Location, location, location...

So I was inspired to this question by a comment in the last post from the inspirational Stephanie Thornton:

If you were a woman in the 5th century BC, where would you choose to live?

I include anywhere on the planet, not only Greece, or even necessarily the Mediterranean. If the 5th century is too specific, feel free to expand a bit.

My own suggestion would be Tyrrhenia, also called Etruria, home of the Etruscans, because the status of women appears to have been high there. If not Tyrrhenia, then perhaps a south sea island like Vanuatu because I like the place, and life would be relatively easy, if short.


26 comments:

LQQ said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
LQQ said...

It would depend on the status of the woman too - a slave or wealthy. Then you might have to ask how well do people treat their slaves, and that's another question.

This is my first comment on your blog, which I have been following for a few months. I really enjoy these snippets into Ancient Greece, and the occasional Word tip too.

Seth

Gary Corby said...

Welcome, Seth! In fact, very welcome indeed, since I see that in real life you're a SQL DBA. I did the odd spot of SQL programming, back when I was a young lad.

You are totally right on the social status. Let's say, for the purposes of the conversation, that extreme highs and lows are out of bounds. So no princesses, and no one slaving away in a salt mine. We're looking at the average womanly experience. Pick your own definition of average.

Amalia T. said...

I have to do more research into it, still, but I'm leaning toward somewhere in the Norse lands right now. 5th Century BC would put me well after the climate shift, so people would have the hang of managing life in a colder environment. We don't know a lot of about the people who lived there, but judging by the information I've seen, and the later cultural norms, it seems like women probably had a reasonable chance at a good life, even if it was a bit more primitive than the Mediterranean. And even if I didn't, 1000 years into the future, I know my great-great-etc granddaughters would definitely be treated with respect and have a lot of freedom.

Gary Corby said...

A fine choice, Amalia.

Matthew Delman said...

I'd probably go with the Southwest United States among the Native Americans who would eventually become the Navajo. The women in that particular tribe had the ability to divorce their husbands simply by putting his things outside the house -- and as women owned everything once it came into the house, well then you see the point.

Gary Corby said...

Okay, that sounds rather cool. The women owned everything inside the home? Were the proto-Navajos a matriarchal people then? (Note my deep knowledge of prehistoric America...)

Matthew Delman said...

The leaders were still men, but if I'm remembering my history correctly the women took a major role in choosing which man would lead.

I could be combining a few different tribes though, as I've not studied the Native Americans for a few years now.

Interesting point though: Many native tribes in the Americas and the Pacific Islands tracked lineage through the women instead of the men.

L. T. Host said...

The Etruscans would be a good one-- women could own property and whatnot, if I remember correctly?

Other than that, I'm not sure. It's tough to say. Outside of the 5th century, I quite like where I am right now.

_*rachel*_ said...

On the other hand, what about religion? Since I'm Christian, and that was BC, my first answer would be Jerusalem.

On the other hand, that's right around the time the Temple was destroyed. I guess it depends on when I'd be in the 5th century. If I could hitch a ride with the return from exile, I'd do that.

If you take away that line of reasoning, I'm not entirely sure. Maybe somewhere north-ish; I like cold and snow.

AvenSarah said...

Oooh, not fair -- the 5th century was an awful time for women, in the cultures I know best. I'd choose Mycenean Greece, or 1st cent (BC or AD) Rome, or maybe turn-of-the-millennium Britain... but that wouldn't be playing by your rules. I'll have to think about it some more...

Susanna Fraser said...

Hmm...I've heard that women had it better in Ancient Egypt than in most ancient cultures, but I'm not sure how much that still held true by the 5th century BCE.

(This is the occasional commenter formerly known as Susan Wilbanks and now posting under a brand new pen name.)

Gary Corby said...

Matthew, there's a theory that ancient Greece was matriarchal at one point very early on too. Not a lot of evidence, but enough to make it credible.

Gary Corby said...

L.T. yes, the Etruscan women appear to have had quite a lot of freedom at this point. Enough anyway that the Greeks called them licentious sluts.

Gary Corby said...

Rachel, you might perhaps have liked Susa in the 5th century BC, capital of the Persian Empire. No Christians, of course, but the place was chock-a-block with Zoroastrians.

Zoroastrianism was the first dualist religion (a Good God vs an Evil Spirit), and shares a lot of moral and ethical views with later Christianity, including a recognizable heaven and hell, which was a real innovation for the time.

Gary Corby said...

I knew you'd want to go for Rome, Sarah!

Gary Corby said...

Hey Susanna, you're welcome whatever name you use!

It's pretty much pre-ordained that Stephanie will go for Egypt, so the two of you can meet somewhere and hang out.

_*rachel*_ said...

Actually, Susa was where Esther was--in the 5th century! (Probably then.) Except I like to imagine I'm pretty, and I don't like polygamy...;) Though that would be a pretty good way to meet Esther.

I know there weren't Christians back then, but I figure God's God, whether it's the Old Testament or the New Testament. So I'd probably like to hang out with Jews, if they were following God instead of provoking... hm... at least half of the contents of the books of the prophets.

Stephanie Thornton said...

You know I'm going to say 18th Dynasty Egypt. Just to learn about Hatshepsut.

But!

Women in ancient Egypt had life pretty easy compared to most other ancient women. I could divorce my husband, own property, sue, work in the temples, be a scribe, or even the High Priestess.

If you won't let me go to Egypt though I'm with Matt. Navaho women had a pretty sweet gig.

Gary Corby said...

Yes, Stephanie, I knew with utter certainty you would say Egypt!

Were there female scribes in Egypt? I wasn't aware.

Stephanie Thornton said...

There is actually evidence for a small number of female scribes. Libbie Hawker did a post on one a few weeks back. As far as the ancient world went, women in Egypt were among the most liberated.

Because Egypt was cool like that.

Gary Corby said...

Egypt was indeed cool like that. :-)

A girl scribe might make a good character.

Loretta Ross said...

Can I be a courtesan in Athens? I've always wanted to be a woman of ill repute. ;)

Gary Corby said...

Loretta, I'm sure you'd make an outstanding lady of ill-repute!

Er...hold on...let me think how to rephrase that...

LQQ said...

I'm going to go for England - as far as I know the women were the tribal leaders in Celtic Britian or more or less equal with men, and we'd still have a few hundred years before the Romans come and spoil things.

Gary Corby said...

Hi LQQ. Great choice. Yes, I suspect women did pretty well in England about that time. Only problem might be the relatively short life spans? Not sure about that though.