Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Role of Women in Ancient Persia

Women in Ancient Persia
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.
According to Presstv, 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 Responsibility
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.
Historical documents show that male and female workers received equal pay and there were an equal number of workers from both genders.