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Women's Roles in Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia

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The roles of women and families of an Egyptian and Mesopotamian culture share some similarities and differences. Women in both cultures take good care of their family as the center piece of a family; a mother and wife. In contrast, Egyptian women have more authority, in their role as a woman, than women in Mesopotamia. Their strict guidelines in marriages, in both cultures are also unique and a bit disturbing. In ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia, women were more valued and respected, if they had royal blood.The roles of women differed greatly among the ancient societies of Egypt and Mesopotamia, whose territories make up what is now Iraq and part of Iran, Turkey and Syria. For the most part, ancient women in Egypt enjoyed more rights and privileges than their Mesopotamian counterparts in matter of marriages and property ownership. Even though, both women roles are different among both societies, I feel they are still the same in the way men sees them as their properties and slaves.

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Marriages and families were very important in ancient Egypt and Mesopotamian, but their way of how they handle marriage is very disturbing to me. Young females married around the age of 12 years old or puberty in both cultures. Females that age, are in the sixth or seventh grade, still pursuing towards graduating high and college. Females in both cultures never had chance to make their own decisions. Marriage is considered a duty in their society. They do not take marriage as a holy and sacred union, but rather a union that is only appealing to the flesh.

Mesopotamian women roles are very strict and defined. Their role as wives was always her being her father’s daughter or the wife of her husband. This is very common in society, today. Women could only be allowed to act as individuals unless their husbands had power and status, or she is royalty. In other words, if her husband did not hold a position of authority and wealth, she would be looked down on. I slightly disagree with this statement, men nowadays love money and will give up truth and righteous for it. I believe a woman should not be define by a man, because there are good women without a husband, good men without a wife, good husband and wife that are married, and husband and wife, that should not be together, but I do agree how they have things set in order, only if things are being done right; men being the head of the household. So, in the Mesopotamian society, they did not believe in a woman, without a husband, with power and status. I do believe this what defines a woman, having a husband, who share the same belief in doing what’s right in the eyesight of God. God made man and woman; for every woman there is a man that is specially made for her; vice versa.

The purchase of wives from their fathers was common in Mesopotamia, but this kind of practice became less common after 3000 BC. In marriages, a woman living in Mesopotamia could do or go anywhere she wanted, including conducting business, if she had her husband’s permission or she was a widow. I do agree with this statement to a certain extent. Husbands are considered the leader and the protector of their wives and families but asking permission from husband in everything, is a little too much, in my opinion.Women in both cultures practices the same marriage philosophy. The married female, as we see today in traditional families, become completely part of the husband’s family. An interesting aspect was that if her husband died, she is to marry one of his brothers or any other close male relative to the husband in the Mesopotamian culture.

How can a man or relative of his decease brother or relative can married a close family member’s wife? In my opinion, I feel this is very ungodly. This practice is also similar in ancient Egyptian culture. A woman pharaoh, who was considered a god (divine), could not marry a mortal. As a result, pharaohs choses spouses from within the royal family. For example, Hatshepsut, married her half-brother, Thutmose. This kind of practice seem to be clean and holy, but I do believe a just God anointed one will judge this practice as being not holy.

According to Hammurabi’s code, wives were bought and sold extensively. Every woman had to accept the sexual advances of a stranger in exchange for a silver coin in to fulfill a duty to the goddess in Mesopotamia culture. Women are not treated as a wife, I feel women was degraded by men in this culture. Women had no rights of their own.Mesopotamian women were treated so less than a wife. The groom’s father exercised considerable power in Mesopotamian marriages. For example, he could give the bride to one of the groom’s brother in the event of the groom’s death or dissatisfaction with the marriage. Women were raised up from a little girl train to be a wife, mother, and housekeeper. If they were raised up from a family who wasn’t run by priests or scribes, they could not attend school, because they were not considered to be from a royal family. This is example of what I meant; women are degraded and not treated with value.

Marriage practice in ancient Egypt makes more sense than in Mesopotamia to a certain extent. Even though females are married at such a young age, the parents’ choses appropriate partners for their daughter or son. It was suggested that women made more family decisions and controlled more of the home than usual. Husband did not take total control over their wives’ property. Women could be more independent in ancient Egypt. Women were more respected and value than women of ancient Mesopotamia.

Egyptian wives were more recognize of who they are and respected. Egyptian law granted women the right to initiate and carry out divorces. Women retained ownership of their property upon entering a marriage. In Mesopotamia, women would not inherit their husband’s estate if there were eligible male heirs. In the 18th century, the Code of Hammurabi gave women the ability to divorce and own property under certain circumstances, even though the code also treated women as property.

Women shared also the same equality as men in ancient Egypt. In many of ancient Egypt’s artistic approaches, we see women supporting or clasping their husband, maybe even protecting them. So, in some sense, the woman could be the protector, probably associated with the protective goddess. Women in ancient Egypt also, contributed their skills to society, including helping with the harvest, as professional musicians, dancers, members of temple staff and party guest. There are scenes of women in weaving workshops, and tomb inscriptions of women’s professional involvement. Women worked in political, religious, and funerary settings. As describe, women were more independent and share the same equality as men. Women were not slaved by their husbands or had to ask their husband for permission to do or go anywhere compare to Mesopotamian women. Women were not treated as individual if their husband did not have a high position and status. Women were giving honor and respect from men in Egypt compare to Mesopotamia women.

