What Is a Phratry in Ancient Greece?

What Is a Phratry in Ancient Greece?

In ancient Greece, society was organized into various social units, one of which was called a phratry. A phratry consisted of a group of families who shared a common ancestry and belonged to the same clan. These clans played an important role in the social, religious, and political life of the ancient Greeks.

Origins and Purpose

The concept of the phratry can be traced back to the early Greek tribes. It was believed that all members of a phratry descended from a common mythical ancestor, such as a god or hero. The purpose of these clans was to maintain social cohesion and solidarity among its members.

Social Organization

The phratries were further divided into smaller groups known as genos, which consisted of individual families or households. These genos were responsible for maintaining family traditions, rituals, and customs. They also provided support and protection to their members in times of need.

Religious Significance

The phratries played an important role in religious affairs. Each clan had its own religious rituals and festivals that were celebrated collectively by its members. These ceremonies were meant to honor their mythical ancestors and strengthen the bonds between families within the phratry.

Political Influence

In addition to their social and religious significance, phratries also held political influence in ancient Greece. They formed an important part of the democratic system wherein decisions were made collectively by various social units. The heads of each genos would represent their respective families in political assemblies and contribute to the decision-making process.


While the concept of phratries gradually diminished with time, their influence can still be seen in the modern-day understanding of family, community, and social organization. The idea of shared ancestry and collective responsibility is deeply rooted in many cultures around the world.


The phratry was an integral part of ancient Greek society, providing a sense of identity, belonging, and support to its members. Through their social, religious, and political roles, the phratries contributed to the cohesion and stability of ancient Greek communities.