Children lived with their mothers in the
women's quarter until they were 7 years old. They slept in wicker baskets or wooden
The children played with balls,
miniature chariots, rattles, yo-yos, rocking horses, and dolls and animals made from clay.
Many had pets. They especially liked dogs. Other pets included ducks, quail, birds, goats,
tortoises, mice, weasels, and grasshoppers. At age 7 the boys went to school.
The schools varied from one city-state
to the next. The Spartans were the most envied by the Greeks. They were taught to be tough
from an early age.
When babies were born in Sparta, Spartan soldiers would come by the house to
examine them. If the baby did not look healthy, it was taken away and left to die or
trained as a slave. If the baby was healthy, it was assigned membership in a brotherhood
The boys in Sparta were sent to military
camps of their brotherhood when they turned 7. They learned how to read and write until
they were about 14. The Spartan government wanted to make the boys tough. To do this
they were given little clothing and no shoes. They slept on hard beds made of reeds and
were not given any covers. They were not given enough food. They were trained in survival
skills and how to be a good soldier. Reading and writing were taught as secondary skills.
Between ages 18 to 20 each boy had to
pass a fitness test. If he did not pass the test, he became a perioidos. This was a person
of middle class who had no political rights and was not even considered a citizen. If the
boy passed he served in the military and continued to train as a soldier. Military service
lasted until the boy reached age 60.
The girls were trained in the school of
their sisterhood. They were taught physical education. Classes include wrestling,
gymnastics, and combat training. The Spartans wanted girls to be strong so that they would
have healthy children. At age 18 the Spartan girl had to pass a fitness test. She was then
assigned a husband and allowed to return home. If she failed the test, she became a
Boys were taught at home by their mothers until they were 6 or 7 years old. In
Athens the education was left up to the father. Students were taught by private
schoolmasters. The boys from wealthy families were taken to school by a trusted slave. The
students learned to write on wax-covered tablets with a stylus. Books were very expensive,
so they were rare. The students in Athens learned to add, subtract, multiply, and divide.
They also learned about fractions. Students learned the words of Homer and how to play the
lyre. Boys were trained in sports. Wealthy children learned to ride horseback. Other
sports included wrestling, using a bow and a sling, and swimming. At age 14 boys attended
a higher school for four more years. At age 18 boys went to military school. They
graduated at age 20.
Roles of the Men and Women
Late 5th century BC
courtesy and ©1996
The Ancient Greek
|In Greece the men ran the government.
They spent a lot of their time out of the house while involved in politics. Men also spent
time in the fields overseeing the crops. They sailed, hunted, and traded. All of these
activities took the men away from home. Men enjoyed wrestling, horseback riding, and the
Olympic Games. Men had parties in which the women were not allowed to attend.
||Women had little freedom. Wealthy women
hardly ever left the house. They sent slaves to the market. They were allowed to attend
weddings, funerals, and some religious festivals. Their job was to run the house and bear
children. Greek women supervised slaves who did all the cooking, cleaning, and tending of
the crops. Male slaves guarded the women when the men were away. Except in Sparta girls
did not go to school. They learned only the basics of reading and math at home. Girls were
taught how to run a house. Women lived in a special section of the house called the
The day before the wedding the girl took a bath from a sacred spring. The water was poured
from a vase called a loutrophorus. The girl then worshipped the goddess Artemis. She
offered the goddess symbols of her childhood such as toys and a lock of her hair.
Marriages usually took place in January.
Wedding ceremonies started after dark. The bride traveled from her home to the home of her
groom in a chariot, or a wagon if she was poor. Friends of the bride and groom lit the way
with torches. They played music to scare away the evil spirits. The bride would eat a
piece of fruit at the ceremony to show that food and other basic needs would come from the
husband. Marriages were arranged by the father of the bride. The bride did not even meet
her future husband until the day of the wedding. Girls married at about age 15 and her
groom would be about twice her age. Grooms were given a dowry. If the husband died, the
dowry and girl would return to her father.
Spartan women were not given a special celebration on their wedding day. The ceremony was
brief and private. Afterwards the husband and wife would meet in secret until the husband
reached the age of thirty. At that time he was allowed to live in the same house as his
Divorce was quite common and allowed. The women would frequently remarry.
