Everyday Life in Ancient Athens



Everyday life in Ancient Athens of the Hellenistic era was more exciting than in most ancient cities mainly due to the fact that Greeks had theater, great philosophers, were involved in politics, many were into athletics, and had developed the art of the discourse at the agora.

Men, if they were not training as soldiers, were discussing politics or went to the theater to watch tragedies or comedies for entertainment. They could relate to the plays, that often involved current politics and gods in some form. Men also had full citizen status and could vote, something women were not allowed to do.

Regarding theater, women were not allowed to watch plays, much less act in them. The theater was a manly affair and the roles of women were played by men.

Men also played games that did not involve physical activity also, such as marbles, dice, and checkers. The Ancient Greek version of checkers was similar to what the current game of backgammon — however, the Ancient Greek version of Checkers involved a board, stones and dice.

The life of women in Ancient Greece was closely tied to domestic work, spinning, weaving, cooking, and other domestic chores. They were not involved in public life or in politics. They were mostly confined to the house although one public duty for them was to be priestesses at temples.

Ancient Athenians had to eat, too. It was natural that the majority of them made their living and put food on the table from farming. Citizens often had land outside the city which provided their income. The Greek landscape and climate was difficult to farm.

In September it was the time to pick the grapes, which were either kept for eating or to make wine. Making wine was done by treading and kept in jars to ferment.

Olives were either picked by hand or knocked out of the tress with wooden sticks. Some were crushed in a press to produce olive oil and some were kept to be eaten. Olive oil was very important to ancient Athenians as it had many uses, such as cooking, lighting, beauty products and for athletic purposes. Uprooting an olive tree was a criminal offence.

Grains were usually harvested around October to ensure they would grow during the wettest season. The farmer would use a plough driven by ox while a second man would follow behind and sow the seeds behind. In Spring the Crops were harvested using sickles. After harvesting the grain, it was then thrashed, using mules and the help of the wind to separate the chaff from the grain, the husks were then removed by pounding the grain with a pestle and mortar.

Ancient Athenians ate bread made of barley or wheat and porridge, accompanied with cheese, vegetables, fish, eggs and fruit. Animas sch as deer, hare, and boars were hunted only as addition to the food staples. Seasoning usually involved coriander and sesame seeds. Honey was probably the only sweetener that existed at the time, and honey’s importance in Ancient Greece is shown as the beehives were kept in terracotta cases.

Athenian boys played games similar to today’s hockey and they were also participating in a lot of athletics and calisthenics. Since they usually played naked, girls were forbidden to watch.

Overall women and girls were not expected to do much physical activity for recreation purposes.

Children in ancient Greece usually occupied their time playing with toys and games. They played with balls, miniature chariots, rattles, yo-yos, rocking horses, and dolls and animals made from clay.

Boys were taught at home by their mothers until they were 6 or 7 years old. In Athens the education was left up to the father. Students were taught by private schoolmasters. The boys from wealthy families were taken to school by a trusted slave. The students learned to write on wax-covered tablets with a stylus. Books were very expensive, so they were rare.

The students in Athens learned to add, subtract, multiply, and divide. They also learned about fractions. Students learned the words of Homer and how to play the lyre. Wealthy children learned to ride horseback. Other sports included wrestling, using a bow and a sling, and swimming. At age 14 boys attended a higher school for four more years. Then, at age 18 boys went to military school from where they graduated at age 20.