Woman III






The Etruscan women were considered the most beautiful of women, and, if we are to believe the Romans, the young women of Etruria , like those of Greece , Asia and Samurai , Japan were allowed to obtain dowries by prostitution.


Nevertheless, women enjoyed a very high status in Etruria . Ancient paintings represented the woman as very prominent in every aspect of life. Education was not confined to the male because women were well versed in mathematics and medicine as well as political intrigue. The Etruscans gave Rome brutal gladiatorial contests, but they also transmitted to Rome a higher status of woman than could be found in Greece .


CARTHAGE (264 – 202 BC)


The Carthaginian were Semites, akin in blood and features to the Ancient Jews.  The women during this era led, for the most part, a veiled and secluded life. They could rise to high places in the priesthoods, but otherwise had to be contented with the sovereignty of their charms.


The freedom of the Etruscan women knew no bounds as compared to the repression of Carthaginian women. Here, indeed, shows the independent rise toward total freedom and equality for one country and not another – all during the same era. To the men of Carthage , women were to be seen and not heard – to be used as slaves for the pleasure of man. Carthaginian men feared the outspoken educated women of other lands. They were quick to repress such knowledge from earshot of their conversation.


STOIC ROME (508 BC – 202 AD)


Since the greater urgency of the male supplies woman with charms more potent than any law, her status in Rome must not be judged from her legal disabilities. She was not allowed to appear in court – even as a witness. Widowed, she could not claim any dower right in her husband’s estate. He might, if he wished, leave her nothing. At every age of her life, she was under tutelage of a man – her father, her brother, her husband, her son or guardian – without whose consent she could not marry or dispose of property.


On the other hand, she could inherit, though not beyond 100,000 sesterces ($15,000), and she could not own property without limit. In many instances, as the earlier Republic passed into the later, she became wealthy as her husband established his property in her name to escape bankruptcy obligations, damage suits, inheritance taxes and other everlasting jeopardizes.


She played a role as priestess. Nearly every priest had to have a wife, and he lost his office when she died. With the home, she was honored mistress – the madame. She was not, like the Greek wife, confined to a gynaeceum, or a women’s quarters. She took meals with her mate, though she sat while he reclined. She did a minimum of servile work; for nearly every citizen had to have a slave.  She might spin as a sign of gentility, but her chief economic function was to superintend the servants. She made it a point, however, to nurse her children herself. The man rewarded her patient motherhood with profound love and respect, and her husband seldom allowed his legal mastery to cloud his devotion.


Literature came formally to Rome about 272 BC through a Greek slave. A story that comes to mind is a poetic drama based upon a Roman tragedy circled vainly in the cropped pastures of Greek myth. Only a few fragmentary bits survived – one in particular describing a coquettish girl:


“As if playing in a ring, she skips one to another, and is all things to all men with her words and winks. She caresses and embraces – now a squeeze of the hand or a pressure of the foot. Her ring to look at, her lips to blow an inviting kiss. Here a song: the language of signs.”


It is truly a pleasure to see that women now are as charming as they were then.


ROME (201 – 146 BC)


During the Roman conquest of Greece , the power of woman rose with the wealth of a society – even in government, the role of woman grew. Cato cried out that “all other men rule over women; be we Romans, who rule all men, are ruled by our women.” In 195 BC, the free women of Rom swept into the Forum and demanded the repeal of Oppian Law of 215 BC which had forbidden women to use gold ornaments, varicolored dresses, or chariots. Cato predicted the ruin of Rome if the law should be repealed.


Livy puts into his mouth a speech that every generation has heard:


“If we had, each of us, upheld the right and authority of the husband in our own households, we should not today have this trouble with our women. As things are now, our liberty of action, which has been annulled by female despotism at home, is crushed and trampled on here in the Forum.


“Call to mind all regulations respecting women by which our ancestors curbed their license and made them obedient to their husbands; and yet, with all those restrictions, you can scarcely hold them in.


“If now you permit them to remove these restraints and to put themselves on an equality with their husbands, do you imagine that you will be able to bear them? From the moment that they become your equals, they will be your masters.”


The women laughed him down, and stood their ground until the law was repealed. Cato revenged himself as censor by multiplying by ten the taxes on the articles that Oppius had forbidden. But the tide was in flow, and could not be turned. Other laws disadvantageous to women were repealed or modified or simply ignored. Women won the free administration of their dowries, divorced their husbands (or occasionally poisoned them), and doubted the wisdom of bearing children in an age of urban congestion and imperialistic wars.


