The role of women in different civilizations is always considered to be significant and rather influential. In fact, the treatment of women may serve as a kind of standard according to which many civilizations can be judged and evaluated. It is also possible to analyze what civilization and why may be influenced by some other factors and what the outcomes of these impacts will be. Kevin Reilly in his book The West and the World touches upon numerous aspects which help to define the peculiarities of different civilizations and tell a lot about Greek, Roman, Japanese, Indian, and Medieval European civilizations.
In each of the above-mentioned civilization, women were treated in different ways that help to realize that each nation is unique and worthy of recognition. It was hard for a woman to get the same rights as men did. This is why to prove their rights and abilities to be treated on a proper level, women of all civilizations had to pass a long way and be able to get everything from this world as men did it for a long period of time. Greek, Indian, and other civilizations demonstrate different treatments of women; the status of women has been changed considerably with time but still some grounds allow to evaluate the peculiarity of each nation and to define its strong and weak sides from such perspectives like hunting, agriculture, love and sex, and love and devotion.
It is useless to deny the fact that we all live in a man’s world. It is a usual affair to observe men in politics, economy, business, and many other vital spheres of life. When a woman tries to take some important position, she has to be ready to constant judgments, suggestions, and improvements from male side. Is it true that women are always under male power? Or are there any periods of time when women had more powers and rights and the civilizations where women’s role was appreciated on the necessary level? To find a proper answer to these questions, it is necessary to analyze different civilizations and clear up what kinds of achievements were defined then.
Women and men: general overview. For a long period of time, it was stated that women had fewer rights in comparison to those which men did. However, to gain better understanding of what role women played in their societies, more attention should be paid to their actions, duties, and roles and rely to not only on some written records.
For example, during the ancient times, in many civilizations like Medieval Europe, women were treated as gods. Thinkers define “the first human society …a ‘matriarchy’ (literally, a world of female power, or ‘mother-power’)” (Reilly, Men and Women: Hunters and Gatherers, 15). This way of treatment of women proves that Medieval European civilizations paid much attention to gods and their power over ordinary people. However, it was not the only one civilization that was devoted to gods. The representatives and Rome and Greece also demonstrated their interests in gods’ power but still they relied more on male gods and treated to female gods as good wives of gods who provided the necessary support. The representatives of the Indian civilization prefer to identify women’s power as something that is assumed that established. Men were always responsible for women; they had the right to work, hunt, and bring food to homes, and women in their turn had nothing to do but be housewives, cook, and wait for their husband to be back. However, each country agreed to the fact that women in comparison to men were the only ones able for reproduction.
For a long period of time, the ability to “produce life from their own bodies” (Reilly, Men and Women: Hunters and Gatherers, 13) was a real magic that could not be explained. This is why to provide women with a chance to give a birth to one more human being, men had to treat to women with all respect and care. Humankind was impossible without women, and each civilization admitted this fact from the earliest times. Women and men: agricultural perspective. The development of agricultural and urban revolution influenced considerable the treatment of women and their roles as mothers and wives. This kind of revolution started in the Middle Europe and India and spread over China, Japan, and America within a short period of time (Reilly, Mothers and Fathers: Agricultural and Urban Revolutions, 25). It was stated that women developed agriculture in their homes: they already got the necessary experience in gardening and planting, they knew what kinds of plants were better for usage; this is why it was not too difficult for them to develop this sphere on the necessary level. During the Neolithic times, different civilizations got a chance to improve their positions and relations with each other.
In Neolithic Japan, people made use of female figurines in fertility cults (Reilly, Mothers and Fathers: Agricultural and Urban Revolutions, 32). Such countries like China and Japan were the ones who did not want to create a kind of gender line and minimize women’s power, this is why the successful achievements of these countries may be explained by the fact that they did not find it necessary to divide society but direct all their skills and powers to strengthen their cultures and their traditions. The results of how fast civilizations developed were rather unpredictable. On the one hand, women made numerous attempts to develop agriculture and improve the current state of living affairs. But on the other hand, Greece, Roman, and Indian men continued to study the world of wild animals and develop more important things to promote the development. The results of such improvements changed a lot: matrilineal descent led to increasing of agricultural revolution, and “a majority of agricultural societies may have remained patrilineal” (Reilly, Mothers and Fathers: Agricultural and Urban Revolutions, 33). Greece female gods and the Earth Mother had been removed by Bacchus and the Sky Father.
