CLA230H1S The Greeks History, Culture and Society Textbook Notes
Week 2 Chapters 3, 4,5
M 1/13 Chapter 3 The Greeks at Home
- If land was the economic foundation of ancient Greece, the oikos
“house/family” was its social foundation
- the oikos included slaves, close relations, and the house and its contents,
but the basic oikos was still a monogamous union of man and woman to
produce and rear legitimate children
Gender relationships: ideal and Realities
- men should wed around the age of thirty and women as teenagers
- brides should be virgins, although widows or divorcees were allowed to
o if they were not virgins then they were called a “broken vessel”
- a marriage was contracted between a groom and the parents of his bride-
to – be, who gave their daughter a dowry to help set up a new household.
A wife, after marriage, was expected to obey her husband, except within
the oikos, where she was responsible for preparing food, rearing children,
and producing cloth. Women owned little to no real estate, although laws
varied from polis to polis.
- In most city-states the laws limited women to trivial financial transactions
and denied them access to the legal system, which was all male.
- Female poet Sappho, lived around 600 BC. The tone of her poetry is
similar to that of her male contemporaries and only a few lines of her work
actually have survived. We find that Sappho celebrates love and marriage
as a woman’s primary concerns, suggesting to readers since Roman
times (but never to the Greeks) that she celebrated homoerotic love:
hence the term lesbian, because Sappho was from the island of Lesbos.
She wrote poems to be memorized and performed by others at weddings,
virtually the only time in a respectable woman’s life when female sexuality
could be publicly celebrated without shame.
- The men may have made the rules, but the respectable women- mothers,
grandmothers, aunts- enforced them.
- male sources often represent women as an evil influence, virtually a
separate species = misogyny (hatred for women) is an important theme in
o Hesiod justified it with a story of how Zeus, ruler of the gods,
created the dreaded race of females to punish men for having
accepted the theft of fire from heaven (Pandora, the first woman).
o The plan embodied the first female, the lovely but deceitful and
lustful Pandora, whose name, Hesiod says, means “all gifted”
because many gods endowed her with gifts
o Hesiod describes the invention as woman as a punishment for
man, who before Pandora lived in an all-male paradise, he doesn't explain how they were able to reproduce before women came
o Xenophon 400 BC does not represent woman as man’s
punishment, but does believe that the gods made men superior to
women: tougher, more disciplines, and more suited to an outdoor
life. Yet marriage is a partnership. The husband is in control, but he
and his wife must work together pg. 32-34.
o According to the text from Xenophon- Union between man and wife
should produce children, the children in turn provide support for
their parents in old age. Men take care of the duties outside the
home because the God's made their bodies better equipped for the
cold and heat of travel and military expeditions. Women are better
suited to the responsibilities of the home.
- a wife’s success was judged largely by her ability to produce sons
o since a stable population required the average woman to have four
or five live births, during periods of population growth, the average
was 7-8 children in the 5th C.
o most women remained pregnant or nursing their entire married
lives, which began shortly after their first period.
- male writers often refer to sexual activity in marriage as “work”, the work
- sex outside marriage available in many ways to men, but was considered
unacceptable for women.
- many men owned slaves, and sexual relations between masters and
slaves were common- place, but adultery with a free woman was
dangerous because the womans guardian (often her father, husband or
brother) could, and often would kill the adulterer.
- most polis tried to avoid the blood feud that would result in retaliation by
imposing heavy fines on adulterers. (In Athens, the fine was twice that for
adultery than for rape- because rape was a one time assault, while
adultery seduced a womans mind against her oikos- ruining her guardians
- prostitutes were an easier source of sexual pleasure for the male, and
there were many of them in major poleis like Athens and Corinth.
o Prostitutes were divided in to two categories by the Greeks: hetairai
(courtesans) and pornai (whores).
