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City Houses

Archaeology has not been able to reveal much detail about the homes of residents of Athens1 because the modern city covers the remains of almost all the residential districts of the ancient city and thus inhibits excavation. Nevertheless, we know that homes in ancient Athens were wedged haphazardly against one another along narrow, winding streets.2 Even the residences of rich people followed the same basic design of bedrooms, storerooms, and dining rooms grouped around open-air courtyards. Some houses had more than one story. The women and men of the household usually had rooms set apart for their separate use3, especially if there were infants or small children4 in the family. These youngsters would be looked after in the women's quarters, but all members of the household would see each other frequently despite the notional division of the interior space of the home by gender and age. The architectural tradition of grouping the house's rooms around a courtyard facilitated contact among all the members of the household, who included the slaves of the family. Wall paintings or works of art were as yet uncommon as decoration in private homes. Sparse furnishings5 and simple furniture were the rule. Water for household needs had to be fetched from public fountains.6 This onerous and constant work was performed by women and the household's slaves. Sanitary facilities usually consisted of a pit dug just outside the front door. The pits were emptied by collectors paid to dump manure7 outside the city at a distance set by law.

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