The lives of upper class women in Ancient Rome (about 753 BC to 500 AD) mainly centered on running their households and raising the children. Roman women were not allowed to own property or control their own finances — all family inheritances and dowries were transferred to the husband when a woman married. Nor could women participate in politics — they could neither vote nor run for political office. Women's decision-making power was strictly limited to the management of the home. Of course, women who were of the lower social classes — slaves, freedwomen, and prostitutes — had even fewer rights, and lived lives mostly filled with back-breaking labor.
Ancient Roman society as a whole was based on a patriarchal social structure. The base of the word patriarchal
is the Latin word patria,
which translates to "father." As the word implies, in patriarchal societies, family and larger social systems are based on the idea that men (fathers) are the sole providers, leaders, and decision makers in society, while women's roles are clearly defined as caretakers, child bearers, and homemakers. Basically, Ancient Roman women and girls were considered to be part of their father's — or, once married, husband's or husband's father's (if still living) — property holdings.