Work in Ancient Athens: Those who had to earn a living were scorned and ridiculed

Hard to believe that the ancient Greeks did not know the word work. Perhaps it was because the main content of their lives was rest, which they had only because all the duties were done for them by slaves who had no rights. All they had to do was, to put it bluntly, keep their mouths shut.

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Lounging instead of working

For the Athenians, work was something abnormalthey believed they were intended for higher purposes. After all, the course consisted of long periods of lounging around and doing nothing. Anyone who was still creating something, so to speak, for himself, was acceptable. But God forbid if the person worked for someone else.

So what were those “higher purposes”? Sessions in the Diet, working in the Council, clerkshipservice in the army, exercising the priestly profession, organizing holidays, sitting on a jury in court, worshiping the gods and the like, not too strenuous profession. And as a bonus, it was recommended to hold numerous informal talks on state issues.

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Workers and artisans led an inglorious life

Aristocrats had no problem with being rich thanks slave labor of serfs and poor people. They even named all those who earned with their own hands banausioi (a pejorative term for workers and artisans, editor’s note). After all, Aristotle himself stated that the life of a craftsman is inglorious and inimical to virtue. And this opinion was also held by other Greek thinkers and authors.

Famous writer Plutarchliving at the turn of the first and second centuries AD, also noticed that if you had to earn a living, you had no time to devote yourself to spiritual or philosophical questions. And so even Hephaestus (son of Zeus and Hera, in Greek mythology the God of fire and blacksmithing, editor’s note) was ridiculed even though he was able to create works of art. And if the craftsman worked with slaves for all this, perhaps he was at the very bottom of society. This applied, for example, to sculptors, whose position only improved in the Renaissance.

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Only a few professions were respected

In Greece then there was no five-day or six-day work week. Vacations were the only way to relax. If we add to that prejudices, it was not easy for people back then. However, there were exceptions. Traveling artisans with highly specialized skills: seers, healers, architects, and bards. All of them were desirable according to Homer and people treated and rewarded them accordingly.

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Source of information:
Wielkahistoria.pl: Work in ancient Athens. Everyone who had to earn a living was treated with disdain and frustration

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