The Role of Women in Ancient Rome

There has been a struggle involving women’s discrimination throughout history, with a majority of past and present cultures involving some form of sexism embedded in their core ideals. Rome was no different, as archaeologists have unearthed significant evidence that depicts how women were subjugated to different rights, titles, duties, and restrictions compared to their male counterparts.

Women in Mythology

Compared to Greek Mythology (and the ancient Greeks in general,) women were much more respected in Mythology. Greek Mythology marked a woman as a secondary creature that came after man. Whereas Roman Mythology did not even depict the gender of the first human ever created, ensuring it could have been either a man or woman.

They used mythology to teach people basic moral and educational lessons. With Romans using these stories to depict both the importance of woman in society, while controlling a woman’s self-worth. Illustrating both strong (such as goddesses) and weak woman succeeding in greatness. But portraying how any woman could fall due to a man’s ability. Amazon women in Roman mythology were depicted as the strongest woman alive-but stories showed their undoing due to a man, exemplifying how foolish they were to live without men. The Rape of the Sabine women story depicted how important women were when linking families together in Roman society, but also described how weak they were to men’s strength. Majority of the mythology stories discourage vanity and adulterous actions in a woman, punishing those who indulged with tragic endings.

Women in Family Life

Women took on the duty of looking after the home and to nurture a family. Their marriages using started at 20 years old and had to have no sexual history. The most senior male figure controlled the family; named the paterfamilias. The paterfamilias had control over the entire family, including both the woman and men. Women’s roles in family life involved making craftwork, helping with the housework, and monitoring the family’s slave workforce. Upper-class women could also study academic subjects.

Women in Ancient Rome Society

Women had a very limited role in Roman’s public life. Documentation and historical findings clearly showed the general segregation of women in public events, workforce, and politics. Women could not vote or run in the political office. With their decision-making controlled by their family, as at times, they were seen as their fathers or husband’s property holdings. A woman who was subjugated to law and finance issues was legally required to nominate a male family member to act in their interest. However, despite this law, there is evidence of women running their own financial affairs due to the male family member’s incompetence or death.

Respected Women Vs Unrespected

Woman’s status completely changes their restrictions and regulations. A highly powerful woman, such as Vestal Virgins were the most powerful woman in Ancient Rome. Able to vote and appear at particular events that regular woman wouldn’t dream in attending. Lower class Roman Woman did appear to have a public life compared to a family woman, but this was due to them having to work for a living. Prostitutes and lower-class woman had much fewer rights compared to a respected woman, as they could not accuse an individual of rape-as it was only seen a property damage to their owners. These different status’ of women could be seen in their clothing. The respected women wore long dresses and ties in their hair, whereas prostitutes and lower class wore togas.

Explore our popular Colosseum & Ancient Rome Tour today!

Language »