A Basic Day In Ancient Greece

Jul 2014
683
Messinia
What was a basic day in Ancient Greece like?

In Athens, I am assuming a adult male would work the fields? An older man would walk on streets and visit the Agora?

In Sparta a male citizen would train 5-6 hours a day?

Any info would be greatly appreciated.

Thank you.
 

Matthew Amt

Ad Honorem
Jan 2015
2,966
MD, USA
It depended dramatically on your social status, which was dictated by your wealth. The vast majority of any population was lower class, "poor", farm hands or laborers of some sort. They did most of the farming but did not own the land, they worked for the landlords. The landowners were a small minority with the money. It's easiest to think of them as the gentry and nobility. I'm sure some of them worked hard on their own farms, while others operated entirely through overseers and managers to direct the hired help.

It wasn't just adult males who worked, though they'd certainly do the majority of the heavy farming and other tasks. Women had their own household chores, with spinning and weaving being paramount, but also garden work, tending animals, cooking and cleaning (of course!), tending children, etc. Children would play until they were old enough to carry out a task, at which point many of them would start working or carrying out chores.

Apparently it was common for children and men to spend time spinning wool into thread whenever they weren't busy with something else. It was a hugely time-consuming task because every inch of thread in every garment had to be spun by hand before any weaving could begin, and everyone needed clothing.

Note that some areas depended more on farming, some more on herding, etc. There were also crafts such as pottery, metalworking, stoneworking and building, carpentry, etc., and many such craftsmen might be more of what we would consider "middle class", though few of them were wealthy. You'd see more wealth in the merchant class, importing and exporting various commodities by land or water.

Couldn't tell you much about Sparta! Their Spartiate class were the wealthy upper class, of course, landowners as in any other city. We know they trained a lot for toughness and privation, but there is surprisingly little mention of weapon training and drill. Like, none. We know they *did* do complex maneuvers on the battlefield, such as outflanking movements, which other armies never attempted, and you certainly need some training and practice for that but not necessarily a lot nor constantly.

An old man might "walk the streets" if he was secure enough to know where his next meal was coming from, or if he was a beggar. Otherwise, he'd likely be working. Ya gotta eat.

Matthew
 
Jul 2014
683
Messinia
Fantastic as always Matthew.

Could you tell me a little about how the wealthy would live out their day?

Would they drink wine all day?

Any info is greatly appreciated.
 

Matthew Amt

Ad Honorem
Jan 2015
2,966
MD, USA
Well, I don't really know. I'm a hardware guy! But I'm sure there is at least some information out there. Wealthy men had land and businesses to attend to, they were sort of CEOs in that regard. Some may have been more "hands-on", others not. They certainly had more leisure time to spend in the gym, etc.

Wine was the regular beverage simply because there were few options. There were different grades, and it was common to drink the typical cheap "lunch" wine mixed with water. That was healthier than just drinking straight water, since a little alcohol would kill off some of the microbes and parasites that could be in the water. That sort of drink wasn't very strong, so it's not like they started tippling at breakfast just to stay drunk all day!

Matthew
 

Matthew Amt

Ad Honorem
Jan 2015
2,966
MD, USA
Hard to imagine a world without a constant connection to the internet, isn't it? :p:lol: Those kids actually had to TALK to each other, IN PERSON! :winktongue: As I said, a good 90 percent of those teenagers would be working, dawn to dusk. They got some time off on religious holidays, no doubt, though some of that would be spent in whatever rituals were connected to that holiday.

Those with more leisure time in general would be from the wealthy classes, and I suspect their parents might have some say in how they spent their time. They'd be more likely to have schooling, for one thing. Otherwise, no doubt they could get together with their friends and "hang out", much like today. Exactly what they did, I couldn't tell you--heck, I wasn't a completely typical teenager myself so I don't even have good information on modern teenage life! And at this point I probably don't want to know...

I don't know if girls below the age of adulthood were at all free to run loose with friends, but I strongly suspect they were pretty tightly controlled once they reached maturity, and they tended to marry young, I believe. VERY young. I seem to recall that boys were considered adults at about 16, but married later, though I may be remembering Roman culture! Either way, you wouldn't spend as long as a "teenager" as we do today.

Matthew
 

Matthew Amt

Ad Honorem
Jan 2015
2,966
MD, USA
Thank you both.

It seems like times were a lot tougher back in those days...
In some ways, sure. No electricity, no modern medicine, lots of things we take for granted just weren't there. It was *different*. It's also all that they knew, so they didn't miss teleporters and antigrav. Hoplites from a neighboring city might appear one day and burn their barns down, but they didn't have much concern for drive-by shootings or nuclear war. (And plenty of folks in the world today MIGHT have their barns or homes burned down by neighbors!) I'm not one of those to extoll the virtues of ancient lives, how they had it so much better than us, partly because I *like* electricity and other modern conveniences. I'm a man of my era and proud of it. I do NOT want to go and live back then.

But by and large, they got by. As many cultures do around the world today that might seem primitive or backwards or downright horrifying to us.

Matthew