Women in Ancient Rome Essay

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Women in Ancient Rome

In Roman times women were treated differently depending on their class, and family background. However Roman women off all social classes were expected to assume, that they were merely possessions of their fathers and then of their husband.

Many Romans told a story (below) about a woman named Cornelia, a Roman woman of the second century BC:

An upper-class women from Campania was staying with Cornelia, a mother of the Gracchi brothers. She continually boasted about her jewels which were the most beautiful to be seen at that time, Cornelia kept her talking until her children returned home from their lessons, then she said to the women: "these are my jewels"
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In AD 14, the Emperor Augustus, on his death bed, is reported to have told his wife, Livia;

'always remember whose wife you have been'.

Freeborn Roman women were never allowed to forget that people always regarded them as someone's daughter, wife or mother, but never as an individual who has their own rights.


Roman daughters, much like Greek daughters, were always in the custody of the oldest male in her family and had to obey their rules. (The paterfamilias) the head of the household. In the Roman law, the paterfamilias was so important and powerful that he had the right over everyone's life in his family.

The daughters name as simply the name of her fathers but in a feminine form, there was nothing personal in a daughter's name. If the father was called (Marcus Tullius Cicero) the daughter would be simply be called Tullia. If however more than one daughter was born in that family then to prevent confusion she would be called Tullia the younger, or Tullia the second, and so on.

We know this because historian's found evidence of this, from letters written on papyrus sheets that have survived from Roman times.

Laws passed by Roman emperor's show that unwanted children were exposed and left to die in public places, often on rubbish heaps. The precise number of female babies left to rot like this is unknown;

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