During the rise and fall of the roman republic the social role women played in society had its influence in religion and in the domestic sphere. A woman’s social status at home changed very drastically, however, her role and duties were relatively static. Religiously few legal steps were taken towards women’s equality and a patriarchal system remained intact.
The original laws and customs that determined the social structure of the roman family and life at home placed men in a dominant role over women. Men had the power over the children, their rearing, and wives were treated like they were their husband’s daughter. The original laws gave men unlimited power in the domestic sphere. The ...view middle of the document...
Women who met the child number requirement also became exempted from guardianship by Augustus (Evans 13). Once they were free of the binds created by guardianship women were able to make business decisions regarding their property without needing the approval of anyone else.
Despite their new equality under the revised laws of Rome, the expected domestic life of women stayed relatively the same, unless they were particularly wealthy. Women were still expected to do various household chores such as, cleaning the house, preparing meals, and working on their needle work. It was also expected of women to always be in the home. They were not supposed to have a reason to leave, and if they did have occasion to leave they had to be accompanied by a guardian at all times. Men even kept the females in the house in a separate chamber upstairs while they slept downstairs. This was done so that the women would not be able to sneak out during the night.
There were loopholes which women did exploit in order to satisfy their desire to socialize. A common practice in roman society was a pregnant woman having a mid-wife. Being a mid-wife allowed women to aid one another during the time of pregnancy with any troubles or complications the woman bearing a child might have. This meant that women could leave the house to visit the friend in need of help without worry of opposition from her husband guardian. Fortunately for women roman men were unfamiliar with female biology and would allow women to leave the house for the most ambiguous of reasons relating to being a mid-wife. Also, when the men were away at war women were not as closely watched and they could socialize in their homes.
Women in the peasant class of Rome sometimes had a duty to perform which required them to leave the house. They had to be employed to help pay for the expenses of the family. It was completely acceptable, and very common for a woman to be a hired servant; in accordance with this Dio Chrysostomus commented, “A woman who worked as a hired servant did not thereby dishonor herself,” (Evans 117). Some women were able to find worked as skilled laborers. These jobs were acquired either through apprenticeships or the family business (Evans 119).
The way in which romans married one another changed in favor of female equality too. Originally there were three options for marriage manus, coemptio, and usus; all of which placed the female directly under the supervision and authority of the male. The first two of the three marriage possibilities had become very uncommon by 2nd century A. D., the third form...