The main concern when trying to evaluate the role that women played in Ancient Rome is that our sources are by male authors. No personal diaries or ancient journals of Roman women were discovered, so instead all evidence written is from a male perspective. The evidence that we have was mainly written by aristocratic males who had the time and education to reflect on life. In their writing it was often their relatives and wives that were mentioned, which gives us a glimpse into the lives of their women but does not provide details of the full spectrum of Roman life. From archaeological evidence such as tombstones, paintings and mosaics we receive a less detailed image of the life that poorer women lived.
Romans traditionally depicted the ideal woman as a virtuous daughter, brave wife, or devoted mother. They were dependent on their family connections for identity, and received little praise for anything other than their performance in these roles.
Roman women were not given a personal name. Instead, a women took her father's middle name, which was then feminised. This allowed others to know who her father was and therefore her position within society.
Roman girls grew up very quickly as it was assumed that they would be ready as early as the age of twelve or thirteen to become a wife and even a mother. Even before marriage they were expected to act like little adults rather than children. They were not given the choice of who they would marry or even if they would marry. Julia, the daughter of Augustus was married off from her early teens until her thirties to three separate men whose political alliance Augustus required. When, finally, she rebelled by choosing her own sexual partners, she was exiled for life. Through this we...