Ancient Greece – Values

When reading about ancient Greek society and values, the thing that stood out to me the most was the disparity between the modern version of the family and the idea of the family or household in early Greek society.  Households or oikoi were smaller versions of the polis (the city-state) and were run much like the larger communities were, with each member responsible for different functions.[1]  Along with a husband and wife, children were also part of the oikos, although families were held responsible for only having the number of children that they could reasonably afford.[2]  Children that were not wanted or who could not be cared for were exposed or abandoned.[3]  While such actions may seem inconceivable to us in the modern world, the precedent is not unheard of in modern times as in the case with China and their one child minimums, in practice through 2015.[4]

Greek views on morality, the family and civic responsibility are unsurprising given their view and mythology relating to the gods.  We see this reflected in Hesiod’s Theogony which I chose as my source for this week’s module.  Hesiod describes the birth of Zeus and the horrific tale of his father eating his children due to Cronos’ intent that none other should rule but him.[5]  Hesiod continues to tell the story of how Zeus escaped through the trickery of his mother, and how he came to rule the gods and had multiple children (and marital strife) himself.[6]  The Theogony exemplifies the necessity of deceit in order to accomplish a greater good, the often-contentious yet equitable relationship in the marriage partnership/contract that was mirrored within Greek society in the polis period, and the relationship between the gods and mankind – a mirroring of human traits within the divine as well as the heroic and honorable traits from the god that certain men could emulate here on earth.


[1] Nagle, D. Brendan. The Ancient World: A Social and Cultural History. 8th ed. Boston, MA: Pearson, 2014. pg 79.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Shen Lu, “China’s One Child Policy Goes Out but Heartache Remains,”, December 31, 2015,

[5] Hesiod, “Theogony, excerpts,” Fordham University, 1999,

[6] Ibid.

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