Pericles kept a courtesan names Aspasia, she conversed
with the days leading intellectuals like Plato
- comic writers in fifth century Athens make prostitution sound fun- filled
- Greek men also had sexual relations with boys and occasionally,with men
of their own age
o In modern times, male homosexuality is sometimes coyly called
“Greek love”, but same sex relationships among the Greeks were
different from homosexual behavior of modern times. The pederasty grew out of the social environment of the
Greek symposium in which young men served food and
wine to their elders.
In general pederasty was frowned upon after marriage
- In many cities, the adult erastes (lover) introduced his younger eromenos
(beloved) to the ways of polite society, establishing social contracts that
would aid him later in life. If the erastes was well-educated, well liked,
famous or handsome, it reflected positively on the honor of his young
- Some Greek writers, like Plato (hence, platonic love) believed the
relationship should remain chaste, and focus on the intellectual
development of the young boy.
- Others thought the sexual activity should remain explicitly sexual until he
reached puberty, or first started growing facial hair.
- Not much is known about females sex lives. Athenian law required a
woman convicted of adultery to be divorced, whether their husbands
wanted it or not. The woman was disgraced and sent back to her parents.
She was also forbidden to attend public religious festivals (the equivalent
of males being banned from political life).
- Comedies occasionally jest about free woman having sex with male
slaves, vase-paintings and comedies also depicted women pleasuring
themselves with dildoes.
- Greeks were not prudish about sex, however it was meant for men’s eyes
alone, often in the setting of the Symposium
o in art men are depicted naked, but trained toward an eye for athletic
excellence, rather than homosexual love, although the male form
was still admired sexually.
o women clothed until 4th C BC in art. Shameful to see a womans
body depicted in art earlier.
**Greek erotic art probably represents general Greek attitudes
towards sex in the same way that pornography doesn't represent
accurately the sex lives of modern day people**
Adults and Children
- According to Euripides (One of the great tragedians of the 5th C BC),
children were the center of life
- different cities imposed different educations/customs on their citizens.
- Burden of childrearing fell to the mother, however fathers had the right to
decide whether to keep new born babies or to expose them to die.
Generally, girls were left exposed more often than boys. Many prostitutes
begun life this way.
- Unwanted babies were left in well- known spots that slave traders would
check, and the babies would either die of exposure or be sold into a
lifetime of servitude
o Wanted babies who survived their first few days underwent rituals
that brought them into the community in a formal way. The most
important was the amphidromia, or “running around". The amphidromia established the child’s legitimacy and its
future status as a citizen
father held baby as he walked around the fire, presenting the
baby to the Goddess Hestia, of the hearth. 10 day festival,
babies name normally chosen on 5th day. Gifts and offerings
brought by family friends, black tar spread on walls of home
to ward away evil spirits from the baby.
Babies were given one name, in conjunction with their
fathers name eg. Pericles, son of Ajax.
- Boys and girls reared together until they were somewhere between five
and seven years, spending most of their time with their mothers. They
helped around the house.
- children often had close relationships with their wet nurses, who raised
them from infancy if the family could afford it.
- Around the age of seven, boys and girls, began to be segregated
o Boys now spent time on the fields, girls learned weaving and
o Wealthy families, boys and sometimes girls received formal
schooling, basic alphabet and memorization of poetry (Homer) an
performing it to the accompaniment of a lyre.
o Even in Athens, where literacy was the most well spread, only
around 1/10 men could read/write.
o Most teachers were slaves, and no one wanted to be skilled
enough to be mistaken for a slave.
o Slaves were chaperones for wealthy schoolchildren and
accompanied them at all times, even helping them with their
o Boys became adults and were admitted to the ranks of the citizen
warriors at the age of 18, their formal education stopped at 14 and
between 14-18 years old they were enrolled in formal military
training under the supervision of an older experienced male.
- By late 5th C BC, wealthy young men could attach themselves to
intellectuals, sometimes following them around and listening to them talk,
other times hiring them for a fee.
