The Women Who Broke the Social Norms in Ancient Rome

Could Roman women change their lives? Did these women have the rights to do such things? Women in Ancient Rome had no other choice but to conform to their way of life and how they were to do things. Although most of the women were conformers, there were also a few women who did not conform to their lifestyle and who went outside of their roles as normal Roman women. These women were not heard of for a very long time, but they were slowly and increasingly making a difference for Roman women and how they wanted to live. Majority of the women that would go outside of their roles were powerful women and they would find a way to be heard. Three of these ladies from Rome who would go outside their normal roles were Agrippina the Younger, Livia, and Cloelia.

When Roman daughters were born they would already have somewhat of a clear view of what their daughters would be doing in life. At first, the girls would take on a more feminine form of their father’s name which would tie them to their father. It would also show other people if that girl was rich or poor and who her father was. These girls would be under control or guardianship of the oldest male in the house which was most likely always the father. As they grew older they were mostly seen as a woman who was to be a child bearer, a wife, a mother and a daughter ( At the age of 13, a girl was most likely considered a woman and her father would choose a man to marry her (


this means they had arranged marriages. The point of marriage was to make an heir and to have babies to keep one’s generation going. The women getting married could choose whether to live with manus (her husband now controls her and owns everything that’s hers) or without manus (her father controls her dowry).

Also divorce was very unlikely because women would lose almost everything, even their children, and most women didn’t want that for themselves. Majority of these ladies would work inside the home washing clothes, cleaning the house, and doing whatever was needed in the home. They could also own businesses and be doctors or clerks, but it was very unlikely to see that happen (Nardo, 16). This was because women had barely any rights in Rome and they struggled because of it. That is how little freedom these women had. They had no political or public rights and they were not allowed to do much except a little variety of things. Rome consisted of two kinds of citizens, the plebeians (lower class) and the patricians (upper class). Roman women were mostly seen as second class citizens (people who don’t have very many political, social, or economic rights and are seen as a minority) and plebeians because they were poor and did not have their own rights. They were seen as second class because men thought they were more intelligent and competent than women. Which brings us to the education of Roman women. Most women in Ancient Rome were not educated or only educated about the basics because it was frowned upon for a woman to be too educated. Some women would go to school if their parents were wealthy but most would not and would learn from their parents at home. This would be why most girls growing up would know much less than boys would when they grew up. Throughout their lives this is what a Roman woman’s life would be like and what they would deal with. They would have no rights, they would be controlled by a male, and always seen as a second class citizen. Overall, women’s lives in Rome was very limited and they were bound to be conformers who were under control at all times.

There were some women in Ancient Rome who went outside their normal roles and did not conform to a normal Roman woman’s way of life. A lot of these women were powerful and were wives or daughters of the many emperors in Rome. Even though these women were already powerful and had better access to be heard it was still a great start at change for women. For example, Agrippina the Younger was the first woman to have such great power in Rome (Lightman, 11). She advised her husband about political matters that were occurring in the Roman world and would have her husband take these issues into consideration. This was such a great step for not only Agrippina but for the women as well because most men did not listen to women in such a way. Also it was a big step because the women did not have political power or rights whatsoever in that time in age. Agrippina was then the regent (a person who runs the country in place of another because the other is too young to run the country at the time) for her son Nero because he was too young to rule and he would not know what to do (Baker, 173). Many people wanted her dead for her actions because she was taking over and making a lot of decisions for Roman society and powerful people did not like that. For example, a freedman named Anicetus did not like her at all and planned to have her killed twice and succeeded in doing so. This shows that men did not like when women were in control and had authority over them; therefore, he had to do something about it and so he killed her. Another important woman was Livia Drusilla who was the first, first lady of Rome. She helped society gain back morals that they had lost and acted as an important political helper to her husband, Augustus, who was also the first emperor of Rome and the founder of the Roman Empire.

Livia, although powerful, showed women that they could have a say as well as the men did because she helped the society with morals and politics. She would host people at her house and let them stay there and also would talk to women about issues and keep them as her alliances to get what she wanted. This made her a very smart women who could get what she wanted whenever she wanted it. Livia persuaded her husband to focus on political issues that he was not focusing on and could get him to do things that no one else could. Cloelia is another Roman women who you would not think would have played the role that she did in Ancient Rome. As a treaty in the war Cloelia was taken hostage and she had come up with a plan ( She helped lead a group of Roman virgin hostages to freedom by helping them and herself escape. She made them swim back to Roman territory across the Tiber (Lightman, 75) and lead them to safety. When they came back safely, Porsenna let her choose half the hostages to take back to Rome. With her intelligence she chose the young boys because she said they would be the most useful and once they got back they could go back into the war. Cloelia went outside a normal woman’s role in Ancient Rome because no man would ever think a woman could do such a thing like she did. She took authority in leading back the hostages and was rewarded greatly for it, especially for being a women. Even though women were said to not be involved in politics or great things these women could persuade their husbands to have some insight on other issues that were happening and could get them to focus more on those issues.

The differences between a normal woman’s life in Rome and a person who went outside those roles were significantly different. A normal woman would mostly do work inside the home

and then get married at around thirteen or fourteen; next she would have babies and work in the home for the rest of her life. But these other women would actually have a say in politics and would lead their society to a betterness that they did not have before. They would stand up for what they wanted instead of being in the background their whole lives and having men walk all over them and control them. Therefore those women helped the women in Rome to where they are today with more rights than they had and better opportunities for their lives.

In Rome, not very many women had a say in anything. Infact none of them did except for a few exceptions with women who were married to the emperor as his wife or who were his daughter. Therefore, women in their normal daily lives did not have much to do except for their usual work inside the house or the few jobs that they could do outside their homes. In fact, majority of women who had a say in anything were involved with some type of politics and could get the emperor to reflect and do something about these issues, giving women a little bit more leeway on what they could do in their daily lives. Overall, some women could go outside their daily roles but only a few, while the others had to simply wait until things would change for them.

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