A Day in Old Athens; a Picture of Athenian Life eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 215 pages of information about A Day in Old Athens; a Picture of Athenian Life.

And again:—­

You give your cheeks a rosy stain,
With washes dye your hair;
But paint and washes both are vain
To give a youthful air. 
An art so fruitless then forsake,
Which, though you much excel in,
You never can contrive to make
Old Hecuba young Helen.

[*]Translated in Falke’s “Greece and Rome” (English translation, p. 69).  These quotations probably date from a time considerably later than the hypothetical period of this sketch; but they are perfectly proper to apply to conditions in 360 B.C.

But enough of such scandals!  All the best opinion—­masculine and feminine—­frowns on these follies.  Let us think of the simple, dignified, and esthetically noble costume of the Athenians as not the least of their examples to another age.

Chapter VII.  The Slaves.

39.  Slavery an Integral Part of Greek Life.—­An Athenian lady cares for everything in her house,—­for the food supplies, for the clothing, yet probably her greatest task is to manage the heterogeneous multitude of slaves which swarm in every wealthy or even well-to-do mansion.[*]

[*]The Athenians never had the absurd armies of house slaves which characterized Imperial Rome; still the numbers of their domestic servants were, from a modern standpoint, extremely large.

Slaves are everywhere:  not merely are they the domestic servants, but they are the hands in the factories, they run innumerable little shops, they unload the ships, they work the mines, they cultivate the farms.  Possibly there are more able-bodied male slaves in Attica than male free men, although this point is very uncertain.  Their number is the harder to reckon because they are not required to wear any distinctive dress, and you cannot tell at a glance whether a man is a mere piece of property, or a poor but very proud and important member of the “Sovereign Demos [People] of Athens.”

No prominent Greek thinker seems to contest the righteousness and desirability of slavery.  It is one of the usual, nay, inevitable, things pertaining to a civilized state.  Aristotle the philosopher puts the current view of the case very clearly.  “The lower sort of mankind are by nature slaves, and it is better for all inferiors that they should be under the rule of a master.  The use made of slaves and of tame animals is not very different; for both by their bodies minister to the needs of life.”  The intelligent, enlightened, progressive Athenians are naturally the “masters”; the stupid, ignorant, sluggish minded Barbarians are the “inferiors.”  Is it not a plain decree of Heaven that the Athenians are made to rule, the Barbarians to serve?—­No one thinks the subject worth serious argument.

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A Day in Old Athens; a Picture of Athenian Life from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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