chapter  1
36 Pages

Women’s social status in Greco-Roman Egypt

WithAda Nifosi

This chapter discusses the social and legal status of women in Greco-Roman Egypt as disclosed by papyri such as women’s letters, legal documents and census lists. The legal documents presented in this chapter are marriage contracts and documents concerning women’s management of property and their right to inherit property. The chapter provides a general survey about women and society, while those that follow will focus on social and familial behaviour that could be observed around women during the phases of pregnancy, childbirth and menstruation. Literacy guaranteed women more independence in legal acts and private correspondence because they did not have to use scribes and, even if they did, they had the chance to check what was written on their behalf. Greek women reached adulthood through various stages: marriage, loss of virginity and childbirth. Roman women-to-be went through two liminal phases, which were underlined by a change of garment and of hairdress: menarche and marriage.