Ancient Greeks believed in many gods. Some gods had control over certain aspects of nature. For instance, Zeus was the sky-god, sending thunder and lightning, Poseidon ruled over the sea and earthquakes, Hades projected his remarkable power throughout the realms of death and the Underworld, and Helios controlled the sun. Other deities ruled over abstract concepts; for instance Aphrodite controlled love. While being immortal, the gods were certainly not all-powerful. They had to obey fate, known to Greek mythology as the Moirai.
Moirai was 3 fates, that controlled the mother thread of life of every mortal from birth to death. They were independent, they directed fate, and watched that the fate assigned to every being would take its course without obstruction. The gods and men had to submit to them, although Zeus's relationship with them is a matter of debate, some sources say he is the only one who can command them.
The gods acted like humans, and had human mannerism. They would interact with humans, sometimes even spawning children with them. Some gods were specifically associated with a certain city. Athena was associated with the city of Athens, Apollo and Delphi city was Delos, Zeus with Olympia and Aphrodite with Corinth. Other deities were associated with nations outside of Greece; Poseidon was associated with Ethiopia and Troy, and Ares with Thrace.
The Greeks believed in an underworld where the spirits of the dead went after death. One of the most widespread areas of this underworld was ruled over by Hades, a brother of Zeus, and was known as Hades. Other well-known realms are Tartarus, a place of torment for the bad, and Elysium, a place of pleasantries for the virtuous. In the early Mycenean religion all the dead went to Hades, but the rise of mystery cults in the Archaic age led to the development of places such as Tartarus and Elysium. A few Greeks, like Achilles, Alcmene, Amphiaraus, Ganymede, Ino, Melicertes, Menelaus, Peleus, were considered to have been physically immortalized and brought to live forever in either Elysium, the Islands of the Blessed, heaven, the ocean, or beneath the ground. Some Greeks, such as the philosophers Pythagoras and Plato, also thought of the idea of reincarnation, though this was only believed by a few. Epicurus taught that the soul was simply atoms which dissolved at death, so there was no existence after death.
Greek religion had an extensive amount of mythology. It consisted mostly of stories of the gods, and how they interacted with humans. Myths often revolved around heroes and their actions, such as Heracles and his twelve labors, Odysseus and his voyage home, Jason and the quest for the Golden Fleece and Theseus and the Minotaur. There was not a set Greek cosmogony (creation myth). Different religious groups believed that the world had been created in different ways. One Greek creation myth was told in Hesiod's Theogony. It stated that at first there was only a primordial god called Chaos, who gave birth to various other primordial gods, such as Gaia, Tartarus and Eros, who then gave birth to more gods, the Titans, who then gave birth to the first Olympians. The mythology largely survived and later formed Roman mythology. Although initially it was shared orally, it was written down in the forms of epic poetry, and plays.
Various religious festivals were held in ancient Greece. Many were specific only to a particular god or city-state. There were also the Games held each year in different locations, culminating in the Olympic Games, which were held every 4 years. These celebrated Zeus.
One of the most important moral concepts to the Greeks was the fear of committing hubris (It typically describes behavior that defies the norms of behavior, or challenges the gods). Hubris constituted many things, from rape to desecration of a corpse, and was a crime in the city of Athens. Although pride and vanity were not considered sins themselves, the Greeks emphasized moderation. Pride only became hubris when it went to extremes.
The lack of a unified priestly class meant that a unified form of the religious texts or practices never existed, just as there was no unified common sacred text for the Greek belief system, there was no standardization of practices. Instead, religious practices were organized on local levels, with priests normally being magistrates (a civilian officer who administers the law) for the city or village, or gaining authority from one of the many sanctuaries. Some priestly functions, like the care for a particular local festival, could be given by tradition to a certain family. Greek ceremonies and rituals were mainly performed at altars. These were typically devoted to one or a few gods, and supported a statue of the particular deity. offerings would be left at the altar, such as food, drinks, as well as precious objects. Sometimes animal sacrifices would be performed here, with most of the flesh eaten, and the offal (variety meats, pluck or organ meats) was burnt as an offering to the gods. Libations (A libation is a ritual pouring of a liquid), often of wine, would be offered to the gods as well, not only at shrines, but also in everyday life, such as during a symposium (a drinking party).
