Pub. date: 2010 | Online Pub. Date: May 06, 2010 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412958660 | Print ISBN: 9781412958653 | Online ISBN: 9781412958660| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
The household held a central place in ancient conceptualizations of power, governance, and community. Although there was no single model of the household in antiquity, Greeks, Romans, ancient Jews, and early Christians shared several presuppositions about its elite form. Within an ancient Mediterranean context, the term household (Greek: oikos; Latin: domus; Hebrew: bêt'ab ) referred simultaneously to persons and property. As a social unit, most ancient households were centered upon a nuclear core, but they might have also included extended family members (e.g., a widowed mother, unmarried siblings, adopted children), as well as slaves and other dependents. As property, an ancient household comprised the collective lands, buildings, animals, and slaves owned by its members. In ancient Mediterranean societies, which were agrarian based and largely dependent upon human labor, households were the primary economic unit of production and reproduction. In fact, the English word economy derives from the Greek word oikonomia ...