CLS 150-01


  • late fifth century shift from rural to more urban lifestyle: Decelean War
  • 30 acre farm considered wealthy
  • Stark though not fixed line between upper and lower class activities
  • politics, intellectual life, military training & some business for elites
  • wide range of commerce, trades, crafts and labor for all others & slaves
  • physical work of all sorts was despised and so were workers
  • upper class women supervised some tasks; ran households — food prep, spinning & weaving for clothes; shopping done by men or slaves
  • poorer women worked outside the home: washerwomen, woolworking, midwives, nurses, vendors, prostitution for some
  • women could not buy or sell land; limited by law to contracts worth less than a medimnus of barley (a week’s food for family)
  • Education

  • girls trained by mother; never legally come of age
  • boys legally of age at 18. received schooling at home or by pvt tutors
  • three areas of education: music — lyre, flute; physical exercise at Palaestra: running (2-3 miles at most), long jump, javelin, discus, boxing, pankration
  • Clothing & hygiene

  • very simple: wool, linen from flax; cotton & silk rare
  • square piece of cloth draped about body & held on w/pin
  • no underwear
  • shoes = sandals, lace-up or pull-up boots; barefoot common
  • men usually wore no hat; cowboy-like hat for travelers & horesmen
  • no soap; used lye or rubbed down w/oil & sand then washed and scraped off w/strigil
  • no fancy bath complexes as Romans had; small plunge pools or hipbaths
  • barber shops; beards popular until Alexander the Gt (356-323)
  • women used razors, makeup, hair dye (blonde); fans, parasols, lifts in shoes if not high heels; jewelry strictly for women
  • Food

  • breakfast light: bread dipped in oil; lunch similar
  • dinner at or after sunset = only substantial meal of the day
  • bread either flat or round; usually barley, sometimes wheat
  • onions, olives, fruit, beans & lentils, garlic, cheese
  • shellfish and molluscs popular; fish sauce
  • except for pork, little meat — after sacrifice
  • dessert: dried fruit, figs, nuts, honey-cakes
  • cooking done by women of the house and slaves
  • goat’s milk, wine (cut with water) were chief beverages
  • Sex

  • most Greeks admired physical attributes of both sexes; homosexual/heterosexual = much later distinction (words not even invented until 19th c. AD)
  • ideal man-youth relationship: erastes (lover, in 20s-up) and eromenos (beloved, in early teens)
  • birth control (for citizens): exposure — esp. for girls and twins; prostitutes/slaves, anal sex, homosexuality, abortion (though banned by Hippocratic oath); keep in mind infant mortality rate very high
  • vase paintings show wide range of positions & activities, rear-entry common, woman on top (“racehorse”), fellatio, double-penetration
  • citizen lost civic rights if he prostituted himself; male prostitutes therefore likely foreigners (still had to pay tax)
  • vase paintings of sex
  • Map questions for quiz:

  • Sardis, Miletus, Marathon, Salamis, Plataea, Euboea
  • Eleutherai, Icaria (Dionysus, origins of tragedy)
  • Dionysus

  • Origins: Dionysus, god of wine, fertility, “The Other”
  • satyrs, maenads, processions; or dithyrambic choruses (hymns to Dionysus)
  • Thespis, c.530, actor and chorus interact

From “Bruce M. Laforse”
Sent Monday, April 28, 2008 8:57 am
Subject questions for reading Sophocles’ Oedipus the King

CLS 150: Things to think about when reading Oedipus the King:

Trace how the state of Oedipus’s knowledge (about himself or otherwise)
affects his actions throughout Oedipus the King. What things does he
know (or think he knows) about what, at what times in the play, and
what does that (supposed) knowledge make him do?

What sort of man, what sort of ruler is Oedipus? As you read note
examples of his behavior that illustrate the kind of person he is.

How do earlier events in the succession of Theban kings sow seeds for
what Oedipus is and does?

What sort of relationship between men and gods is described by
Oedipus’s story?

Trace the motif of blindness in Oedipus the King. With what abilities
of a character, or ideas of the author, is blindness associated?

Note how the interrelationships of the family of Oedipus tend to be
extreme, i.e, incest and murder.

Some background on Sophocles

An Athenian, he was born 497/6 or 496/5 at Colonus, a deme of Attica
about a mile and a half north of the acropolis; son of Sophillus, a
wealthy arms manufacturer; legend has it that as a boy he led formal
victory parade after the Battle of Salamis (480/479). In his first
competition in 468 he defeated Aeschylus; in 443/2 he was elected to
Board of Treasurers which oversaw the collection of Tribute from
subject-states, and in 441 he was elected one of ten Generals along
with Pericles and took part in the quelling of a major revolt by
Samos—he may have been elected because of the success of the Antigone
the year before; in 412 he was named to a special board to deal with
the disaster after the defeat of the Athenian force on Sicily; in 409
he won a first for the Philoctetes, and he died in 406-5.

He won 18 victories at the Dionysia = a total of 72 plays (titles of
123 known in Hellenistic period); supposedly he never placed lower than
second in any competition. He was a prominent figure in Athenian
religious life, especially in the Cult of Asclepius which was
established at Athens c. 420. He was given a posthumous hero cult
under the name Dexion.

Extant plays:
Ajax, Antigone (442?), Trachiniae (Women of Trachis), Oedipus Tyrannus
(429?), Electra (c. 418-410), Philoctetes (409), Oedipus at Colonus
(posthumously produced in 401).

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