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Jobs and Employment in Ancient Greece



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Jobs and Employment in Ancient Greece



By ancient Greece is meant the small country in the Eastern Mediterranean over 2149 years ago. The following important periods can be identified:


Indo-European Roots

The Indo-European culture had a strong influence on bronze age Greece. In that culture there were no jobs but there was work from 'werg-1', 'To do'. The word 'worker' is from 'werg-1', 'To do' and 'er-1', 'To set in motion'. In addition the following types of workers can be identified:


Ancient References to Jobs

Hesiod's father (whose name, by a perversion of "Works and Days", 299 PERSE DION GENOS to PERSE, DION GENOS, was thought to have been Dius) was a native of Cyme in Aeolis, where he was a seafaring trader and, perhaps, also a farmer. He had an ancestor Daemon, a merchant-trader.

In the Works an Days by Hesiod a number of jobs are mentioned starting at line 18, "It rouses even the helpless man to work. For a man who is not working but who looks at some other man, a rich one who is hastening to plow and plant and set his house in order, he envies him. one neighbor envying his neighbor who is hastening towards wealth: and this Strife is good for mortals. And potter is angry with potter, and builder with builder, and begger begrudges beggar, and poet poet."

Odyssey (BookIII) "And let one again bid Laerces the goldsmith to come hither that he may gild the horns of the heifer. And ye others, abide ye here together and speak to the handmaids within that they make ready a banquet through our famous halls, and fetch seats and logs to set about the altar, and bring clear water.'

Thus he spake and lo, they all hastened to the work. The heifer she came from the field, and from the swift gallant ship came the company of great-hearted Telemachus; the smith came holding in his hands his tools, the instruments of his craft, anvil and hammer and well-made pincers, wherewith he wrought the gold; Athene too came to receive her sacrifice. And the old knight Nestor gave gold, and the other fashioned it skilfully, and gilded therewith the horns of the heifer, that the goddess might be glad at the sight of her fair offering."

From the Odyssey (Book VII) 'No truly, stranger, nor do I think thee at all like one that is skilled in games, whereof there are many among men, rather art thou such an one as comes and goes in a benched ship, a master of sailors that are merchantmen, one with a memory for his freight, or that hath the charge of a cargo homeward bound, and of greedily gotten gains; thou seemest not a man of thy hands.'

Odyssey (book IX): "... as when a smith dips an axe or adze in chill water with a great hissing, when he would temper it--for hereby anon comes the strength of iron..."

Odyssey (Book XVII): "And he sat down on the ashen threshold within the doorway, leaning against a pillar of cypress wood, which the carpenter on a time had deftly planed, and thereon made straight the line."

Iliad (Book II): "Let the heralds summon the people to gather at their several ships..."

Iliad (Book ): "Thereon they would have hacked at one another in close combat with their swords, had not heralds, messengers of gods and men, come forward, one from the Trojans and the other from the Achaeans- Talthybius and Idaeus both of them honourable men; these parted them with their staves, and the good herald Idaeus said, "My sons, fight no longer, you are both of you valiant, and both are dear to Jove; we know this; but night is now falling, and the behests of night may not be well gainsaid."

Iliad (Book III): "You are hard as the axe which a shipwright wields at his work, and cleaves the timber to his liking. As the axe in his hand, so keen is the edge of your scorn."

Iliad (Book XIII): "He fell as an oak, or poplar, or pine which shipwrights have felled for ship's timber upon the mountains with whetted axes-..."

Iliad (Book IV): "This bow was made from the horns of a wild ibex which he had killed as it was bounding from a rock; he had stalked it, and it had fallen as the arrow struck it to the heart. Its horns were sixteen palms long, and a worker in horn had made them into a bow, smoothing them well down, and giving them tips of gold."

Iliad (Book XI): "A physician is worth more than several other men put together, for he can cut out arrows and spread healing herbs."

In Euripides in his drama Electra, line 79, the struggles of a farmer are described, "And at break of day I will drive my steers to my glebe and sow my crop. For no idler, though he has the gods' names ever on his lips, can ever gather a livelihood without hard work." The word 'glebe' is interesting here because it is from Indo-European gel-1', 'To form a ball' and means literally 'A clump of land, a plot of dirt'.

Homer, Iliad 11.86 "but at the hour when a woodman maketh ready his meal in the glades of a mountain, when his arms are grown tired with felling tall trees, and weariness cometh upon his soul, and desire of sweet food seizeth his heart,"


Jobs for men


Women and Work

The main job for women who were the wives of the citizens was to manage the house and bear and raise children. Weaving and baking bread were very important but secondary. Part of this efforts might have been the sales of meals or lodging to travelers or neighbors. Women may have been involved with other businesses that were done out of the home.

