2.2.7- The influence of Classical Patriarchy

Patriarchy as defined by the dictionary is "a of social organization in which the father is the supreme authority in the family, clan, or civilization." Which is the structure for all of the ancient civilizations which we as a class have studied.

Basic Gist
Han-era family working together.

In area such as the Gupta Empire, Persia, Hellenistic Greece, Han Dynasty China, and Rome, during the time interval of 500 BCE - 500 CE. Patriarchy was influencing the life of these civilizations, though to what degree and to what it influenced differed in these civilizations. For Example in the Han-era family, it was was patriarchal and typically had four to five nuclear members living in one household. Multiple generations of extended family members did not occupy the same house, unlike families of later dynasties. Where as in The Gupta Empire most Indian families were patriarchal, headed by the eldest male. Parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts, and children all worked together to raise their crops. Because drought was common, they had to work more closely together resulting in a less patriarchal relationship than in the Han-era family .So depending on the civilizations circumstances the degree of Patriarchy was different. Religion in these civilizations also had an impact as to how patriarchy influenced family life. In Confucian family norms, various family members were treated with different levels of respect and intimacy. For example, there were different accepted time frames for mourning the death of a father versus a mother. Even now the patriarchy from this era is seen in civilizations, the effects of Persia's society can be seen in how the males still have control in many of the laws and the household. Legally they hold more power than that of women in many cases. Much of Persia was Muslim. Which is a very male dominate religion. Still today much of the middle East is the same way. The males do all the work outside of the house often. So for these civilizations it was the backbone of the family way of life.



Case Study


Junius Brutus condeming his sons for their disobedience.

The Roman father was a powerful type, because he possessed almost unlimited powers within the family, according to later Roman law. He had the power of life and death over his children, meaning that at birth he could choose to raise them or kill them, and later he could punish them by execution. (The celebrated legendary founder of the Roman Republic, Junius Brutus, had his sons executed for disobedience.) In addition, the early Roman father owned all property in his family; his children, no matter how old, were unable to own anything in their own name as long as the father lived. A 45-year-old senator could hold the highest office of the state, the consulship, but if his father was still alive he couldn't own a denarius' worth of property. The father also had the power to make or break his children's marriages. In early times, fathers ruled their households, and their authority maintained order and stability.

Roman authors --- all men--- often lamented that in the late Republic wives no longer played the ideal role that they had fulfilled for centuries. According to the Roman writers of the first century BCE and first century CE, divorce became increasingly frequent after 200 BCE, initiated easily by the husband or the wife. In addition, wives had their own property, which they could sell, give away or bequeath as they liked. As a result, women became more liberated and less dependent on their husbands. In fact, by the late Republic a rich wife who could divorce and take her wealth with her had a real threat against her husband and could wield influence over him. The sense of independence also showed up in increasing sexual promiscuity and adultery.Roman men deplored the fact that these rich women were more concerned with their own figures and luxuries than with their families. Unlike the good, old-time matrons, according to the historian Tacitus around 100 CE, these modern women did not spend time with their children and did not nurse their infants but left them to slave wet nurses. Furthermore, children were handed over to be raised by child-minders, usually the most useless slaves of the household.

Video of a Roman Family

An Educational Podcast on The Roman Family. Including: family life, clothes, education, food and drink.



A - Depicted the family life and the Patriarchy in the civilizations.

G - Not much impact on geography from patriarchy in civilizations.

M - The military of all the classical societies had only males in their armies. It was thought that women were not as strong generally.

S - Socially the classical civilizations were very male dominant. It was socially accepted that men were stronger and had power over women.

P - Patriarchal societies have almost exclusively throughout time have had only male rulers, and male figures in government. This gave almost no voice for women in government.

R - The Patriarchy in many areas was often enforced by the religions. In areas like India and heavy Islamic regions the religion was very focused on males having power, the women serving the men, and the women have not much power.

I - The spread of ideas was limited to males. This was due to women having much less of an education compared to men. Men were the ones doing the jobs and thus were the ones who ran into new idea, came up with new ideas, and spread them. They also had the power in patriarchal societies to do this.

T - The technology was all developed by males and implemented by males. Thus making the technology male dominate also.

E - The environment was not effected by Patriarchy in societies.

In conclusion the classical societies were shaped by their patriarchal views on the male and women relationships. It started as a social view, which also effects the political and religious views of the society. From the social view on women, it spreads to even the development of ideas and technology is effected since women were not educated since the male was more important. Obviously the patriarchy in societies had little effect on the environment and geography compared to those that were not patriarchal. Religions based many of their core values off that of the social values of that society. Since women were looked down upon when compared to men, this is represented in many religions. With many religions supporting the idea of women serving the man and listening their husband. Also the view that women should work at home seems to be a common social view on women in all classical civilizations.