Egyptian preferred to be governed by a woman with royal blood (being divine according to mythology) rather by a man who did not have royal blood. This makes a whole lot of sense. A person with royal blood is said to be anointed or a chosen one from God. This person is also considered a servant of God. Another name for a person with royal blood in the Egyptian society is called a pharaoh.

Also, in ancient Egypt, a woman daily routines in taking good care of her family is, beginning with the sunrise, she would need to wake her husband and children for work and school, maintain the family altar, prepare breakfast, clean up afterwards, tidy the house, make sure the home was free of pest and rodents, bring water from the well, ensure the stores of grain and other supplies were safe from contamination or pests, take care of the children if they were young, see to the needs of other members of the extended family if they were elderly and pet; making sure they are healthy, tend her personal garden, prepare afternoon meal and the evening meal, take care of the weaving and sewing of clothing, do the laundry, greet her husband and sons when they return home from school and work, serve dinner, clean up afterward, feed the pets, put young children to sleep, and prepare for bed. Some women even chose to work from home along with the overload schedule they have on daily routine. Therefore, Egyptian women is well respected, because they display the character of a real woman at her finest. They also demonstrated that they can do just about everything; in maintaining a household and providing for their family.

Most young females in both cultures were train from childhood to be good wives, mother, and housekeeper. This was the only role they played in society. I feel this was very brilliant, to train them at an early age, this make them become more independent and responsible, above all, a great wife. This was a good habit that was pass down from generation to generation; being trained to become a wife and a mother. I respect and honor them for displaying and sharing with other cultures or society the role of a woman.There were one special women in Egypt that were successful, among several others. During the New Kingdom period, the most famous of the God’s wives was the female pharaoh Hatshepsut (1479-1458 BCE). She was the longest reigning female pharaoh in Egypt, ruling for 20 years in the 15th century B.C. She is considered one of Egypt’s most successful pharaohs. The weird thing about Hatshepsut is she chose to rule as a man and is consistently presenting herself as a male throughout most of her reign. I guess because of men were in control and are considered the leader, Hatshepsut, respect the fact of that.

Women in Mesopotamia, as polytheistic religion, are called priestesses, some of them are powerful. Some families even sell their daughter to the temple, in exchange for a priestess in the family. Families could also sell their daughter into prostitution or slavery. Mesopotamian did not look at this practice as anything wrong with it or degrading, at that time. They called this a sacred prostitution along with secular prostitution, that takes place in their temple.In Egypt, there is a difference in women role than Mesopotamia. An important position that a woman can hold in their religion, was God’s Wife of Amun. There were many “God’s Wives.” God’s Wife was a special name giving to woman, who were of the upper class, assisting the high priest in ceremonies and tend the god’s nature. As time went by, their position increase, during the Third Intermediate Period (1069 – 525 BCE), the God’s Wife of Amun was on the same level in power to a king and effectively ruled Upper Egypt.

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One of Egypt’s philosophy that I found interesting is women are not allowed to tempt other men in a sexual way. The reason for this, is they believe that a stable marriage contributes to a stable community, so it was best for all couples to remain together. Egyptian believed very deeply a person’s earthly life was part of an eternal journey and a person should expect to make the other person’s life, including marriage worth experiencing forever. Now I really agree with is philosophy how they think of marriage, their community, and each other in a marriage. Women role in ancient Egypt compare to today’s society, are very similar even though there are some differences. Today, women marry and start a family with kids. She either becomes a housewife or a working mother. A woman can also choose who she married and get a divorce. Woman can make their own decision in starting a family with husband or stay single. They can have a male dominate job such a working int the military. As describe earlier, Egypt way of life has spread a lot of influence on our cultures that are being display generation to generation. Mesopotamia also spread influence as well. Egypt and Mesopotamia, both came together as a major civilization between 3500 and 3000 BCE. They share something special, allowing human beings for the first time in history to settle down and farm, instead of chasing animals for food. They’re civilization were revolve around agriculture. They serve many gods and goddess and were based on nature. There social structure was built upon different level of classes: Ruling class, Upper class, Middle class, Lower class, and slaves. In Mesopotamia, majority of their women were in the lower class or slaves, because of their lack of power and treatment by their husbands. In my opinion, I feel that Middle and Upper class didn’t meant anything, because women were still being treated without value by their husbands. I feel the only way a woman gets treat with respect and value is when she becomes a priestess or gods. Mesopotamian, value priestess and gods more than they do ordinary women. The only I see, in my opinion, that makes a priestess or gods no different than an ordinary woman is her status. Egyptian women are more independent, valued, and respected, than Mesopotamia women. Christianity brought a big change in how marriage should be and the real role of a woman and man.

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