Women and voting in Rome

Aug 2017
45
New Jersey
#1
So what was Rome's reasoning for not allowing the average woman to vote? It doesn't seem to be for the same reason the US did, which was that they believed that women just weren't fit for political matters. As they made exceptions to Vestal Virgins, giving them the right to vote.
 
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caldrail

Ad Honorem
Feb 2012
5,303
#2
Rome was not a sexually equal society. Women were not thought to be able to make sensible voting decisions and were usually barred from political activity - though a few did later wield some huge influence.
 
Jan 2015
2,950
MD, USA
#3
I'm having trouble coming up with *any* ancient society that even considered letting women vote! Of course, in many there wasn't the kind of voting we think of today, and it has to be remembered that even Roman citizen men just didn't show up at the polls in a random mass--they were carefully sorted by tribe and social class, and voted in strict order, so that the lower classes had virtually no power. Other cultures had comparable systems for whatever voting they may have had.

I hadn't heard of the Vestal Virgins voting, but it's not something I ever studied! I'd be willing to bet that their "vote" was highly ceremonial and ritualized, and had nothing to do with some bizarre concept of "women's rights". Plus, there were, what, twelve Vestals at any one time? Not much of a voting bloc.

Matthew
 
Sep 2014
1,207
Queens, NYC
#4
The only ancient society allowing women to vote may have been the very ancient Athenians.

The legend was that when the city was first built, there was dispute about whether it should be named after Athena, or after Posiedon. Allegedly, women voted as well as men. All the women voted for Athena, and their vote was more in number than the men's vote (which was for Poseidon).

Poseidon, a sore loser sent a flood or earthquake. So the men, blaming the women, deprived women of the vote (but the city remained Athens).
 
Aug 2017
45
New Jersey
#5
The only ancient society allowing women to vote may have been the very ancient Athenians.

The legend was that when the city was first built, there was dispute about whether it should be named after Athena, or after Posiedon. Allegedly, women voted as well as men. All the women voted for Athena, and their vote was more in number than the men's vote (which was for Poseidon).

Poseidon, a sore loser sent a flood or earthquake. So the men, blaming the women, deprived women of the vote (but the city remained Athens).
I guess this is the reason why the Greece were so misogynistic.
 
Jan 2015
2,950
MD, USA
#7
I guess this is the reason why the Greece were so misogynistic.
But they weren't, by their yardstick. Greek men as a collective did not hate or abuse women as a matter of course. There were simply different roles for men and women, and women of the upper classes were kept more secluded to protect their honor and chastity. You may want to label this as abusive, but to the Greeks it was proper behavior and protective.

Have to agree with Dan that that story sounds very mythical! Though even if it were solid fact, a group of campers clamoring over the name of their new site is far different from an organized system of suffrage for choosing government officials and creating laws.

Matthew
 
Oct 2015
874
Virginia
#8
There were six Vestals for most of Roman history. There is no evidence they could vote, but they had many other privileges and powers. They were supported by the state, were inviolable like tribunes, they were involved in most public ceremonies and could absolve criminals they met being led to punishment. It was the Vestals who interceded with Sulla in favor of Caesar.

The status of women in Rome was different from Greece; they were not isolated in women's quarters, they participated in social and religious activities, and ran the household and family finances etc when the men were absent.

While Roman women could own property they were supposed to have a male relative control it, but this was not always the case as there is evidence of women running businesses and estates. There is even evidence that some aristocratic women (like Servilia) had an important, if unofficial, role in determining family political activity.

It was a Roman (Metellus Numidicus) who apparently said "Nature has determined that we cannot always live comfortably with women, but we cannot live at all without them."

As to women's suffrage, outside of abbesses of convents in medieval Europe and certain matrilineal native American tribes like the Iroquois, was it allowed anywhere before colonial America?
 
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tornada

Ad Honoris
Mar 2013
15,385
India
#9
I won't offer any comment as to why women couldn't vote in Rome, but its interesting to note that when, during the Late Republic, the Romans tried imposing taxes on women, Hortensia practically led a revolt on the premise of "No Taxation Without Representation" asking why they were barred from Public office if they were to be taxed,

Going by this example, perhaps its possible that the Roman state conceptualized women as not having Public roles in general. Thus women could not inherit the entirety of property according to the Lex Voconia since it meant they would be Equites. From what I understand of Roman voting, I gather you could only vote if you qualified in a census with enough property, and you could only do that if you were sui-iuris (ie independent from your Family Head). Thus my understanding is that only the heads of families could participate in voting, with the family being the basic unit of life. Women could not be heads of a family, as I understand it, so how could they vote. In turn I gather this also meant they were exempted from the obligations of the family, namely taxes, military service etc.

This doesn't necessarily tell us WHY the Romans conceptualized that only men could be heads of family, but I suppose typical patriarchy could explain that (I hesitate to use the word misogyny, since that implies an active hatred which perhaps would be an unfair characterization of the past).
 
Aug 2017
45
New Jersey
#10
The entire world was misogynistic. The above story has no basis in fact.
But they weren't, by their yardstick. Greek men as a collective did not hate or abuse women as a matter of course. There were simply different roles for men and women, and women of the upper classes were kept more secluded to protect their honor and chastity. You may want to label this as abusive, but to the Greeks it was proper behavior and protective.

Have to agree with Dan that that story sounds very mythical! Though even if it were solid fact, a group of campers clamoring over the name of their new site is far different from an organized system of suffrage for choosing government officials and creating laws.

Matthew
There probably was an earthquake and they just believed it was by the Gods.
 
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