For studying the ancient world, it is necessary to study in depth some concepts that marked the behaviourof the human being in its social or political relationships. One of those fundamental concepts is the one about oikos. From the greek oikos, the one which is equivalent to the word “house” in Old Greece, but it has others much more extensive and important meanings in the Old world, from the ones we can trace its mark until the beginning of the Contemporary Age.
The Oikos, in a first reading, was an autarkical social and economical unity, the centre from whose all around the everyday life was organized, an axis from which not only the material needs are satisfied but also the norms and ethical values, the duties, obligations and responsabilities, the social relationships and the relation with gods.
Following to P.Soriano,Soriano P. Historia del habitar público y privado. Vol. 2. (2005) Buenos Aires. Nobuko. Págs. 47-48. the word Oikos comes from the main wooden beams that supported all the woodwork of the chimney. He says that the concept of family is divided into two words in Greece; Oikos that means the ownership of the head family (the mycenaeic telestai), in where it is included their members, the slaves, the animals and the valuable objects, and the génos, that means the membership to a bigger group by blood filiation that share the same genitor ancestor. The word oikia derives from the word oikos and it is related to the building that houses the domestic group: oikeios, the relatives and oiketai, the servants. Then, the Oikos (domestic group, house) it is complemented with the eschara (fireplace), both materialized by a central vertical axis in the building, that represented the centre of the family existential world. Even, there is another greek word that served for referring to the family and it is the word epistion, that meant what is near home.
The Oikos is closely related to the aristocratic groups. The Greek communities Vega, M. J. H. de la, Abengochea, J. J. S., Hervás, J. M. R. & de la Vega, M. J. H. (1998). Historia de La Grecia Antigua. Ediciones Universidad de Salamanca. were formed by consanguineous groups, with isolated lives ones from others and with a territory over which the basileis power is consolidated, that capitalize the gentilicic relations in favour of them. The social situation of their members comes from
its relationship or the membership or not to the oikos. This enters into confict with another fundamental concept in the greek world that it is polis. The change of a social-political system to another, the transition from the oikos to the polis supposes an important change in the Greek society that Solón Tucídides. (1996). Historia de la Guerra del Peloponeso I-II. Gredos. describes as the following way:
“So, Athenians shared life in the country in an autonomous regime for a long time, and when they were unified politically, most of them, as before as later, until our war, continued living in the country with all their families due to the force of habit… they stand badly leaving their houses and their temples, that always have been theirs as a legacy of their fathers since the times of its old political organization…”
The sinecism, or historic process Soriano P. op. Cit. Págs. 82 a 85. by which a series of groups or centres of population that were separated before are joined forming a city-state and that supposed the appearance of the polis in the Old Greece, it didn´t mean the urban unification of the centres of population of Atica, but a process of a political nature specifically. In consecutive stages, identified with the eponymous heroes from the aristoi of Athens, Cecrope y Teseo, smaller associations were formed in
centres of population in disorder, that group together in an own system of aristrocratic oikos, for ending up into a political field that was composed of all the population of Atica in only one Polis. With Solon, the piece of ground stops being the
concrete sign of citizenship and with Clistenes, the name that talks about the membership to the group of free men is no more oikos but demo.
Clistenes and his advisors ended up by demolishing the system of oikos, supplanting it by a radical and audacious form of government. The most radical innovative aspect was the abolition of the traditional tribal divisions of génos and fratías of the population, with its opportunities of aristocratic customism, reorganizing to the citizens into demos, locals and territorial ones.
The first literary references of the concept of oikos are found in the works of Jenofontes and Aristóteles.Both reflect the greek mindof the century IV a.C. In his work “Economic” Jenofonte. Económico. (1993). Biblioteca Clásica Gredos, 182. Editorial Gredos Jenofonte, through the words of Socrates, talks about oikos as the management of the country property, putting it in the same level as a knowledge or science at the same level as medicine.
1 – In a certain occasion, I heard him holding the following conversation about the management of a house: — Tell me, Critóbulo, is it perhaps the management of a house the name of a knowledge, as the medicine, the blacksmithing and the carpentry? — I thik so, answered Critóbulo.
