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ACS 103 Lecture Notes - Hellenistic Greece, Hetaira, Direct Democracy

Arts and Contemporary Studies
Course Code
ACS 103
Ron Babin

of 3
Survey of Greek Civilization class #6
Greek Society and Politics
We can assume the other Greek States where the same as Athens with the exception of Sparta
When the Greeks immigrated to what is now Greece it was a very tribal society
The history of the polis is the transformation of the semi-nomadic society into a semi-territoal
Once they settled they began to define the geographical location as theirs
The establishment of the territorial state leads to the weakening of the famil-kin structure
because the larger community is comprised of these groups and other starts to generate its own
demands and rules are often in conflict with the kin-tribal based society
The history of the development of the Greek polis is a history of the progressive weakening of
the family system.
There’s a correlation between the progression of democracy and the weakening of the kinship
o While autocratic systems tend to promote the kin based system
In the Greek world the awareness of individually took another form
One’s individually and status as an individual was determined by others
It was how others determined you. Action ordinated
Stress on competence and success
The orientation is amoral
Goodness is concealed with success
Strong vs. the weak. Strong = good, weak= bad
o This maintained until the 19th century and even still today
This all operates in what is called a “contest system”
o Individuals are always striving to be doing better, to be seen as doing better, and thus
their family receives all the glory
An Athenian named Alcibiades In the 5th century quite notorious and successful
had all the characteristics of a good Athenian good family, athletic, however he
was a massive Narcissus. Alcibiades was participating in wrestling at the
Olympics he was about to be pinned but bit his opponent, showing he was
willing to do anything to win which was considered a good characteristic in
Ancient Greece
Citizenship depends on membership of the family you had to be born into an official family
The family was the basis for the material wealth of the state
o All the resources in the state were owned by families
o The state itself in the early times owned very little
o The god or goddess was seen as a resident of the polis just as the humans are
o The temple is the god’s house in a very real way
o Everything was privately owned in the early Greek polis
o As it grew older, public buildings were built for the state
This conception of the independence of the state is relatively new
Nobody owned it
The first ones were meeting houses belonging to none
The concept of the state was always relatively weak
What you get in the Greek polis is a lot of interference in the state which are oriented in the
family to make sure they don't die out
The family itself consist of all property, both human and land
Kurios the ideal the head of the household of a family controls the family
Gyne: Women whose purpose is to just produce children and administer the household
o Women had little freedom in the Greek community at large
o Girls tended to be married at 14-16
o No love, mostly. You loved other people but not your wife.
o Males married around 30
o Marriages were most often contracted between the two heads of the households
The dowry was the most important matter to settle
Produced by the father of the wife
The marriage itself was actually nothing more than the transference of the
female to the male’s household
No sanctification of the marriage ( no ceremony)
If there are no male heirs to a family then it would go to the oldest female an
heiress but she has to marry the closest male relative of the former head of
household her father if he is married he must divorce, if the heiress was
married she must divorce as well
Could resign as head of household leader at 50 bad transfer it to someone
o Regarded as assets of the family
o First 2 children born would be raised
Whether rest were raised depended on resources of the family
Others would be exposed some picked up by needy families, pimps and slave
Hetairai upper class foreign mistresses which were the only women allowed to interact in public
with men
Athens was at least in its most developed period a democracy (direct democracy)
o Assembly made the real decisions
Consisted of all male citizens who could get there
Ever from of public action was seen as a competition
o In war, politics, drama
o Greeks did not go to the theater to watch a play but a dramatic competition
Winners go fame and reputation along with political office and the state also received huge
benefit when wealthy people would pay for the events
The statue in a public place was the most prominent
o Statues and phalluses were the most prominent things seen in cites
The gain of fame could be made in several ways
o Risk taken, gold spent, importance of the individual on the team
o This competition though did fuel the society also created huge problems
o Not only do you have to beat your opponents, but you had to push them down
o The Greeks were never able to solve this problem of internal fragmentation till Phillip of
The family is the basis for their activity
Philanthropy was a staple in classic and Hellenistic Greece as well as later Rome
o Philanthropy became an ideal first in classical Greece
To give back after you have obtained a greater wealth