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How important was a woman's role in the family in Rome and what was her Status in society?

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Introduction

How important was a woman's role in the family in Rome and what was her Status in society? In this essay I am going to look at how women affected the society of Rome. I will explore their responsibilities in the home and their duties as wife and mother. I will also focus on marriage and divorce in Roman times and the status women had at the time comparing the rich and poor women. I will be examining the evidence I find in poems, books and pictures in order to support the points I will make. I will firstly focus on marriage, in this topic I will cover engagement, ceremonies and traditions of the time. Engagement was a lot more complicated than today as in wealthy families the custom was an arranged marriage where the girls father would have chosen a suitable man for his daughter, the decision was not based on character but more his families social status. This was because the fathers main aim was for the daughter to achieve a high social status so that his family would not loose their status. We can see this in this quote "What prospective son-in-law ever appeared acceptable if he was short of cash to match the girls dowry?" (Juvenal:Satires III.160) There was a formal method for engagement which included written documentation signed by witnesses. We can see from the picture an engagement ring which would have been worn on the third finger just like today. The engagement or betrothal ring shows two clasped hands joined together. There was also an engagement party (sponsalia) where both families made speeches to find the advantages of the relationship but unfortunately engagements were often broken off. The ceremony of the wedding was planned with great care avoiding any unlucky days such as days linked with Roman disasters that may bring bad luck to the couple. The most common time for weddings was late June. ...read more.

Middle

In the poorer families the wife had to look after the children and also work in the house or on the fields. Once the children were about seven years old the boys usually went to school. They learnt about basic subjects of reading, writing and arithmetic. They learnt this from school masters who set up schools in rented rooms or in their own houses. If they went on to secondary school they would learn the literature of the Greeks and the Romans, like Homer and Virgil or they would learn arithmetic, history, geometry and astronomy. Schooling was not able to be given to everyone and again the richer families had this privilege. Only girls from richer background had an education otherwise they would learn from their mothers how to sew or work in the fields. This picture shows a woman with a shopping list waiting in a butchers shop to buy food for her family: Rich women did not work and a lot of their time was spent organising dinner parties therefore they shopped for food themselves and house staff cleaned and prepared the house. The wife gave house staff their jobs and made sure everything was in order. There were lots of preparations in order to have a dinner party. The wife did not only have to organise the food but also seating arrangements and drinks for each course. The dinner was made up of three courses. The first course, usually the starter would either be eggs prepared in different ways or salads, vegetables, shellfish or even snails. Some richer hosts provided a mixture of these starters. The main course was usually a meat dish and depending on the wealth of the family this dish varied. In very wealthy households meat such as lamb, beef and pork were never eaten but more unusual meats such as venison, porpoise, mullet or flamingo were eaten. ...read more.

Conclusion

If this could not happen marriages split and this was obviously a main reason for divorce. Throughout the essay I saw a theme which was that men wanted their wives to boost their social status therefore they had to be of the right class and be very interested in what their husbands liked. Rich women had the use of household slaves but they also got to attend and prepare for dinner parties. I realised from this men again liked to have a good time but the women had to prepare for it and also were not even allowed to drink much at their parties. Women may not have been respected much when alive but from tombstones I found out that there were once dead. This seems slightly strange as I believe they should have always been shown respect but the rules were obviously different in the Roman day. The women were sometimes allowed to have a good time and they did all have social lives like their husbands but this depended again on how wealthy they were. As I explored women I also found out there was a lack of resources for the poor, this shows they had less education as they obviously could not write down what conditions were like for them but I am sure they had even harder lives than the rich. The did not have much of a role in the whole of the society as they could not vote, this suggested to me that the Romans did not really want to know the views of the women as they were second class citizens to them. Overall from this essay I saw the harsh way women were treat by the men of the Roman society. Life was not all bad as long as they had money but without this life must have been very tough. Women were obviously important to the Roman society but was this purely because they could give birth to children? Hopefully not as a lot of women contributed greatly and this is how the Roman women should be remembered. ...read more.

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