Woman Matriarchate

In the Life in Ancient Egypt

Woman Matriarchate in Ancient Egypt

Section targeting




It is likely that this high status of woman arose from the mildly matriirchal character of Egyptian society.

Not only was woman full mistress in the house, but all estates descended in the female line; "even in late times," says Petrie, "the husband made over all his property and future earnings to his wife in his marriage settlement.

The position of woman in ancient egypt


Men married their sisters' not because familiarity had bred romance, but because they wished to enjoy the family inheritance, which passed down from mother to daughter, and they did not care to see this wealth give aid and comfort to strangers.

The powers of the wife underwent a slow diminution in the course of time, perhaps through contact with the patriarchal customs of the Hyksos, and through the transit of Egypt from agricultural isolation and peace to imperialism and war.

Under the Ptolemies the influence of the Greeks was so great that freedom of divorce, claimed in earlier rimes by the wife, became the exclusive privilege of the husband.

Even then, however, the change was accepted only by the upper classes; the Egyptian commoner adhered to matriarchal ways.

Possibly because of the mastery of woman over her own affairs, infanticide was rare.

Diodorus thought it a peculiarity of the Egyptians that every child born to them was reared, and tells us that parents guilty of infanticide were required by law to hold the dead child in their arms for three days and nights.

Families were large, and children swarmed in both hovels and palaces; the well-to-do were hard put to it to keep count of their offspring.

Even in courtship the woman usually took the initiative.

The love poems and letters that have come down to us are generally addressed by the lady to the man; she begs for assignations, she presses her suit directly, she formally proposes marriage.

"Oh my beautiful friend," says one letter, "my desire is to become, as thy wife, the mistress of all thy possessions.


You may also be interested in...



From Woman Return to Life in Ancient Egypt

Return Home