Mediterranean Lifestyles - Greece

The Greek Home

According themselves no uncertain likeness to their chosen divinities, the Greeks lived in pillared houses, the same as their ‘gods.’ Still, even in Athens during the classical period, most houses were fairly plain. Like Greek temples, Greek houses were initially made of wood. Later, they were built from set stones or clay brick, and then covered with plaster. Houses were typically roofed over with timber beams and then overlaid with terracotta tiles.

The shape of domestic structures varied, taking the form of a circle, semi-circle, oval, or oblong rectangle. An appropriately fitted open courtyard sat at the center of the dwelling, and often at the back of it as well. The outer courtyard served multiple uses as a work area for women, living quarters for slaves, and stall for animals. While most Minoan houses might contain only one room with columns to differentiate between spaces, Greek houses held a number of divided rooms, all of which faced onto the inner courtyard.

In the home of the wealthier Greek, the banquet room might resemble a small temple lined with Doric columns. This home might also have a tile mosaic floor. By comparison, the average Greek would pave his floors with small stone pebbles, which functioned almost as well tile. As protection from the elements, the ancients did not have windows that faced the street. Nor did they have an engineered plumbing system as did their future neighbors, the Romans. A house might have a well, or if it did not, water would be gotten from the nearest public fountain, and carried back in clay jugs.

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