Ancient Greek Family has always been the most important primary institution since the beginning of human society. Patriarchy was a fact whereas matriarchy was only an option in ancient Greece. Although patriarchy as a distinct system had not evolved in those days, the fact that male superiority prevailed in ancient Greek society is undisputed.
Importance of Family in Ancient Greece
Ancient Greeks attached great importance to family. Men got married when they were about twenty-five or thirty. But as far as women were concerned, age at marriage was as low as fifteen or sixteen. Women had little say in their marriage. Girls in wealthy families were married at a younger age than the poor families. Unlike modern days, marriage ceremony did not prevail.
Ancient Greek Family: Marriages
Marriages were largely arranged by the parents or other elder male members of the family. There was a party, giving of dowry and then the girl moved to the man’s house. The boy’s parents and unmarried sisters also lived in the same household. We also have instances of slaves living in the same house. Divorce was not uncommon in ancient Greece. Divorce was followed by the returning of dowry by the man to the woman.
Men were superior in all spheres of life. Men engaged in administration, trade, agriculture etc. Men also enjoyed leisure activities like hunting, wrestling, horse riding, drinking etc. Wives and daughters were not allowed to attend drinking parties of men.
Ancient Greek woman
Ancient Greek woman was supposed to do the housekeeping and rear children. They managed household chores and every household had slaves to assist them. They also engaged intuitions of young children. The women were allowed to attend religious festivals, weddings, and funerals. They could also visit their female neighbors and friends. But restrictions were imposed upon their freedom, though the city-state of Sparta was an exception.
It is said that ancient Greek women were controlled by their father until their marriage and thereafter by their spouse! The women could not even watch the Olympic Games! Wives and daughters were prohibited from attending them. Chariot racing was the only item the women were allowed to participate and win.
It is surprising to note that Greeks considered their children to be youths until they reached the age of 30 years. The birth of a child was a happy occasion. The house was decorated and friends and relatives sent gifts. If a woolen strip was hung over the front, it indicated that the baby born was a female. An olive branch indicated the birth of a baby boy. As a custom, the naked father, on the birth of a child, carried his child around the household!
Boys enjoyed more freedom than the girls. The young girls helped their mother in household work as they grew up. They also learned singing and dancing to participate in religious festivals. Boys were sent to school at the age of six whereas education was denied for a woman. Boys were made to participate in gymnastics. At the age of 16, they began to be trained for their future jobs.