Life in Ancient
Men ran the government, and spent a great deal of time away
from their home. When not involved in politics, they spent time
in the fields, overseeing or working the crops, sailing,
hunting, in manufacturing or in trade.
Greek women had very limited freedom outside the home.
However, in their home, they were in charge. Their job was to
run the house and to bear children. Household slaves were
always supervised by the woman of the house who was responsible
for making sure they were all kept busy and didn't get out of
line. At times, this could be quite a task as most wealthy
Greek households had as many as 10-20 slaves.
Greek houses, in the 6th and 5th century B.C., were made up
of two or three rooms, built around an open air courtyard which
was built of stone, wood, or clay bricks. Larger homes might
also have a kitchen, a room for bathing, a men's dining room,
and perhaps a sitting area for the women. Much of ancient Greek
family life centered around the courtyard. The ancient Greeks
loved stories and fables. One favorite family activity was to
gather in the courtyard to hear these stories, told by the
mother or father. In their courtyard, Greek women might relax,
chat, and sew.
Most Greek households had slaves. Female slaves cooked,
cleaned, and worked in the fields. Male slaves watched the
grounds, acted as tutors to the young male children, and made
sure no strangers came while the master was away.
Greek clothing was quite simple. Both men and women wore
linen in the summer and wool in the winter. The ancient Greeks
could buy cloth and clothes in the agora, (the marketplace),
but that was expensive and for the affluent. Most families made
their own clothes, which were simple tunics and warm cloaks
dyed a bright color, or bleached white. Clothes were made by
the mother, her daughters, and female slaves. Often, they were
decorated to represent the city-state in which they lived.
Ancient Greeks were very proud of their home city-state.
Both men and women enjoyed using mirrors and hairbrushes.
Hair was curled, arranged in carefully designed styles and held
in place with scented waxes and lotions. Women kept their hair
long, in braids, arranged on top of their head or worn in a
ponytail. Headbands, made of ribbon or metal, were very
popular. Blond hair was rare.
The goal of education in the Greek city-states was to
prepare the child for adult activities as a citizen. The nature
of the city-states varied greatly, and this was also true of
the education they considered appropriate.
In general, slavery played a major role in ancient Greek
civilization. Slaves could be found everywhere. They not only
worked as domestic servants, but as factory workers,
shopkeepers, mineworkers, farm workers and as ship's crew