House plans

Houses in Classical Athens ran to a general plan. When the house slave let you in, you would see public rooms to your left or right. That was the andron, because it was for men only. You would see a courtyard directly before you, which was the real living room for the family. Greek life was outdoors, even at home. The courtyard would not have been square, it was more a matter of taking whatever space you could get. The one constant you would find in every courtyard was the altar to Zeus Herkeios. The head of the family prays and offers a small sacrifice here every day, an act considered so important that as part of the inauguation oath for any public office, a man had to swear he had an altar and sacrificed at it every day.

The women's quarters are one wing running beside the courtyard. The lady of the house probably sleeps in the upper story. The men's quarters are on the other side, so that the whole building is in the shape of a U with the base of the U facing the street and the courtyard in the middle. The kitchen is behind the courtyard, which is also where the slaves sleep. Somewhere out the back too, probably as far away as possible, is a hole in the ground which is the toilet. Odds are the man of the house has a private office, however small, on the second story, probably toward the front. Children probably slept in porticoes toward the back of the courtyard.

Women probably ruled the household with an iron fist. They might not have had any say in how the city was run, but by the Gods, when you walked into their home you were on their turf. They had total control of the house slaves. Everyone had slaves. A man was considered poor if he could only afford two to help his wife.

House burglars in Athens were not called burglars. They were called wall piercers, because the quality of building was so low, it was easier to punch a hole in the wall than break through the door. Thieves would punch a hole, then reach in with an arm to feel around and take stuff. Of course, it wasn't like modern houses where a burglar had a chance of finding an empty house. There were always at least a couple of slaves at home. Door locks could be very simple: a bar across the door. The locking mechanism is the slave on the inside who lifts the bar and opens the door for you when you knock and shout.

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