After the collapse of Mycenaean civilization, Greece emerged from an “Dark Age”, to become one of the world’s most advanced civilisations. They revolutionised politics, philosophy, music and theater – while becoming masters in military strategy as well.
Ancient Greeks were pioneers of democracy and masters of both art and science. Socrates, Plato and Aristotle were among their renowned thinkers; while Pythagoras and Euclid also left an indelible mark.
1. They invented democracy
Ancient Greece gave us breathtaking temples, timeless theatre and some of history’s most influential philosophers; but its democracy that truly revolutionised history. It began with Solon around 460 BCE who implemented reforms allowing all men over 18 to attend an assembly called an Ekklesia; property rights were protected and debt slavery banned as well as what are known today as draconian laws that allowed authorities to punish offenders harshly.
Cleisthenes further expanded the Ekklesia by eliminating political distinctions between wealthy aristocrats and middle and working-class citizens that comprised the army and navy. He also instituted the Boule, an assembly of 500 men from each Athenian tribe who performed most of the hands-on governance work such as taxing, street cleaning, policing and war as well as setting the agenda and who could speak at Ekklesia gatherings; their powers included voting to exile any politician for 10 years if elected citizens approved this initiative.
2. They invented Greek alphabet
Ancient Greeks did not invent the alphabet, but they did create a unique form. They were the first to add vowel-representing letters, making their alphabet the world’s first phonetic script. We still use Greek letters today for some purposes – for instance omicron is often used as an abbreviation for coronavirus variants; but how should you pronounce or say its name without making inappropriate jokes?
Greeks created their alphabet by adapting the Cypriot syllabary for writing their dialect of Greek known as Linear B. While initially employed primarily for record keeping purposes, its usage quickly expanded into protecting literary oral traditions like Iliad and Odyssey as well as religious traditions recorded by Hesiod’s Works and Days; all written down between 14th and 12th century BC.
The Greeks made some modifications to the Phoenician alphabet, most notably adding letters that indicated vowels and reusing others. Along with their preference for adding new letters last (e.g. phi, chi, psi and omega), this established alphabetical order amongst letters we write and read today.
3. They invented music
Ancient Greeks were masters of creativity, creating music, theater, poetry and science among other things. Furthermore, they had an exceptional grasp of human nature which led them to pioneer ethics, philosophy and politics as concepts of their time.
Ancient Greece saw lyre and aulos as key instruments used for accompanying singing and dancing during religious ceremonies, festivals and contests. Shepherds would pipe to their flocks while oarsmen kept time with music while women made home recordings with these instruments. Greek philosophers such as Plato believed that music can influence your ethos – or ethical character – so listeners should try to avoid listening to anything which encourages undesirable attitudes such as music with harmful lyrics or inappropriate content.
Greeks also invented various musical forms that they performed in their stunning theatres; their impressive acoustics can still be heard today! Additionally, Greeks believed in an eclectic pantheon of gods and goddesses including Zeus, Hera, Hephaestus Apollo Artemis as well as Hestia Hercules Dionysus who was their God of wine booze and fun times!
4. They invented architecture
The Ancient Greeks developed one of the world’s most advanced civilizations. They made major contributions in politics, philosophy, theater, science and athletics – as well as creating myths that continue to inspire us today.
The Greeks did not live as one nation. Instead, they existed as numerous city-states – two of the most powerful being Athens and Sparta. Each had its own culture and values which often resulted in war between them.
Greek architecture was founded on proportion and scale. Temples often featured columns surrounded by frieze panels decorated with sculptures called friezes; above this panel there was usually a triangular area called pediments which further decorated with more sculptures.
Greeks began building houses and temples with stone rather than mud brick or wood, at considerable expense due to having to carve, transport and hoist each stone into place. A professional architect would oversee every aspect of construction; from choosing and quarrying the stones themselves to overseeing workers who roughly shaped each block of marble or limestone at their respective building sites.
5. They invented theater
Many believe the Greeks invented theater, but this is untrue. Dionysus’ ancient cult gave rise to Greek drama – Tyrant Pisistratus launched a festival honoring Dionysus to increase his own popularity, thus sparking theatrical performance as part of his plan – thus sparking theatre’s birth in Greece.
Over time, choruses chanted religious sentiments in honor of various gods before gradually taking on more theatrical aspects; by the fifth century BCE, plays were being performed in Greek theaters.
These early theatres featured two parts: an orchestra for spectators to sit in, and a skene where the action occurred. Early orchestras were made of hard earth; during Classical periods however they would often be covered in marble pavements.
Theatre was an engaging way for Greeks to learn history and morality; most could not read, so theater provided them with vital information in an engaging format. Greeks loved competition in all areas of life – be it sports or theater! For instance, Greek actors would compete with each other to have their plays performed by different actors before the best play would receive a prize awarding its author glory and fame.
6. They invented marathon running
Modern marathoning dates back to ancient Greece and is one of the longest races humans can run, but how did it begin? One answer can be found in The Battle of Marathon.
As soon as the Persians landed at Marathon and prepared to attack Athens, Athenians felt hopeless and sent Pheidippides as an intermediary to Sparta seeking assistance.
Pheidippides ran all the way back to Athens to deliver his message before collapsing and dying en route. Thus was born the marathon.
Pheidippides was an infamous Greek messenger known for running long distances to deliver messages, all the while carrying all of his armour and weapons – spear, shield and helmet included – across long distances in battle for his city’s survival. History scholars agree on one thing though; historians believe he existed. They consider him to have been an “Hemerodromos”, or courier who delivered long distance messages by running long distances himself. He carried all this equipment while fighting an epic war! This feat made his name legendary among historians as historians have taken note of him; thus their belief.
7. They invented urine
The ancient Greeks left behind an enduring cultural legacy, yet some aspects are less well known. You might know they created theater, science and philosophy – but did you know they had an irrational fear of beans or that sneezing was considered divinely auspicious? Read on to gain more insight into ancient Greek culture!
Classical Greece was famous for its love of wine. People would drink large quantities with salt added to keep its flavor intact and to prevent getting drunk. Poor people typically consumed barley porridge while rich citizens consumed meat and grains as food sources. A popular myth tells of Athena competing against Poseidon to become patron of a new city; eventually Athens won out as its inhabitants desired both its wines and beauty more than Poseidon would allow.
Ancient Greeks held many strange beliefs and customs, but few were more bizarre than their fascination with urine! Pythagoras and Hippocrates both used urine for treating diseases, while Diodorus of Sicily wrote in his Universal History that Greeks also used their urine to heal wounds and maintain dental health.
8. They invented slaves
Ancient Greece saw slaves as integral members of society, performing chores that free citizens were unwilling to complete themselves, giving them more time for leisure activities.
Middle-class families likely owned at least some slaves; wealthier ones had many specialized ones such as vinedressers or craft people making pottery or jewelry. Slaves could also be hired out on contract to assist people with certain tasks like fighting or wrestling matches.
Piracy and banditry provided a steady source of slaves; prisoners captured during wars could also be forced into slavery.
Slavery in ancient Greece differed significantly from American slavery. Once someone became a slave, their entire lives became at the mercy of their owners – they could neither marry nor have children without approval of their master and any disobedience could result in physical punishment from them being hit by their master.
Even with these restrictions in place, slavery was still harsh; Greek slaves did not live long lives though; usually men lived from their late teens until late twenties or thirties.