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.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 werent 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.
Before that was
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.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). Thats a powerbase. A similar situation existed in Mycenaean Greece (1600-1100 BCE) where a priestess could own land and employ assistants who owned land.
After the Bronze Age Collapse,
These were the societies that were built 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.
What happened?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.
Author Edward Turner speculates on possible reasons.
Whatever happened, women did not recover until the last century or so.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.