Ancient Greek consisted of numerous independent city-state sharing a particular religion, culture, and tradition. The population was distinguished based on four social classes: women, slaves, citizens, and metics.
Likewise, they could also be differentiated based on the education system they received, the architectural skills they acquired, and the culture they followed.
Ancient Greek society’s social hierarchy, religion, art, and education were crucial in understanding how the Greeks organized themselves socially.
This article includes detail about the society of ancient Greece.
Social Hierarchy in Ancient Greece
Although Athens’s ancient city-state is considered a democracy, the definition of ‘citizen’ back then is not acceptable today.
Athens considering only military-trained men to be the citizens is a significator of a patriarchal society where might was the right. The social role of women was limited to the household.
Athenian society was a class-based society with four classes. People born in Athens, especially men, represented the highest strata of Athenian society. This upper class was at the center of Athenian life.
They were prominent in every field of Athenian society, from the government to education and philosophy.
Athenian democracy was not as free as we imagine today when talking about ‘democracy.’ It had slaves who constituted the lowest strata of Athenian society. Slaves made up much of the working force of the city-state.
They were used for menial tasks in the households. They had no authority and rights at all.
Athens was a trading hub of ancient Greece. So, it had traders from far and wide. Although these traders were considered free, they weren’t given the same status as the upper class. However, they were considered to be the middle class of Athens.
The lower class of people was just one step above the slaves. Many of them were the ones that were freed from slavery.
However, the social hierarchy was different from other ancient Greek city-states. Sparta had only three classes: citizens, slaves, and craftsmen or traders. In Syracuse and Sámos, society was divided into only two classes: oligarchs and common people.
Religion and Culture in Ancient Greece
Greece was a polytheistic society. Human-like figures with some connection with the forces of nature—that’s how Greek gods can be portrayed.
Although numerous gods were worshiped in ancient Greece, a set of twelve gods and goddesses was most revered–the Olympians.
Zeus was the main god of ancient Greece. He was the ruler of the gods, and his consort was Hera. Poseidon was the God of the sea, while Goddess Demeter was the goddess of the harvest.
Ancient Greece’s most significant literary works, The Iliad and The Odyssey are about the gods.
Temples dedicated to different gods and goddesses, animal sacrifices, and city festivals were the remarkable features of ancient Greek religious life. The ancient Olympic Games, organized every four years, were dedicated to the king of the gods, Zeus.
Greek religion in its developed form lasted at least a thousand years, from the time of Homer (probably 9th or 8th century BCE) to the reign of the emperor Julian (4th century CE).
Rational criticism of Greek religion began in the late 6th century BCE. This created space for the development of philosophy in ancient Greece and paved the way for questioning myths in pursuit of truth.
Greek gods were associated with city-states, such as Aphrodite with Corinth and Helios with Rhodes.
Art and Architecture in Ancient Greece
Ancient Greek art and architecture were invented between 900 BCE and 30 BCE. The use of geometry in art is a notable feature of Greek art.
The Greeks created two major genres of drama, comedy, and tragedy. Drama was an essential part of the Greek lifestyle.
Spacious Epidaurus, Pergamon, Delos, and Delphi theatres have survived the ages to tell us how important theatrical art was in ancient Greece.
The theatrical culture of ancient Greece primarily guides the modern-day movie industry.
The architectural wonders of ancient Greece have inspired modern ones. The Parthenon is an excellent example of pillared architecture from ancient Greece that has been mimicked in the modern era.
The sculpture was another popular form of art in ancient Greece. Earlier Greek sculptures seem raw, but in the 5th and 4th centuries, BCE was designed to represent the human body more realistically.
The nudity of male sculptures was a unique feature of ancient Greek art.
Pottery and painting were also popular ways of artistic expression in ancient Greece.
Education in Greece
The type of education received by an individual in ancient Greece depended on the gender and social class of the individual. The most crucial thing girls learned was managing the household.
In most Greek states, children, especially boys, were trained in music, art, literature, science, math, and politics to become good citizens in the future.
However, education was very different in Sparta than in other ancient Greek city-states. In Sparta, the focus of education was to produce a mighty army.
Spartan boys were separated from their families at seven and were trained to become soldiers. Even girls were taught things like athletics and dancing since they would become mothers of soldiers one day.
Besides, debate and discussion were essential to Greek society and education. This gave rise to diverse fields of inquiry.
Plato founded The Academy in Athens as a place for study and inquiry, which formed the basis of consequent Greek education.
Nation-states have replaced city-states of the region where Greek civilization flourished. Social hierarchies still exist in one form or another and are usually challenged. However, slavery is not taken normally like in ancient Greece.
Society in ancient Greece ran in an organized form from the very beginning. The social class, the deities, the education system, the religion, and the culture were all based on the social system of that period.
Ancient Greece society has had an impact on the modern-day system as well. Art and architecture have become much more sophisticated, but they still inspire Greek wonders.
The once-Polytheistic world monotheistic religions such as Christianity and Islam Education are diverse, probably inspired by ancient Greece.
Some of the things have remained while much has changed. However, Greece has not lost its relevance.