- Greek literature often tells of rebellious teenage sons in conflict with their
fathers, polis had no police, the father was the rule enforcer for their young
sons, while girls were married usually by 13 were under control of their
W 1/15 Chapter 4 The Greeks Before History, 12,000- 1200 BC
- shifts in the earths axis tilt and sunspot activity have caused several ice
ages in the last two million years.
- Greece stayed warmer than the rest of Europe, the average winter
temperature in Athens around 15,000 BC was roughly 30 F while today it's
around 50 F. - conditions of life in Greece were always changing. Scholars call this
“prehistoric”: times for which we have no written information, for which
archaeology is our major source of evidence
The end of the last ice age, 13,000- 9500 BC:
- the earliest evidence of humans in Greece dates back 200,000 years,
although modern homo sapiens (modern humans) only entered 35,000
o caves suggest that people lived in bands of 15- 25 members, very
tiny population at this time.
o few edible plants only available in summer, so small population was
constantly moving around, following herds of animals into the
mountains during the summer months- whole of Greece probably
supported a couple thousand people.
Origins of Agriculture 950005000BC
- by 95000, temperatures were close to modern levels, in the Fertile
Crescent in the Near East wild grains began to grow.
- People gathering these grains could support a larger population, bands
got larger and split into more bands of people until they pressed against
the limits of the territories that supported them.
- Those living in the northern foothills of the mountains surrounding the
Fertile Crescent began to selectively breed wild grasses to produce better
strains= first genetically modified crops
- during this period, animal husbandry also developed, taming cattle, sheep,
pigs and goats.
- such profound changes in food supply= profound changes in lifestyle.
Villages developed instead of people travelling constantly, agriculture
developed, population increased, encouraging settled communities until
farmers easily outnumbered the food-gatherers.
- With growing population and close proximity to livestock, epidemics broke
out, those living in communities and towns had developed immunity but
the hunter-gatherers on the edges of society fell prey to disease. They had
to choose, die of disease, integrate themselves into society or flee the
- By 7000 BC, villages in Syria had hundred of inhabitants, and the entire
population of the ice age Greece might have fit into this one town.
- This complex of changes—the domestication of crops and animals and
the shift toward sedentary village life—the Neolithic (The new stone age)
o the Neolithic economy reached northern Greece around 7000 BC
when the harvest of barley and wheat was introduced alongside the
domestication of sheep/goats.
Greeks and indo- Europeans:
- Irish, Gothic and early Persian = Indo- European, a single family of
languages. (The major languages of modern Europe and important
languages in Asia are all considered Indo-European) - One group spoke proto- Indo- European language, a single language
that was somehow ancestor to all late Indo- European languages, and that
group migrated across Europe and south Asia, displacing or replacing
earlier inhabitants and their languages, developing various strains.
- The spread of new pot shapes throughout Europe and Asia may help to
indicate migration of language, but there are also many other
Neolithic society and economy, 5000- 3000BC
- a major innovation was the invention of the plow, which allowed farmers to
turn the soil of larger areas, drawback= needs Oxen, they are expensive,
need food of their own, which required even more land and hard work.
- as the population grew new technologies spread
- first domesticated cattle were raised for meat, until introduction of plough-
then evidence suggests farmers keeping their animals for longer- putting
them to work. This change is called =
- a second products revolution, a shift toward raising animals as much for
traction, milk, and wool as for meat
- the plow allowed larger scale grain cultivation
- plow technology = land suddenly becomes valuable, people want to be
able to pass this 'good' land off to their own heirs. therefore, defining
legitimate heirs became important to retain property within the family.
- Men start to worry for the first time about female premarital virginity, they
want to ensure the children that will inherit their land is their child.
- families of similar economic status married one another, creating
permanent inequalities of wealth, creating a social hierarchy.
