Greeks at home
Most Greek houses were small, with a walled garden or yard in the middle. The house was made of sun-dried mud brick. Mud houses crumbled away in a few years, and had to rebuild. So archaeologists do not dig up the ruins of Ancient Greek homes. What we know comes mostly from writings and pictures. The house had a roof of clay tiles, and small windows, with no glass, but wooden shutters to keep out the hot sun.
Rich Greeks had slaves - sometimes 50 slaves worked for a rich family. Slaves did the hard work, on the farm, in the fields and workshops and in the house too.
Families and women's lives
Married women stayed at home much of the time. At home, Greek women spent much of their time spinning thread and weaving cloth. They looked after the children and prepared food.
Rich women went out only with a slave, perhaps to visit women friends. In Athens, only poor women went shopping alone. Rich women always went with a slave or a male companion. Poor women went out more. They worked alongside their husbands, fetched water, and did the family washing in a stream. They could chat with friends while they worked.
Few Greek women had much freedom. One exception was Aspasia, who lived in Athens. She was clever, and people listened to her: she was also the girlfriend of the Athenian leader, Pericles!
What did Greeks wear?
A Greek woman wore a long tunic, called a chiton, made from a piece of cotton or linen material. It reached the ankles. Over it, she wore a cloak, called a himation - thin for summer, thick for winter, and draped from the shoulders. Young men wore short tunics, older men preferred long ones. Slaves often wore just a strip of cloth (a loincloth).
Many people went barefoot. Some wore leather sandals or, for horse-riding, high boots. Men and women wore wide-brimmed hats, to shade their heads from the hot sun. We know Greeks liked jewellery, because jewels were buried with dead people in their tombs.
Breakfast might be bread dipped in wine (made from grapes), with fruit. Lunch might be bread and cheese. For dinner, people ate porridge made from barley, with cheese, fish, vegetables, eggs and fruit. For pudding people ate nuts, figs and cakes sweetened with honey. Only rich people ate much meat, including hares, deer and wild boar killed by hunters. Octopus was a favourite seafood. Rich people always ate at home; only slaves and poor people ate in public.
The olive was the most valuable tree in Greece. People ate the fruit, but also crushed olives to make olive oil. They used the oil for cooking, in oil lamps, and cosmetics.
Bedtime and Baths
There was not much furniture in most Greek homes. People sat on wooden chairs or stools. Rich people decorated the walls and floors of their homes with coloured tiles in patterns or mosaic pictures.
Beds had leather straps, on top of which was a mattress stuffed with wool, feathers or dry grass. Most people went to bed as soon as it got dark. The only light at night came from flickering oil lamps and candles.
There were public baths, some with hot water, but most homes had no bathroom - people washed in small tubs or in the nearest stream. Rich women (with slaves to carry the water) enjoyed baths at home, and afterwards rubbed their bodies with perfumed oil to keep their skin soft.