A day in the life of an ancient Athenian – Robert Garland

A day in the life of an ancient Athenian – Robert Garland


It’s 427 BCE and the worst internal
conflict ever to occur in the ancient Greek world
is in its fourth year. The Peloponnesian War is being fought between the city-states of Athens and
Sparta, as well as their allies. The Athenians can’t match the formidable
Spartan army on land. So they’ve abandoned the countryside and moved inside the walls surrounding
their city and port, now provisioned by a superior fleet
and extensive maritime empire. The cramped conditions have taken a toll and a recent plague wiped out
a third of the population. But city life goes on. Archias and Dexileia live
in the center of Athens. As a painter of high-class pottery, Archias is relatively well-off and takes
great interest in the city’s affairs. Dexileia, on the other hand, can’t
participate in politics or own property. The couple are grateful to the gods that
three of their four children, a son and two daughters, have survived past infancy. Many parents see daughters as a liability since they require dowries
to find husbands. But Archias is confident that his wealth will allow him to make good matches
for them without going bankrupt. Like many Athenians,
the family owns slaves. Originally from Thrace,
they were captured in war. Thratta does most of the housework
and helps raise the children. Philon is a paidagôgos, who supervises the son’s education,
teaching him reading and writing. Archias is up early because there’s
a meeting of the Ekklêsia, the assembly of citizens, taking place at dawn. Before setting out, he burns incense and pours a libation at the small shrine
in the courtyard on behalf of his entire household. Dexileia will remain at home all day,
teaching her daughters domestic skills. Later, she’ll retire to the inner
courtyard for some fresh air. When Archias arrives at the agora, the civic and commercial heart
of the city, he finds the square swarming
with his fellow citizens, native-born adult males who
have completed military training. Attached to the central monument is
a noticeboard with the meeting’s agenda. Today, there’s only one item
of discussion: what to do with the people of Mytilene, a city on the island of Lesbos where a revolt against Athenian rule
has just been put down. The meeting takes place on a hill west
of the acropolis known as the Pnyx. The word means “tightly packed,” and the crowd of 5,000 citizens
makes it clear why. The heralds purify the hill by sprinkling
its boundary with pig’s blood and call for order. As everyone sits on benches
facing the platform, the presiding officer opens the meeting
with the words: “Tis agoreuein bouleutai?” “Who wishes to address the assembly?” One by one, citizens speak, some advising
mercy, others bent on vengeance. A motion is proposed to execute
all the Mytileneans and enslave their women and children because they betrayed their Athenian
allies during a time of war. A majority raises their right hands
in favor. Once the meeting’s over, Archias heads
back to the agora to buy food and wine. Hundreds have gathered there
to discuss the results, many unhappy with the decision. When Archias returns home,
he tells Dexileia about the debate. She thinks that killing the innocent
as well as the guilty is harsh and counterproductive, and tells him as much. Around dusk, Archias goes to
a friend’s house for a symposium. The nine men drink wine and
discuss the meeting well into the night. Archias shares his wife’s opinion urging
mercy, and his friends eventually agree. Before dawn, something
unprecedented happens. Heralds circulate throughout Athens announcing the council
has called another meeting. The second debate is equally heated, but a new resolution,
to execute only the leaders of the revolt, narrowly passes. Yet there’s a problem – a ship with orders to carry out
the first resolution was dispatched the previous day. And so another ship quickly sets sail
to countermand the order – a race of democracy against time.

100 thoughts on “A day in the life of an ancient Athenian – Robert Garland

  1. If you enjoyed this glimpse at daily life in an ancient civilization, check out our "Day in the life…" playlist: http://bit.ly/2Ipapkl

  2. I'd love the Ted-Ed videos 2,000 years from now, talking about a day in the life of someone today….

    "Andy, a student, drank too much the night before, so he slept in today.

    Although he was meant to be working on his dissertation, he sat and watched videos about people in Ancient Athens. "

    That's literally it.

