The Changing Role Of Women In Ancient Civilizations

2594 words - 10 pages

Henrik Ibsen once said, “A woman cannot be herself in the society of the present day, which is an exclusively masculine society, with laws framed by men and with a judicial system that judges feminine conduct from a masculine point of view.”(Notable Quotes) Ibsen’s statement exemplifies what life was like for women during ancient times. In many of the organized ancient civilizations, it was very common to find a primarily patriarchal civilization in government as well as in society. The causing factors can be attributed to different reasons, the main being the Neolithic Revolution and the new found dependence on manpower it caused. As a result of this, a woman found herself to be placed into an entirely different view in the eye of society. In comparison to the early Paleolithic matriarchal societies, the kinds of changes that came about for women due to the introduction of agriculture are shocking. Since the beginnings of the Neolithic era, the role and rights of women in many ancient civilizations began to become limited and discriminatory as a result of their gender.
Prior to the use of agriculture, life was extremely different for women. The information that historians have obtained is limited, but there are certain aspects of Paleolithic society that have been discovered and point towards a more liberal lifestyle for women. Generally, a woman’s job was to gather food and tend to her children while her male counterpart hunted. These simple divisions allowed both men and women to play significant roles in hunter-gatherer society, which further allowed women to be held in equal if not greater esteem then men. According to Elisabeth Gaynor Ellis and Anthony Elser, authors of World History: Connections to Today, women also held religious significance in these early groups. Devotions and paintings have been found that show women in high respects as the givers of life and the glue (so to speak) of the tribe. Unfortunately, the sharp instincts and intelligences of these early women in a way became their downfall, for many historians and archeologists accredit women with the discovery of farming. It is their belief that, while gathering foods for their tribes, women realized the connection between leaving seeds in the ground and the growth of plants. For a while these simple methods of farming were carried out by women, however, as more advancements were made in agriculture it was realized that farming could no longer be performed solely by women, as it demanded large amounts of strength that a woman wasn’t physically capable of. In addition, farming demanded large amounts of time so it began to become an expectation that a woman would remain home and take care of the house and children while her husband worked out in the fields. (Ellis 9) In his article “The Worst Mistake Made in History,” Jared Diamond discusses how women were no longer able to work as effectively, as it was expected of them to have more children, so their bodies as well as...

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