Roman Women

Roman Women - The Role of Women in Roman Society Throughout...

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The Role of Women in Roman Society Throughout history Roman women and their role within Roman society has often been overlooked. While frequently overshadowed by the accomplishments of Roman men, women did indeed play an active and important role within society. They held jobs, attended public events, and even were allowed to hold prominent positions within the Roman church. Although women were given little say over their marriage, they still did hold some power within their family as well. It is certainly clear that the laws and traditions of society impacted the lives of Roman women and, subsequently, they have been overlooked because of it. It is the goal of this paper to understand indeed how vital they were to Roman society. Immediately upon their birth, female Roman infants fell under the guardianship of the pater familias . This was the oldest remaining male member within any family, and most often the father of the children. The pater familias was a very powerful position that gave this male family member power over everyone else in his family. He was important with respect to women because of the control he had over her life and the authority he had over certain issues. Any time a daughter “accepted an inheritance, made a will, assumed any contractual obligation, or performed any transaction of importance,”(Kinnear, 39) the fathers authority was called upon. One of the most important decisions a father had to make with respect to a daughter is whom she was to marry. Though allowed to voice their opinion, Roman girls had little say when it came to their future husband, as this decision belonged to the father.
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The pater familias took wealth and social standing into account when deciding on a husband. The wealthier and more well known the husband, the better off he and his daughter would be. Upon marriage it was the job of the father to decide whether or not to pass off his guardianship to his daughters new husband. If so, this marriage was said to have been completed with manus , or the passing of authority over a woman from father to husband. Following this, the woman was considered a part of her husband’s family and was to now worship the gods within his household (Kinnear, 39). Being married was the most important part of any Roman woman’s life in ancient times. All women were expected to marry, be loyal, and produce children to ensure the lineage is carried on within her husband’s family. Getting married at a young age was also common in Roman society. Roman girls and boys were known to marry as young as twelve and fourteen, respectively. The theory behind early marriage was that it was best for maximizing the amount of time a woman could bear a child. Marrying young could give a woman close to thirty years to produce children for her husband. It was believed by some that there was a proven scientific reason to marry young and that was because, “early sexual relations facilitated the onset of menstruation” (Pantel, 304). There was a
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Roman Women - The Role of Women in Roman Society Throughout...

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