Households and Domesticity in the Ancient World

Module code: AH3060

Module co-ordinator: Professor Penelope Allison

  • How do we investigate ancient Greek and the Roman households?
  • How do we use the archaeological and historical evidence to understand domestic practices in the ancient world?
  • What do these sources tell us about the households of the elite?
  • What do they tell us about urban and rural households?
  • What do they tell us about family and gender relations?
  • What do they tell us about household production and consumption?
  • What is household archaeology?

Households and families were at the heart of social organisation in the ancient Greek and Roman worlds and are fundamental building blocks for reconstructing past cultural lives. In this module we will explore the realms of domestic life and how households functioned in classical antiquity through texts, material objects, and the use of space. The time period we will cover is from Bronze Age Greece to the Late Antique Period.

We will consider topics such as gender (including masculinity and femininity), status, family organisation, household economies, household maintenance, childhood, food and cooking, sex and sexuality, and the political roles of households and family networks - all within wider theoretical frameworks of the history of the family and household archaeology.

Topics covered

  • Anthropological and New Archaeological perspectives of households and the history of the family
  • Greek households in written sources
  • The archaeology of Greek houses
  • Domesticity, status, space and temporality in ancient Greece
  • Households, production and the economies of ancient Greece
  • Roman houses and households in literature and epigraphy
  • Houses of the Roman elite
  • Pompeian households
  • Living in the Roman house: age and gender
  • Roman houses and households in the provinces


  • 10 two-hour lectures
  • class presentations


  • two essays, 3,000 words each (45% + 45%)
  • class presentation (10%)