The female life-course in ancient Greece and Rome ideally followed a set path, a path which would look different depending on one’s rank, status, race, and geographical location. Women of the upper and middling classes in Athens and Rome, however, were supposed to progress through childhood and marry almost immediately after puberty, producing children in their turn, raising them, and perhaps becoming widowed before dying in what people today would consider the prime of life.
The female life cycle changed according to rank, status, race, and geographical location across the Mediterranean. Thus, an urban slave-woman’s life cycle would have looked significantly different from that of a married citizen woman, as would that of a lower-class woman, or a foreign woman living in Athens or Rome, which in turn may have been very dissimilar to (for instance) a woman living in a rural Roman province. What follows is what is known of the life stages of a middling-to-upper-class woman, since this is where literary and artistic sources pool.