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Life in Ancient Greece

Gender Roles:

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.

The Home:

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.

Personal Care: 

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.

Education:

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.

Slavery:

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 members.

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