The way children were educated was different in each city state. In Sparta, reading and writing was unimportant. Boys learned to be good fighters. In Athens citizens had to be educated to take part in voting in the Assembly. Athenian boys also went to 'wrestling school' each day, to learn many sports, not just wrestling. They had to be fit, to fight in the army.
Boys and girls
The school day
Almost every Greek city had a theatre because plays were part of many religious festivals. The Greeks enjoyed singing and dancing. At first, theatres were only used for festivals. The theatres were built on hillsides in the open air and could often hold more than 18,000 spectators. The theatres were open air and built in a semi-circular shape with rows of tiered stone seating around it. The shape of the theatres gave everyone in the audience excellent viewing and also meant they could hear the actors well too. In the centre of the theatre was a circular dancing floor (orchestra), with an altar for sacrifices dedicated to Dionysus. The stage was a raised area within this circle. All the actors were men. They wore large masks that exaggerated facial features and emotions. The mouth hole was large to help amplify the voices.Greek plays were either comedies or tragedies. Tragedies were often about the past, whereas comedies tended to be about current and everyday life. Actors in comedies wore bright colours. Actors in tragedies wore dark colours. Plays were either spoken or sung in rhyme. Greek actors wore masks, made from stiffened linen, with holes for eyes and mouth. Actors also wore wigs. They wore thick-soled shoes too, to make them look taller, and padded costumes to make them look fatter or stronger. The masks showed the audience what kind of character an actor was playing (sad, angry or funny). Some masks had two sides, so the actor could turn them round to suit the mood for each scene. The best actors and play writers were awarded prizes - a bit like the Hollywood Oscars and BAFTAs today. The most famous writers of plays were Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides for tragedyand Aristophanes for comedy.
The Greek diet was very healthy. Food in Ancient Greece consisted of grains, wheat, barley, fruit, vegetables, breads, and cake. The Ancient Greeks grew olives, grapes, figs and wheat and kept goats, for milk and cheese. They ate lots of bread, beans and olives. In the Summer months there were plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables to eat and in the winter they ate dried fruit and food they had stored like apples and lentils. As most of the Greeks lived very near the sea, they also ate a lot of fish, squid and shellfish. The soil by the sea was not so rich as on the plains so the Greeks used irrigation and crop rotation to keep the soil relatively fertile. In some of the larger Greek city-states, meat could be purchased in cook shops. Meat was rarely eaten as the Greeks felt that just killing and eating a domesticated animal (like goats) was wrong. The Greeks would often sacrifice the meat to the gods first and then might eat some of the meat. The Greeks loved their wine which was made from the grapes they grew.
Men and women lived in different parts of the house. Women had the back and upstairs part. Most houses in Ancient Greek towns were built from stone or clay. The roofs were covered with tiles, or reeds, and the houses had one or two storeys. The floors of the rooms were tiled to keep them cool, although in winter fires in metal baskets were sometimes needed. Larger homes had a kitchen, a room for bathing, a men's dining room, and sometimes a woman's sitting area. The houses were planned around a courtyard, and had high walls and a strong gate. Much of ancient Greek family life centered around the courtyard.
Greece is the home country of the Olympic Games. Olympia, a Greek city, was known to be a very important centre of athletics. The Olympic games, held there every four years, were so important in Greek life that they were used as the basis for the Greek calendar. The first recorded Ancient Olympic Games were in 776 BC. The Games were held in a village called Olympia. The Olympics were part of a religious event. They were held in honour of Zeus, the father of the gods and were a big celebration.
The Greeks wore light, loose clothes as the weather was hot for most of the year. Long pieces of colourful fabric were used to make the Greek clothes. The main item of clothing for men was a tunic, called a chiton, These were big squares of cloth, held in place by pins at the shoulders and a belt round the waist. They were made from wool in the winter or linen in the summer. Women also wore clothing which was made from big square piece of linen or wool. They used pins in various places to hold it together. Unlike the men's, the dresses always went down to the ankles. The ancient Greeks could buy cloth and clothes in the agora, the marketplace, but that was expensive. Many of the clothes were made by the women and female slaves. Wealthy people had tunics made of coloured cloth. The tunics of the poor were plain. In cold weather, cloaks were worn. Most Greeks went barefoot. If they needed shoes, they put on leather sandals or boots.