In this collection of resources, we look at ancient societies and examine who was at the top of the social ladder, who were the climbers and who were at the very bottom. In places like ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome men largely dominated all aspects of the culture in public life but women had an important role to play in the family home and ensured the next generation got the best start in life. Slaves were everywhere and enjoyed few rights but they made such societies function, not only producing goods and services but also allowing citizens the time to indulge in politics, philosophy, war and leisure activities.
In some societies, certain people had perhaps a surprisingly high status such as the scribes of ancient Egypt, while in Carthage immigrants from the old Phoenician cities had more rights than other foreigners, and the practical-minded Aztecs gave an elevated status to farmers who also had knowledge of seeding and transplanting crops. In short, ancient societies, with their many varied classes and often cosmopolitan populations, were every bit as complex as any modern society, indeed, with their myriad forms of institutionalised favouritism and prejudices, perhaps even more so.