One task for women was mentioned by Euripides in his drama Helen, line 171, "Beside the deep-blue water I chanced to be hanging purple robes along the tendrils green and on the sprouting reeds, to dry them in the sun-god's golden blaze,..."

Euripides in his drama Electra, line 51, a common woman's task is mentioned when Electra says: "O sable night, nurse of the golden stars! beneath thy golden pall I go to fetch water from the brook with my pitcher poised upon my head, not indeed because I am forced to this necessity, but that to the gods I may diaplay the affronts Aegisthus puts upon me,..."

Some women were slaves. They did the drudgery work. But they were more a part of the family. The ancient Greeks knew that slaves that were cared for were more productive. But women who were slaves could be forced to become prostitutes or sex slaves. In the The Trojan Women by Euripides, Line 491 Hecuba describes some tasks of slaves: "...the door, bowing to shut and open...and meal to grind..."

The wives also performed women's work which included spinning, weaving, baking bread, cooking, serving, cleaning, fetching water, and removing wastes. The hetaera were women who formed an important part of male society. They were in demand as conversationalists, courtesans, entertainers, and prostitutes. There were also women slaves who performed the more menial tasks.

An example of women working is in Homer, Odyssey, 20.105: "And a woman, grinding at the mill, uttered a word of omen from within the house hard by, where the mills of the shepherd of the people were set. At these mills twelve women in all were wont to ply their tasks, making meal of barley and of wheat, the marrow of men. Now the others were sleeping, for they had ground their wheat, [110] but she alone had not yet ceased, for she was the weakest of all."

Women Entertainers at a Banquet
Women Entertainers at a Banquet, by Stuart C. Pruitt, 9/06/2001

Judy Chicago in her The Dinner Party includes the names of a number of women who were involved with business in ancient Greece:

Jobs for women:






Ask a Question

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Questions and Answers

Question: what is the value of a talent of gold as in the Iliad?

Answer: A talent was about 57 pounds of gold or about $912,000 at 2009 prices.

Question: what were the apprenticeship programs like in ancient greece?

Answer: There were not many of these opportunies. Most people learned from their parents or relatives. Slaves could be apprenticed if they were treated like family. Hetaera seem to have had an apprentice system.

Question: In his funeral oration Pericles talks about feminine virtue: "your glory is great if you do not fall beneath the natural condition of your sex, and if you have as little fame among men as possible, whether for virtue or by way of reproach". Would you please explain it to me? And, do you think Medea' ideas about women go against the Periclean idea or maybe present it in an ironic way?

Answer: Pericles is saying that if women stay at home, have babies, and see about their household chores, then they are doing their job and that is enough. That is all they need to do to be responsible to the community. The men are much more able to take risks if they have a comfortable home to come home to. Women that aspire to fame upset the tranquility of the home. Though there is truth to what he says it is a bit patronizing. In order for society to work efficiently, every level of society must be satisfied with their contribution. The street sweepers, garbage men, and laundresses need to feel their job is important or it will not get done. Yet fame is foreign to these people. Many women homemakers cannot do better than what they are doing, but what they are doing is valuable and so it is not a problem. But there are women who are capable of more. Medea is such a person. She would never be satisfied as a homemaker. She has a great deal of talent which should not be wasted. Jason was stupid because he did not realize this. Nor did he even bother to value Medea's contribution. It is not good to waste talent; it should be channeled. It is not a good idea to take anybody for granted, even women. What Pericles said is good for the majority of women, but not for the exceptional woman with talent like Medea. The odd thing is that he missed the contribution of exceptional woman to the exceptional man. Women who are actively involved in the community are better able to understand the demands that the community makes on its children. These women may then adjust their lives to support their children to meet these demands. The result might be better, more talented leaders of the future. The answer to your question is that Meadea's nature goes beyond what Pericles is focusing on.

There is a sexual connotation to what Pericles says which should also be dealt with. In Pericles' day the most famous women among men were hetari, courtesans or prostitutes. Pericles seems to say that this is not a good kind of fame. This is the reproach referenced. Medea is in another world. She is not an entertainer nor is she a courtesan. She is using her skill, not her body to get along. Pericles did not want women to be too virtuous because they would not then bear babies, which were so desperately needed. Medea did bear babies but she later killed them to get back at Jason.

