Was Adoption a Thing in Ancient Greece?

Was Adoption a Thing in Ancient Greece?

Greece is known for its rich history, traditions, and myths. One of the most fascinating aspects of their culture is the concept of adoption.

Adoption, or ‘hetaireia’, was an integral part of ancient Greek society. It was a common practice that allowed families to expand their lineage and inheritance, and it was also used to establish political alliances.

The Practice of Adoption in Ancient Greece

In ancient Greece, adoption was not limited to newborns or infants. Children of all ages could be adopted and treated as if they were biological offspring. In fact, it was quite common for adults to adopt other adults as a means of securing an heir or establishing social ties.

Adoption could be achieved through various means such as formal legal procedures or informal arrangements. In some cases, wealthy families would adopt children from poorer families to serve as slaves or laborers.

The Legal Aspect of Adoption

Unlike modern-day adoption procedures that involve court hearings and legal documents, ancient Greek adoption did not require such formalities. However, there were certain procedures that needed to be followed to ensure the legitimacy of the adoption.

The first step in the process was obtaining permission from the biological father. If the father was deceased or absent, permission could be granted by another male member of the family. The second step involved presenting a statement before a magistrate or official witness to establish the legality of the adoption.

The Social Significance

Adoption had significant social implications in ancient Greece. It allowed families without male heirs to secure an heir who would carry on their legacy and inherit their property. It also provided opportunities for individuals from lower social classes to gain access to resources and connections that would otherwise be unavailable to them.

In addition, adoption was used to establish political alliances between families. By adopting a child from another influential family, one could secure their loyalty and support in political affairs.


Adoption played a significant role in ancient Greek society. It allowed families to expand their lineage and inheritance, established social ties, and secured political alliances. Despite the lack of formal legal procedures, adoption was a widely accepted practice that helped shape the cultural landscape of ancient Greece.