How Was Agriculture in Ancient Greece?

When we think of ancient Greece, we often picture magnificent temples, philosophical debates, and epic myths. However, one aspect of ancient Greek civilization that is often overlooked is agriculture. Agriculture played a vital role in the development and sustenance of Greek society, providing food for its people and resources for its economy.

The Importance of Agriculture in Ancient Greece

Agriculture formed the backbone of the ancient Greek economy. The Greeks relied heavily on farming to meet their basic needs and to trade with other city-states. The fertile soil and favorable climate of Greece made it an ideal place for agricultural practices.

Farming Techniques

The ancient Greeks employed various farming techniques to cultivate their land. They practiced both subsistence farming, where crops were grown for personal consumption, and commercial farming, where surplus crops were sold or traded.

Plowing: Plowing was done using wooden plows pulled by oxen or horses. This helped break up the soil and prepare it for planting.

Sowing: After plowing, seeds were sown either by hand or using a seed drill. The most common crops grown in ancient Greece were wheat, barley, olives, grapes, figs, and vegetables like beans and lentils.

Irrigation: Irrigation was crucial in areas with less rainfall. Canals and ditches were used to divert water from rivers to the fields.

Crop Rotation

The Greeks practiced a rudimentary form of crop rotation. They would alternate between growing different crops on the same piece of land each year to maintain soil fertility. This method helped prevent soil exhaustion and ensured better yields over time.

Agricultural Festivals

Agriculture held such importance in ancient Greek society that it was celebrated through various festivals. These festivals were not only occasions for religious worship but also provided an opportunity for farmers to display their products and exchange agricultural knowledge.


Thesmophoria was an exclusive festival for women held in honor of Demeter, the goddess of agriculture. Women would abstain from certain foods during the festival and perform rituals to ensure a good harvest and fertility.


Panathenaia was a grand festival held in Athens to honor the goddess Athena. It included athletic competitions, musical performances, and a procession where olive oil, grains, and other agricultural products were offered to the goddess.

The Role of Slavery

Like many ancient civilizations, slavery played a significant role in Greek agriculture. Slaves were often employed as laborers on farms, performing tasks such as planting, harvesting, and tending to livestock. They were essential for maintaining large-scale agricultural production.


Agriculture formed the foundation of ancient Greek civilization. It not only provided sustenance but also shaped their economy and culture.

The farming techniques employed by the Greeks showcased their ingenuity and resourcefulness. Through festivals and rituals, they honored the gods that blessed them with fertile lands. So next time we think of ancient Greece, let’s not forget to appreciate the significance of agriculture in shaping this remarkable civilization.