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Roman Society From Augustus To Titus

1624 words - 7 pages

The main concern when trying to evaluate the role that women played in Ancient Rome is that our sources are by male authors. No personal diaries or ancient journals of Roman women were discovered, so instead all evidence written is from a male perspective. The evidence that we have was mainly written by aristocratic males who had the time and education to reflect on life. In their writing it was often their relatives and wives that were mentioned, which gives us a glimpse into the lives of their women but does not provide details of the full spectrum of Roman life. From archaeological evidence such as tombstones, paintings and mosaics we receive a less detailed image of the life that poorer ...view middle of the document...

'Once married, women were expected to have as many babies as possible, as they were unsure how many would live to reach maturity. A tombstone belonging to a women named Veturia provides a good example of what was expected of the women: she was married at eleven, gave birth to six children and died at twenty-seven. The fathers mainly wanted male children to carry on the family name and lineage. Aristocratic families expected their wives to be forever pregnant, though lower class women were not expected to have as many babies as they didn't have the means to support them.Until Greek culture started to influence Rome, girls were not given such privileges as a formal education. However when the influence of Greek literature, thought , language and philosophy took a hold on Rome, many wealthy families obtained Greek tutors for their children. This meant that girls were able to share their brothers lessons. This can be seen through the archaeological evidence of a tombstone belonging to Avita, a girl aged ten which shows her solemnly doing her lessons. Primary schools were also available for both girls and boys if their parents were able to afford it. For lower class families who could not have their children taught by others, the mother would teach the necessary skills and culture in the family home. For most purposes a child learnt a skill by watching how it was done. This applied to both work skills and social skills or behavioural patterns.However in spite of their increasing education Shelton points out that 'Roman women were expected to have enough education to appreciate their husbands work, wit, writing and opinions; they were not however expected to express opinions of their own. In public they were best seen - nodding in agreement or smiling appreciatively at their husbands wit - but not heard. An intelligent and talented women had to be careful not to appear more clever than the men around her.'Roman men were embarrassed by women who were more educated then they were. They disliked those who were highly educated, as can be seen in the writing of Juvenal. 'And, if she still wants to appear educated and eloquent, let her dress as a man, sacrifice to men's gods, and bathe in the men's baths. Wives shouldn't try to be public speakers. There ought to be some things women don't understand.' Men felt the need to be superior, which meant that women were not allowed to show the males up in such ways as having more knowledge than them.There were five primary categories in which Roman women were classified. These categories were based on their rank in society and the role they played in the work force.Slave women were involved mainly in domestic work, with long hours and limited holidays. There were different types of slaves such as the kitchen maid or nurse maid, though each were subject to the whims of their mistress. The specialised skills that women learnt whilst working as slaves often allowed a women to earn her freedom.Freedwomen then supported...

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