• Information on this archive. See IIDB.org
  • Please join us on IIDB (iidb.org)
    This is the archived Seculare Cafe forum. It is read only. If you would like to respond or otherwise revive a post or topic, please join us on the active forum: IIDB.

Early-civilization women dethroned?

This is the place to discuss the past, its study, and those who study it. Discussion about events that happened less than twenty years ago should go go in Politics instead.
Post Reply
User avatar
Posts: 14453
Joined: Mon Feb 23, 2009 6:53 pm
Location: Lebanon, OR, USA

Early-civilization women dethroned?

Post by lpetrich » Fri Jan 20, 2017 3:31 pm

Her-story: fraternal networks and powerful archaic women
In Ultrasociety (2015) Peter Turchin memorably uses the label alpha male states to describe the first polities in history. This is, he says, because of their structural inequality with a “god-king” dominating cowering subjects; true, perhaps, but these societies weren’t literally dominated by men. Queens, priestesses and princesses held together the key palace, temple and diplomatic networks. Interestingly, after the archaic states (3000-1000 BCE) fell, the new states were networked almost entirely by men.

Archaic era civilization is often described “palatial” but the palace was more than a posh home; it was the source of all power relationships, and the temples that were often headed by priestess were the legs under this command module.

For the 99 percent, the ancient temples were not obvious symbols of massive inequality. As food store, land-holder, place of learning, career ladder, and (in Egypt, Greece, Babylon and India) brothel – which, ingeniously, helped pay for the system (Manuel 1989) – they had a magnetic status and utilitarian role that held society together.
But around 1177 BCE was the Late Bronze Collapse, with "Sea Peoples" marauders on the move all over the eastern Mediterranean. The Egyptians successfully fought them off, but Egypt lost its Levantine New-Kingdom empire. Other people fared worse. The Mycenaean palace societies were destroyed, to be dimly remembered by later generations of Greeks. The Hittite Empire was also destroyed, with even less memory of it. Etc.

Before that was
In ancient Egypt women gained equality before law, rights over their own property even when married (Trigger 1993), controlled estates and employed male stewards (Robins 1993). That’s a powerbase. A similar situation existed in Mycenaean Greece (1600-1100 BCE) where a priestess could own land and employ assistants who owned land.
And similar in other places. Many important deities were made in female as well as in male likeness, like about half of deities with creator and guardian traits, but only 1/3 of those with destroyer ones. Creator is such things as fertility, good luck, production, etc. Destroyer is such things as fire, storms, death, plagues, etc.

After the Bronze Age Collapse,
The palace and its temple satellites, the priestesses and the goddesses, no longer held society together. Whether life was so much worse during the Bronze Age collapse is debated but out of it a vast, new institution emerged: a “secular” bureaucracy.

Massive, professional, male and uncoupled from the palatial court, legitimized by a Father god – it was common to all the axial age “mega-Empires”, as Turchin called them.
These were the societies that were built after the Bronze Age Collapse.
The new civilizations were not to lack high status and educated women; it was to not employ them, and to end their contracts. The Roman Empire had many priestesses: in Rome, the College of the Vestals; in Greece, at the Eleusinian Mysteries at the Temple of Demeter and at Eleusis the Temple of Apollo, at Delphi. Theodosius I the Christian closed these pagan temples in 394, 392 and 390 CE.

Like their ancient sisters, axial age women generally could own property. They were educated and published poetry – as they did before (the first poet known to history was Enheduena of Akkad). The power structure of the new age just did not want them.
What happened?

Author Edward Turner speculates on possible reasons.
One serious flaw in the palace model was the lack of firewall to prevent elite conflict – acid to the bonds of a state – spilling into the bureaucracy and the temples. The stunning Amarna Revolution was possible because these institutions of state were identified with the all-powerful New Kingdom king Akhenaten. Not only that, the harem was a notorious brewing-ground for conspiracy – and marriage diplomacy had created harems full of foreign princesses. A harem conspiracy from New Kingdom Egypt even assassinated the Pharaoh Ramesses III.
Whatever happened, women did not recover until the last century or so.

User avatar
Posts: 19647
Joined: Wed Jan 27, 2010 5:28 am
Location: Chochenyo territory

Post by Politesse » Fri Jan 20, 2017 9:04 pm

If you are interested in the issues surrounding gender and archaeology, I highly recommend the blog Ancient Bodies, Ancient Lives which discusses the evidence for and against matriarchal societies in several ancient polities.
"The truth about stories is that's all we are" ~Thomas King

User avatar
Posts: 6896
Joined: Sat Jan 30, 2010 4:53 pm
Location: New Delhi

Post by Aupmanyav » Sun Apr 02, 2017 8:04 am

I keep hearing about Sea-people. Who were these?
'Sarve khalu idam Brahma'
All things here are Brahman (physical energy).

User avatar
Posts: 19647
Joined: Wed Jan 27, 2010 5:28 am
Location: Chochenyo territory

Post by Politesse » Sun Apr 02, 2017 3:19 pm

[quote=""Aupmanyav""]I keep hearing about Sea-people. Who were these?[/quote]
The Sea Peoples are a group that invaded Egypt in 14th c. BCE. Since the Egyptians themselves knew of no name for them, their identity with any otherwise documented group is not known and probably uncomfirmable. As a result, they have long been an object of romantic hypothesizing by Classicists, who sometimes credit the same group with destroying Mycenae and Ugarit as well. Really, with any city destroyed during that violent century. You can guess from my presentation that I take the whole construction with a grain of salt.
"The truth about stories is that's all we are" ~Thomas King

Posts: 5241
Joined: Sun Mar 08, 2009 3:38 pm

Post by dancer_rnb » Sun Apr 02, 2017 4:21 pm

The sea peoples may have been successive waves of displaced people. Someone destroys the Mycenean Greeks, their survivors in turn attack the Hittites, who in turn attack Egypt, say. Kind of liked the migrations involving the various German or Turkic peoples. Pushed out of original territories by others.

Aren't there some indications the Philistines were Greek?
There is no such thing as "politically correct." It's code for liberalism. The whole idea of "political correctness" was a brief academic flash-in-the-pan in the early 1990's, but has been a good conservative bugaboo ever since.

User avatar
Posts: 41484
Joined: Mon Feb 23, 2009 6:13 pm
Location: Mostly Switzerland

Post by DMB » Mon Apr 03, 2017 8:08 am

And here's a modern set-up that has a different male/female component:

https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyl ... r-the-boss

Post Reply