Actual Classical Greek Culture Essay

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Modern Eyes

One of the first rules an anthropologist must learn is not to view an alien culture with reference to their own.

People may have unique reasons as to why they do certain actions or hold certain beliefs which have no connection to the culture of the Observer.

One of the most dramatic examples occurred during World War II.

The Japanese, seeking to honour a particular Allied prisoner, beheaded him with a Samuari sword.

The Allies were horrified by the barbarism.


The Western World sees Ancient Greece as the birth place of civilisation.

That 200 people could vote was hailed as a democracy. The art work, the literature, the science was proof of the great advancements in society.

In the early days of the English Raj; that is when India was the Jewel in the Crown of the Empire, what was viewed was the vast wealth of the upper class, not the horrible lives lived by the majority of people.

This narrow focus of the invader leads to the eventual overthrow as there is no attempt at enculturating the masses so that they feel part of the Empire not an exploited commodity.

This narrow view prevents us from truly comprehending Classical Greek culture.

Basic Views

Today, we see young slender women as the epitome of beauty. They are desirable, they are all that is perfect.

In Ancient Greek Culture the object of beauty was the boy.

Beardless, slender, not yet matured, this was the object of lust.

Today, society is centred about the older wealthy man marrying the 19 year old girl. Almost every millionaire has his ‘arm candy’, the most beautiful young woman his money can buy.

Many millionaires replace their wives at ten year intervals, because the pursuit of a young woman rules them.

In Ancient Greece, substitute male for female; that is the older wealthy man, taking up the boy of fourteen, fifteen as his ‘arm candy’ and replacing him as soon as hair began to grown on his face, and you’ll get the essence of the culture.


In Greek culture, men did not marry until they were forty.

These were not men who would marry a peer. They would only marry a very young woman who had to be a virgin. She would bear his children. The word ‘love’ did not often enter into the equation.

For love, he would take a boy as his protégé. He would school him, assist him in entering society, and engage in sexual relations with him.

This boy was the object of his devotion.

When the boy was no longer beardless, interest would wane, and although he might be kept on as an assistant in the older man’s business, a new boy would be introduced.

The superseded protégé might take his own boy or satisfy his lusts with female prostitutes until reaching forty when he was allowed to marry.

This mentoring system (for besides sex there was a business aspect) often allowed the protégé to become successful in his pursuits, sometimes becoming his mentor’s rival.

The Ideal

When examing ancient Greek statues one finds a prevalence of male nudes. Whether a warrior or a deity, male nudity was ‘what sold‘ to use a modern experession.

The genitalia seems remarkably small almost childlike on a muscular mature body. This was as considered desirable then as large breasts on a woman are today. Considering what the intention of the mature male was and the object of that intention ‘size did matter’.


Slaves made up more than about one-third of the total population of Ancient Greece

Slaves rarely revolted as they were of diverse populations which had as much hatred for each other as they might for the Master.

Most families owned slaves, even the poorest Greek family owned a few slaves. Owners were not allowed to beat or kill their slaves, and often promised to free them.

However, a free slave did not become a citizen with all the rights and privileges. They would be defined as Metics, which were foreigners who were officially allowed to live in the state.

There were publicaly owned slaves who had a larger measure of independence than slaves owned by families. The public slaves often lived on their own and performed specialized tasks.

As a Whole

When studying a culture one must take it as a whole and see how the pieces fit. To grab an aspect and interpret it and present findings as if complete is intellectually dishonest.

If the belief is widely disseminated, this leads to an incorrect comprehension and will cause future confusion.

Greek democracy was of very limited vintage. It was an improvement over the single dictator, but it was not extended beyond a specific class of landowners.

Slaves never became citizens. Neither them nor their children. They remained foreigners, excluded from benefits .

Young men were exploited, for the mentoring procedure was the only way they could advance in life.

Women were almost as excluded in Ancient Greece as they are in Afghanistan. Their route to prestige was often as a prostitute of the highest ranking.

Hence it was not a culture of such laudatory nature that should be continually seen as an aspiration.

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