Ancient Greece is often credited as the original birthplace of Western civilization. Though many know that Western culture was highly influenced by the Greeks, some might be surprised to know just how many Greek inventions are still in use today.
The Ancient Greeks introduced a system of government called "demokratia" in 507 B.C. The name translates to "rule by the people." This type of government included a system of courts and appointed representatives to establish laws and manage foreign policy.
Ancient Greeks began the tradition of hosting Olympic Games in 776 B.C. Dedicated to the gods of Olympus, the games featured the best and brightest athletes of all the cities in Greece. The games took place every fourth year and were a time of religious, political and democratic togetherness.
The Hippocratic Oath
The Greek medical text known today as "The Hippocratic Oath" established religious and ethical standards of care for physicians in ancient Greece. The text created a strong legal bond between those in the field of medicine and those in the community. Requiring strict loyalty to the profession, it was the first step toward universal medical training for doctors and nurses.
Ancient Greek architecture included the Doric and Ionic orders. In ancient architecture, both styles were applied to create constant symmetry and harmony in great structures. The most common features used in Greek architecture were grand pillars, rows of columns, decorative moldings and oblong designs. Inner shrines and temples were also a typical feature in the grand spaces of worship. Greek architecture can still be seen today, most notably in the U.S. Capitol Building.
The Peer Jury
Ancient Greek courts used peer juries to decide important cases. Though there is some evidence that the juries were filled primarily with only wealthy elders, the system established a body of peers to witness and decide cases. Juries were also called upon to pass judgment on potential laws presented by the Assembly.
Geometry and Mathematical Deduction
The Greeks studied geometry differently than those who came before them. A group of scholars under the direction of Pythagoras, called Pythagoreans, are credited with the application of deduction and reason to mathematical theorem. By studying the properties of numbers, and applying mathematical values to everything around them, Pythagoreans created new applications for math. Pythagoras is also credited as the first to prove the Pythagorean Theorum and discover irrational numbers.
Greek mathematician Archimedes developed a screw pump for removing and raising water using a screw encased and open at both ends. Turning the screw helps draw water up and outside of the casing. The process was used to bail out boats and to transfer water for irrigation. The Archimedes screw has been updated for modern use in irrigation and waster water removal.
The Greeks were the first civilization to break away from ancient mythology and apply evidence-based reasoning to explain life. Some of the greatest philosophers in history studied and taught in Ancient Greece -- Socrates, Plato and Aristotle. These philosophers of the ancient world placed heavy emphasis on political, social and educational involvement. Their arguments for deductive reasoning, and an ever-evolving reality, have translated for every generation since.
In 490 B.C., the Persian army invaded Greece. The Greek armies were outnumbered and relied on local runner Pheidippides to seek help and warn local leaders of impending attacks. In under 10 days, Pheidippides ran 280 miles over rough terrain. Legends recount his death as he finished his last 26 mile trek from Marathon to Athens. Pheidippides was credited for the Greek victory over the Persians. Greece still hosts marathons covering Pheidippides' final 26 mile route.
In ancient Greece, the theater functioned as a great equalizer. Citizens of all walks of life came together in theaters for festivals, celebrations and theatrical productions. Greek dramatists like Aeschylus wrote tragedies that served to communicate social and political concerns. Comedians like Menander wrote plays ridiculing the elite upper classes. Theatrical styles varied, but they all came together to provide commentaries on the issues of the day.
- History: Ancient Greek Democracy
- Olympic.org: Ancient Olympic Games
- National Institutes of Health: The Hippocratic Oath
- Metroplitan Museum of Art: Architecture in Ancient Greece
- University of St. Andrews: An Introduction to the Athenian Legal System
- Encyclopedia Britannica: The Archimedes Screw
- Ancient History Encyclopedia: Greek Philosophy
- Runners World: The Real Story of the Marathon
- Metropolitan Museum of Art: Theater in Ancient Greece