The Social Classes of Ancient Greek (Details)
Hello everyone 😊
In my last article, I told you about the sub-headings. Now I will elaborate for you.
Women citizens had fewer rights than men. Without the right to vote, own land, and inherit women, her place was in the home and her purpose in life was to raise children. Contact with non-family men was not welcome, and they spent their time at home doing activities such as wool work or weaving.
Spartan women were treated a little differently than in other provinces, for example, they had to train (naked) like men, could own land, and drink wine.
Female citizens had to marry as virgins, and weddings were usually organized by their fathers, who chose the husband and accepted his dowry. If a woman did not have a father, her interests (wives and property management) were taken care of by a guardian (kurios), perhaps an uncle or other male relative. Love was of little importance for a husband and wife, who usually get married at the age of 13-14.
Of course there could be love between husband and wife over time, but at least for the man, philia – the feeling of friendship/love; eros, the love of desire, was found elsewhere. Marriages could be dissolved for three reasons. The first and most common was the husband's rejection of his wife (apopempsis or ekpempsis). In this separation without a reason, the only thing expected was the return of the dowry.
The second reason for separation was the woman's leaving the family home (apoleipsis), and in this case the woman's new guardian had to act as her legal representative. However, this was not a common situation, but as a result, women's reputation in society was damaged.
The third reason for separation was that the girl's father wanted his daughter back (aphairesis), probably because he had received a more interesting dowry offer from another man. However, this last option was only valid if the woman had no children. If a woman was widowed, she had to marry a close male relative to keep her property in the family.
Of course, women were also present in a number of other non-citizen classes. Among these groups, the group we learn the most about is sex workers. Women were divided into two categories here. The first, and perhaps the most common, were prostitutes (pornē). Second, they were upper-class prostitutes (hetaira).
Women in this last group were generally educated in music and culture and often had long-term relationships with married men. It was this class of women that entertained the men (in every sense) at the famous symposium.
The ratio of workers to slaves in Greek society was significantly greater. These semi-free workers were completely dependent on their employers. Sparta's helot class is the most famous example of this group. These dependents were not the property of any particular citizen – they could not be sold like a slave – and often lived with their families.
They usually arranged agreements with their employers, such as giving a certain amount of their produce to the field owner and taking the rest for themselves. Sometimes the required quota could be high or low, and also some additional benefits such as numerical protection and security could be provided to the slaves.
But these slave classes, or helots, were never given real security, as they were given little or no legal status and were harshly treated, even killed in regular purges (especially in Sparta), in order to instill a fear of permanent subordination into the ruling class. they could not. During certain periods, such as during the war, helots were required to serve in the armed forces.
Helots could even manage to escape their own destiny by fighting well, and they could join intermediary social groups that included individuals who existed below the level of full citizenship and included children with mixed-status parents (eg: father-citizen, mother-helot).
In Greek society, slaves were seen as a necessary and perfectly normal part of city life. Slaves obtained through war and conquest, abduction and purchase were clearly among the losers of life.
There were even intellectual arguments from philosophers such as Aristotle who suggested the belief that slaves were blatantly inferior, a product of their environment and hereditary traits. The Greeks convinced themselves that they had the best environment and traits, the purest bloodlines, and were therefore born to rule.
It is not possible to say exactly how many slaves (douloi) were in Greek society and how much of the population they constituted. It is unlikely that each citizen will own his own slave due to costs, but some citizens have undoubtedly owned more than one slave.
Accordingly, estimates of the slave population in the Greek world range from 15% to 40% of the total population. But Lysias' defense at a trial in Athens, and hints from others such as Demosthenes, strongly suggest that even if every citizen did not have a slave, they would certainly want slaves, and that having slaves was a social status gain.
Slaves were owned not only by individuals, but also by the state, who used them in urban projects in the form of mining, law enforcement, as in Athens.
More than 200 fields and occupations in which slaves worked were identified. These are domestic service, agriculture, industrial workshops (e.g. armor making, food, clothing, and perfume) mines, transportation, commerce, banking, entertainment, armored forces (on duty for their own owners) or goods handling, navy boating rowing, or even martial arts. .
Farms were often small businesses where even the wealthiest citizens tended to own several small farms rather than one large estate, so slaves were not concentrated in large groups as in later ancient societies.
At least for some slaves there was a glimmer of hope that one day they would be freed. There are instances where slaves, especially those engaged in production and industry, living separately from their owners and given a certain financial independence, bought their freedom with the money they saved.
Also, sometimes slaves in the army were freed by the state if they acted heroically.
Apart from slaves, most Greek poleis (city-states) could have a certain number of free foreigners (xenoi) who had moved to these cities from other parts of Greece, such as the Mediterranean and the Near East, bringing with them skills such as pottery and metalworking.
These foreigners often had to register their residence and thus became a recognized class (of a lower status than citizens) called 'foreign resident' (metoikoi). In exchange for the benefits of this 'guest' citizenship, foreigners; they had to provide a local sponsor, sometimes pay additional taxes, contribute to the costs of small festivals, and even participate in military mobilizations when necessary.
Despite the suspicions and prejudices against foreign 'barbarians' that arose in the literary sources, there were cases where the metoikoi managed to become full citizens after contributing to the well-being of the host state with an appropriate appearance of loyalty. They would then receive equal tax status and the right to own land. Their children could also become citizens.
However, some states, notably Sparta, at times actively discouraged immigration or periodically deported xenoi. The relationship between foreigners and local citizens appears to be a strained one, especially in times of war and economic distress.
Citizens' children attended schools whose subjects consisted of reading, writing, and mathematics. Once these foundations were established, lectures were translated into literature (for example, Homer), poetry, and music (especially the lyre).
Athletics was also an important element in a young person's education. In Sparta, seven-year-old boys were grouped under the direction of an older youth to be strengthened by strenuous physical training.
In Athens, young adult citizens (18-20) had to fulfill their civil and military duties, after which their education continued with classes in politics, rhetoric, and culture.
Girls were trained in a similar manner to boys, but with a predominant emphasis on dance, gymnastics/physical education, and musical skill classes that could be shown at music competitions, religious festivals, and ceremonies. The ultimate goal in a girl's education was to prepare her to start a family.