What kind of houses for poor people - Ancient Greece

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daivid
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What kind of houses for poor people - Ancient Greece

Post by daivid » Tue Apr 09, 2013 6:13 pm

What kind of houses did the poor people of Ancient Greece live in?

What were the walls made of - mud? wood?
Were there quarters of the poor in cities or were the poor living in shanty towns outside the walls?

I have seen several books that describe housing but with nice bright red tiles and beautiful inner courtyards with gardens it is clear that these are houses for the well to do.

While it is true that the better built buildings survive better, Time Watch will often discover things like cattle sheds from Roman Britain so I suspect the silence simply reflects the priorities of the books I have seen so far.
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Re: What kind of houses for poor people - Ancient Greece

Post by Scribo » Tue Apr 09, 2013 6:17 pm

Well this is one of those things we get frustrated over apparently. One of my lecturers, an archaeologist, used to claim that she would give her hand to have an actual Greek house. Working from memory here, not an archaeologist...We have some foundations here and there, like at Olynthus (since marred by the government) and quite a lot of descriptions, plus elements of houses like the fire pit things that we have no idea what they were for but no actual complete houses. Nor is there any reason for them to have been uniform, quite a lot of materials would have been used.

EDIT: also, yes to shanty towns etc. If you're after a book then the "industry standard" would be The Classical Greek House by J Morgan. I don't think I've seen more than a few pages, it tends to be praised a lot and the authors general research output cluster around such things, so....
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Re: What kind of houses for poor people - Ancient Greece

Post by daivid » Tue Apr 09, 2013 8:59 pm

Scribo wrote:Well this is one of those things we get frustrated over apparently. One of my lecturers, an archaeologist, used to claim that she would give her hand to have an actual Greek house. Working from memory here, not an archaeologist...We have some foundations here and there, like at Olynthus (since marred by the government).
marred? How exactly or I shall succumb to the temptation of assuming the worst.
Scribo wrote: and quite a lot of descriptions, plus elements of houses like the fire pit things that we have no idea what they were for but no actual complete houses. Nor is there any reason for them to have been uniform, quite a lot of materials would have been used.
I have the impression (possibly false) that Roman Britain is far better documented yet hasn't Greece been swarming with archaeologists for the last 200 years?
Scribo wrote: If you're after a book then the "industry standard" would be The Classical Greek House by J Morgan. .
I'll check that out
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Re: What kind of houses for poor people - Ancient Greece

Post by Scribo » Tue Apr 09, 2013 9:48 pm

Marred in that the Government tried to rebuild the foundations, to make them more visible, whereas the archaeological team has long since decided their original plan was erroneous or something, I'm unsure, I suck at anything non temple and monumental. Even then...

Yeah that books seems like a good idea from what little I know, some other citations pop up too: L. Nevett, 1999. House and Society in the Ancient Greek World. Cambridge, N. D. Cahill, 2002. House and City Organization at Olynthus.
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Re: What kind of houses for poor people - Ancient Greece

Post by Markos » Wed Apr 10, 2013 3:11 am

I don't know much about this topic, but it brings to mind the great GNT verb ἀποστεγάζω. When a paralytic could not get in to see Jesus, Mark tells us that his friends just
...ἀποστέγασιν τἠν στέγην ὅπου ἦν... Mk. 2:4
For most of my life I have lived around people who would consider themselves poor--at least by American standards--but I've never been in a house so shabby that four guys could de-roof it.

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Re: What kind of houses for poor people - Ancient Greece

Post by daivid » Wed Apr 10, 2013 1:47 pm

Markos wrote:I don't know much about this topic, but it brings to mind the great GNT verb ἀποστεγάζω. When a paralytic could not get in to see Jesus, Mark tells us that his friends just
...ἀποστέγασιν τἠν στέγην ὅπου ἦν... Mk. 2:4
For most of my life I have lived around people who would consider themselves poor--at least by American standards--but I've never been in a house so shabby that four guys could de-roof it.
In Luke 5.17 we find the same story but tiles are removed. To remove a section of roof from a mud brick flat roofed house of the sort you can still see today is not hard. Hence Mark's account is clearly by someone familiar with the middle east and shows an understanding of local conditions that would an eyewitness would have. Luke is normally assumed to have used Mark as a source. On the evidence of that verse, he has no understanding of housing in the middle east and has misunderstood his source. He inserts mention of tiles because he is trying to make a source that he himself does not understand ineligible. If we assume that the writer of Luke lived in Greece (which is likely but not the only possibility) then can say mud brick houses with mud brick roofs were unknown in Greece but it is still possible that there were houses with mud brick walls and thatched roofs.

edit:

of the sort you can still see today is not hard. ie in the middle east
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Re: What kind of houses for poor people - Ancient Greece

Post by daivid » Fri Apr 12, 2013 3:49 pm

Scribo wrote:L. Nevett, 1999. House and Society in the Ancient Greek World. Cambridge, .
I have started on Nevett's book. Her focus is on using the archaeological remains to get some grip on the structure of Greek families and the position of women in various locations and times. As such, I suspect she will not answer questions such as how the buildings were roofed. Nonetheless, the questions she is attempting to answer very much interest me. I am particularly looking forward to her fulfilling her promise to bring anthropological studies of other societies to help her interpret the bare stones that remain of Greek houses.

Thank you.
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Re: What kind of houses for poor people - Ancient Greece

Post by Scribo » Sun Apr 14, 2013 5:53 pm

Welcome, only wish I knew something decent on the topic, let us know what you find. :)
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Re: What kind of houses for poor people - Ancient Greece

Post by Qimmik » Mon Apr 15, 2013 3:04 am

You might take a look at the speech "On the murder of Eratosthenes," which is part of the Lysianic corpus (in fact No. 1) and may even have been written by Lysias himself. It has some interesting details about the allocation of a two-story house belonging to a person of modest means between husband and wife.

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Re: What kind of houses for poor people - Ancient Greece

Post by daivid » Fri Jun 07, 2013 5:27 pm

Scribo wrote:Welcome, only wish I knew something decent on the topic, let us know what you find. :)
Nevett's book (House and Society in the Ancient Greek World) answered most of my questions.
I sort of assumed that the rich lived in stone houses and the poor in mud brick houses. In fact everyone lived in mud brick houses with the floors of rooms being mainly beaten earth. The houses of the rich would have one or two posh rooms with mosaics and painted plaster on the walls but the main thing that distinguished the houses of the poor was that they were small.

One possibility that Nevett doesn't seem to have considered is that some of the houses she assumes to have been mansions occupied by one wealthy family may have been multi occupancy with several families have rooms that opened out onto a courtyard which was shared for things like cooking etc.
(I say seem because the book was recalled before I had quite finished it and I did skip a few bits.)

Now looking at the reconstructions it seems to me that what makes them a little unbelievable is that everything is in perfect repair.

One aspect that Nevett does not really deal with is roofs. (She does mention some sites have fragments of tiles but doesn't note sites without tiles). I suspect that at least some of the poor would have made do with thatch.
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