British Museum collections, £12.99
Explore / Articles
The Greek house
Ancient Greek houses have been excavated in both town and country. In both cases the houses had single entrances and were built around internal courtyards. The emphasis was on privacy, particularly for the female members of the household.
Town houses of the Classical (470-323 BC) and Hellenistic (323-30 BC) periods have been found at sites such as Priene in modern Turkey, Olynthos on the Greek mainland and on the island of Delos. These houses fall into distinct types, with regular and repeated ground-plans. Houses in the countryside, such as the farmhouse at Vari in Attica, were not restricted by lack of space and so were larger than those in the town. The farmhouse often had structures associated with it that were perhaps used for agricultural processes or for housing animals.
Written sources tell us something of the organisation of Greek households. The nuclear family, of husband, wife and children, was sometimes augmented by elderly parents or dependent female relatives. The richer establishments also supported slaves.
Within the house, the men's quarters were near to the entrance, so that access to the inner rooms, where the women lived and worked, could be monitored and controlled. Male guests could also be entertained here without passing through to the interior. Women were employed in a variety of household tasks, of which perhaps the most important was the weaving of textiles. The women's area would therefore have contained a loom or looms.