Greeks wore simple free-flowing
clothing. Most clothes were made of wool or linen. The wool was woven into a lightweight
material. The wool was often dyed using natural dyes from plants. In the fifth century B.
C. cotton was imported from India. Only the rich could afford to buy it. Most families
made their own clothes. They were made by the women in the family or by female slaves.
They were decorated to represent the city-state in which they lived.
||Tunics called chitons were formed by
draping a piece of rectangle-shaped cloth around the body with belts, hooks, buttons, or
brooches. Up until the sixth century the women wore a rectangle of woven wool. It
was about six feet wide and about 18 inches longer that the height of the person wearing
the garment. The fabric was wrapped around the wearer with the extra material folded over
the top. It was pinned on both shoulders with the extra material falling free looking like
a cape. The pins used for fastening the garment were open with a decorated head. During
this time period the men wore similar chitons that came to the ankles. During the fifth
century the men began wearing shorter chitons with one shoulder pinned.
Until the fifth century garments were
white. Beginning with the sixth century the clothes were decorated with a wide range of
colors. Later the tunic was replaced by thin linen or occasionally silk. At this time the
fabric was much wider and could measure up to 10 feet wide. The length was measured from
the wearer's shoulder to the ankle with no extra. The tunic was fastened on both sides of
the neck with two long pins or metal brooches called fibulae. The fabric was pulled in at
the waist with a belt. At this time the chiton sleeves were popular with the ladies. These
were made by fastening the ends of the two pieces fabric many times from the shoulder to
the wrist. The fabric pulled away from each clasp making oval shaped openings all along
the arm. The men's tunics were wore at knee-length. The women wore their tunics to the
Both men and women wore cloaks called
himation. These were also made from a rectangular piece of fabric. The men's were usually
knee-length while the women's were long.
Greeks wore shoes when they went
outside. Everyone had strapped sandals. Boots were made of leather. The women wore ankle
length boots while the men wore heavy boots with laces.
The first real hat was invented by the
Greeks. It was worn when traveling. The hat had a chin strap to hold it on.
Italic Low-Footed Red
with High Handles 4th century B.C.
courtesy and ©1996 The
Ancient Greek World
The women wore their
hair long. They arranged it in braids on top of their heads. The styles were held in place
with waxes and lotions. Women tied back their hair with cloth headbands called
cecryphalaes. These wrapped around the head.
Men kept their hair short. They wore
beards unless they were soldiers.
Greek homes were plain. They were built
of wood, mud brick, or stone buildings. They had only two or three rooms built around an
open courtyard. Windows were small and set high on the walls. They could be closed with
shutters. They were whitewashed to a bright white. In poor homes, the cooking was done
outside over a campfire. Few homes had chimneys. Instead they had small vents in the
ceiling to allow smoke to go out. There was not much difference between the homes of the
wealthy and the poor. The largest difference was where the home was located. The wealthy
home would be located in a different district in the town. The wealthy spent their money
on expensive clothes, jewelry, and slaves.
Expensive homes had one foot thick
walls. This kept thieves from stealing. The lower part of the wall was stone and the upper
part was brick. These homes included:
pastas - an open courtyard with a
aule - a living room
andron - room where the
men ate and entertained (This room usually opened into the courtyard.)
oikos - family dining room (Next to
the kitchen and bathroom so they could be heated at the same time.)
gynaeceum - master bedroom
The view from Delphi down over the
plain of olive trees towards Itea
courtesy and ©1997 Leo Curran, Maecenas: Images of
Ancient Greece and Rome
Old Market Woman
(New York, Metropolitan Museum)
Photo courtesy and © 1994 Kathryn Andrus-Walck,
Greek Art and Architecture
The Greeks ate three
meals each day. Breakfast was eaten at sunrise. They ate a small midday meal and a late
afternoon snack. The main meal was eaten at the end of the day.
The soil was poor along the coast. With
irrigation and crop rotation the Greeks were able to raise some crops. The soil was more
rich in the plains. In the plain regions the Greeks were able to raise wheat and barley.
