Looking back through history, it is easy to see that our legacy is defined by the ancient civilizations that came before us.
In the Western world, Ancient Greece is perhaps the most influential of all. Their politics, art, philosophy, and architecture shaped the world and continue to influence and inspire us today.
But how much do you actually know about Ancient Greek society? We’ve put together some facts about Ancient Greece that will give you a whole new appreciation for these fascinating people.
Read on to learn more.
Ancient Greece Has a Rich History
The ancient Greeks lived over 3000 years ago. Their society began to develop in 800 BC, following the catastrophic fall of the Mycenaean civilization. This period, known as the ‘Dark Age,’ was a time of migration, and the first Greeks began to settle in Italy, Sicily, and modern-day Turkey.
By 4 or 500 BC, Greek civilization had grown to encompass most of the Mediterranean. It was split into a collection of thriving city-states or polis. Each city-state had its own rulers, laws, customs, and traditions.Some of the most famous city-states include Sparta, Athens, and Corinth. Overall, historians believe there were around 1000 polis at the height of Greek civilization.
In 300 BC, Alexander the Great conquered the city-states of Ancient Greece and forced them to unite under his rule. His empire, the Ancient Greek Empire, included Egypt, South Asia, and large parts of Europe. It ended following his death when the Romans conquered the Ancient Greek territories.
Greeks Valued Physical Health
A strong human form, athleticism, and physical fitness were valued traits in Ancient Greece. They believed that every citizen had a duty to build and improve their minds and bodies as one. In fact, they considered physical prowess to be a form of knowledge – just like science, mathematics, philosophy, or the arts.
It’s not surprising, then, that they held the very first Panhellenic contest in 776 BC – a sporting event that laid the foundations for the modern Olympics. At first, the events were limited to foot races. Over time, officials added other disciplines like jumping, boxing, and wrestling.
Also included was a brutal fighting competition known as the pankration. Though its techniques have been lost to time, we do know that many competitors were left permanently disabled or even killed.
Many Greeks Owned Slaves
Ancient Greece ran on slave labor. Around 1 in 3 Ancient Greeks were slaves. Each polis had different customs surrounding slavery, and standards of living were much better for some than others.
The city-state of Sparta used slaves known as helots to grow crops, care for livestock, and perform other menial work. The helots were treated with extreme brutality: each Autumn, the polis declared a ‘war’ on the helot tribes. During this time, the ruling classes were permitted (and encouraged) to abuse and kill the subjugated underclass.
In other parts of Ancient Greece, slaves had it slightly better. In Athens, they were even permitted to live in their owner’s homes, marry, and have children. Slaves filled a huge range of roles, including farming, domestic chores, mining, and even law enforcement.
Greeks Worshiped Multiple Gods
The Ancient Greeks were deeply religious. However, their religion lacked a book, ruling religious class, church, or creed. Rather, it was up to each individual to form their own interpretation.
Conflicting accounts and sources mean that it’s very difficult to make specific statements about Ancient Greek religion. However, we do know that they perceived all aspects of the natural world as divinely controlled. Therefore, paying proper respect to the Gods was an important part of daily life.
Without a priest or book to lead them, Greek religious knowledge was passed down through tradition. This meant watching your parents pray, performing sacrifices, taking part in processions, and many other religious ceremonies. This ancestral worship system formed the base stone of Greek religion.
You can learn more about Greek worship and mythology by visiting www.in2greece.com.
Ancient Greeks Loved Food
Food was a central part of Ancient Greek society. Its social, cultural, and religious significance is hard to overstate. No Ancient Greek event would be complete without a lavish feast of fruit, meat, and wine – a gift from the Gods.
Food had everyday supernatural significance, too. Superstitious to the core, Greeks believed that nuts could contain the souls of the dead. They also reserved bread crusts for young single women, under the belief that this could ingratiate them with their future mother-in-law.
We still enjoy many Ancient Greek cuisines today. Some of the most popular include pancakes, hummus, and even a type of cheesecake.
We Owe Greeks A Lot
The Ancient Greek people were innovators. Even today, we have the chance to see their inventions in action.
Did you wake up by alarm this morning? If so, you have the Ancient Greek inventor Ctesibius to thank. He created the first alarm clock using a system of jars and water.
When you went to work, maybe you used a GPS system to help you navigate. Without the innovative cartography of the Ancient Greek pioneers, GPS wouldn’t even exist.
In fact, the very foundation of this society – democracy – was first practiced in Ancient Greece. The more you look around, the more you’ll see Ancient Greek ideas and inventions in use today.
Step Back in Time: Fascinating Facts About Ancient Greece
As distant as Ancient Greece is in time, their traditions and customs still influence our lives today. This fascinating culture is the basis of modern Western society – and a testament to the intellect of our human race.
We hope these facts about Ancient Greece intrigue and surprise you in equal measure.
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