These considerable changed during the Neolithic period of time proved that people did not want to maintain to one and the same traditions and rules, and if Indian and Roman women were treated poorly all the time, the role of women in such civilizations like Greece, Medieval Europe, and Japan was dramatically decreased quickly. Love and sex by men and women. Each civilization has its own attitude to marriages, love, and sexual relations between men and women. The analysis of these attitudes may help to define how exactly women are treated in different countries and how this treatment influences society. For example, Greeks considered love as the issue that promoted the development of the world.
“They spoke of love often, symbolized it as the heart pierced by Cupid’s arrow, diagnosed it as a newly discovered disease, and talked endlessly about its meaning and effects” (Reilly, Love and Sex: Passion and Conquest in Greece, Rome, and India, 160). However, Greeks did not accept the concepts of love and sex as integral parts of marriage. Even more Greek men did not find it necessary to marry a woman in order to have sex with her or they believed that their relations with women were not as perfect as it was expected. This is why Greek men were eager to find out more emotions and adrenalin in action fighting with men who had the same level of education and the same social status. Greek women were poorly educated, this is why they knew not much about love, and men used this chance to satisfy their personal demands. The Roman civilization was recognized as the one who liked to steal as many Greek ideas as possible (Reilly, Love and Sex: Passion and Conquest in Greece, Rome, and India, 170). The idea of relations between Roman men and women had something in common with the Greek civilization.
The only point was women of Rome had the right to go from their fathers’ authority to the authority of them husbands. Romans did not pay much attention to love and feelings. They knew that they had to have sex; they knew that they had to fight and conquer more land; and they knew that women should wait for men and satisfy them when it was necessary. In it turn, the Indian civilization was one of the cruelest in regards to women and their role in society. Treatment of Indian women is similar to the treatment of a cow. This comparison should not be accepted as something humiliating.
A cow is worshipped in India; however, it is still difficult for a man to demonstrate his respect to a cow. The same happened in the relations between men and women. Indian men were aware of female importance in their lives but still could not demonstrate their attitude and devotion to them. This is why “love marriage …was not unknown in India, despite the fact that most marriages were arranged by parents” (Reilly, Love and Sex: Passion and Conquest in Greece, Rome, and India, 182).
Devotion and love introduced by men and women. Medieval Europe is one of those civilizations that accept the idea of marriage and love as something indivisible and important for life. The representatives of this society introduce one of the most powerful and appropriate attitude to relations between men and women.
“Infatuation, liking, loving, falling in love, being in love, and numerous other expressions” (Reilly, Love and Devotion: Chivalry and Sexuality, 271) are used by Europeans to describe their emotions and respect to sex and love between people. This civilization used love as one of the powerful means of communication. The role of women as the most appropriate examples of how to develop love and use it seems to be important and even obligatory for societies.
In general, the investigations of the ways of how women were treated for a certain period of time in different civilizations turn out to be rather influential. This treatment may help to define what style of life and what interests were inherent to people with different religious and cultural bases.
Greek civilization was characterized by thorough attention to gods’ roles in human lives and numerous comparisons of women to goddesses. This kind of treatment defined Greeks as religious nation with their own attitude to lives and relations. The Romans spent much time in action, this is why their treatment of women was pure monotonous: women had to respect their men, wait them, and satisfy their needs. Indian women suffered from strict treatment and the necessity to be under someone’s control always. And Japanese as well as Medieval European civilization demonstrate the most respectful attitude to women and their roles in society admitting that much depends on women and their abilities to keep everything in order and continue reproduction.
Reilly, Kevin. “Love and Devotion: Chivalry and Sexuality.” In The West and the World: A History of Civilization from the Ancient World to 1700. Princeton, NJ: Markus Wiener Publishers, 1997. 271-294. Reilly, Kevin. “Love and Sex: Passion and Conquest in Greece, Rome, and India.” In The West and the World: A History of Civilization from the Ancient World to 1700.
Princeton, NJ: Markus Wiener Publishers, 1997. 159-184. Reilly, Kevin. “Men and Women: Hunters and Gatherers.” In The West and the World: A History of Civilization from the Ancient World to 1700. Princeton, NJ: Markus Wiener Publishers, 1997. 11-24.
Reilly, Kevin. “Mothers and Fathers: Agricultural and Urban Revolutions.” In The West and the World: A History of Civilization from the Ancient World to 1700. Princeton, NJ: Markus Wiener Publishers, 1997.