Role of Women in Ancient Mesopotamia

1190 words 5 pages
From Suffering to Suffrage

As Mary Wollstonecraft once said, “I do not wish them to have power over men, but over themselves.” In this quote, “themselves” is referred to as women of course. It is somewhat customary to pick up a paper in today’s light and perhaps see read about Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, or First Lady, Michelle Obama, even media specialist, Oprah Winfrey. The list could go on and on, but the point remains the same. If King Hammurabi of Babylon were living in today’s world and saw how dramatic the power of women has transformed over the years, he would perhaps declare himself Queen of Babylon. Kevin Reilly accurately depicts the struggling role of women from this early period of civilization through Assyrian
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“.. they shall amputate one foot of each of these officials.” (Reilly 34). The interesting part about the palace decree would be how it fails to mention the role of the woman of the early civilization; it fails to even notice she existed. The woman was treated so unfavorably that it was not even a thought of whether or not she could gain entry into such a prestigious palace. The palace decree shows how the role of a woman from this era was basically absent and not in effect. In the latter part of Reilly’s text there is another code that shows the role of women in early civilization. Hammurabi’s code is a text that gives us an idea of people’s sense of justice and proper punishment. The concepts discussed in Hammurabi’s code include family, marriage, economics and contracts. From the family and marriage passage it was said that if a woman is wayward or unruly in an attempt to declare herself free from any marital relations with the husband she would receive harsh punishment. “…they shall cast that woman into the water.” (Reilly 60) This is a severe punishment and shows how limited a woman’s role was during the early civilization. In today’s world there would never be any punishment for a woman refusing to marry a man. Today, the role of a woman has drastically changed from being almost suppressed to more of an imperative role. In the economics and contracts portion of Hammurabi’s code it was said that a daughter or wife could be put up for debt services for up to


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