2 – And as the same way that we could point out the activity of each one of those arts, could we also say which is the activity of the management? — I think, said Critóbulo, that the own activity of a good manager is manage well its own
Aristoteles, in his text ”Politics”,Aristóteles, 1988. Política. Madrid: Editorial Gredos S.A. págs. 46 y ss. in addition to talk about the management of the house, “as every town is composed of houses”,takes his speech to the comparison between the community coming from the oikos and the community that is generated in the polis. Between the familiar community and the political community.He puts on the same level to the governor of a town and the manager of a house.,” thinking that ther is no difference between a big house and small town.” The community created in a natural way for everyday life is the house and the community which comes from the union of several huoses is the village. Man, according to Aristoteles, is a social being, “more than any bee and any gregarious animal”, because he is the only animal that has the ability of saying words and voice for expressing the suitable and the harmful, the right and wrong, the sense of good and bad and the rest of values. Man needs living in community because the one who cannot live in community or need nothing due to his own sufficiency, isn´t a member of the town but a beast or a god.”
The idea of oikos is related to the inheritance of the property, the testamentary legacy that had its established procedure in the Old Greece. According to S. Perea Yébenes, Perea Yébenes S. Vida y civilización de los griegos. Sílex ediciones. Madrid 2020. pág. 413 y ss if the Athenian man had a certain patrimony right fully but he has not any sons, according to the legislation of Solon, he could adopt a man to whom transfers his properties by will. The father searched with this for transferring his patrimony to someone who were close to him, generally a relative (…)The adoptive son, it doesn´t matter his age, must be included into the “civil register” of the demo of the adopting father, doing the habitual rituals, as when an own son reaches the full legal age. That meant – for all the parts- that the entry of that man was accepted in the “patrimonial” family, in the oikos, overall in the legal aspect, that it was prioritary, and consequently, the legal/juridical tie of the adopted man with his natural father was broken, if he was alive.
The study of the oikos has been treated in the field of art and drama.and so E.Grüner - Grüner E. La Tragedia, o el fundamento perdido de lo político. Edu. Ar. Retrieved December 31, 2022, from http:// biblioteca.clacso.edu.ar/clacso/se/20100613123714/2gruner. pdf investigates the political dimension of the Greek tragedy and relates the oikos to the archaic reason that is beyond the Law and it cannot be completely submited to it. He says that in the tragedy it is made that people have the feeling of the necessity of that refusal of the oikos, of the singular and archaic reason, and the necessity of generation of a exclusively political field in the more o less modern sense: a concious and actively human Logos that performs an efficient repression of that reason, of that ‘‘out of the discourse’’.
He says that Tragedy is a kind of anthropology of the politic, located into the conflicting transition between the culture based on the sacrifice ( archaic nature) and a rational nature. It is represented by Edipo, that secular and anomalous heroe
that does not submit to the indecipherable, enigmatic and sacredtradition represented by the Sphinx, inaugurate a politic field that is desacralized and that moves away the archaic reason and dissociates the polis from the oikos, create a Universal Law to which must submit all singularity.
The gods of the oikos
The oikos has got a profane dimension and a sacred dimension. The sacred dimension is marked by the gods that establish
the relationship between what it is inside and what it is outside of the house.Tamayo Duque E. A. El cuidado de sí desde el oikos nomos: hacia un restablecimiento del vínculo entre ética y economía. Edu.co. Recuperado el 8 de enero de 2023, … Continue reading. The Greek man, in the flux of his tour along the known world, always goes back to the warmth of the goddess of the home, that always waits for listening his stories. Four gods are mainly the ones that contribute with accurate elements to this sacred dimension.
Cibeles is always represented using Kalathos, a kind of fortified crown. The walls were used for protecting the town against posible invaders and that is why she is the protector of all that is was kept inside of the polis: such as the houses, the harvests and the riches. Cibeles marked the limit between the inside and the outside and delimited the frontiers between the wild and what have been cultivated or kept inside the society.
Hestia was literally the goddess of the oikos, who looks after the inside of the home. She appears as the representation of a limited nucleo, and according Jean Pierre Vernant, has the role of holding the human group at home. “The role of Hestia- Vernant, J. P. Entre Mito y Política. Fondo de Cultura Económica. 2002. was to make that the home were a balanced and permanent centre, an inside where the riches could be accumulated at the bottom of the house, in the custody of the goddess.” Hestia was warm,hospitable, dedicated to look after her youthful condition as a peaceful representation of purity and self-control needed in a woman for being a good manager in the future.
