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Western Civilization: Women Demonstrate against the Oppian Law, Augustus, and the Germanic-Roman interaction - Essay Example

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Western Civilization: Women Demonstrate against the Oppian Law, Augustus, and the Germanic-Roman interaction.
The reading on the subject of the Oppian Law reveals an interesting spectrum of opinion on the role of women in Roman society in the period around 195 B.C.E…
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Western Civilization: Women Demonstrate against the Oppian Law, Augustus, and the Germanic-Roman interaction
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"Western Civilization: Women Demonstrate against the Oppian Law, Augustus, and the Germanic-Roman interaction"

Download file to see previous pages The historian Livy presents both sides of the debate on an issue that caused considerable consternation in the city of Rome. On the one hand there is the conservative Cato, who argues against the reform of a harsh law that prevents women from wearing fine clothes, traveling in carriages within towns and cities, and possessing more than a certain amount of gold. On the other hand there is Valerius who appeals to the long and glorious history of Roman womanhood, arguing that they have always stepped in to the breach to defend Rome, and that they deserve to share in its wealth just as men do, now that times are better again. This extract shows that women in Rome were treated well so long as they remained within the legal constraints decided by men, and when they displayed sacrificial behavior, but that some powerful forces saw them as a threat when they dared to speak up to defend themselves against injustice. It is clear that Roman women, especially in the upper classes, enjoyed many privileges while times were good. Cato speaks fondly of the ancestors who “did not want women to conduct any- not even private- business without a guardian” (Livy, p. 30), which implies that in the time of the debate women were very much active in such domains. In fact their appearance on the streets and their expectation of a fair hearing shows that they were very capable of understanding and using the conventions of legal, political and commercial life. They also inherited wealth from their husbands and other relatives who died on the battlefield, which means that there had been times in history when they were free to own property and decide on its use. The evidence of this speech shows that many women did have quite a good life, even though, as Valerius points out “they cannot partake of magistracies, priesthoods, triumphs, badges of office, gifts or spoils of war” (Livy, p. 32). I would not have enjoyed being a woman in a society that forbids participation in these key democratic rights. When one considers, however, the inequality that women still face today in gaining access to the top boardrooms, the highest offices of the land, including President of the United States, and priesthood in a great many religions of the modern world, it is clear that things have improved a little since Roman times. Many but many of the same restrictions on women still apply either by rule of law, as in religions, or by patriarchal prejudice. In conclusion, therefore, it seems that the position of women in ancient Rome was, as it is now, rather mixed. Valerius is correct when he tells the decision makers, who are all men: “the more power you possess, all the more moderately should you exercise your authority” (Livy, p. 33). The women, with some help from Valerius won the argument in the end, and the emergency curtailment of their freedoms was repealed and this shows that they had some power to be reckoned with, despite the obstacles that some men placed in their path. On the whole, however, my own opinion is that I think women were not treated fairly in the Roman Republic. They had very few guaranteed rights, and were in a considerably worse position than men were in. The problems of the state, such as requiring more money to pay for troops, were created by men, and they resulted in the Oppian Law which was specifically directed against women, directing them to hand over their own family goods to the state (Livy, p.128). This was patently unfair. The power of men to control women is something that I would not willingly accept and so I would not like to have been a woman in the Roman Republic. 2. When Octavian adopted the name Augustus, meaning “Revered One” he embarked on a period of radical reform with the full backing of the people of ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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