Ancient Greek family - Ancient Greece for Kids

Ancient Greek Family

Baby and family
Two women playing with little boys

Most Greeks, like most other people throughout history, lived in families with a mother and a father and their children. Usually men got married when they were about twenty-five or thirty years old (as they do today), but women got married much younger, between twelve and sixteen years old.

Probably girls from rich families got married younger, and girls from poor families got married a little older. Because the girls were so young, they did not have much choice about who they were going to marry. Their fathers or uncles or brothers chose for them. Often girls had not even met the man they married before the wedding.

There was no marriage ceremony as we know it today. Your parents arranged it, and then there was a party, and the girl's parents paid a dowry to the man, and then the girl moved into the man's house. If they were both citizens, and she lived in his house, then they were legally married. If she moved out of his house, then they were divorced.
Usually there were other people living in the house as well. Sometimes his parents would be there, if they were still alive and if they weren't living with another brother. Many people had slaves living in the house with them too. Some people had their unmarried sisters or widowed sisters living with them.
Wealthy Greek women hardly ever went out of the house alone. Mostly when they went out it was to go to weddings and funerals and religious ceremonies, or to visit other women. Poorer women, who didn't have slaves, did go out to get water from the fountain, and sometimes to work in the fields or to sell vegetables or flowers in the marketplace.
Divorce was pretty common in ancient Greece. If you got divorced, the man had to return the woman's dowry, so she would have some money to live on. The children stayed with their father, learning to run the farm or business they would inherit.

To find out more about the Greek family, check out these books from or from your library:

Eyewitness: Ancient Greece , by Anne Pearson.

Families in Classical and Hellenistic Greece: Representations and Realities, by Sarah B. Pomeroy (reprinted 1999). One of the first scholars to write about Greek women, and still one of the best.

Children and Childhood in Classical Athens, by Mark Golden (1993).

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