I have come across what strikes me as a rather odd depiction of
women and their status in Sumer. Since I am more familiar with later
periods, I would appreciate any commentary anyone on the list might
offer, as well as any bibliography. Please note: the author is NOT an
ancient historian of any kind. Her footnote for this passage is in
one lump form, so it is not possible to determine where any specific
datum came from.
"Women of the upper classes were able to own slaves and other
property, to transact business, and to retain control over their
dowries (though inheritance went first to sons, if there were any).
Royal women in particular had considerable power, founding dynasties,
managing large temple estates, and even ruling city-states. But
farther down in the class structure, legal texts show that women could
be sold by their husbands, put to death for adultery, divorced if
barren, or drowned for refusing to bear children. Since most girls
were wed by age eleven or twelve, marriage was the state in which they
lived most of their lives. Women's children were regarded as the
property of their fathers, who were permitted by law to decide wether
they should be exposed, married, or sold as slaves. The lot of female
slaves was of course worse: in addition to being 'subject to the
master's sexual whims,' female slaves received about half as much food
as their male counterparts, and many died at a young age owing to the
harsh conditions under which they labored."
Many thanks! -Stephanie Budin