Daily life in ancient greece

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ATHENS and most of the poleis.
First of all…. what was a Polis? _____________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

1. Political system: democracy
What is the meaning of the word ‘democracy’? ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Observe that women were not included!! And what about men? Were all men included?





Males over 20 years of age born from an Athenian family. Only citizens had political rights.

Foreigners who lived in Athens but were not citizens and had no political rights.

Prisoners of war.
People enslaved because of debts.

In Athens, society was male-dominated. Only men could be citizens and only upper-class males enjoyed a formal education. Women had few political rights and were expected to remain in the home and bear children. Fully one quarter of the population was made up of slaves. These slaves provided much of the manpower that fueled the burgeoning economy, working in shipyards, quarries, mines, and as domestic servants.

2. Living the polis
The Greek polis consisted of the acropolis (high area where the main temples were) and the lower town.

In the low town there were more temples and also thousands of private houses.

The Agora was the public square, surrounded by stoas (porticoes of columns for council meetings and other events). The Agora was also the main commercial area of the polis.

In the outskirts of the city there were two essential buildings: the theatre and the stadium.

3. Living the house
The homes were made of dried mud-bricks with pottery roof tiles to keep them cool in the hot summer. Because they had dried mud walls, they needed 'repairing', or rebuilding every few years; thieves where often referred to as 'wall pierces' because they gained entry to the house by breaking down its' walls.
Poor people homes were generally one, two or three rooms. Because these families could not afford lamps, they woke up at sunrise and went to sleep at sunset. The cooking was done outside in a camp fire outside, except when the weather turned unfavorable.
A rich person home was often large and with several rooms. These rooms were arranged around a courtyard because that's where a lot of time was spent. Stories, eating and general relaxing was done here. Some families had a well so they didn’t have to go to the public well to get water.

Homes of the wealthy were divided into 'women's' and 'men's' sections.

The women's room was called the 'Gynaeceum'. In this room the females of the home could sow, weave and relax. The gynaeceum was usually located on the second floor of the house as it was the furthest place away from the males room, the 'Andron'. Males tended not to enter this room as it was the women's quarters.

The Andron was a room reserved for the males of the house. Females were not allowed to enter this room as it was used for symposiums; drinking parties that were held exclusively for males. The Andron was generally located on the bottom floor so that it could be easily accessed by the male guests attending the party.

In the other parts of the house there were the bedrooms, slave rooms, work rooms, kitchen, bathroom and store rooms. Most of these rooms were located downstairs, except the bedrooms.

4. Clothing

Ancient Greek clothing was typically homemade and the same piece of homespun fabric that was used as a type of garment, or blanket. From Greek vase paintings and sculptures, we can tell that the fabrics were intensely coloured and usually decorated with intricate designs.

Clothing for women and men consisted of two main garments: a tunic (either a peplos or chiton) and a cloak (himation).

- The peplos was a large rectangle of heavy fabric, usually wool, folded over along the upper edge so that the over fold (apoptygma) would reach to the waist. It was placed around the body and fastened at the shoulders with a pin or brooch. There were armholes were on each side, and the open side of the garment was either left that way, or pinned or sewn to form a seam.

- The chiton was made of a much lighter material, normally linen. It was a very long and very wide rectangle of fabric sewn up at the sides, pinned or sewn at the shoulders, and usually girded around the waist. Often the chiton was wide enough to allow for sleeves that were fastened along the upper arms with pins or buttons. Both the peplos and chiton were floor-length garments that were usually long enough to be pulled over the belt, creating a pouch known as a kolpos. Under either garment, a woman might have worn a soft band, known as a strophion, around the mid-section of the body.

Men in ancient Greece customarily wore a chiton similar to the one worn by women, but knee-length or shorter. An exomis (a short chiton fastened on the left shoulder) was worn for exercise, horse riding, or hard labor. The himation (cloak) worn by both women and men was essentially a rectangular piece of heavy fabric, either woolen or linen. It was draped diagonally over one shoulder or symmetrically over both shoulders, like a stole.

Women sometimes wore an epiblema (shawl) over the peplos or chiton. Young men often wore a chlamys (short cloak) for riding. Greek men occasionally wore a broad-brimmed hat (petasos), and on rare occasions, Greek women donned a flat-brimmed one with a high peaked crown.

5. Footwear

Women and men wore sandals, slippers, soft shoes, or boots, although at home they usually went barefoot.

6. Hairstyles
Women used gold, silver hair pins, cone headdress and tiaras. Young girls used fresh flowers and ribbons. Only boys and women had long hair and men cut their hair once they became youths.
Plaiting, crimping and waving of female hair as well as decoration with pins, tiaras and bands.

7. Battledress

Greek warriors of battle wore tunics of leather with metal plaque reinforcements. Helmets and leg protection called greaves added more skin coverage.

8. Food and diet
The Greek diet consisted of foods that were easily raised in the rocky terrain of Greece’s landscape. Breakfast was eaten just after sunrise and consisted of bread dipped in wine. Lunch was again bread dipped in wine along with some olives, figs, cheese or dried fish.
Supper was the main meal of each day. It was eaten near sunset. It consisted of vegetables, fruit, fish, and possibly honey cakes. Sugar was unknown to ancient Greeks, so natural honey was used as a sweetener.
Fish was the main source of protein in the Greek diet. Beef and pork were only available to poor people during religious festivals. It was during the festivals that cows or pigs were sacrificed to the gods, and the meat was cooked and handed out to the public.
Wine was the main drink in ancient Greece. It was watered down; to drink it straight was considered barbaric. Milk not drunk but was used for cheese production. Water was another possible choice as a drink. And also mead (water mixed with honey).
The Greeks did not have any eating utensils, so they ate with their hands. Bread was often used to scoop out thick soups. Bread was also used as a napkin to clean hands. After being used as a napkin, the bread was then thrown on the floor for the dogs or slaves to clean up at a later time.
Men often gathered for dinner parties called symposiums. Having guests in the house was a “male-only” affair. Women of the house were not permitted to attend. After giving a wine offering to the gods, the men drank and talked about politics or morals. Often young girls and boys would be employed to entertain guests with music and dance.

Krater: container used in the banquets where wine was kept alone or mixed with water or mead. The width of its mouth allowed diners to put their cup or the oinocoe into it.

Lebes: large glass with different culinary uses. Because of its domed shape requires a foot to support it.

OINOCOE: jar used to serve the beverage at the table. Oninocoe was put into a krater or an amphora to fill it with the liquid. The shape of its mouth allowed to serve the liquid without spilling.

Cups to drink at the banquet.
KYLIX (the most noble)



And of course, there were PLATES:

Here comes your turn. Sparta was different from the rest of the poleis. So you must add to this dossier information and illustrations about the following matters:

  • Political system (oligarchy).

  • Social groups.

  • Births and discards.

  • Military training of men.

  • Male hairstyles.

  • Battledress and weapons.

  • Sport training of women / outdoor activities.

  • Female clothes.

  • Artistic, literary or cultural expressions.

Your dossier will be graded and some of you will be selected to explain one of these topics to the class in a short oral presentation. (So… keep your images to prepare a powerpoint doc or similar!).

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