Hermes is the supplier and the and merchant, the sheperd contribute with all what it is cultivated outside, dedicated to several public works that demand him a constant movement between the inside and outside. J.P.Vernant says that Hermes was the master of the transactions and transitions of all kind. He was sheperd, guide, messenger, merchant, patron of the meetings and the changes, including the words and riches. “ Going through walls and doors, going over frontiers leads the living persons to the last resting place of the dead; let passing from vigil to sleep; presides at the wedding chamber the night in which the virgin becomes a wife, follow the return path that leads from gods to men.”
According to F. Schwarz,  Schwarz F. Rol, estilo y función del dios Hermes. Funciones y cualidades del dios Hermes. Instituto Internacional Hermes. the god Hermes is protector divinity of what it is specifically human: the imagination. It is the God of the inner exam, clarifies the limits of the houses, establishes the right dimensions, gives the vision of the tie between the things, rules the science of the analogies, that is to say, the symbolic thought. He is the guide of the journeys. He is the guardian of the integrity of a house. He is the god of the hinges. He keeps secure the openings. He moves constantly in a intermediary space. He is the mediator at the level of weddings, journeys or words.
Demeter, contrary to Hestia, appears devoted to the gifts of her fecundity, in the domestic field as well as in terms of the agricultural works, which depended on the procreation and the farming in order, not only of the lands but also of the
children. Agriculture and upbringing of the children are both closely related to the survival, the extension of the species, the formation of the Greek culture and the cultivation of the love for the land of the Greek citizens. According to the homeric song, Persefone, Demeter´s daughter, was kidnapped and taken to the Hades,and in the middle of the deep
sadness the earth was desolated. Zeus looks for the conciliation,so in spring the sap of the plants goes up and Demeter, that is happy, covers the earth with vegetation during the summer until the seeds fall to the ground and sink in the earth. Afer the kidnap, the tie that joins Demeter to Hades is the earth.
In words of P. Grimal, Grimal, P. Diccionario de mitología Griega y Romana. Madrid: Espasa, 2005. the gold of the owners of the house used to be kept under the house, probably due to that being hidden there could be protected in the domains of Hades and nobody would enter to look for it because this was hated by everybody.
|↑1||Soriano P. Historia del habitar público y privado. Vol. 2. (2005) Buenos Aires. Nobuko. Págs. 47-48.|
|↑2||Vega, M. J. H. de la, Abengochea, J. J. S., Hervás, J. M. R. & de la Vega, M. J. H. (1998). Historia de La Grecia Antigua. Ediciones Universidad de Salamanca.|
|↑3||Tucídides. (1996). Historia de la Guerra del Peloponeso I-II. Gredos.|
|↑4||Soriano P. op. Cit. Págs. 82 a 85.|
|↑5||Jenofonte. Económico. (1993). Biblioteca Clásica Gredos, 182. Editorial Gredos|
|↑6||Aristóteles, 1988. Política. Madrid: Editorial Gredos S.A. págs. 46 y ss.|
|↑7||Perea Yébenes S. Vida y civilización de los griegos. Sílex ediciones. Madrid 2020. pág. 413 y ss|
|↑8||- Grüner E. La Tragedia, o el fundamento perdido de lo político. Edu. Ar. Retrieved December 31, 2022, from http:// biblioteca.clacso.edu.ar/clacso/se/20100613123714/2gruner. pdf|
|↑9||Tamayo Duque E. A. El cuidado de sí desde el oikos nomos: hacia un restablecimiento del vínculo entre ética y economía. Edu.co. Recuperado el 8 de enero de 2023, de:https://repository.upb.edu.co/bitstream/handle/20.500.11912/2520/Tesis%20Edward%20Tamayo_El%20cuidad%20de%20s%C3%AD%20desde%20el%20oikosnomos.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y Págs. 38 y ss.|
|↑10||- Vernant, J. P. Entre Mito y Política. Fondo de Cultura Económica. 2002|
|↑11||Schwarz F. Rol, estilo y función del dios Hermes. Funciones y cualidades del dios Hermes. Instituto Internacional Hermes|
|↑12||Grimal, P. Diccionario de mitología Griega y Romana. Madrid: Espasa, 2005|