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From Hutton Webster's, Early European History (1917); edited for this on-line publication, by ELLOPOS
I. THE LANDS OF THE WEST AND THE RISE OF GREECE TO ABOUT 500 B.C.
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The Greeks as described in the Homeric epics were in a transitional stage between the life of shepherds and that of farmers. Wealth consisted chiefly of flocks and herds, though nearly every freeman owned a little plot of land on which he cultivated grain and cared for his orchard and vineyard. There were few skilled workmen, for almost everything was made at home. A separate class of traders had not yet arisen. Commerce was little followed. The Greeks depended on Phoenician sailors to bring to their shores the commodities which they could not produce themselves. Iron was known and used, for instance, in the manufacture of farm tools. During Homeric times, however, that metal had not yet displaced copper and bronze.
Social life was very simple. Princes tended flocks and built houses; princesses carried water and washed clothes. Agamemnon, Odysseus, and other heroes were not ashamed to be their own butchers and cooks. The Homeric knights did not ride on horseback, but fought from chariots. They sat at table instead of reclining at meals, as did the later Greeks. Coined money was unknown. Trade was by barter, values being reckoned in oxen or in lumps of gold and silver. Men bought their wives by making gifts of cattle to the parents. The art of writing is mentioned only once in the Homeric poems, and doubtless was little used.
Cf. The Ancient Greece * The Ancient Rome
Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantium) * Western Medieval Europe * Renaissance in Italy