Women in Ancient Greece and Egyptby Rit Nosotro
Compare the roles that women played in the early Greek and Egyptian civilizations.
The ancient Greek civilization focused more on the aspect of the women being under the control of men whereas the Egyptian civilization focused more on the women having political and religious roles in society.
Women had more freedom in Egypt than they did in Greece during the same ancient time period.
[For another essay comparing the role of women see: Women of Rome vs. Women of China]
In some early historical civilizations women were not viewed as being very
important to society. The men controlled the women at all times and the women
would often have very no freedom to go out of the house unaccompanied or have
a say in their society. Much like women under the Islamic Taliban that the USA
led coalition removed from power in 2002. In the civilizations of Greece and
Egypt, however, the roles that women played were very different. Where Greece
was similar to most of the other ancient civilizations, Egypt was very open
and granted their women more freedoms.
The early Egyptian civilization was distinctly different than other ancient civilizations in surrounding areas. The rights that women had were equal to the rights that men had. Many legal rights were given to the women, such as managing and disposing of private property. Women could also free slaves, make adoptions, and go to court without the presence of a man. The women were allowed to go out in public, though it was discouraged. Instead they worked in the fields at home and in the workshops owned by the family. Though they had this immense freedom, compared to other civilizations, their occupations were limited. Most women simply stayed at home and took care of the house and the family. A few of the women in high status would be a leader. Others however would simply be housekeepers, servants, field hands, and skilled workers in workshops.
In the early civilization of Greece the society was based on a patriarchal society. Because of this women had very little freedom, unlike the Egyptians. The women were watched and held under the supervision of a male at all times, whether it was their father, brother, or husband. The few times that women were able to leave their home were to go to weddings, funerals, or other religious festivals, or to briefly visit female neighbors. Other than these times, the women stayed at home. Their main job and role in this early time was to run the house, the most respected job, and to bear children. Most homes, however, had slaves, so the women of the house would simply take care of the children and make clothes for the family. A woman’s entertainment was also limited. Wives and daughters were not allowed to watch the Olympic Games because the participants did not wear clothes. The only sport that women could participate in was chariot racing and this they could only play if they had a horse. Outside in public, women were not allowed to walk around without a cause. They had no political rights and they had no right to vote at any time. The ancient Greek civilization focused more on the aspect of the women being under the men whereas the Egyptian civilization focused more on the women having political and religious roles in society.
In the Bible women played an important role spiritually. In 2 Kings 22:14-20 God speaks of the prophetess Huldah. In Philippians 4:2-3 women are seen being involved in the church and its affairs. Politically speaking in the Bible, women also were able to have a role. In Judges 4 Deborah, a prophetess, led Israel to victory against Barak and his army. She was a military leader and judge but understood she had the role by default as no man would step foward..
1 Corinthians 11:3 states, "Now I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of every woman is man…" God states the role that women were meant to be under the men. This control was not merely a slice of culture out of the timeline that is no longer applicaple, for verse 8 reflects on the reason from the beginning, “For man did not come from woman, but woman from man.” and more specifically God says, “…Your desire will be for your husband and he will rule over you." (Genesis 3:16). This role was very clearly viewed and practiced in the ancient civilization of Greece as women were under the control of men at all times. However, in Egypt, there was much more freedom for the women to be alone and independent from the men. 1 Corinthians 11:11 explains, "In the Lord, however, woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman.” Here God implies that both are to rely on one another as equally dependant. Whether the ancient Egyptians, Greeks, or Hebrews, nature delares the natural order of God's purpose, so there no wonder why even things such as the role of women in ancient civilizations followed to a degree what God had intended for the biblical role of women.
1. How were women often viewed in the ancient historical civilizations?
a. Religious leaders
b. McDonald’s workers
2. What were some of the freedoms that Egyptian women possessed?
a. Evangelize in the center of town
b. Go to court without the presence of a man
c. Run an Egyptian daycare
d. Sing in the church
3. What was the main job of a Greek woman in ancient times?
a. Bear children
b. Go to work in an office building
c. Teach in the nearest school
d. Support her husband
4. Where in the Bible does God speak about women being involved in the church?
a. Ephesians 1:11
b. 1 Corinthians 11:3
c. Philippians 4:2-3
d. Judges 4
NIV Student Bible. Compact. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2002.
Graham, Casey. "Ancient Athenian Women." Ancient Athenian Women. 14 Sep 2007 <http://www.angelfire.com/ca3/ancientchix/>.
Crystal, Ellie. "Women in Ancient Egypt." Ellie Crystal's Website. 14 Sep 2007 <http://www.crystalinks.com/egyptianwomen.html>.
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