This semester I’m taking a seven week-long class from Coursera on The Ancient Greeks. Check out the syllabus – it’s brutal.
This quote is from one of my assigned readings this week, a selection from Aristotle’s Politics, on the polis. I’ve deleted a longish section because I wanted to focus on Aristotle’s description of the oikos, the household or family.
He who thus considers things in their first growth and origin, whether a state or anything else, will obtain the clearest view of them. In the first place there must be a union of those who cannot exist without each other; namely, of male and female, that the race may continue (and this is a union which is formed, not of deliberate purpose, but because, in common with other animals and with plants, mankind have a natural desire to leave behind them an image of themselves), and of natural ruler and subject, that both may be preserved….
Out of these two relationships between man and woman, master and slave, the first thing to arise is the family, and Hesiod is right when he says,
‘First house and wife and an ox for the plough,’
for the ox is the poor man’s slave. The family is the association established by nature for the supply of men’s everyday wants, and the members of it are called by Charondas ‘companions of the cupboard,’ and by Epimenides the Cretan, ‘companions of the manger.’