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 Comments 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

    Reply

  2. Holding a second vote? So undemocratic.

    Nothing like modern British politics we just call the losers of a narrow vote remoaners like civilised people.

    Reply

  3. it's incredible how things were managed better and people's life was not revolving only around: work work 5 to 9, leave thinking to fake representatives..

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  4. It's a good example why direct democracy proposed by populist isn't as good as some might think. Crowd is susceptible to emotions and can be easily manipulated by demagogues

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  5. боже, как прекрасно, что история из жизни одного из величайших народов сведена к выслащенному современному феминизму. почаще бы так!

    Reply

  6. The Spartan land army was nothing compared to the Athenian land army. It wasn't the Spartan army alone that invaded Athens. but the entire Peloponisian army.Most often every single peloponisian city would send two thirds of their army for the invantions. While Spartans where better trained than Athenians, their numbers where too tiny to be compared to the Athenian military, while Athenians soldiers/citizens where extremely war expirienced.

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  7. I'm not greek, I'm spanish and I hear so many similarities it's driving me Crazy, did Spain and ancient Greece have relations, because the speech rythem sounds similar to spanish

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  8. These videos would be so much more interesting without all the obviously ideologically motivated comments.

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  9. So, "Democracy" (the mob ruled by "men" who are familiar with the inner workings of the human psyche, and long-held secret tactics of mind-control who gain 'permission' and acquiescence for the command of vile mass-murder)
    Is a good thing?
    Ask your professor, or broadcast journalist.
    Then think for yourself.
    I do not comply. I do not consent.
    Sheep no more. The slavery ends now.

    Reply

  10. Oliii hablo español y en la escuela me mandaron un deber que era investigar sobre este video si alguien habla español aki esta su papi xdxdxd

    Reply

  11. 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.

    Reply

  12. Can you do the history of Commodus? I absolutely love your videos! (Preferably greek mythology ones)

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  13. 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

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  14. 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.

    Reply

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

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  16. I learned a lot from this video! What about a day in the life of ancient Egypt? Thanks!

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  17. 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"

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

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  19. I see on television that kind of democracy still happening in many USA cities, is that true ?

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  20. 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❤🇬🇷👏

    Reply

  21. 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.

    Reply

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

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  23. 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….

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  24. As a Greek you basically pronounced everything wrong.
    Les-Bose (moms from there 🙂
    Pneex
    Me-tee-lee-nee

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  25. I can’t laugh at these guys making sacrifices

    I guess when it comes down to it, most of my actions are sacrifices

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  26. This is the kind of daily life info I been looking for. I want more of this type of thing.

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  27. 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

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

    Reply

  29. 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.

    Reply

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