The Family and Property
The family life1 of an Athenian citizen resembled in many ways that of a well-to-do Victorian Englishman, with the difference that slaves took the place of servants. The head of the family was the father, and the wife was expected to stay at home and take no part in public life. Most children were reared, but weakly ones, and healthy ones too if it would be difficult to support them, might be rejected at or soon after birth, and exposed to die, or perhaps to be rescued and cared for by some stranger. Property was normally passed down from a father to his legitimate sons, but wives brought their husbands dowries from their father’s estate. There was a tendency to think of the family, not the individual, as the primary owner of property, but from the time of Solon onwards the law of inheritance recognised the right of a citizen, at least in some circumstances, to leave his possessions to anyone he liked, and this introduced other elements into the situation. But family ties remained close, and people accepted responsibility for the care of their elderly or sick relatives. Orphans were regarded as the responsibility of the state, if they had no one else to look after them.
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