Greeks made a large variety of breads including milk bread, rye bread, wheaten bread,
farmhouse bread, brown bread, braided bread, and square bread. Because wheat could only be
raised on the plains, there was not enough to feed all the people in Greece.
Greeks grew olives,
grapes, and figs. Other fruits that were eaten were apples, prunes, apricots, cherries,
and dates. These fruits were often baked into cakes and pies which were sweeten with
honey. In their gardens they raised peas, navy beans, and lentils. Green vegetables were
rare and very expensive. The Greeks cultivated mushrooms beginning in the fifth century B.
C. They kept goats for milk and cheese. Some kept chickens for their eggs. Many foods were
cooked in olive oil.
Greeks usually drank water. Some drank
goats' milk. Another drink was made with fermented honey. Homemade wine was very popular
with the rich. It was thick and heavy and had to be diluted with water.
Meat was rarely eaten. It was mostly
used for religious sacrifices. Greece had a lot of wild game to hunt. Hunters found
pheasant, partridge, quail, and wild guinea hens. They also hunted wild boars, bear, deer,
foxes, weasels, hares, moles, cats, porcupines, and hedgehogs. Greeks ate a lot of fish
and seafood. Fishermen caught gilt-heads, mullets, turbot, and tuna.
Ancient Greeks didn't use napkins.
Instead they wiped their hands on pieces of bread which were given to the dogs. They ate
stew and porridge with spoons. They cut their meat with knives. No forks were used. Meals
were served on plates made from wood, clay, or metal.
Dance was very important to the Greeks.
Some dances were for men, and others were for women. Over 200 dances were performed by the
Greeks. Dancers were accompanied by lyres, flutes, and percussion instruments.
The Greeks created many stories. Aesop's
Fables were written by an Ancient Greek.
The Greeks had many religious festivals.
Cronia - harvest festival
Panathenaea - festival in honor Athena
Great mysteries of Eleusis - 11 days
Apatouries - festival in honor of
Athena an Zeus
Pyanepsies - Apollo
Thesmophories - Demeter
Oschophories - Dionysus and Athena
Kalkeia - Athena and Hephaetus
Italoa - Demeter and Dionysus
Rural Dionysian festival
Lenaea - festival in honor of Dionysus
Anthesteries - festival in honor of
Dionysus and the dead
Minor mysteries of Eleusis
Diasies - festival in honor of Zeus
Chloia 0 Demete
Procharisteria - Athena
Great Dionysia - 6 days
Targelies - Apollo or Demeter
Thalysies - Demeter and Cora
Skira - Demeter and Cora
Dipolies-Bouphonies - Zeus
Arrtophoria - Athena and Aphrodite
Agora (marketplace) The
marketplace was for men. Young boys and women were not allowed to come until the
afternoon. This large space of about 100 by 200 meters held barbershops,
bathhouses, perfume vendors, drinking establishments, and brothels.
Gymnasia (gym) The
gymnasia was a large exercise yard surrounded by changing rooms, practice rooms, and
baths. The Greeks wanted healthy bodies. Due to this they spent a good portion of each day
exercising in the gym. Wrestling, boxing, and javelin and discus throwing were enjoyed
sports. Athletes wore no clothes while exercising. They oiled or dusted their bodies
before and after exercising.
courtesy Janice Siegel and ©1998
Dr. J's Classical World
large open theaters were built in many cities.
The photo to the left is a statue fragment of a satyr
from the Temple of Dionysus on the South Slope of the Acropolis, Athens.
Classes of People
Freemen - divided into classes
Lowest class were the thetes (urban
Middle ranks - small farmers
Top - aristocrats who owned
Many occupations fell between these
Metics - free non-citizens - Metics
were usually Greeks from other city-states. They worked in low paying jobs.
Highest Level - some worked as tutors
and police officials
Middle Level - domestic slaves - often
considered one of the family
Lowest slave worked in the mines
Women - had few rights - often treated
like a domestic slave
Grave relief of Dexileos, 394
As displayed in the Keramikos Museum
courtesy Janice Siegel and ©1999 Dr.
J's Classical World
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