Question: If a women was abandoned as a child and brought into slavery, what would it's job be?

Answer: Most commonly a woman slave would do housework. This would include cleaning, food preparation, water carrying, spinning, and weaving. Serving was also a common activity. Some women slaves were forced into prostitution. They would be required to have sex for hire. More handsome and talented slaves would become hetaera. These women would be sent to a special school to learn music, dancing, and rhetoric. Though they also would be required to perform sexual favors, their time would be quite valuable and they might be able to purchase their own freedom. In some cases they even became the wives of rich men.

Question: sir can you send the details of employment opprunities in your country

Answer: No. I am sorry but ancient Greece ceased to exist 2149 years ago.

Question: where did they learn to do pottery and where was it sold? Was it sold for it's artistic qualities or was it purchased for storage? What was used to pay for the pottery?

Answer: Athena taught the ancient Greeks how to do pottery. I was sold where ever the Greek ships sailed. It was sold both for its usefulness and its artistic qualities. The ancient Greeks minted coins for trade.

Question: ell me the diffrence between women and mens jobs?

Answer: Men worked outside the home while women worked inside.

Question: what kine of money was there

Answer: Athens was involved in trade and produced money as a convenience for that trade. Many different kinds of coins were produced and many are available in museums. The value of the coins was based on the metal content. Coins were made of iron, bronze, gold, silver, and electrum, an alloy of gold and silver. A talent of gold weighed about 57 lbs. (26 kg.).

Question: how was art in greece founded

Answer: The ancient Greeks wanted to make things that were pleasing to the deities.

Question: What are some examples of jobs

Answer: Some job descriptions:

Question: occupations related to food industry

Answer: For women:

For men:

Question: women philosopher in ancient Greece

Answer: Aglaonice, Agnodice, Damo, Diotima, Elpinice, Perictyone, Theano, and Theoclea.

Question: Is there any work in archeology in greece?

Answer: Yes there is. Check out Click here. There is also often an opportunity with your local museum or university if there is a classics department.

Question: Apply for job position on ship - stewardess

Answer: Click here

Question: How was the economy and jobs in ancient greek civilazation

Answer: Excellent. This allowed ships and arms to be built that eventually allowed Alexander to conquer the known world.

Question: Were women allowed to have jobs?

Answer: Some jobs were reserved for women. These included most domestic jobs except cooking. Men did some cooking but women baked bread. Women carried waters and wastes. Some women became entertainers. Some women helped their husbands with their businesses. A few women actually became doctors, artists, and poets. The highest status position that a woman could hold was priestess.

Question: is the only role of the woman of ancient Greece to do chores around the house & to birth children?

Answer: No. Only the wives were to birth children but they could perform other roles such as weaving, playing music, dancing, and even scholarly pursuits. Priestesses performed religious ceremonies. Hetaerae entertained men. It was the slaves that did most of the hosehold chores, but they also ground grain, sewed, and were prostitutes.

Question: What were some occupations in ancient Thebes?

Answer: I have no reason to differentiate Thebes from other Greek cities.

Question: how much were architects payed?

Answer: I have no information an ancient salaries. Jobs were not cosidered in terms of sallaries. Instead they though about a living and the style of that living.

Question: what about sewing?

Answer: sewing was an important job. Women sewed clothes. Sailmaking was traditionally done by men. This involved sewing and weaving.

Question: seamtresses? what was life like for a seamstress during the times of ancient greece?

Answer: These are the women who sewed the clothes. Wives and slaves did this. This work was done by the women in the home. Most houses had a courtyard surrounded by a porch. During their work periods many women sat in the shade of the porch and weaved or sewed.

Question: What did philosophers do?

Answer: Philosophers were teachers of advanced learning. Athens became the premier center of advanced learning and kept that position for over a thousand years.

Question: What were the men called who recited poems during religious festivals?

Answer: Poet. This word comes form a Greek word poietes 'a maker' but the word 'bard' applies better in this case even though a bard is a Celtic poet. We would call them bards even though the ancient Greeks called them poets.

Question: What were the courtesans called

Answer: hetaera, singular, hetaerae, plural.

Question: what kind of jobs paticularly did the spartan women and spartan men have?

Answer: Spartan women were simply mothers while the men were warriors until they retired. Some men were called to govern after retirement from war.

Question: Explain the system of revenue/expense in sparta and Athens i.e. taxes? fees?

Answer: The most important taxes were the tribute which other countries paid to Athens and the service that was rendered by volunteer citizens. There wew also graduated income taxes which caused the wealthy to support most of the expense of the government. Especially since the poor could not volunteer for service.


