Free men had most of the rights in the culture of Ancient Greece. Male slaves, women, and children were not considered to be citizens. Fathers had control over their daughters and husbands had control over their wives. In fact, a woman couldn’t leave her home without her husband’s permission.
The free men of Ancient Greece participated in politics and public events. Men were the actors in the theater and played both male and female characters. Many Greek dances were designed for men to dance together in a group. It was rare for men and women to dance with each other.
The Olympic Games were designed for free men who could speak Greek. Women had a smaller athletic event in honor of Hera, the wife of the god Zeus.
Men and Marriage
Men typically married at the age of 25 or 30. They married young girls between the ages of 12-16 years old. Typically, a suitable husband was found by a girl’s father or uncle and she paid a dowry to her new husband.
Divorce was actually quite common and if a man chose to divorce his wife he would have to return her dowry so she would have a way to live.
Opportunities for work were different depending on a man’s social position. Men were divided into three groups—(1) free men or citizens, (2) metics who were non-slave Greeks not eligible to become citizens, and (3) slaves. Social class was inherited so it was almost impossible for a man to change his social status.
Occupations for Free Men
The richest men were aristocrats. They owned and managed large pieces of property. Men in the middle class worked mostly as farmers on their own plots of land. They sold their produce to citizens in the cities.
The free men with the lowest status, who were known as thetes, worked as craftsmen in the city. Some made weapons, such as shields and swords. Others worked in leather, clay, or wood to create clothing, kitchen implements, and furnishings. Thetes who became fishermen sold their catch to all levels of society since seafood was common in the Greek diet.
Occupations for Metics
Greeks viewed Metics as lower class because even though they were free men they weren’t citizens. They were able to serve in the military and pay taxes, but they couldn’t vote or own property. These men typically did work that supported the upper classes. They might maintain the grounds of a large estate or provide services such as cooking, cleaning, or hunting. Because they were not allowed to own property, they couldn’t own or operate their own farms.
The Greek city-states were frequently in conflict with each other and Greece was also threatened by Persia. All free men and metics were required to join the military, except for in Sparta, which had a professional army. Free men worked their farms during harvest or when they weren’t on active duty. Full-time soldiers were respected and held a high rank in the community.
Classes of Slaves
The highest class of slaves were professional tutors and police officers. Mid-level slaves were employed by wealthy men to work in their homes and were treated as an extension of the family. They did construction and maintenance, took care of the animals, helped prepare food for the family, and took care of the exterior landscaping. The lowest class of slaves worked in the mines.
Because Ancient Greece was an agricultural society, most of the population earned their living by farming. The way to wealth was through ownership of land. Men were in charge of getting the crops to grow but everyone in the family helped, unless the family was wealthy and had enough slaves to handle the work.
A Man’s Home is His Castle
Men enjoyed dining and drinking with their friends in their own homes in a special room called the Andron. The women and children of the family were not allowed to enter this room. Both female and male slaves were given access to the room for the purpose of serving the men. Sometimes women entertainers were allowed to dance and sing for the men.
Men were considered to be superior to women, but not all men were considered to be equal. Men worked hard to prove their masculinity and be worthy of their rank in society. They competed with each other to show their worth and develop their prestige.
What Did Men Wear?
Social class also influenced what men wore. Men were dressed in plain tunics made of wool or linen that were tied at the waist. They also wore large rectangular pieces of cloth called himations. These were used as a cloak or wrap. If they were traveling, they wore large rimmed hats to keep their skin from burning in the sun. Wealthy men wore fabrics of cotton and silk.
Infantry soldiers from the middle class who were called hoplites bought their own armor and weapons. They also wore helmets, and plates on their chests and backs. They carried circular bronze shields and long spears made of wood with sharp metal points. Only the wealthy could afford horses. These cavalrymen were armed with two throwing spears and a sword. The men who were poor became archers and did not wear armor to protect themselves.