The architecture of Greek houses in ancient times was designed to keep their residents cool during the hot summers and keep them warm in winter. The houses were also designed to align with the social practices of the time.
What Construction Materials Were Used?
What we know about ancient Greek houses comes from writing and pictures from those times. The reason is that most houses were made of mud and they crumbled away in a few years. They were constantly being rebuilt. The houses were generally small with walled gardens or courtyards in the center. The roofs were made with clay tiles. The windows were small and had no glass. They were covered in wood shutters to keep the scorching sun away.
Men and women had separate rooms in the house. Women stayed in the parts of the house where they wouldn’t be seen by visiting male guests.
The Andron or Andronitis was the part of the house reserved just for men. Men used this room to entertain their friends and business associates. Symposia, which were social events with food and wine, were held in this room. This was the room in the house that had the most luxurious furniture. There were couches arranged around the walls of the room to offer a space that promoted a social atmosphere. These couches were made with decorated cushions made of high-quality fabric.
The slaves of the house served the evening meal to the men who were seated two on each couch. Once dinner was over, the tables were tucked under the couches and the drinking of fine wine mixed with water began.
There weren’t private conversations among the men. Whatever was said was shared with all. Men would discuss philosophy and politics. They would wear wreaths and use sweet-smelling ointments. They would begin by raising their glasses to give a toast to the gods.
The proper balance of conversation was important. A man would be careful not to speak too much or too little. Sometimes poetry or riddles would be recited with a musician playing a lyre in the background.
The women of the house were not allowed in this room. Both the women and men slaves were allowed to enter for the purpose of serving the guests. Sometimes women entertainers were allowed to dance for the men.
The Gynaikon or Gynaikonitis was the room set aside only for women. This is where the women of the house entertained their women friends and relatives. This was also the room where they did their weaving and spinning to create fabric. They looked after their children in this room as well.
The Gynaikon was upstairs on the second floor, as far away from the downstairs Andron as possible.
Most Greek houses were built around a courtyard. The courtyard was open to the air and in the center of the house. The courtyard frequently contained an altar to the goddess Hestia who was the goddess of hearth and home. There might also be a well for water located there. The women of the house would do their weaving and spinning in the courtyard at certain times of the year.
The Storeroom and the Workroom
The downstairs storeroom contained very large storage jars for olives, wine, and grain. The grain was for grinding into flour. There was also a separate workroom where slaves would create jewelry or make sandals as part of their activities.
The kitchen had a central hearth for fire cooking. The smoke was channeled out of the house through a hole in the roof. The cooking for everyday meals was done in coarse clay pots. The most elaborate pots and dishes were decorated with ornate designs and used for company only. Many of these designs have provided archaeologists with information about this time period in Ancient Greece.
Although there were no indoor flushing toilets, most houses had a bathroom with a bathtub. Water for the bathtub was drawn from the well or the public fountain and heated over a fire. Chamber pots were used as toilets.
Bedrooms in the Ancient Greek home were very basic. The bed was similar to the couch that appeared in the Andron. Simple wooden chests were used to store clothes and bedding.
The slaves’ bedrooms were even more simple than the other bedrooms with just mats on the floor for sleeping. The female slaves had bedrooms close to the bedroom belonging to the mistress of the house and the male slaves had bedrooms close to the Andron.