CS 1000 – Week 8
N.B.Athenian Law will be discussed after the break.
Lecture 1 October 28, 2013
Women and the Family in Greek Society
• History is not just about battles and civic events but it is also about the more
private world of the ancients. Historians largely ignore private life but it is as
equally as important.
o Women and the family in the Classical Period (we will mostly be looking
The Greek Oikos
• Our word ‘family’is derived from Latin familia and this word has its roots in the
Roman practice of slavery (the familia were the slaves of the household).
• Oikos is the Greek counterpart (oikia is the physical ‘house’)
• The Greek family is a co-resident group, many (though not all) members were kin
or individuals related by marriage
o It is possible to have people living in the household who are not kin
o There is a connection and a hierarchy
• Patrilateral kinship was more common than matrilateral in the oikos (now we
don’t worry whether an uncle or aunt is from the father’s line or the mother’s but
to the Greeks this was very important to distinguish between the father’s line and
the mother’s line).
o Marriage was patrilocal which means women moved from natal to
natal home – where you are born
conjugal home – where you live with the person you are married
o In Greece the oikos is about the male side of the family
• The nuclear family is the core (plus grandparents) but there is evidence for
extended families, incorporating unmarried women (aunts, sisters etc).
• There is a hierarchy with the senior male as the kyrios who took charge of
relations with the outside world. He has legal authority over the members of the
oikos (especially women).
o The Greeks had an interesting sense of the household as something
separate from the world outside. It was often parallel to the outside world
but conceptually it was a different world.
Example: doors and doorways are symbolic because they represent
the point in the household where the private world meets the
public. Because of this, there were many rituals associated with
doors and doorways. 2
o The kyrios is the figure who deals with the interests of the oikos in the
larger world of the public community.
• Women never severed ties with their natal home, and might move back if the
marriage was dissolved. Women appear to be possessions of the oikos, although
women play a very prominent role within the household.
• Women never lose their ties with their natal home when they move to their
o Therefore, women lived their lives in two oikoi, men in one.
• Households could include non-kin members such as slaves, dependents (freedmen
and women), metics (resident alien inAthens who pay to stay inAthens), and
lodgers (for those who pay rent to live in the house).
• Households (especially wealthy ones) were likely large and the living
arrangements would be crowded by modern standards.
• The concept of the oikos was rooted in the physical dwelling, but included:
• The aristocratic oikos often went beyond the dwelling to include:
o Other estates
o Businesses (ex. Shops in the city)
• The idea of family and household spirals out from the based nuclear family to
include much more
• The oikos was the most significant structure of economic management in ancient
o Oikonomika = economics (means ‘household management’).
• The oikia, not the oikos (i.e. the building itself).
• Private houses had the same basic form, shape, and structure throughout the
Classical and later Hellenistic Periods.
o The Greeks had an idea of what a house should be and the form remained
• There is a lot of recent scholarship work on the organization of domestic space.
o Shows what the Greeks chose to highlight and conceal, and where they
could entertain visitors.
o There is not a lot of evidence for the Greek hous