In the current era of technology and convenience it is hard to believe a civilization that thrived from 1000 B.C. to 323 B.C. made any lasting contributions; however, the ancient Greeks have made an impact on history that is still visible in modern society. Many of their ideas and innovations are taught today in schools worldwide.
The presentation of written word known as theater began in Athens and diffused to other parts of the ancient Greek empire. Fifth-century playwrights Aristophanes and Sophocles produced comedies and tragedies, respectively. During the early days of theater, masks were used to represent a variety of emotions and to disguise male actors playing female roles. Only 44 plays from the ancient Greeks remain today, serving as the foundation of Western theater.
Just as Athens was the birthplace of theater, in 508 B.C. it became the world's first democracy. Democracy is a system of government in which citizens elect representatives to advocate for them in the government. Plato, an ancient Greek philosopher, wrote "Politics" and encouraged citizens to question the established government. Only free adult men could be citizens during this time; women and slaves were excluded from owning property or voting.
The most recognizable contribution the ancient Greeks made to architecture are their columns and pavilions. There are two types of Greek columns, Doric and Ionic. Doric is a minimalistic style, while Ionic columns were more ornate, with scrolls carved into each side. Many buildings in Washington, D.C. were based on classical Greek buildings. Universities and colleges, such as the University of Virginia, have ancient Greek influenced structures. The beautiful, clean style is still appreciated today.
During the Classical and Hellenistic periods of Greek art, the ancient Greeks idolized the human form. During this time, advances in sculpting and painting techniques were made that would influence the Italian Renaissance centuries later. Once classical Greek art was rediscovered, Italian artists began depicting the beauty of the human body as the Greeks once did. Along with modern religion themes of the time, Italian painters also painted scenes of popular Greek myths and stories.
- CWU Department of Theatre Arts: Theatre and Drama in Ancient Greece
- Ancient Greece: Theatre
- Ancient Greece: Threatre of Ancient Greece
- The History Guide: The Athenian Origins of Direct Democracy
- Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History: Architecture in Ancient Greece
- Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History: The Art of Classical Greece
- Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images