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Many cultures have continually improved upon equality for women throughout time, and thus it seems that the ancient world would provide some of the most dangerous and unfair societies for women to live in. However, in Daughters of Isis: Women of Ancient Egypt, Joyce Tildesley argues that women in Ancient Egypt actually experienced a great deal of political and financial freedom (Tildesley, 2005), particularly when compared with its contemporary cultures. A number of goddesses (including Isis herself) played a huge role in Egyptian culture and there were also a huge number of ruling Pharaoh women who were able to take power without marriage to a man. This situation may be due to a huge number of factors, including the unusual geographical features of Egypt, which will be covered within this paper. However, despite the fact that women in Ancient Egypt experienced a number of freedoms that women in Mesopotamia, Ancient Greece and Rome did not have access to (Tildesley, 2005), it is clear that men still dominated society, and some of the assumptions of fairness are based upon documents that may not be accurate. Geographical Features Ancient Egypt was subject to a number of geographical constraints, mostly related to its place on the river Nile. This is often suggested to have made a difference to the lifestyles that people led within the area and the constraints on what they were allowed to do. As an arid landscape, the Nile River provided the only source of water in the area, and the people relied upon this to grow crops. If the Nile did not flood as expected, food could be scarce for the next year (Stearns, Gosch & Grieshaber, 2008). In this way, the Egyptians placed a lot of emphasis on the way that the river worked and could only work in certain areas dependent on the seasons. It is perhaps this need for flexibility for living and working arrangements that meant that women could have a more flexible attitude towards work and property ownership, which would depend on the Nile (Stearns, Gosch & Grieshaber, 2008). Although Ancient Egypt is generally considered to be a separate culture than those surrounding it, it must be noted that there were several visitors to the region who may have had an influence on Egyptian culture (Stearns, Gosch & Grieshaber, 2008). Those from the Greek empire often came, and wrote many observations about the Egyptian way of life. Assyria and Canaan were neighbors, and it is military campaigns between these cultures and the Egyptians that may have played a role in the attempt to eradicate female pharaohs in the New Kingdom. Mesopotamia was also a hugely important ancient culture, and the status of women here represents well the treatment of women in the majority of the ancient world, and thus will be covered in more detail later. Women in Ancient Egypt It is often argued that women held a prized place in Ancient Egyptian society for a number of reasons. There were a huge number of influential female Pharaohs in Ancient Egypt, including Cleopatra (Tildesley, 2005). The ability of women to hold a ruling position seems to go against much of what occurred within the Ancient World and even within modernized Europe and America. However, it could be argued that there were still a majority of male pharaohs and many of these ruling women did not take part in the same number of administrative duties as the men (Stearns, Gosch & Grieshaber, 2008). Both men and women in ancient Egypt did have the right to own property, as well as take this property with them as part of divorce proceedings. In this area, Egyptian women did seem to have a much more positive role in legal proceedings, particularly when it is noted that these freedoms were not part of
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The most dominant bodies on thought, which have impacted on western society’s perceptions and treatment of women, include Greek philosophy, Judeo-Christian cultural beliefs, and western legal code. The outlined traditions have viewed patriarchal as natural in which male domination came out as healthy, with few exceptions such as Plato’s Republic.
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