What Happened to Widows in Ancient Times?

Widows in Ancient Times: Their Plight and Struggle

In ancient times, being a widow was not just a personal loss but also a social and economic catastrophe. Widows were considered the lowest rung of society, and their lives were marked by sorrow, isolation, and injustice.

The Status of Widows in Ancient Times

The status of widows varied across cultures and civilizations in ancient times. In some societies, such as ancient Greece, widows were allowed to inherit their deceased husband’s property and had legal rights. However, in most other cultures, including ancient India and Egypt, widows had little or no legal rights and were subject to various forms of discrimination.

The Plight of Widows in Ancient India

In ancient India, the life of a widow was particularly harsh. The practice of Sati (widow burning) was prevalent among some communities where the widows were expected to immolate themselves on their husband’s funeral pyre. Even if they did not commit Sati, they were forced to live an ascetic life of deprivation and poverty.

Widows were not allowed to remarry or participate in any social gatherings or festivities. They had to shave their heads as a sign of mourning and wear only white clothes for the rest of their lives. They were considered inauspicious and often blamed for their husband’s death.

The Struggle for Survival

For most widows in ancient times, survival was a daily struggle. Without the support of their husbands’ families or society at large, they had to fend for themselves. In many cases, they resorted to begging or prostitution to survive.

Even if they managed to find work or earn a living somehow, they faced constant harassment and abuse from men who saw them as easy Targets. Without any legal protection or social support systems, widows were vulnerable to all sorts of exploitation.

The Legacy of Ancient Times

The plight of widows in ancient times had a lasting impact on society. Even today, many cultures continue to discriminate against widows, depriving them of their legal and social rights.

However, there have been efforts to change this situation. Various organizations and activists are working to raise awareness about the issue and provide support to widows in need.


The history of widows in ancient times is a tragic one. Their lives were marked by sorrow, isolation, and injustice.

However, their struggles have not been forgotten. Their legacy has inspired many to fight for the rights of widows and create a more just and equitable society for all.