Women’s Status from Mesopotamia through Early Byzantine Period
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Mesopotamia refers to a land bordered by two rivers, Tigris and Euphrates. The land of Mesopotamia lies between these two rivers. The land of Mesopotamia records history of a series of advancements and discoveries. The people of Mesopotamia began astronomy and agriculture long time ago. Despite all the success, the people of Mesopotamia failed to treat men and women equally. Men enjoyed many privileges and powers over women. Discrimination was the order of leadership and women seemed not to question. Ceremonies like marriages left parents of the bride pay dowry to the man since the husband to be, was expected to reciprocate.
The Byzantine Empire is a word used universally, to describe the Roman Empire whose language of communication was solely Greek. The name Byzantine Empire comes from the Greek name for Constantinople. The empire’s capital was in Constantinople. The name Byzantine was introduced in the year 1557. This empire was often referred to as the Eastern Roman empire. The empire got to the peak under the leadership of emperors of the late 9th, 10th, and the beginning of 11th centuries. During the early periods of this Empire, women were not highly regarded as men.
Women slaves served in the temple and helped in doing domestic chores. The obligation to fulfill duties at home was preserved for women and failure to accomplish this duty; it provided good grounds for divorce. When a woman could not bear children, she was divorced, although the husband had to pay dowry again. A woman could also be divorced when she left her home in order to engage in business. This did not impose any penalty on the husband. On the other hand, if a woman neglected her house, she had to be drowned and this shows how women were guaranteed few rights. However, when a woman was thrown out of a marriage without any good reason, her husband had to return her dowry back. Women also chose the son who would benefit from her inheritance.
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Women were also not allowed to have sex outside marriage unlike their husbands who could do it without any censorship. Some sexual malpractices were bound for severe punishment. Women who committed incest with their sons were thrown into the fire and razed to death. Though incest was not allowed, when a man played sex with a daughter who was a woman in this misdeed, the father was sent away from the community and the daughter forgiven. On the other hand, a woman who committed adultery faced the consequences of being pitched in a river.
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The law further favored women, for instance when a woman is beaten the person was condemnation to slavery. To a certain level women were victimized and used as men’s possessions, for example, a man could sell his wife and children into slavery in order to be freed from going into bondage (Brooten p54). Men and women played the same roles only in serving their gods. This happened when they help their gods perform manual duties, which could not be done by both men and women. Some laws were not gender sensitive. The law that governed the attempt of looting a burning house stated that, “anybody caught looting a burning house landed oneself in trouble of being thrown into the fire”.
Stealing from the temple called for equal penalty on both sexes (men and women) of death. Additionally, the person receiving stolen goods from the temple equally lost his life. Both women and men were allowed to make accusations or charges before a court of law for purposes of solid evidence. The accuser was called to prove the case against the defendant. Unfortunately, the accuser man or woman was subjected to death if he or she could not testify intelligently. Falsehood in the case of murder called for loss of life (Armstrong p22).
The laws governing theft and burglary, such as those that governed murder cases and looting provided men and women same privileges or disadvantages. While other laws subjected male offenders to lighter penalties, female counterparts were given heavy penalties and this implied that women held inferior status in Mesopotamian society. In leadership of Mesopotamia, women and men had representatives in the council of elders, even though women status fell as those of men continued increasing. In the land of Mesopotamia, there lived kings and queens who were believed to come from the city of gods.
Girls got no chance to train important trade, neither were they allowed going to school. They only trained housekeeping, cooking and looking after children. These were chores played by their mothers. On owning property, women were allowed to work and possess property. Games were also played, and only men participated by sitting on other men’s shoulders.
Women’s images were used in making pictorial presentations. A woman’s image appeared on the (old) depicting her holding her instruments on a boat. The Empire practiced many economic activities, though it is not clear whether women were participating in the activity or not (Leslie p47). The Byzantine Empire was a modern government that was independent and developed. The empire also practiced religious activities, and finally the practice of medicine that was substituted with exorcism when a patient got healed. Despite all this milestones, the empire’s ship was sunk by the unfair treatment and little regard for the female sex. They denied them education and only boys went to school, this continued to humble women not to fight for their rights.
Evidently, women were of very low status in the early periods of the Byzantine Empire because of their inferiority to men.