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Three Millennia of Greek Literature
 

William Davis, A Day in Old Athens

 

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The Athenian House and its Furnishings

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ARISTOTLE

THE GREEK OLD TESTAMENT (SEPTUAGINT)

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Page 3

The Type and use of a Greek House

 

    All domestic architecture, later investigators will discover, falls into two great categories—of the northern house and the southern house. The northern house begins with a single large room, "the great hall," then lesser rooms are added to it. It gets its light from windows in the outer walls, and it is covered by a single steep roof. The southern (Greek and Oriental) house is a building inclosing a rectangular court. The rooms, many or few, get their light from this court, while they are quite shut off from the world outside. All in all, for warm climates this style of house is far more airy, cool, comfortable than the other. The wide open court becomes the living room of the house save in very inclement weather.

    Socrates is reported to have uttered what was probably the average sensible view about a good house.[3] The good house, he thought, should be cool in summer, and warm in winter, convenient for the accommodation of the family and its possessions. The central rooms should therefore be lofty and should open upon the south, yet for protection in summer there should be good projecting eaves (over the court) and again the rooms on the northern exposure should be made lower. All this is mere sense, but really the average male Athenian does not care a great deal about his dwelling. He spends surprisingly little money beautifying it. Unless he is sick, he will probably be at home only for sleeping and eating. The Agora, the Public Assembly, the Jury Courts, the Gymnasium, the great religious festivals consume his entire day. "I never spend my time indoors," says Xenophon's model Athenian, "my wife is well able to run the household by herself."[4] Such being the case, even wealthy men have very simple establishments, although it is at length complained (e.g. by Demosthenes) that people are now building more luxurious houses, and are not content with the plain yet sufficient dwellings of the great age of Pericles.[5]

 

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