- Farmers need organization, therefore villages developed with both
communal aspects (trade, storing of goods, sharing of resources like
oxen) as well as private areas of life (the home, family and private
- While hunter-gather societies had little/no private property and no
hierarchy = they were very communal, Farming societies developed the
idea of private property and land holding (along with ideas of the family
being the core institution, age and class distinctions becoming pronounced
- In villages, chiefs began to appear, to instill order around 4500 BC with the
introduction of larger Chief homes. By 3000 BC we see evidence of Chiefs
mobilizing food to support craftsmen along with advancements in pot
The Early Bronze Age, 3000- 2300 BC
- craftsmen learned to mix copper with tin or arsenic to produce bronze
(harder than copper)
- the elite separated itself from the masses and obtained power and wealth
in early 3rd millennium BC.
- Early Bronze Age saw advancements in architecture, we moved from
larger Neolithic homes to monumental buildings. - With inequalities within communities arising, so too came inequalities
between different communities= military tension reflected in high walls
surrounding the House of Tiles, as well as many coastal sites regularly
fortified- there was wealth to be taken, and there were people prepared to
use violence to take it.
- By 2500 BC life in Lerna would have had music, pomp, pageant and
- Lerna, the House of Tiles, built in 2500 BC, measured 80 x 40 feet
o Clay roof tiles covered it, it contained storerooms and had a second
o Clay sealing’s made by impressing hardstone seal with carved
design into clay leads us to think the house may have been an
administrative center or had admin duties.
o plastered walls, decorative panels, wooden doors + stairs
o Found ruins of similar buildings at Troy in Asia Minor + Island of
Crete and at Tiryns, near Lerna
Culture in the Early Bronze Age
- perhaps contact with the Eastern Mediterranean and Near Eastern leaders
helped Aegean rulers secure their power.
- in Mesopotamia, early rulers owned much of their power to their claim of a
close relationship with divine beings.
- in Egypt, the kings in a sense were gods. Pyramids and Ziggurats
(Mesopotamian tall-stepped mountains with temples on top) benefited
everyone by pleasing the Gods, but also provided proof of the power and
magnificent wealth of society’s leaders.
- Rulers close relationship with the Gods justified building these colossal
temples, and their ability to construct such large scale projects only
solidified their claims of deity.
- Eg. Great Pyramid of Khufu was constructed around 2400 BC= tallest
building in world for 3,800 years.
- *Message= No ordinary human, but only a God would manifest such
- The Greeks never had the wealth/organization to build such monuments +
lacked the social structure required to build them as well.
- Cycladic figurines were marble figurines, most are female, they come
from a few graves suggesting that they belonged to a social elite who had
access to beautiful things- distinct from the masses. Had eyes, mouth,
genitals painted on- Cycladic peoples seem to have been expert seamen
who traveled to and fro between the Cycladic Islands, Crete and the
The Middle Bronze Age, 2300- 1800 BC
- around 2300 BC, the house of tiles burned down, alongside most major
sites in mainland Greece, settlements decreased, none had monumental
buildings and long-distance trade virtually stopped. - sophisticated mainland and island elited of the Early Bronze Age
- For the next 500 years,between 2300- 1800 BC people lived simpler lives,
village level lives = Middle Bronze Age = a dark age obscure to modern
scholars and characterized by social regression
- one explanation; newcomers invaded Greece around 2300 BC, perhaps a
second wave entering around 2000 BC- violent conquests of invaders
would explain the burning of so many sites, like Lerna's House of Tiles.
- Some archaeologists believe is was around this time 2300 ish BC (not
6000 BC like originally suggested) when Indo-Europeans entered Greece-
possibly violent invaders or a gentler migration ** We're not sure the actual
cause of the regression, these are all theories***
The Age of Minoan Palaces, 2000- 1600 BC
- Regression of life on mainland Greece didn't affect those living on Crete.
- Separated by 75 miles of water from mainland, the centralization of power
and development of art + use of ceremony that began in Neolithic times
continued without interruption.
