Greece is a relatively small country in Southeast Europe with a Big History!
It’s been around for a very long time. In fact, Greece is part of the area known as the cradle of civilization. How’s that for being a major player in the history of the world, huh?
Archaeologists are finding all kinds of cool stuff in caves, like skeletal remains dating back over 200,000 years!
They’ve uncovered settlements from the Neolithic period of history, too. That goes all the way back to the Stone Age! The settlements are some of the oldest ever found in Europe.
Having a history which goes back that far, Greece has been a big part of so many different areas in our modern life.
The people of Greece, as far back as 1,000 BC, began making some big contributions, which are still around today. They influenced much of western civilization.
How Did the Greeks Influence Modern Western Civilization?
The ancient Greeks were the first to create plays. Their model is the basis for scripts and movies and plays today. They invented tragedy, which is a story where the hero is defeated.
It’s attributed to three of the most famous and celebrated writers, Sophocles (saa' fuh kleez), Euripides (yr ip' uh deez), and Aeschylus (eh' skuh lus).
Hundreds of the plays they wrote in the 5th century BC are studied and acted out today.
For comedic relief, Aristophanes (eh ruh staa' fuh neez) was a playwright who focused on the funny side of things. He is referred to as the Father of Comedy. A comedy is a play where the hero wins!
The ancient Greeks were the first to write histories down. Herodotus (hr rah' duh tuhs), called by some the Father of History, wrote down stories about the Greco-Persian Wars.
Before that people traveled about and wrote what they experienced in a form called logography.
The information was written in a series of symbols that took the place of words and phrases similar to the way Egyptians used hieroglyphs.
Herodotus was the first to write out a history in a detailed and chronological order complete with tall tales and fables.
His writings about the wars attempted to figure out why the wars were happening. He wanted to understand the cause and effect of what was going on.
Historians have been following his approach to events of the past for more than 2,500 years!
Hippocrates (huh paa' kruh teez) is known as the Father of Medicine. He was a Greek physician who lived way back from 460 BC to 375 BC.
Many people believed, during this time and before, sickness was caused by the “wrath of the gods,” or by evil spirits.
Hippocrates was the first to teach that all illness has a natural cause. He started the first school of medicine. And his philosophy around medicine is where the Hippocratic oath came from.
This is an oath which today’s doctors still abide by. It set the standard of practice for people learning medicine.
The guiding principle is that doctors not intentionally harm anyone but treat their patients to the best of their abilities. There’s a lot more to it, but that’s the general meaning.
The Egyptians influenced the Greeks with their knowledge of math, but the Greeks took it much further.
The mathematicians and scientists of this era wanted exact numbers. They pondered and studied the “language of math.”
The result of all that digging? They made huge leaps in math. These thinkers provided the building blocks for future mathematicians and scientists. And what they figured out is still being taught today!
Pythagoras (pai thag' uh ruhs) and Euclid (yoo' kluhd) gave us some awesome advances in geometry.
And Archimedes (aar kuh mee' deez) is considered the Father of Mathematics. He introduced the concept of zero and the concept of infinity. You could say his ideas about math went from nothing...to everything!
The contributions Greek mathematicians made influenced everything from engineering and design to astronomy and physics. The geometric formulas they wrote were spot-on and continue to be used today.
The marble statues of ancient Greece still survive after all the centuries of wear and tear and weather and wars! The sculptors focused on the “beauty of the day.”
Not who was looking exceptionally pretty that day. More the idea of beauty that was prominent at the time.
They believed that beauty came from symmetry (the sameness of two sides.)
Their sculptures captured the human form in a way that was never done before. It was real and almost life-like.
No doubt, they used all sorts of materials, as any artist will do!
But anything made of wood didn’t last, as weather erodes and breaks down wood fibers. Pottery is often found in pieces.
But the marble and stone statues they created? They’re still considered works of art, and they're still around even after all this time. The muscles and even the hair seem to take on a life of their own.
The really old sculptures, carved from limestone, were actually painted. Of course, most of the paint has worn off over the centuries.
But flecks of color can be found on the ancient works to give us an idea of how beautiful they were back then.
Fun Facts About Greece
✔️The people don’t call their country Greece. The official name for the country is the Hellenic Republic.
The term “Greek” is an English version of the Latin word “Graecia.”
✔️The Greek alphabet was the first to use vowels. Good thing they did or we wouldn't be able to sing Old MacDonald Had a Farm!
✔️The term “marathon” comes from ancient Greece. During the Battle of Marathon in 490 BC, there was a messenger named Pheidippides (fai' duh paidz).
He reportedly ran from Athens to the plains of Marathon to report the victory of Athens over the Persian army. That's over 26 miles!
To commemorate the run, the marathon was added to the Olympic Games in 1896. Marathon races are still run today.
✔️The Greeks usually ate while reclining on their sides! This was a bit of culture that was adopted later by the Romans.
Get permission to try this eating style while you enjoy your Greek feast!
✔️Greek culture, in general, influenced a lot of Roman culture when the Romans invaded Greece.
They copied their religion, their architecture, and their language, among other things.
Time To Explore Greece!
Greece is a country that has a long and rich history. While this only scratches the surface, it’s a taste of one more place to explore on this big, beautiful planet of ours!
You can enjoy the tastes of Greece in our awesome Greece box at eat2explore, then check out our online resource: Explore Greece in a Week Lesson Plan!