ROME (77 – 60 BC)


This was the era of the “New Woman”. She was wealthy, independent and intelligent. They moved freely and in the best of circles with men. They dressed in diaphanous silks from India and China . They ransacked Asia for perfumes and jewelry. Marriage disappeared and they divorced their husbands as readily as men their wives.


A growing number of women sought free expression in cultural pursuits. They learned Greek, studied philosophy, wrote plays and poetry, gave public lectures, engaged in business and many practiced medicine or law.


ROME (30 BC – 192 AD)


Augustus Caesar started a reformation of all laws to revert to the old way of life. He excluded women from all athletic exhibitions, limited their expenditures on homes, servants, banquets, weddings, jewels, and dress. The most important of these Julian laws (18 BC) was the Julian law of chastity and repressing adultery. Here, for the first time in Roman history, marriage was brought under the protection of the state.


Women were told that they had to bear more children or face a loss of the inheritance due them. Single women owning 20,000 sesterces were to pay an annual tax of one percent until they were married. This tax decreased with each child until she gave birth to her third child; the tax would cease. Reform laws were adopted to protect the consuls, celibates and childless women of the senate.


ROME (14 – 96 AD)


The Roman philosopher, Rufus, had defined philosophy as inquiry into right conduct and had taken his quest seriously. He denounced concubinage despite its legality, and demanded of man the same standard of sexual morality that they required of women – that sexual relations should be permissible only in marriage and for the procreation of children only. He believed in equal educational opportunities for both sexes and welcomed women to his lectures; but he bade them seek from education and philosophy the means of perfecting themselves as women.


ROME (146 BC – 192 AD)


Gaius said: “All law pertains to persons, to property, or to procedure.” The first person in Roman law was the citizen. It was in this way that the Roman woman gained new rights as the man lost old ones; but she was clever enough to disguise her freedom under continuing legal disabilities.


The law of the Republic assumed that she was never of her own right, but always dependent upon some male guardian. Even women of mature age were kept in tutelage because of the so-called lightness of their minds. In the later Republic, and under the Empire, this legal dependence was largely annulled by feminine charms and willfulness and abetted by male susceptibility and affection.


From Cato the Elder to Commoclus, Roman society, legally patriarchal, was ruled by women with all the graceful mastery of the Renaissance Italian or the Bourbon French Salons. The laws of Augustus made some obeisance to the facts by releasing from tutelage any woman who had borne three legitimate children. Hadrian decreed that women might dispose of their property as they liked provided that they obtained the consent of their guardians, but actual procedure soon dispensed with this consent. By the end of the second century, all compulsory tutelage was ended in the law for free women over twenty-five years of age.




Science was being infiltrated with women. Surgery was fairly well-developed in Alexandria , Egypt , and during the first century AD, women physicians were no longer rare. A feminine physician, Metradora, wrote a treatise on diseases of the womb.


Metradora also published a treatise on the diseases of women and the birth and care of children. It ranked only second below the Hippocrates collection and the works of Galen. With Galen, she helped to design speculums, obstetric chairs, gave advice to dietetics, and established the bathing of eyes for new-born babies. Much of what she had written is still used in medicine today. Metradora was but one of the thousands to whom the ancient man looked for advice or guidance.




Women were admitted into the congregations, and they rose to some prominence in minor roles, but the church required them to shame the heathen by lives of modest submission and retirement. They were told to come to church to worship veiled, for their hair was considered especially seductive. Even the angels might be distracted by it during the service. Saint Jerome thought it should be been entirely cut off. Christian women were also to avoid cosmetics and jewelry and particularly false hair; for the blessing of the priest falling upon dead hair from another head would hardly know which head to bless.


Paul had instructed his communities sternly: Women should keep quiet in church. They must take a subordinate place. It they want to find out anything, they should ask their husbands at home, for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in church. For he is the image of God, and reflects God’s glory, while woman is a reflection of man’s glory; for man was created for women, but women for man. That is why she ought to wear upon her head something to symbolize her subjection.


This was the Judaic and Greek view of woman – not the Roman. Perhaps it represented a reaction against the license into which some women had debased their growing liberty. Man may well believe, however, that from these very fulminations and despite the lack of jewels and scents and with the help of veils, that the Christian woman succeeded in being attractive to exercise her ancient powers in subtle ways.


For unmarried and widowed women, the church found many useful tasks. They were organized as “Sisters” to perform the works of administration or charitable (service), and created, in time, the many Orders of nuns whose selfless and cheerful kindliness to mankind became the noblest embodiment of Christianity.


Saint Augustine , in speaking of Mary (symbol of all women), said: “Through a woman, we were sent to destruction (Eve); through a woman, salvation was restored to man.”


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