Ancient Greece Family: In the Greek language, the term implying a household or a family or a house was referred to as an oiko. An Oiko was the basic unit which existed in the ancient Greek society. A typical oiko generally consisted of the oldest or senior most male member, his extended family which consisted of his wife and children and slaves. They all lived together in one domestic setting.
Ancient Greece Family Role
An Oikos which existed in the ancient Greece was significantly different from the Domus which existed in the Roman society as far as the architectural arrangement was considered.
The Greek Architecture
The reason for making such a distinction lies in the fact that Greece was under the Roman Empire, for a considerable period of time.The Greek architecture was built around paved peristyles which is a columned porch surrounding a court which sometimes also contained an internal garden and had extremely distinct male and female spaces.
A typical oiko house which existed in ancient Greece consisted of genocide which meant women’s gallery followed by the oiko proper which was the centre or the hub of all the domestic activities and subsequently came the dining rooms and the bedrooms.
The second part of the house was completely dedicated to the male activity. A number of additional guest suites, libraries and dining rooms could be found here.
Generally, in ancient Greek families, a man was the head of an oiko and was referred to as kyrios. He had to undertake the responsibility of protecting the interests of all the women and minors in his oiko.
In the beginning, a kyrios was the husband and father of the offspring. Subsequently, however, when the sons reached the stage of adulthood, the father himself transferred the oiko to his adult son.
When a male heir was given his share either before or even after his fathers’ death, in both these cases, such a transfer was deemed that a new oiko was formed. When such an oiko was created, there was an implied duty cast upon the new head to take care of his old father.
A son’s abstinence in performing this function could lead him to serious prosecution. Similarly, even a father could be prosecuted if tried to ill-treat the son or force him into prosecution.
Performing of the last rites and to continue with the annual memorials was considered to be of utmost importance especially by the Athenians who were particularly religious people.
Importance of family in ancient greece
An ancient Greek man could also adopt a child for the purpose of inheritance. However, an adopted child did not enjoy the same rights like that of a natural child. Ancient Greek men were very faithful to their wives as an illegitimate child was deprived of several rights.
Women enjoyed a subordinate status in the ancient Greek society. They could neither participate in the working of a government nor did they enjoy any rights like that of ordinary citizens. Apart from this, they could not even inherit any property and if at all they did then it would be managed by their father or husband as the case may be.
In an ordinary oiko, women were segregated in their own quarters which were called as Gynaikonitis. They were however supposed to take care of the house like raising children, cooking, weaving, spinning, making bread etc. They were not allowed to step out of the house and even if they did they were always accompanied by a female attendant.
As compared to this, the Spartan women, widows and older women enjoyed a much higher degree of independence as an ancient Spartan woman could drink alcohol which was otherwise considered a taboo in the rest of the Greek city-states.
Ancient Greek Marriage Facts
After having said so, it should, however, be borne in mind that women generally enjoyed importance in the social arena especially during marriages, funerals etc. As a matter of fact, women could also become priestesses.
Children took birth at home in the presence of all the female attendants. Only in cases of extreme emergency was a male doctor called upon. Generally, a male child was preferred over a female child. After a child was born, it became the sole prerogative of the father whether to keep the child or not.
If the child was kept then in its 5th or 7th day after birth purification ceremony was organized. Up to the age of 6 years, boys stayed in female quarters. In Sparta, once a boy completed 7years of age, he was removed from the family in order that he protects the state. As a custom, children were given toys on certain specific occasions.