Daily life in ancient Athens

Ancient Athens life. The Karyatid statues of the Erechtheion on its Acropolis. Credit: Harrieta171, CC BY-SA 3.0/Wikipedia

Daily life in ancient Hellenistic Athens was more intellectually stimulating and exciting than in most ancient cities, mainly due to the fact that Greeks excelled in theater and philosophy, and also participated in political competitions. and sports.

Moreover, their culture had developed the vital art of public discourse in the agora. The men, if not training as soldiers, often discussed politics in groups or went to the theater to watch tragedies or entertainment comedies.

They could of course be strongly tied to the plays, which often involved current politics and the actions of the Greek gods in one form or another.

Ancient Athens life
Funeral oration of Pericles by Philipp Foltz. Public domain

Men in ancient Greece also had full citizenship and could vote, which women were not allowed to do.

When it came to the realm of theatre, women were not even allowed to watch plays, let alone act in them. Theater was a male affair and women’s roles were always played by men.

Grecian Delight supports Greece

Life for men in ancient Athens also involved playing games that also did not involve physical activity, including marbles, dice, and checkers. The ancient Greek version of checkers was similar to the current game of backgammon. However, the ancient Greek version of checkers involved a board, stones, and dice.

The life of women in ancient Athens

Women’s lives in ancient Athens were closely tied to domestic work, including spinning, weaving, cooking, and other domestic chores. They were not involved in public life or politics.

Ancient Athens life
Respectable free women were expected to involve themselves in domestic chores such as laundry. Public domain

Women, as a rule, were mostly confined to the home, although a vital public duty for them was to serve as priestesses in temples.

Girls in ancient Athens were not formally educated; instead, their mothers taught them the skills they needed to manage a household. They married young, often to much older men. When they married, Athenian women had two main roles: having children and running the household.

The ideal Athenian woman did not go out in public or interact with men she was not related to, although this ideology of seclusion would only have been practical in wealthy families.

In most households, women were needed to perform tasks, such as going to market and fetching water, which required spending time outside the home where interactions with men were possible.

Cultivate with the seasons

The ancient Athenians of course also had to eat. It was natural that the majority of them earned their living and subsistence from agriculture. Citizens often owned land outside the city that provided them with income.

The Greek landscape and climate, however, made farming difficult.

September was the time to harvest the grapes, which were either kept for consumption or used to make wine. The vinification was done by crushing the grapes with the foot then keeping the juice in huge barrels to ferment.

The olives were either picked by hand or extracted from the trees with wooden sticks. Some were crushed in a press to produce olive oil while others were kept for consumption. Olive oil was extremely essential for ancient Athenians as it had many uses, such as cooking, lighting, beauty products, and sports activities.

Olives and their associated products were so vital to the economy that uprooting an olive tree was a criminal offense in ancient Greece.

Cereals were usually harvested in October to ensure they could grow in the wettest season. The farmer would use a plow driven by oxen while a second man would follow close behind, sowing the seeds.

In the spring, crops were harvested with sickles. After harvesting the grain, it was then threshed, using mules and the aid of the wind to separate the chaff from the grain. The chaff was then removed by pounding the grain with a mortar and pestle.

The ancient Athenians ate bread made from barley or wheat with porridge and accompanied by cheese, vegetables, fish, eggs and fruit. Animals such as deer, hares and boars were also hunted, but they were not the main diet but were only a kind of luxury food.

The seasoning usually involved cilantro and sesame seeds. Honey was probably the only sweetener that existed at the time, and the great importance of honey in ancient Greece is demonstrated by beehives housed in earthenware vessels.

Growing up in Ancient Athens

Athenian boys played games similar to today’s hockey and competed in a variety of sports, including road racing, wrestling, and calisthenics. As they generally played naked, the girls were not allowed to attend the competitions.

Ancient Athens life
Ring of wrestling in ancient Athens. Public domain

Overall, women and girls were not expected to do a lot of physical activity for recreational purposes.

Children in ancient Greece generally spent their time playing with toys and games. We know from archaeological research that they played with balls, miniature floats, rattles, yo-yos, rocking horses, dolls and clay animals.

Boys were educated at home by their mothers until the age of six to seven, but any further education was the responsibility of the father while the pupils were taught by private school teachers. after this age.

Boys from wealthy families were escorted to school by a trusted slave, and students were taught to write with a stylus on wax-covered tablets. The books were exceptionally expensive, so they were very rare.

Athens students learned to add, subtract, multiply and divide. They also learned fractions. The students learned Homer’s poems – surely knowing many by heart – and how to play the lyre.

Rich children also learned to ride horses. Other sports included wrestling, archery, slingshot use, and swimming. At fourteen, the boys attended graduate school for four more years until the age of eighteen, when they were sent to a military school from which they would graduate at age 20.


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