What was it like to live in ancient Greece?

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Daily life in ancient Greece

  • Ancient Greece had a warm, dry climate, as Greece does today. Most people lived by farming, fishing and trade. Others were soldiers, scholars, scientists and artists.

  • Greek cities had beautiful temples with stone columns and statues, and open-air theatres where people sat to watch plays.

Ancient Greek ruins of the Temple of Apollo and amphitheatre in the ancient town of Delphi.
  • Most people lived in villages or in the countryside. Many Greeks were poor and life was hard, because farmland, water and timber for building were scarce. That's why many Greeks sailed off to find new lands to settle.

Ancient Greek homes

  • Ancient Greek homes were built around a courtyard or garden. The walls were often made from wood and mud bricks. They had small windows with no glass, but wooden shutters to keep out the hot sun.

  • They didn't have much furniture inside. Rich people decorated the walls and floors with colourful tiles and paintings.

  • Many homes didn’t have a bathroom. There were public baths, but most people washed using a small bucket or in a nearby stream. Only rich people enjoyed baths at home.

  • At night, Greeks slept on beds stuffed with wool, feathers or dry grass. Most people went to bed as soon as it got dark. The only light came from flickering oil lamps and candles.

This water jar from around 500BC shows a 'fountain-house'. Women came here to fill jars with water to carry home on their heads.

What was Greek fashion like?

  • A Greek woman wore a long tunic called a chiton. This was made from a piece of cotton or linen. Over this, she wore a cloak draped from her shoulders, called a himation. This would be a thin material in summer and a thick one in winter.

  • Young men wore short tunics, while older men preferred long ones. Enslaved men often wore just a strip of cloth called a loincloth.

Most common people wore fairly plain clothes. Only wealthy people could afford to dye their clothes different colours.
  • Many people walked around barefoot. Some wore leather sandals or, for horse-riding, high boots. Many people wore wide-brimmed hats in hot weather, to shade their faces from the sun.

  • Suntans weren't cool in ancient Greece, so women put white lead on their face to make their skin pale. White lead is poisonous, so it did more harm than good.

  • We know the Greeks liked jewellery too, because bracelets, earrings and necklaces are often buried with dead people in their tombs.

Ancient Greek toys and games

  • We know about some Greek toys from pictures on pottery vases and artefacts found by archaeologists.

  • Children played with small pottery figures, and dolls made of rags, wood, wax or clay - some of these dolls even had moveable arms and legs. Other toys were rattles, hoops, yo-yos and hobby horses (a pretend horse made from a stick).

These people are playing a game of 'knucklebones'. This was a bit like jacks or fivestones, but played with the ankle-bones of goats or sheep.
  • Children also played with balls made from tied-up rags or a blown-up pig's bladder. A game of flicking nuts into a hole or circle may be the ancient Greek version of marbles or tiddlywinks!

  • They also kept animals. There are pictures of children with pets, like dogs, geese and chickens.

What food did the ancient Greeks have?

MealWhat did people eat?
BreakfastFruit with bread dipped in wine
LunchBread and cheese
DinnerPorridge made from barley, with cheese, fish, vegetables, eggs and fruit
PuddingNuts, figs and cakes sweetened with honey
This jar shows people harvesting olives. The olive is a very valuable tree in Greece. People ate the fruit, but also crushed olives to make olive oil. They used this for cooking, in oil lamps and cosmetics.
  • Men and women usually ate separately in ancient Greece.

  • Rich people always ate at home - only enslaved people and poor people would eat in public.

  • Everyone ate with their fingers, so food was cut up in the kitchen first.

  • Only rich people ate a lot of meat. They would eat hares, deer and wild boar killed by hunters. Octopus was a favourite seafood.

Activities

Activity 1: Ancient Greek family

Click on the family below to find out a bit about their life

Activity 2: Quiz – Life in ancient Greece

Game: The Argo Odyssey

Argo the dog is missing! He was last spotted in a Greek family home. Play the game to find out what people wore and the things they owned.

Ancient Greeks: The Argo Odyssey
game