Campaign of the Month: June 2012
Women of the Phthyan Empire
Over the centuries the influences of the Freelanders, Cymbrians, Drusai, Rus and and Northlanders have had a profound affect on the way the Phthyans view their women. Traditionally a very conservative people, a wife was the property of the husband. She could be punished in any way, including killing her or selling her into slavery. Everything she inherited or was given was her husbands, including her dowry if she had any. This position has improved considerably to the point where men and women are considered equal within the marriage. The old traditions are not forgotten though, and the man still traditionally makes the decisions for the family, but it is no longer law. Also, the woman is now protected from death and slavery and although physical abuse is allowed, the woman may leave.
All this would mean little if the woman could not support herself. Many women still move in with extended family, and while the Phthyan family is still quite important, it is considered quite shameful for a wife to leave her husband. One of the differences from ancient times is that both parties are often shamed by such an event. This leads to more compromises.
In the eyes of the Phthyan Government in times past, women were citizens but could not carry their own name. This was the same treatment as slaves and is a strong indicator of the view of women in early Phthyan society. In many cases they were not thought to be capable of bearing the full responsibilities of citizenship. In addition, they could not hold office or fill any civil functions. Women were also not allowed to begin the court process without male representation, bear witness or take charge of another person (i.e. her own children). Civil laws have changed considerably in the past 100 years. It has been a period of upheaval where the magi have been both the greatest defence and the most terrible threat to Phthyanopolis. A magus named Juliana Sertorius once forced the Senate to grant civil rights to women in exchange for the protection of the Comitia Magi. This garnered her powerful enemies but once Tiderius ascended to the Imperial Mantle, she was able to convince him that this was best for the Empire and the people. She died shortly after his ascension but Tiderius has kept his word and blocked any attempts to repeal the laws in the Senate. How long this will last is hard to say.
Employment for women in the modern Empire is common, but they usually receive as little as half of what a man would earn for the same position. This has far reaching effects but it has also spurred the economy of the Phthyans considerably. One of the biggest forces for change is the Comitia Magi, which allows people of all social classes and genders into their Scholae due to the difficulty of finding people able to cast spells. Druidic magic does not have this restriction, and Artificery seems to be able to be taught to any willing and capable mind. Artificers are just in such demand that any with the capability are not refused.
Another point that should be mentioned is that, in the course of the centuries, men were often absent from patrician families as they went to fight (and die) in wars. This left the woman more in the position to run families for protracted periods. In addition, should the men die then the woman inherited sometimes sizable fortunes. These fortunes were used to expand the political clout of individual women and, to a lesser extent, the role of women in the political landscape. This has not led to women in politics though, as it is viewed as obscene although not illegal. One concession has been to allow formation of all female cohorts within the Legions. This has met with resistance and most women are still resistant to the idea of fighting in war, viewing it as men’s work. Still, there have been four cohorts commissioned, close to 2000 women. This has made many conservatives in the Empire nervous and some have tried to end this movement as quickly as possible. They have met with little success but continue their efforts.
Finally, along with social evolution changing the way women are viewed within the society of the Phthyans, technology and magic have also contributed to a point where enough free time can be attained for education and effective division of labor. Women need no longer be tied to the farm while their men labor in cities. One of the biggest restraints falls into the category of education. This is not only the plight of the woman but also the plebeian in general. The education of the young can be expensive, and many times it is the male children who are chosen over the female. This is not an impossible barrier, but it is yet another hurdle to pass.
The women of the Phthyan Empire have advantages over women of other areas of the world. They have access to education, are recognized as citizens, and have recognized rights. All these advances aside, the majority of women in the Phthyan Empire still must rely on men to provide for them. It is the brave and rare individual that is able to rise above all the social conditioning, physical threats, legal restrictions, and numerous prejudices to live her own life.