What was the role of women in Roman society?

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thanatassa | College Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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In ancient Roman society, gender roles were strongly differentiated. Women could not act without a guardian or represent themselves in law courts except under the special circumstance of having three living children after Augustus had passed the "ius trium liberorum" in an effort to encourage Roman citizens to have more children. 

Legally, women were under the patriarchal power (patria postestas) of their father even after they married and moved into their husbands' houses, unless they were legally emancipated. Marriages were arranged by a woman's father, but women could choose to divorce their husbands. Women were able to own property and in the case of a divorce, retained their property.

In religion, while most priesthoods and magistracies were exclusively male, the Vestal Virgins were an important group of priestesses, and women did have separate women's rites they alone celebrated. 

In general, women were more active in the household than the public sphere.

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