Throughout time, the social role of women has been varied, especially throughout the Paleolithic, Neolithic, Bronze and Iron ages. Taking a snap shot of this diversity during the same time period will demonstrate the vast differences of women’s social roles. While some societies considered women as being equal to man, becoming warriors and heroes, other societies treated women as second class citizens or worse. This paper aims at explaining the roles of the Celtic and Middle Eastern women within their communities during the early Iron Age.
Through comparison, this view point will examine that snap shot of different societies during, roughly, the same time period. The Role of Celtic Women In ancient Celtic societies, women had many rights and freedoms that were not offered to women in other societies during the Iron Age (the archaeological period after the Bronze Age and characterized by the widespread use of iron). Celtic women enjoyed the ability to achieve a higher status and serve as chieftains, druids, poets, healers, warriors, diplomats, and judges.
Women were not forced to take these roles, as many took on the more traditional role as wives and mothers.
This ability to determine ones fate is a freedom that would not be extended to women on a widespread notion until the late twentieth century of Western civilizations. Due to the use of marriage as a binding tool for different clans, women were allowed unparalleled rights of divorce and property unlike women of the same time period. The Celtic women had an equal say in the creation of their marriage contract and the distribution of land to the heirs of the family. Unlike any other civilization of the early Iron Age, or beyond, the Celtic women were not only allowed to become warriors, they were expected to be so.
In the Celtic society, women were expected to fight alongside men, as the protection of their land was seen as everyone’s business. The Celtic women were fierce and usually described as, “usually very strong, has blue eyes; in rage her neck veins swell; she gnashes her teeth, and brandishes her snow white robust arms. She begins to strike blows mingled with kicks, as if they were so many missiles sent from the string of a catapult. The voices of these women are formidable, even when they are not angry but being friendly. Many Celtic women were powerful, strong and played important roles in response to the high stature, of which they were held.
These women were very distinct and rare in this time period, since they enjoyed many freedoms and rights that other societies did not offer their own women. The Role of Middle Eastern Women Views of the roles of Middle Eastern women vary amongst the historian reporting it; the Middle Eastern studies professor William Montgomery Watts defined the status of Middle Eastern women as suppressed possessions. Dr. Watts reported women were under the customary tribal law, and as a general rule had virtually no legal status.
They were sold into marriage by their guardian for a price paid to the guardian, the husband could terminate the union at will, and women had little or no property or rights. They were subordinate to their fathers, brothers, and husbands. There was also evidence of homicidal abuse of women and girls, including instances of killing female infants alive. Historian Hatoon al-Fossi suggests that, Middle Eastern women lost many of their rights through ancient Greek and Roman law prior to the arrival of Islam and that the Greco-Roman constraints were retained under Islam.
Others writers, on the contrary, have argued that there were instances where women held high positions of power and authority. They participated in public works, as counselors, held religious offices and accompanied warriors to the battlefront as encouragers, helpers and were also found to be the strategic and courageous leaders of the forces. In some tribes, women were emancipated even in comparison with many of today standards that women enjoy. Therefore, there is no single definition of the role played by the Middle Eastern women during the Iron Age, prior to the advent of Islam.
Comparison of Celtic and Middle Eastern Women In both the Celtic and Middle Eastern civilizations (although for the Middle Eastern this was only in some cases) women could participate in public offices, as mediators, and could hold religious offices. Both types of women were found to be intelligent within their respective societies. However, in many ways the Celtic and Middle Eastern societies were diverse, as the Celtic women had many freedoms and were seen equal to men, while Middle Eastern women were seen as low class citizens or worse and had virtually no legal status.
Celtic women were equal in a marriage and could choose their own husband while Middle Eastern women were sold into marriage by a parent or guardian and had little or no say in the marriage contract, property rights, or succession. In some instances, Middle Eastern girls would be killed if seen as a burden or disgrace to a family or tribe. While in the Celtic society women were held in high regard and were seen as equals to men. Conclusion In conclusion, the role of women throughout history has been very diverse.
Some women have been rulers, warriors, and merchants, while others have been treated as slaves, lower class citizens and wives. The role of women is very dependent on the specific culture and time period. Celtic women were distinct in the Iron Age for the liberty and rights they enjoyed and positions they held in their society, while most women in the Middle Eastern culture have throughout history experienced discrimination and have been subject to restrictions of their freedoms and rights. Some based on religious beliefs, but many are cultural limitations.
This snap shot of two cultures within the relatively same era has proven to be a prime example of the generally accepted notions of women within ancient civilizations. One point must be remembered about the history of women…they were reported by men. One could not now definitively sustain or deny the rights of women at the time, and bias must be taken into account. Taken as is, the rights of the Celtic women are not even matched today, mainly because of warrior status, but the role of women within the Middle Eastern civilizations has remained fairly consistent, even post Islamic diffusion.