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The Role Of Women In The Roman Republic

3609 words - 15 pages

THE ROLE OF WOMEN IN THE ROMAN REPUBLICTraditionally, women were viewed as weak-minded, or levitas animi, and because of this, they would be closely scrutinized by a male who would act as her guardian. Women were also strictly monitored by not only their husbands and fathers but also by the social restrictions and laws of the time. All is not lost for the women of the Roman Republic however, the contributions of Roman women to history amount to much more than just child rearing.The paterfamilias was the wielder of power within the traditional Roman household and did so over all members of the family. As long as the children remained under his potestas, which for girls was typically much ...view middle of the document...

Girls, then, could be used as barter material to gain new and or better allies. Many men, such as Pompey for example, who married the daughter of Sulla to further his personal goals, would use this in order to further their political power and standing. Later on Pompey would marry Julia, the daughter of Gaius Julius Caesar, however the opportunities the union would provide both parties were apparently worth the trouble.Marriages in Rome also utilized the dowry system as part of the ceremony in which the father of the bride provided money or livestock as upkeep of the wife while she was married. The money was to be used for the wife but the husband had control of how it was to be spent. The size of the dowry was in direct correlation to the bride-to-be's social status and could also be used as an incentive for the man to marry her. After marriage, the woman left the potestas of her father and now falls under the paterfamilias of her new husband. Within the Roman Republic, there were different types of marriages, all of which the bride had little control over. An early form of ceremonial marriage was called confarreatio where sacrifices were made to the god Jupiter. In order for this marriage to be legitimized, this solemn and public affair had to be witnessed by at least ten people. This type of marriage was most likely for patrician families because it would be doubtful that plebeians could afford the pomp and circumstance of the ceremony.Another type of marriage called usus and had the woman remain under her father's control; only after a year of cohabitating with her husband did the woman fall under his manus. This type of marital arrangement gave the woman much more freedom because she could stave off the control by staying away from her husband's house for three nights. This then allowed them to not live with her father under his rules nor with her husbands under his. This type of marriage became obsolete around the third century BCE with the growing popularity of the sine manu marriage. In the sine manu marriage, the wife remained under the manus of her father rather than part of her husband's family which left the husband without legal authority over his wife.Marriages in Rome were for the production of legitimate heirs, which is why marriage was only offered to citizens. The responsibilities of women in the household included bearing and caring for the children, weaving cloth, cooking and, if there were any, supervising slaves. Of course, the aforementioned duties would depend on the social status of the woman involved. This is not to say, however, that the only place for a woman was in the home; women often received guests and accompanied their husbands to dinner parties.Marriages could be dissolved at any time provided it was instigated by the paterfamilias or women sui iuris. One consequence of this, and one that in all likelihood prevented numerous divorces, was the fact that the dowry was to be repaid in full once the divorce was...

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