- Around 2000 BC Cnossus, and a couple other sites on Crete built large,
palace structures, similar to buildings found in the Near East at around the
- First palaces had massive storage capacities, spacious courtyards, and
elaborate facades+ Europe's first experimentation with the development of
writing was found here. Oldest writing around 2000 BC in a strange script
we can't read, and we don't think is Greek.
- Development on Crete of altars and shrines on mountains to Gods,
sanctuaries with elaborate and expensive architecture developed = **
religion and ceremony aided the concentration of power**
- Greek Mythology written thousands of years later in Classical Period
poses a problem, how much of it is truth?
- Myth: Crete was once ruled by a great king named Minos, whom we
sometimes call the Bronze Age civilization on Crete Minoan
o Minos once failed to sacrifice a special bull to the god Poseidon,
and the angry god caused Minos’ wife to fall in love with that very
bull. She hid inside a wooden cow, which the bull mounted and
from their strange union came the half man, half bull, man eating
o some suggest the reference to the labyrinth in the myth is an
attempt to make sense of the complex remains of the palace
structure itself at Cnossus and there is speculation of a possible
religious ritual in which the queen pretended (or really did) "mate"
with a bull- did these aspects of the myth come about in an attempt
to make sense of physical events?
- primary sources are information produced by people actually present
during the period described - Thucydides ( a famous Athenian historian active around 400 BC) wrote
about king Minos but had no access to Minoan primary sources and he
acknowledges his lack of evidence and sources in his work.
- Written texts that are not primary sources are secondary sources
- The myth about Minos are secondary sources and archeological
discoveries must remain the major source of information about Bronze
- Arthur Evans started digging at Cnossus in 1899, we have real information
about the Cretan economy and way of life. The world of Cnossus’ rulers
was sophisticated and glamorous. Their craftsmen made elegant eggshell-
this vases and painted geometric designs and marine motifs on the palace
walls. The elite wore gold jewelry and tombs show even common people
were buried with bronze ornaments.
- After around 1800 BC typical Minoan homes became larger and were
well- built = standards of living on Crete were quite high. During this time
period the palaces were in direct communication with the Near East,
mainly through their trade with the city of Ugarit in Northern Syria. (Minoan
palaces are very similar in style to those found in the Near East)
- tablets show evidence of trade between Crete and rulers of Near East,
exchanging gifts and goods. For the elite members of Monian society, this
contact was crucial as it brought tin to the island - which wasn't available
and without it Bronze couldn't be made.
- 1750BC= dramatic events, possible earthquake of Middle Bronze Age?
Destroyed palace at Cossus, palaces quickly rebuilt on an even larger
- The Second Palace Period is the best known phase of Minoan history
- new palace covered area equal to two football fields. Palace likely
designed to astonish visitors, imply the residents were close to the Gods
and very powerful themselves. Painted and decorated lavishly + still
retained the economic realities of storage rooms, pots and vast quantities
of grain, oil, wine metals, woods and materials of war.
- The rulers of the palaces kept track of it with a new writing system that we
call Linear A—“linear” because the signs are made up of lines and A to
distinguish it from a later linear system - almost all of the writing we have
are economic accounts of goods/services - no poetry etc.
- The Minoan palaces were redistributive centers, and Linear A allowed
the rulers to run a centralized command economy. From 2000-1400 ish
BC the Cretans ran a wealthy and complex command economy without
the use of coinage (which wasn't invented until 600 BC).
- The palaces did not control the entire economy, and there would have
been local systems of barter and rural markets.
- No fortification walls around the palaces, unlike the Mycenaean Greek
Palaces on the mainland that had fortifications. Possible they saw no
credible threats, protected by their location on and Island. Also didn't fear
internal attack, suggesting the various Minoan palaces on Crete belonged
to a single state that worked as one- run from Cnossus the capital. - Minoans describe their power as a thalassocracy, “kingdom of the sea”
- 18 and 17 century marked the height of the Minoan civilization, homes
on Crete during this time were 2-3 K square feet, a size the homes on
mainland Greece didn't equal u