Women in Ancient Persia

6 years ago

By: Tara Farhid

Women in ancient Persia were of high position and honor in the history. For example, during the Elamites, the descendents of the ruling Queen would usually receive the thrown. Worshiping the female goddesses was widespread. The women were regarded the venerable roots and had kept the family roots and ancestry.  Archaeologists have found the remains of many female Godesses, which indicates the position and value of women being precious, Also remains of female Shatn (religious ritual leaders) which again represent the status of women in the society. Based on historical evidence, the place of women in ancient Iran was much better in comparison with other countries. When women in ancient Greece, were not regarded even as citizens, in ancient Iran we have cases like Homay (a female ruler / queen) and female Gordafarid (a female general and heroine) battles  regarded as part of the history. When the Arabs used to buried their girls alive,  girls in Iran such as Azarmidokht and Purandokht ruled the Persian Empire. During Barbarism in northern Europe, in Iran women like Reyhaneh, daughter of Hussein Kharazmi, had becomr master in the science of astronomy.

Based on what is available on the early times (Palaeolithic era) the society was based on matriarchy was in, but after the evolution of metallic tools the ruling power switched to man. Although at this time women and men has equal rights and share of inheritance  and both could inherit the Thrown.

Women Ruling in the Burnt City (3000 BC)

Women made up the most powerful group in this 5000-year-old Burnt City in Iran, the province of Sistan-Baluchestan.

According to the research by an archeological team in the Burnt City, many seals were found in women’s Graves, signifying power.

The study of women’s status in ancient Persia, as mentioned in Zoroastrian texts such as the Avesta, shows that at a time when many women in the world were deprived of their basic rights, women enjoyed social and legal freedom and were treated with great respect.

Avesta texts ask both genders to share responsibility and take decisions together. They are equally praised for their good deeds rather than their gender, wealth or power.

In ancient Persia, women could take the throne in case the king passed away and the crown prince was still a minor. One such woman was Pourandokht, the first Persian queen regent in Ctesiphon. Ancient scriptures describe her as a wise, just and good-natured woman who did her best to revive the Sassanid sovereignty.

Avestan texts address the issue of leadership and tell us that a ruler may be a woman as well as a man.

Equal Rights and Responsibility

In Ancient Persia women were partner with men and active in all walks of life. As per rules of Zoroastrianism women could reach the highest religious position such as Zoot that required extensive religious education.

Out of six Ameshaspandan of Zarathustras religion divinities), three are masculine (Bahman, Ardibehesht, Shahrivar) and three are feminine (Espandarmaz, Khordad, Amordad).

Zoroastrian texts advise parents to encourage their offspring to tread the path of knowledge and explain that women have an equal responsibility in the dissemination of knowledge and science.

“Whatever a man or a woman knows that is good and right, not only should they practice, but inform others to perform accordingly“. (Yasna 41/2)

Female members of the ancient Persian society were allowed to participate in religious ceremonies and sometimes even head the event as the priest.

Persian women were free to choose their spouse and Zoroaster urged them to make their decision based on wisdom.

Regarding young couples, they are advised to remain faithful, share their joy and sorrow, to adhere to the principles of love and to try to surpass one another in truth and righteousness.

Social Role

Reference has also been found on the role of Persian women in society. According to Greek historian and biographer Plutarch, Persian women were active members of their society and good fighters.

There were numerous female fighters among the ranks of the Sassanid army. They have been described as excellent and competent soldiers.

According to Pahlavi texts such as the Din-Kard, women could manage their property, represent their husbands at court, chair courtrooms and perform religious ceremonies.

Ancient documents found at Persepolis, Susa and other Mesopotamian cities show that both noble and common women enjoyed economic independence in Persia. They owned property, were involved in managing their assets, had employment opportunities and earned wages.

Although noble Persian women had to act within a defined framework set by the king, they also enjoyed economic independence and had control over their wealth.

Women were allowed to visit their estates and administer their assets individually or with the help of their husbands.

Ancient documents mention common women by the title bestowed upon them due to the nature of their work. The level of skill determined a female manager’s title.

The highest-ranking female workers were known as Arashshara (great chief). They managed female and male workers, and received the highest salary among their peers.

According to the book "The Eastern Iranian Civilizations "by "Giger" the great German thinker, a sign of equality of men and women position in Zoroastrianism is that after marriage a woman was assumed as a wife and partner of a man not his property or his subordinate.

Chapter 19 book Hezar Dastan" (paragraph 3& 4) says: "Girlscannot be forced to a marriage without their consent."

Christian Bartolomé, based on the book of "Hezar Dastan", writes: in a Sasanian family after the fathers deat the wifes, girls and the sons had equal shares of inheritance.

According to Avestan rules:

1 - women were able to handle their wealth by themselves.
2 - Woman could be the guardian of their children.
3 - Woman could legally represent their husbands and make decisions on their own during their husbands illness / unavailability.
4 - Women were able to prosecute their husbands for their unjust action.
5 - Men were not allowed to marry their daughters without the wifes knowledge or consent.
6 - Woman could witness at the court.
7 - Women were able to be a judge or a lawyer.
8 - Women were able to be subject to a will or arrange their own will.

Sassanid era as "Darmesteter quoted was outstanding. Based on the documents of this period including Karnamak of Ardashir Papakan women were highly respected and held high positions and administered their wealth.

The most striking symbol of equal rights of men and women in ancient Persia, was the possibility to transfer the crown and ruling power to women.

Shapur II's mother ruled the country for nearly twenty years before he reached the legal age for becoming the king. In Azarbad Mehrspand he saysto his son: ..whether your child is a girl or a boy, send him or her to school to adorn him / her with the light of wisdom and knowledge.

Historical documents show that male and female workers received equal pay and there were an equal number of workers from both genders. In summary the evidence of the Fortification and Treasury texts provide us with a unique insight into the social and economic situation of Persian women, royal and non-royal, as well as female workers. These women owned property, were involved in managing their assets. Participated in economic activities of the estate and other arenas. They had employment opportunities earned wages and as a result were able to be economically independent.
Herodotus, Book 1
Plutarch, Morals, Book 1
Plutarch, Alexander
Christian Bartolomé, Rights of Sassanid Women
The Eastern Iranian Civilizations "by "Giger
Hezar Dastan Pahlavi Text

Source: tarafarhid.blogspot.com


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