How Were Widows Treated in Ancient Times?

In ancient times, the treatment of widows differed from culture to culture. In some societies, widows were revered and held in high regard, while in others, they were ostracized and treated with disdain.

Ancient India

In ancient India, widows were expected to lead a life of austerity and self-denial after the death of their husbands. They were often forced to shave their heads and wear plain white clothing as a sign of mourning. Widows were also not allowed to remarry and were expected to live a life of celibacy.

However, in some parts of India, particularly among the higher castes, widows were treated with respect and provided with financial support by their late husband’s family.

Ancient Greece

In ancient Greece, widows had limited rights and were often forced to rely on male relatives for support. They were not allowed to inherit property or participate in public life. In fact, it was considered scandalous for a widow to appear in public without a male escort.

Ancient Rome

Widows in ancient Rome had more freedom than their counterparts in Greece but still faced many restrictions. They could inherit property but only if they did not remarry. If they did remarry, their property would be transferred to their new husband.

Biblical Times

In biblical times, widows were encouraged to remarry as a means of financial support. However, if they chose not to remarry or had no family members willing or able to provide for them, they could become destitute.

The Old Testament contains several passages that emphasize the importance of caring for widows and orphans. In fact, one of the Ten Commandments states that “you shall not mistreat any widow or fatherless child” (Exodus 22:22).


In conclusion, the treatment of widows in ancient times varied greatly depending on the culture and time period. While some societies revered widows and provided them with support, others ostracized and marginalized them. Regardless of the cultural norms, it is important to recognize the value and worth of all individuals, regardless of their marital status.