How They Communicated in Ancient Greece

Ancient Greeks used many creative methods for communicating.
... Medioimages/Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images

If you were to time-travel back to ancient Greece you wouldn't find Pericles using social media to gather citizens in joining him to help spread the concept of democracy. However, the ancient Greeks were highly innovative and creative in the ways in which they communicated in times of celebration, sorrow and war. Some communication methods were used from one single person to another, between armies, leaders, and from an emperor to his citizens. Other types of communication involved relaying messages to the gods.

1 Stentorophonic Horn

The stentorophonic horn, also known as a ''tube,'' was an effective communication device for delivering messages to thousands of people at once. It was commonly used in war and an example of it sits today in the Vatican's museum. Alexander the Great and other military leaders would use this horn to speak to armies or to let other armies know of their location. The sound could be heard from up to 100 furlongs or about 12 1/2 miles away. Depending on weather conditions, the range and pitch quality would vary because air density plays a role in sound quality and how it travels.

2 Sending Messages

Messages ranged from short and sometimes vague modes of communication to detailed ones. Light signals were used across the sky to give quick and urgent messages. The ancient Greeks also borrowed a concept that was developed in 2000 BCE by the Sumerians in which pigeons delivered messages. Complete and detailed messages were later accomplished by using tablets containing the alphabet. The historian Polybius (203-120 BCE) described the system in which two parties had tablets arranged in the same order and would know which letters to use to decode messages based on the use of a signalman's torch. Depending on how many times the torch was raised and at what angle dictated which letter the other party would use to decode the message.

3 Speaking

Like most other societies, the ancient Greeks communicated by speaking. The Greeks were the first Europeans to have an alphabet -- one that eventually gave birth to all modern European languages spoken today. There are various theories regarding the origin of ancient Greek language. Some scholars like Geoffrey Horrocks, author of "Greek: A History of the Language and its Speakers," believe the language traveled with the Proto-Greek speakers in 2500 BC to 1700 BC via the Greek Peninsula. There were multiple dialects that included the Doric, Ionic and Aeolic that came from different tribes spanning from Sparta, Crete and the islands in the Aegean Sea all the way to West Coast Asia Minor.

4 Communicating to Gods

In ancient Greece people had ultimate love and respect for their gods and to many degrees they also feared them. To avoid angering their gods or to communicate and ask for blessings, ancient Greeks would pray, give a sacrifice, perform in theater or put on a festival such as the Olympic games. For example, if a fisherman had a long voyage out to sea ahead of him would have likely prayed to Poseidon the god of the sea and asked him to bestow calm seas and to grant a safe passage. He might also offer up a collection of his caught fish or something else of value in the form of a sacrifice to show his respect by giving to the god without asking for empty favors.

Jen Saunders is an entrepreneur and veteran journalist who covers a wide range of topics. She made the transition to writing after having spent 12 years in England where she studied and taught English literature.