Egyptian woman


ANCIENT EGYPT | The female universe in Ancient Egypt

The greatness of a civilization is given not only by those who govern it, but it is determined, in good measure, by its own people, who share its splendour and pay for its misfortunes, embracing the destiny to which it is guided, in good as well as in bad government. The Egyptian State, in its two components, male and female, has contributed to make great the pharaohs who have led it in the paths of the different historical events of which it has been protagonist over the millennia.

In ancient Egypt, unlike other ancient cultures, the birth of a female was not considered a misfortune: whatever the sex of the newborn child, in a society with a high infant mortality rate, the birth was considered a blessing of the gods and was accompanied by ceremonies dedicated to the protective gods of the puerpera and the newborn. The patron god of pregnancy was Bes, who was represented as a deformed and bearded dwarf.

Bes divinità parto
Bes, dwarf god protector of pregnancy
The role of women in the Egyptian civilization

The Egyptian woman, in the different levels of society, has been a capable and active interpreter of the political and military choices of the sovereigns, allowing the accomplishment of their strategic designs of imperialistic grandeur. She enjoyed a social status equal to that of man, with a role within society of vital importance and considerable relevance at any level, whether she was priestess, queen, worker or simple wife.

Her role was opposed to that of man, not because she was considered inferior, but because the two sexes were opposed to each other, just as day is opposed to night and light to darkness. Each had specific functions, equally relevant, without overwhelming the other, but both contributed, without antagonisms, to a right balance.

From the social point of view, the woman had an active role and her education was equal to the male one. If gifted, the girls had the possibility to enter the palace and temple schools; this was also allowed to young women of modest origin, in possession of considerable intellectual capacity. In the schools they had access to different levels of education: from middle to specialized.

The “lady of the house”

The Egyptian woman had the same legal position as the man and exercised her main activities in the private sphere, as “lady of the house”. It was not only a formal courtesy title, because, to all intents and purposes, the wife organized daily life and administered common goods. Therefore, one can speak of a certain division of labor based on sex. Nevertheless, often the women of more humble extraction shared the husband’s job, as well as, of course, taking care of typically female chores, such as weaving, cooking, keeping the pantry provided and preparing ointments.

Already in the Old Kingdom the woman was, from the legal point of view, independent: in fact, she could assert her rights in court and freely express her will to dispose of private property. The marriage was sanctioned by a contract that, on the death of her husband, assured the widow her share of the estate.

In the Egyptian civilization, therefore, the woman always played a considerable role, often much more important than in other Mediterranean civilizations.

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