For as advanced as the Greek culture was, women had a horrible life. For the most part, they were really only a step above a slave. Women were required to listen to their fathers until they were married, and then they were required to obey their husbands.
Women had no legal rights, or political rights. For example, if a woman was mugged at market, she could not tell the authorities until her husband felt it was important. Even after that, only the husband was allowed to talk to the authorities. Politically, women were never citizens. By this, they could never vote, be elected, or attend the assembly hearings.
A woman in the city could only strive to become a wife, and bear children. The only authority that a woman would hold would be over the slaves of the household. The man of the house would typically be away and it would be the duty of the wife to handle to affairs of the house.
Women were not allowed to own any type of property. By property I am talking about a home or business. Usually Greek women were married between the ages of 14 to 16. Marriages were arranged by their fathers. A bride was taught how to be the woman of the house in all areas. The wedding would start in the middle of the night with the procession of the bride to her new home. The ceremony had religious passages and specific rituals. An example would be eating an apple and other fruit to show that her husband is now her provider. They would receive gifts and have a celebration after the ceremony.
In ancient societies slavery was a common part of the social fabric. A person could become a slave in various ways. Sadly, a child born to slave parents stayed a slave. Prisoners of war became slaves too. A child could have been condemned to exposure because they were considered weak and sick. There was a wall in the city were infant children would be placed for adoption or death. Other reasons a person could become a slave was that the family needed money and they would sell their children to pay off their debt. Girls would be sent into slavery because it was more profitable and prestigious to have male children.
The jobs of a slave were unlimited. A slave could be found doing just about any job in the city; from manual labor to police officer. Reports have stated that slaves could be sold for as much as $180 to as low as $9.
Men of Greece
Men could do whatever they wished to do in ancient Greece. Their professions ranged from farmer to sailor, politician, artesian, or soldier. Most men were farmers. Along with farming men would hunt and also fish. Politics, hunting, and socializing were the primary past times of men in Greece. The wealthy usually got to hunt for sport and ride horses while the lower classes would socialize and go to the agora on a consistent basis.
Male children would be educated to a minimum level, but the wealthier boys would advance in their studies. Women on a side note would be informally educated at the house by their mothers or slaves. All males 18 would have to serve at least 2 years in the military. In times of war, that service would be extended until the war was over or they were unable to fight because of injury.
The Greek House and Life of a typical Greek
The household of a typical household of a city-state would be a 2 to 3 room house/apartment. Inside of the house, an open courtyard would be found. Wealthier people would have larger houses with more rooms etc. There would not a lot of materials in the houses, usually some beds, tables, chairs, and some other furniture about the room. Wealthier houses would have frescos on the walls of their homes. Houses did not have glass in their windows; however, Greeks were able to shut the windows with the aid of wood.
The center of any city-state was the agora. It was here that anything could and would be bought. Food, slaves, entertainment, and little trinkets would all be found here. It was also here that any important information from the government would be announced and any news from Greece and beyond would be heard.
The typical foods of the ancient Greek were: Barley, figs, breads, fruits and vegetables. Grapes, olives, and seafood would be most typical. As for the meats, lamb was the most common.
Life in ancient Greece was typical of any society, they worked hard, had joy and experienced pain. Women would dress in linen of various colors as would the men. Sandals were mostly what were worn. Dancing and singing were an intricate part of Greek life. The Greeks had over 200 songs and dances for the day to day life of their town. Women and men both groomed themselves as we do today.
Warfare and the Soldier's Life
Warfare in ancient Greece came in two forms; city-state vs. city-state and Greece vs. foreign invader. Most warfare between city-states was typically for land or economic security. Since prime farming land was scarce city-states would go to battle for land. Other city-states would attack another city-state for the ability to steal money and other riches, but also to make the losing city-state pay tribute for years to come.
Warfare against foreign invaders was the only time that Greek city-states would unite. Regardless of which city-state, Greeks believed they were superior to all other empires on the earth. This is when the term barbarian emerged. The Greeks would say that foreign languages just sounded like.."bar, bar, bar, bar"
A fully armed soldier would be called a panoplia. In their possession would be the following articles: Leather sandals, 10 foot long wooden spear, short sword, helmet, greaves, leg guards, and round shield. These would be privately purchases.
Other types of soldiers found in a Greek army would be; Cavalrymen, mercenaries, scouts, bowmen, javelin throwers, and hired soldiers from other areas.
Soldiers would typically eat barley, cheese, olives, onions, and wine
Greek Life and Thought
The Greeks developed three types of entertainment:
Tragedies: A tragedy was a play that focused on one major character and usually ended in a disaster.
Comedies: Plays that ridiculed people, ideas, the government, or social customs.
