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Schoolcraft College

The Status and Role of Women in the Assyrian Civilization

Anne Buford
Ancient World History
Professor Dyer
2014 September 10

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In our current society men and women are said to be created equal but we know this isnt
always true. Many women feel that they are still being repressed after more than eighty years of
trying to create equality and in this way women today can relate to women of the Assyrian
Society. Assyrian women are the strongest, most talented, skilled, capable, intelligent, and hardworking women in the world. Without Assyrian women, [the Assyrian nation] would have
stopped evolving, producing, restructuring itself, and our language would have ceased to exist.
No school, church, or social and political organization [would have survived] without Assyrian
women(Assyrian Women). Although four thousand years have gone by, women today and
women of Assyria both are key factors in the growth of a society. The abundant monuments and
textual records from this period reveal a male-oriented society [in Assyria] in which politics,
military affairs, religion, and commerce belong primarily to the male sphere of influence. As a
result, we are relatively well informed about these kings, the events of their reigns, and the
officials who served them, but the women of the period remain obscure(Melville). Although the
women of the period remain obscure, there are still many details known about the responsibilities
they participated in throughout their society.
The role of women in ancient Mesopotamia was clear-cut. The only position they
maintained was daughters and wives, never being able to have an individual identity. The same
cannot be said about the women of royalty or the women married to men with power and status
in society. These women were allowed to have separate lives to their husbands and father.1In
Assyria, curling your hair was more than a nod to style. Hairstyles often defined status,
occupation, and income level( The Assyrians: Born to Curl), and this is how you could tell the
difference between women with an identify of their own and women without one.

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Women contributed to civilization in ancient time by making clothes. They were taught
how to cook, grind grain, [make] beverages, especially beer, [and] how to spin and weave
clothes(Ancient Mesopotamian Women). For many of the women in Assyria weaving was all
they knew.2 The most conventional material women used in weaving was wool. Linen was
additionally used but it was typically set for higher quality clothing. 1 The skins and furs of
animals and metal were also in use, but chiefly for military and hunting costume(Aprim). In the
online article of Clothing in Ancient Assyria Fred Aprim states:
The artist took great pains in portraying the decorative patterns, which ornamented
garments, but left to us a host of queries as regards fashion. It is difficult to know with
exactitude what articles of clothing were worn in addition to outer garmentsparticularly
those, which covered the shoulders, the limbs and the breast. Another feature overlooked
by the Assyrian artist was the depiction of folds on dress. But there is no doubt that the
Assyrian costumes represent a development from those of Babylonia. (Aprim)
The ancient Assyrians established a code which people had to follow, mainly woman. The
Assyrians code is very similar to Hammurabis code established in 1075 BCE and 1750 BCE
respectively. Neither of these codes exists in the Assyrian or Egyptian society today. One of the
laws in the Assyrians code states If a woman has been convicted of lying hands on a man, she is
to pay 30 minas of lead and be caned (20 stripes)(Humm). This law speaks for itself. If a
women hits a man she has to pay thirty minas of lead. Another law says If a man has sex with a
married woman either in a temple- brothel or on the street- knowing that she married, the
adulterer is to be treated as the husband decides to handle his wife. If the adulterer did not know
she was married, he goes free. The husband is to charge his wife, doing to her as he
prefers(Humm). This law basically says if a married woman and a man have sex the husband of

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the wife decides what punishment she receives. If the man did not know the woman was married
he gets to go free but if he did know she was married the husband would decide his punishment
as well. Another law I read and found interesting was If a man is seduced by a married woman,
there is no penalty against him. The <husband> is to impose whatever punishment he wishes on
his wife. But if he forced her and has been charged and convicted, he is to share her
punishment(Humm). I choose these laws because I thought they were great at displaying the
status woman held in ancient society. These laws show that woman were their husbands
property. After a woman was married off she was then considered part of her husbands family.
She was no longer considered part of the family she was born into, so if a woman got in trouble
it was the husband who decided the punishment.1
Assyrian women were known for being some of the strongest, most skilled, capable,
intelligent and hard working women in the ancient world. If the Assyrian society lacked the
capabilities and qualities the women are believed to have held their nation would have stopped
evolving and producing. The Assyrian language would have ceased to exist and no school,
church, or social organization would have survived without Assyrian women. 3 In ancient
Assyria it was socially acceptable for women to not have an individual identity unless the
women came from royalty or their husband held a high social status is society.1 The women who
were not from royalty were taught how to cook, grind grain, make beverages, especially beer,
and how to spin and weave clothes.1 Wool was one of the frequently used materials for clothing
although Linen was also used but reserved for higher quality clothing.4 In ancient Assyrian
society they created a code, similar to Hammurabis code, for the civilization to follow. Most of
the rules affected women more than men for example, a women had to pay thirty minas of lead if
she was convicted of lying hands on a man. Another law states if man has sex with a married

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woman and didnt know she was married he was free from conviction but the womans husband
was the one who decided her punishment, the woman was never free of repercussions. Lastly, if
a man was seduced by a married woman there was no punishment for him, yet the wife still got
punished by her husband. If the man forced the married woman to have sex he received the same
punished as the wife chosen by husband.5 These laws display the status woman held in Ancient
society. These laws show that women were essentially their husbands property. Ancient
Assyrian women were necessary for the Assyrian societys evolution, without them their culture
may have ceased to exist.

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Work Cited
"Ancient Mesopotamian Women." Life, Marriage, Role of Wife, Costumes. 1 Jan. 2013. Web.
12 Sept. 2014. &lt;http://www.ancientmesopotamians.com/ancient-mesopotamianwomen.html&gt;.
Aprim, Fred. "Clothing in Ancient Assyria." Nineveh Online. Web. 13 Sept. 2014.
&lt;http://www.nineveh.com/Clothing in Ancient Assyria.html&gt;.
"Assyrian Women." Speak Assyria. Speakassyria.org, 1 Jan. 2014. Web. 11 Sept. 2014.
Crabben, Jan Van Der. "History of Assyria." Ancient History Encyclopedia. 18 Jan. 2012. Web.
11 Sept. 2014. &lt;http://www.ancient.eu/article/106/&gt;.
Humm, Alan. "Middle Assyrian Law Code." Middle Assyrian Law Code. Alan Humm, 1 Jan.
2011. Web. 13 Sept. 2014.
Joseph, Alya. "Weaving a Better Future." World History Collection. Gale. 31 Jan. 2012. Web.
13 Sept. 2014.

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Mark, Joshua J. "Assyria." Ancient History Encyclopedia. Ancient History Encyclopedia

Limited, 12 Jun. 2014. Web. 10 Sept. 2014. &lt;http://www.ancient.eu/assyria/&gt;.
Melville, Sarah. "Neo-Assyrian Royal Women and Male Identity: Status as a Social Tool."
Academic OneFileGale, 1 Jan. 2004. Web. 12 Sept. 2014.
"The Assyrians: Born to Curl." Power Search. Gale, 1 Jan. 2012. Web. 15 Sept. 2014.

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1. www.ancientmesopotamians.com/ancient-mesopotamian-women.html&gt;.
2. ://go.galegroup.com/ps/retrieve.do?sgHitCountType=None&sort=DASORT&inPS=true&prodId=PPWH&userGroupName=lom_schoolcraft&tabID=T003
3. &lt;http://speakassyria.org/Assyrian_women.html&gt;.
4. Nineveh.com/clothing
5. jewishchristianlit.com/Texts/ANElaws/midAssyrLaws.html&gt;.