The Greeks are greatly responsible for the turnout of human civilisation. Their contributions have been pivotal in shaping the fundamentals of language, science, arts, architecture, athletics, mathematics, medicine, politics, history and much more. Today, Greece is a country in Europe, but the people who inhabited it thousands of years ago are called the Ancient Greeks.
Here are some fun facts about this incredible civilisation:
- The Greeks eventually became part of the Roman Empire which is when they came to be known as the Greeks. Prior to that, the Greeks called themselves ‘Hellenes’ as the country of Greece was known as ‘Hellas.’
- The Natural History Museum in New York is a great example of the Greek style of architecture. The building is constructed according to the principles of symmetry and repetition donning columns, that are decorated with carvings.
- Sport and competition was an important aspect of Greek culture. The Olympic Games that we see today were for the first time conducted back in the 776 BC at the Greek city of Olympia. Even back then the games were held every four years just like the modern-day Olympics!
- The Olympic Games were held by the Greeks to honour Zeus, King of the Greek gods. With succession, events like discus, running, boxing and javelin were introduced in the games and they had to compete naked! The Greeks would pray to Nike, the Goddess of Victory. Did you know winners would be awarded a crown of olive branches instead of a gold medal?
- The Greeks introduced the Greek alphabet around 1,000 BC, which led to the invention of the concept of written vowels. In fact, the Greek letters alpha and beta make up the word ‘alphabet.’
- Ancient Greece can boast of many prolific writers, thinkers, and scholars like Socrates, Homer, Euripides, Aristotle, and Plato. Aristotle was the first one to come up with the idea that the Earth is round!
- Pheidippides ran 26 miles from Marathon to Athens to announce that the Persian army had been defeated by the Greeks in 490 BC. This was when and how the marathon originated. After announcing, Pheidippides collapsed and died.
- In the 3rd century BC, the first water mill is said to have originated in ancient Greece. The water mill made it possible for food to be ground and produced as cereals and flour.
- The alarm clock was invented by the ancient Greeks. Plato is said to have used one of the earliest versions of the alarm clock.
- Modern democracy is said to have originated in Ancient Greece. They had elected assemblies to help them govern and the first democracy was in Athens in 5 BC. City-state Athens had a democratic government. People there made decisions by voting just like we vote to elect our government!
- The Greeks had different Gods and Goddesses who they believed had human qualities but also had more powers than mortals, and would live forever. 12 of the important gods and goddesses were said to have lived on Mount Olympus where they held discussions and resolved arguments.
- Ancient Greece stretched as far as Italy, North Africa, and France and included some of the countries we know today as Turkey and Syria.
- Ancient Greece was divided into city-states where each had their own laws and way of life, but they all spoke the same language. Athens and Sparta are two of the most well-known city-states! ‘Polis’ is the Greek word for city-states. Words like ‘policeman’ derive from the word ‘polis’ which means ‘man of the city.’
- Greece became a part of the Roman Empire when the Romans conquered Athens in 146 BC.
- Pots hold a significance in Greek culture. Pots were used for different things like carrying water in from a fountain in town, keeping perfume in, storing make-up, keeping and cooling wine, drinking, storing, cooking, etc. Greeks would paint pictures on the pots depending on what they were used for. For instance, toys would be drawn on pots used by children.
- Greeks had homes with different rooms built around a courtyard in the middle. Men and women had different sections of the house to themselves. The dining rooms were used by men to invite friends and spend time with them. Women had rooms in the back of the house where they would spin and weave and call their friends to spend time with.
- Ancient Greek marketplaces were called Agora. People would sell things there or buy food and meet friends.
- The theatre was invented in Ancient Greece and the actors were only men and boys. They would wear masks of sad and happy faces according to the character they were playing.
We owe a lot to Ancient Greece, however, as much as the Greeks were ahead of their time, they were a little superstitious too. For example, some Greeks wouldn’t eat beans as they thought they contained the souls of the dead!