Question: Who aere the workers in Greece economy? the bosses

Answer: Everyone worked very hard. If women were not taking care of children they were weaving or baking. They also sometimes helped their husbands with other tasks. Some women only had their husband as boss, but most women had another woman as boss. The wife of the oldest in the family would boss the wives of the sons and grandsons and any daughters left at home.

Question: What did Sparta produce? and what did Athens produce?

Answer: Sparta produced more agricultural products like wine, olives, and wool. Athens produced more manufactured items like ceramics, jewelry, and cloth but also wine and olives.

Question: what were some of the revenue/expense in Sparta ?

Answer: Revenue came primarily for Sparta from agricultural products especially olives, olive oil, grapes, and wine. Many raw amterials had to be imported including metals, wood for shipping, and food stuffs like wheat, vegetables, and spices. Wool and woolens may have been exported while cotton was imported.

Question: did the ancient greeks had doctors?

Answer: Athe ancient Greeks had several different kinds of doctors. There were surgeons and gynecologists

Question: What was the impact of geography on development of Sparta on its economy? in Athens?

Answer: The main resource was a climate for growing grapes and olives and then the access to the sea for trade.

Question: what did most of the men do?

Answer: Most men were agricultural laborers.

Question: What did the Spartans do at home?

Answer: They practiced war and engaged in mock battles.

Question: Can you give me a list of taxes and fees in Sparta? Athens?

Answer: I would like to find more information on this but both cities accepted military service in liew of taxes and both collected protection fees from their military partners.

Question: Can u give me a list of what Athens produced? Sparta?

Answer: Both cities were heavily into products related to grapes and olives. Sparta was more into the agricultural end while Athens was more into manufacture. Wool and figs were also important. Other crops such as barley and wheat were grown, but they were not exported. Silver was important to Athens

Question: are occupations hard or are they easy?

Answer: Everyone in ancient Greece worked very hard. That is how they accomplished so much with so little.

Question: what did slaves wear?

Answer: Nothing. Slaves are often recognized by their nakedness. But if they were allowed to wear clothes, they wore the clothes of the country of their origin.

Question: how long was the average work day and which job had the highest salary in ancient greece?

Answer: A work day was defined by sunshine less time for meals. There were no salaries in ancient Greece. Workers were paid by the job. The people who earned the most money were generals, rulers, land owners, or fleet owners.

Question: what was the population of ancient greece

Answer: In Athens in the fourth century there were about 30,000 male citizens. A number of 300,000 might include women, children, and slaves. The rest of Greece might have included about 10 such cities or about 3 million. There are only 10 million in modern Greece.

Question: what are 5 inventions the greeks invented


The Greeks invented the idea of being an inventor.

Question: what are 5 different trades the ancient greeks did or had


Question: What was the most important job in ancient greece?

Answer: This question is a little too general. The answer depends upon the desired result. If you mean the most important job for responding to a disaster strategos is the answer. A strategos was an appointed or elected leader. It corresponds to modern general. Such a strategos could be appointed to a specific task within a city but also cities could form an alliance commanded by a strategos. Miltiades was strategos for the battle of Marathon . The Spartan king Pausanias was strategos for the United Greekl forces who defeated the Persians at the BATTLE OF PLATAEA.

But there are other factors that could have been more important for the success of Greek culture. The Greeks were among the most literate culture ever. Teaching might have been the most important job. Good teachers need good students and student attitudes were determined by early childhood education provided by the mothers. And where would the child have been with out being born? Motherhood might have been the most important job.

Question: What I mean is what was the king or leader called and what was his job. Was there even a king or leader?

In many cases strategos is the correct answer. But in some cases the strategos stayed past the emergency and became a tyrant. There were Kings, particularly in the Mycenaean period and they were called basileas. The Mycenaeans had a higher level ruler called a wanax. In Mycenaean times a leader was referred to as a 'lawagetas'. The archon was the chief magistrate in many Greek cities. In Sparta there were the AGIADAI and the EURYPONTIDAI who ruled as kings. In many cities of the Greek world such as Greater Greece (Magna Graecia) the title of the leader differed so this is only a partial list.

Question: What sort of jobs involved animals? and How important were jobs in peoples daily lives?

Answer: Hunter, Fisherman, Farmer, Shepherd. In some case a job was a matter of life and death. If a person could not do his job he was probably left to die. In other cases a person could always fall back on farming if his other job failed. Very few people lived without some kind of agricultural involvement.



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