some evidence though of small amounts of education being taught in southern India. These women were taught through Kannada Kavyas, which is a form of learning only about the arts (www.kamat.com/kalranga/edu/inkar.htm).

Marriage was different for all of these cultures. In Egypt a woman had a right to one third of the property brought into the marriage, any dowry that she brought into the marriage would remain hers, and in case of a divorce al of the woman's property was to be returned to her (www.library.cornell.edu/colldev/mideast/womneg.htm). The women in Greece had no rights in the marriage. They lost everything and gave everything to their husbands. They went from their father's house to their husbands house (Sacks 53). Chinese women had to go through the ritual of the bonding of the feet. They believed it was beautiful

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