Worship in Greece typically consisted of sacrificing domestic animals at the altar with hymn (a religious song or poem) and prayer. Parts of the animal were then burned for the gods, the worshippers would eat the rest. The evidence of the existence of such practices is clear in some ancient Greek literature.
A lot of our information on daily life comes from the scenes painted on pots to decorate them. Also from oral stories, poems, and plays.
In most cities social prominence did not allow special rights. Sometimes families controlled public religious functions, but this ordinarily did not give any extra power in the government. In Athens, the population was divided into four social classes based on wealth. People could change classes if they made more money.
Life in ancient Greece was quite different for men and women. While men were expected to take an active part in the public life of their city, women were expected to lead a private life as wives and mothers. Slavery was a big part of life in Greece. Families of reasonable wealth would have slaves to do the household chores, to go shopping at the market and even to help bring up children.
Slaves had no power or status. They had the right to have a family and own property, only if they got their master's permission, but they had no political rights. In 600 BC chattel slavery (The strictest sense of the term, a system where principles of property law are applied to people, allowing individuals to own, buy and sell other individuals.) had spread in Greece. By the 5th century BC slaves made up one-third of the total population in some cities. Between 40-80% of the population of Classical Athens (508–322 BC) were slaves. Most families owned slaves as household servants and laborers, and even poor families might have had a few slaves. Owners were not allowed to beat or kill their slaves. Owners often promised to free slaves in the future to encourage slaves to work hard. City-states legally owned slaves. These public slaves had a larger measure of independence than slaves owned by families, living on their own and performing specialized tasks. In Athens, public slaves were trained to look out for counterfeit coinage, while temple slaves acted as servants of the temple's gods, and Scythian slaves were employed in Athens as a police force corralling citizens to political functions.
For most of Greek history, education was private. Boys went to school at the age of seven, or went to the barracks, if they lived in Sparta. The three types of teachings were: grammatistes for arithmetic, kitharistes for music and dancing, and Paedotribae for sports. Boys from wealthy families attending the private school lessons were taken care of by a paidagogos (teacher), a household slave selected for this task who accompanied the boy during the day. Classes were held in teachers' private houses and included reading, writing, mathematics, singing, and playing the lyre and flute. When the boy became 12 years old the schooling started to include sports such as wrestling, running, and throwing discus and javelin. In Athens some older youths attended academy for the finer disciplines such as culture, sciences, music, and the arts. The schooling ended at age 18, followed by military training in the army usually for one or two years.
Literature and theatre
Ancient Greek society placed considerable importance upon literature. A playwright named Aeschylus changed Western literature forever when he introduced playwriting. In doing so, he essentially invented drama!
Music and dance
Music was present in almost everything in Greek society, from marriages and funerals to religious ceremonies, theatre, folk music and the ballad-like reciting of epic poetry. There are significant fragments of actual Greek musical notation as well as many literary references to ancient Greek music. Greek art depicts musical instruments and dance. The word music derives from the name of the Muses, the daughters of Zeus, who was the goddesses of the arts.
•Socrates - First of the great Greek Philosophers. He is considered by many to be the founder of Western philosophy.
•Plato - Student of Socrates. He wrote many dialogues using Socrates as a major character. He also founded the Academy in Athens.
•Aristotle - Student of Plato. Aristotle was a philosopher and scientist. He was interested in the physical world. He was also teacher to Alexander the Great
•Aeschylus - A Greek playwright, he is considered the father of the tragedy.
•Sophocles - Sophocles was probably the most popular playwright during Greek times. He won many writing competitions and is thought to have written over 100 plays.
•Euripides - The last of the great Greek tragedy writers, Euripides was unique in that he used strong women characters and intelligent slaves.
•Aristophanes - A Greek playwright who wrote comedies, he is considered the father of the comedy.
•Aesop - Aesop's fables were known for both talking animals as well as teaching a moral. Historians aren't 100% sure if Aesop really existed or was just a fable himself.
•Hesiod - Hesiod wrote a book that was about Greek rural life called Works and Days. This helped historians to understand what the daily life for the average Greek person was like. He also wrote Theogany, which explained a lot about Greek Mythology.
•Homer - Homer was the most famous of the Greek epic poets. He wrote the epic poems the Iliad and the Odyssey.