Poetry: Expression of emotion and thought without music.
The Greeks had many great thinkers, but the three that stand out are Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle.
Socrates (469 BC-399 BC)
Socrates searched for a code of conduct for all people to live by. His most famous quote is, "Know thyself." Socrates did not die an old man; rather he was executed for his beliefs. Mostly he was killed because Athens needed a scapegoat for losing the Peloponnesian War. Socrates promoted nonviolence, so when many young Athenians refused to fight, or didn't fight well enough, Socrates was blamed. The charges brought onto Socrates were "corruption of youth," and "not praying to the gods." He was found guilty but was given the opportunity to leave and be exiled. Socrates saw this option as an admission of guilt, so he stuck to his principle and drank the hemlock.
Plato was one of Socrates' students. Plato set up the Academy. The Academy was a place for all the great thinkers to go and be educated. It was like a college. Plato also wrote The Republic which was a book about the perfect society. In this book, Plato mixes the ideas of democracy with communism. Some people believe that Plato was talking about the city of Atlantis in his book. Some other people believe that Plato's concept was just cruel joke played by a very smart person knowing the people would analyze his work for meaning.
Besides the area of philosophy, the Greeks pioneered further development into the human mind. The Greeks believed to balance their bodies, meaning exercise the body and exercise the mind. Athletic competitions were very popular in ancient Greece. Equally as popular were plays. The Greeks developed two types; the comedy and the tragedy. A tragedy focused on the suffering of major characters. Sometime they succeeded, but usually their desire for excellence in whatever area falls short. The tragedy, just like a lot of their religion focused on the personality flaws of man and god.
Some major writers and their plays were:
Sophocles: Oedipus Rex
Comedies were used to make light of life, the focus of comedies was to ridicule and highlight society in the forms of people like politicians, social customs, or controversial ideas.
An example of Greek comedy would be the play Birds and the Clouds by Aristophanes.
Athens vs. Sparta
A Different View of the World
The two major cities of Ancient Greece were Athens and Sparta. These two city-states dominated Greece like no other, but they were totally different. Let’s look at Sparta first: Spartan women were required to defend Sparta. They were taught gymnastics and combat skills. Sparta was ruled by 2 kings. These kings received council from 28 elders and an assembly of Spartan citizens. Every year 5 of the 28 elders were elected to oversee the council. They were called the ephors.
Total respect was taught by Sparta. An example of this was at an Olympics. An Athenian old man couldn't find a seat and the hot Greek sun was really oppressive. No one in his home city of Athens would offer him a seat. Desperate, the old man looked everywhere. As soon as he reached the Spartan section, all the men rose to offer him their seats.
The motto of Sparta was, "Never retreat in battle, however great the odds, but always stand firm, and to conquer, or die."
Spartans were placed in a military lifestyle from birth.
At birth newborns were taken to the ephors to see if they were strong enough to live and serve. The weak babies were sent to die on a hill side.
At age 7, boys were sent to the military barracks to begin their training. They were given no shoes and few clothes for the winner. They were expected to steal to survive. If caught, they were beaten severely. This may seem cruel, but the Spartans believed this taught survival. Their hypothesis was imagining if you were stranded behind enemy lines. No one will help; you are on your own.
At the age of 20, men were permitted to marry, but they had to live in the barracks until the age of 40. They were permitted to go home to eat dinner and interact until a certain time when they had to go back to the barrack
At age 30, soldiers were given full citizenship. They were given land and slaves for their service to the state.
Athens was totally different than Sparta. Athens was like the United States in many ways.
Athens was the birth place of democracy. Athens encouraged open thought
Athens encouraged open communication with the rest of Greece. Sparta did not. Athens let the arts and humanities flourish, the Spartan government told the people what was beautiful and artistic.
The only thing that both city-states agreed on was a strong army and navy.
The Hellenistic World
The Hellenistic world was spread by Alexander the Great. During his campaign against the Persians, in the flanks of his army he brought with him Greek officials, merchants, artesian, and artists. His goal was to mix cultures and learn as much as possible and obtain as much as possible from the world. Alexander encouraged the mixing of cultures. As an example Alex married a Persian princess and pushed for many of his soldiers to do the same. To further show an example, Alexander dressed in Persian fashion and followed Persian customs to show tolerance.
Hellenistic culture is the blending of Greece, Persia, Egypt, and India. The center of the Hellenistic world was Alexandria located in Egypt. Alexander stressed the sciences and mathematics to be studied. There was research done with anesthetic for surgery; descriptions of the central nervous system, and blood circulation. The mathematician Euclid studied geometry which is still used today, and the Greeks were able to mathematically prove that the world was round. Archimedes worked on the principles of the lever, double pulley, and the catapult.