Bolded emphasis mine:
In order to understand their relatively enlightened attitudes toward sexual equality, it is important to realise that the Egyptians viewed their universe as a complete duality of male and female. Giving balance and order to all things was the female deity Maat, symbol of cosmic harmony by whose rules the pharaoh must govern.
The Egyptians recognised female violence in all its forms, their queens even portrayed crushing their enemies, executing prisoners or firing arrows at male opponents as well as the non-royal women who stab and overpower invading soldiers. Although such scenes are often disregarded as illustrating ‘fictional’ or ritual events, the literary and archaeological evidence is less easy to dismiss. Royal women undertake military campaigns whilst others are decorated for their active role in conflict. Women were regarded as sufficiently threatening to be listed as ‘enemies of the state’, and female graves containing weapons are found throughout the three millennia of Egyptian history.
Although by no means a race of Amazons, their ability to exercise varying degrees of power and self-determination was most unusual in the ancient world, which set such great store by male prowess, as if acknowledging the same in women would make them less able to fulfil their expected roles as wife and mother. Indeed, neighbouring countries were clearly shocked by the relative freedom of Egyptian women and, describing how they ‘attended market and took part in trading whereas men sat and home and did the weaving’, the Greek historian Herodotus believed the Egyptians ‘have reversed the ordinary practices of mankind’.
I wonder how long it takes the scholarly consensus to accept the weight of “the literary and archaeological evidence”?
The BBC article has lots more about the ancient Egyptian culture of sexual equality. That their religion was all about male/female deities working equally for cosmic harmony seems to be the key, which merely reinforces feminist theory about the rigidifying effect of patriarchal religions on gender roles.
A culture that flourished for millennia, until the unstoppable hegemony of Rome conquered them, managed to do it without limiting human capacities and abilities to biological essentialism. Fancy that.
Final paragraphs to ponder:
By Graeco-Roman times women’s literacy is relatively common, the mummy of the young woman Hermione inscribed with her profession ‘teacher of Greek grammar’. A brilliant linguist herself, Cleopatra VII endowed the Great Library at Alexandria, the intellectual capital of the ancient world where female lecturers are known to have participated alongside their male colleagues. Yet an equality which had existed for millennia was ended by Christianity – the philosopher Hypatia was brutally murdered by monks in 415 AD as a graphic demonstration of their beliefs.
With the concept that ‘a woman’s place is in the home’ remaining largely unquestioned for the next 1,500 years, the relative freedom of ancient Egyptian women was forgotten.