•Pindar - Pindar is considered the greatest of the nine lyric poets of Ancient Greece. He is most known today for his odes.
•Sappho - One of the great lyric poets, she wrote romantic poetry that was very popular in her day.
•Herodotus - A historian who chronicled the Persian Wars, Herodotus is often called the Father of History.
•Thucydides - A great Greek historian who was known for the exact science of his research, he wrote about the war between Athens and Sparta
•Archimedes - He is considered one of the great mathematicians and scientists in history. He made many discoveries both in math and physics including many inventions.
•Aristarchus - An astronomer and mathematician, Aristarchus was the first to put the sun at the center of the known universe rather than the Earth.
•Euclid - The Father of Geometry, Euclid wrote a book called Elements, likely the the most famous mathematical textbook in history.
•Hippocrates - A scientist of medicine, Hippocrates is called the Father of Western Medicine. Doctors still take the Hippocratic Oath today.
•Pythagoras - A scientist and philosopher, he came up with the Pythagorean Theorem still used today in much of geometry
•Alexander the Great - Often called the greatest military commander in history, Alexander expanded the Greek empire to its greatest size, never losing a battle.
•Cleisthenes - Called the Father of Athenian Democracy, Cleisthenes helped to reform the constitution so the democracy could work for all.
•Demosthenes - A great statesman, Demosthenes was considered the greatest orator (speech giver) of Greek times.
•Draco - Famous for his Draconian law that made many offences punishable by death.
•Pericles - A leader and statesman during the golden age of Greece. He helped democracy to flourish and led great building projects in Athens that still survive today.
•Solon - Solon is usually credited with laying the foundations and ideas for democracy
Important Contributions to the World
•Anchor: the Hellenic contribution to ship construction is huge. You’ve heard of the Argo, right? Well if not… google it. The Hellens are some of the firsts who make long sea voyages and who build ships that cannot be brought to shore, thus forcing them to find a way to tie their ships down when there is nothing left to tie them to. Anchors of huge stone have been built since the Bronze Age. Most often these anchors—often referred to as ‘teeth’, consist of sacks or buckets which are filled with stones, although later versions are now made of stone and already have the shape of anchors.
•Alarm Clock: the ancient Greek philosopher Plato, is most likely the first to possess an alarm clock. It is a water clock of some design, that when having counted to the desired time, plays something with the sound of a water organ. Ctesibius, has a device which will drop a ball of some sort onto a metal plate at a specified time, thus waking up the sleeping party.
•Cement: is a substance that sets and hardens independently. The Hellens have a version of this, adding limestone to a mixture of clay, water and sand. Its use has begun in 100 BC and onwards to this day.
•Central Heating: although the Romans perfected this design, the ancient Hellens already have a system in place where fire heats up air, which is then forced through pipes hidden under the floor. The air warms up the floor and the room.
•Coin Money: the Hellens are the first to develop coins of different sizes and materials and put a value on various trading goods.
•Maps: Anaximander, is the first to create maps with the concept of latitude and longitude, and it was later when the Hellens, Eratosthenes and Strabo created maps of the entire known world. Maps are one of the most ancient Greek inventions that are used your time (people watching).
•Plumbing: Athens begin to develop highly extensive plumbing systems for baths and fountains, as well as for personal use within individual homes. Many homes in ancient Greek are equipped with closets or latrines that drain into a sewer beneath the street.
•Sinks: the ancient Hellens are the first to have an automated sink with running water, so both hands can be washed at the same time. The ancient Greeks wash themselves with lumps of clay, have steam baths and rub their skin with oil, such as olive oil, which they then scrape off with an instrument called the Strigil, along with any dirt.
•Showers: The ancient Greeks are the first people to have showers. Their sewage systems made of lead pipes allow water to be pumped both into and out of large communal shower rooms used by elites and common citizens. The depictions are very similar to modern locker room showers, and even include bars to hang up clothing.
•Thermometer: Philo of Byzantium is a Hellenic Jewish philosopher who discovered that air expands when heated. He attached a tube to a hollow sphere and extended it over a jug of water. When the device is in the sun, air expands out of the sphere and into the water, creating bubbles. When he puts the device in the shade, nothing happens. Around the same time, Heron of Alexandra worked on the first thermometer for medicine.
