Ancient Greek family life
Welcome to Quatr.us Study Guides!

Ancient Greek Family

Baby and family
Two women playing with little boys

April 2017 - 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. Occasionally girls had not even met the man they married before the wedding, but many people married their first or second cousins, who they had played with when they were children.

procession of wedding guests meet the groom at the door
Peleus, future father of Achilles,
greets the guests at his wedding;
the bride Thetis waits inside the house
(Sophilos; British Museum, ca. 580 BC)

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.

man and woman sit on a bed
Marriage bed (Louvre, Hellenistic period)
father and son tombstone
A dead father says goodbye to his young
son (Louvre, ca. 420 BC)

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 enslaved people living in the house with them too. Some people had their unmarried sisters or widowed sisters, or people with disabilites or who were old, 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 enslaved people to do their work, 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.

Learn by doing: carry a bucket of water across your yard.
Gay friendships in ancient Greece
Women in ancient Greece

Bibliography and further reading about the Greek family:

Gay Friendship in ancient Greece
Ancient Greece
Quatr.us home


Please help other teachers and students find us: link to this page from your class page.
Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram, Pinterest, or Twitter, or buy her book, Vandals to Visigoths.
Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram or Twitter, or buy her book, Vandals to Visigoths.
Sign up for more free articles and special offers in Quatr.us' weekly newsletter:
We will never share your e-mail address unless you allow us to do so. View our privacy policy. Easy unsubscribe links are provided in every email.
Check out our new ebook: Short and Simple: Ancient Greek Myths! - just out! Twenty-five easy to read, illustrated stories, from Pandora to Medea, Icarus, and the Trojan Horse (you can read these online as samples). Get it this week for just $14.99, five dollars off the regular price of $19.99.
Cite this page
  • Author: K.E. Carr
  • Title:
  • Site Name: Quatr.us Study Guides
  • Publisher: Quatr.us
  • Date Published:
Did you find what you needed? Ask your teacher to link to this page so other people can use it too! Send it in and win a Quatr.us "Great Page!" award!
Sign up for more free articles and special offers in Quatr.us' weekly newsletter:
We will never share your e-mail address unless you allow us to do so. View our privacy policy. Easy unsubscribe links are provided in every email.
Comment on This Article
Quatr.us is loading comments...
(Comments will appear after moderation, if they are kind and helpful. Feel free to ask questions, and we'll try to answer them.)
Cite this page
  • Carr, K.E. . Quatr.us Study Guides, . Web. 17 August, 2017
ADVERTISEMENT