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Roman women were educated

This post is also available in: Polish (polski)

Fresco showing a girl reading papyrus. Dated to the 1st century BCE
Fresco showing a girl reading papyrus. Dated to the 1st century BCE

In ancient Rome, it was appropriate for a woman in upper and middle social classes to be able to read and write. Sometimes the family invested in girls even more and provided private Greek or grammar classes.

However, this science was not intended – as was the case with boys – to prepare them for holding public offices or to play an important role in society. The women were to have basic knowledge that would allow them to properly hold the role of hostess and intellectual companion for her husband. Archaeologists are still finding letters sent between soldiers and their wives; of this, letters sent by women have not survived. This does not mean, however, that fair sex could not write. What’s more, we know through ancient sources that e.g. Agrippina the Younger – mother Nero – wrote memories that have not survived to our times.

Many Romans thought, however, that a woman should not be overly educated, because it can make her simply boring! Some families, however, focused on the education of daughters, the best proof of which is Hydrangea – the daughter of Hortensius, a fierce rival of Cicero. Her outstanding oratory skills were noted in sources, mentioning that in 42 BCE in Forum Romanum, she was against taxing the richest women in Rome, which was supposed to support the Roman treasure during the civil war.

Sources

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