  3. To those confused on how could Greeks have "invented" democracy while having slaves.Democracy was not about equality like its today it was about being involved in making choices about the well-being of the city.Only Athenian free men had political rights and they were the "rulers" of their home .So its not about equality its about how many people were involved in the ruling of the city so democracy =( δημος) the city is ruled by many people making just choises oligarchy= (ολιγοι) the city is ruled by fewer people who are wealthy and tyrany =the city is ruled by one tyrant who usually doesn't care about anyone to put it simply
    sorry for any errors i am greek

  4. Paidagogoi did not teach children. He just accompanied them to their teachers. Also, slaves were paid by their onwers and treated quite well in Athens, unlike in ancient Rome, for example, although they couldn't participate in the democratic institutions. Very good job in general, though.

  5. I was just reading about the Mytilenian Debate in Thucydided' book last night. Cleon attempted to convince them that kindness would show weakness

  6. Thanks for not concluding the story… sheer laziness.

    How hard is it to record 5 extra seconds and say "They caught up with them and stopped the massacre" or "They all died"

  7. What about accidents? we have more nowadays. what kind of accidents did they have back then?

  8. I'm greek,and i absolutely love this work. I'm so relieved to know ppl with care for history and information take time to study them properly and unbiased.
    Everything in this video is true btw❤🇬🇷👏

  9. Why do you have to give the dowry to the boy instead of vice versa? The father knows his name won't get passed on by his daughter so there seems little benefit to go out of your way to marry one of them off. Also It seems like that women are treated more like property at this point in time. To me it seems like all evidence should point to the son's father giving a tithe to the daughter's father.

  10. Не ссыте пацаны, когда второй корабль прибыл приговор уже был оглашён, но ещё не был приведён в исполнение.

  11. As a Greek, I am fascinated by our history, yet I can't help but think what would our ancestors think of us if they ever saw us what have we become today? A mere shadow of the country that existed before everything, and gave birth to civilizations on the planet. I am proud and ashamed at the same time….

  12. Fun Fact : They did catch the fleet and the 1st punishment was avoided. Historians believe that this could be possible if the rowers where Olympic champions

  13. I just came back from vacation in Athens and everything is so vivid in my mind, the Agora, the Acropolis, the heat at midday.

  14. O número de cidadãos atenienses ( homens) no século V a.C. era aproximadamente 40 000. Isso não significa que esse número estivesse sempre presente nos debates da Eclesia. O número de 5000 cidadãos que aparece no vídeo não esta correto.

    The number of Athenian citizens (men) in the fifth century BC was approximately 40 000. This does not mean that this number was ever present in the debates of Ecclesia. The number of 5000 citizens that appears in the video is not correct.

  15. Pedagogues after Alexander died ( the Greatest of the Greeks we ever produced in terms of Strategic mind along with reason while had Aristolte as his teacher ) and our empire fell into pieces were the most valuable to Romans. They were treated with respect unlike other, many slaves Romans have had. They entrusted the education of their children to Greeks and usually to find and bought one was extremely expensive since they were talking many languages and as well very educated. Thus begin the fact that everything Greek turnt into "Romanized". Also the Roman in their height of power turnt to North and did not eradicate the Greeks which were so similar otherwise. If Alexander had lived until at least 80 years, half of the world would be speaking Greek by now. What we almost accomplish, Romans took over the continuation and extended their empire and building as good as Parthenon and many other marvelous Greek structures. And all these with the Mathematics and other branches of science our greatest minds invented. Also Alexander tried to civilize those whom conquered, not enslave them. Hence they still revere him is some small parts of the world.

  16. This is true democracy,at least. They allow the people to throw their vote and changing policy directly instead rely on political parties to do so .

  17. this so boring u got me fallin asleep
    im only watching this because my social studies teacher told me to so yea this is boring

  18. Find servants names. Beya
    Heliau
    Sknonnom
    Jabdgu
    Huaerte
    Monou
    Shkaktove
    Farytume
    Konlov
    Jaigu
    Popov
    Thrassi
    Phylon
    Arkias
    Hipom
    Jiservus
    Savus
    Servus.

  19. Is this really the average citizens life because this guy is well off so I don’t really consider him to be a good representation of how the average Athenian lived.

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