The ancient Greeks, specifically the boys, enjoy physical activities, such as playing hockey. The boys often play their games naked so girls cannot watch them play. Ancient Greeks also enjoy going to the theatre for their entertainment. The Theatre has events that they can relate to their everyday lives such as dramas and comedies. The plays often involve politics and Gods. Women are not allowed to attend the theatre. They are not expected to do anything too physical, so they often play games like checkers, dice and knucklebones. Their lives are confined to the house which limits what they can do as entertainment. Another form of entertainment Greek men greatly enjoy is the symposium, also known as drinking parties. Women are also banned from these lively occasions, unless they are employed to entertain the men with music or dancing – even with their bodies. ‘Knucklebones’ is a popular game for both children and adults. One way of playing it is essentially the game ‘Jacks.’ when a “jack” is thrown into the air, players have to grab as many of the knucklebones as possible and then catch the falling “jack.”
10 Fun/Important Facts About Greece/Greeks
1. Greece has one of the oldest cities in the world!
Athens is the capital of Greece, and the first inhabitants to this city were present around the 11th-7th millennium BC. That makes it one of the world’s oldest cities. Athens is a mix of the old and the new, a draw for many tourists today.
2. The Parthenon was built to honor Athena
Perhaps you didn’t realize how fascinating (and important) this building really was. It was originally built as a temple dedicated to the goddess Athena in 438 BC.
The Parthenon is considered one of the world’s greatest monuments. While built as a temple, it was mainly used as a treasury, and in the 5th century, was converted into a Christian church. Once the Ottoman Empire took over, it was converted into a mosque in the 1460s.
It was then when the sacred building was damaged, after an ammunition dump was ignited and exploded, causing severe damage to the building and the sculptures within it.
3. Greece is the third largest producer of olives in the entire world!
Greece is the third largest producer of olives in the entire world. Olive trees have been planted by the Greeks since ancient times, and continue to be big business even today. Considering the popularity of olives in Greek food, it should come as no surprise.
There are estimated to be around 120,000,000 olive trees in Greece, and some of the olive trees from the 13th century are still producing olives today.
4. Greece has more islands than you can count
Yes, that’s a fact. It’s estimated that Greece has anywhere from 1,200 to 6,000 islands, depending on the minimum size to take into account. But of all of these islands, only between 166 and 227 are inhabited. The largest of the Greek islands is Crete which is at the southern edge of the Aegean Sea, but there is an island to fit any mood.
5. Greece has over 100 archeological museums
Possibly more than any other country, Greece has a large number of archaeological museums for history buffs to explore. Often located near excavation sites, these museums offer a glimpse into the vast history of ancient Greece.
While some museums are dedicated to a specific time period like ones devoted to the Byzantine Empire, others are devoted to specific themes such as theatrical art and painting. You can even visit museums dedicated to science, technology, and the art and history of seamanship. A trip to Greece could truly be the learning experience of a lifetime.
6. Greece has one of the largest varieties of wildlife in all of Europe
In addition to their history and islands, Greece is known for its variety of wildlife due to its diverse geography. You have the coastlines and the islands, but the rest of Greece is made up of hills and mountains, giving plenty of species the right environment to thrive. Mammals like the fox, deer, elk, bear and a rare white goat known as the Kri-Kri call this country home, among many others.
But it’s not just mammals that live here; there is also an abundance of reptiles and amphibians, including a few snakes. Sadly, many of the animals are in danger of becoming extinct, including about a half of the mammal population.
7. Greek’s highest point was the home of the Gods
Mount Olympus is the highest point in Greece, and it was believed to be the home of the Olympian Gods and Goddesses. Mount Olympus rises to 9,750 feet. If you’re the mountaineering type, you can visit Olympus and even reach its peaks. You’d likely start out in the town of Litochoro, translating to The City of the Gods because of its location.
Climbing the mountain isn’t impossible for many people, except for the final section to the Mytikas peak which is tricky to climb, but 10,000 people are estimated to climb the mountain each year. So far, not a single one of them has run into Zeus.
8. The Ancient Olympics were nothing like the Olympics today
Yes, we all know that the Olympics started in Greece around 2,700 years ago, but they weren’t the same ones we have today. In the first Olympics in 776 BC, there was only one event, not the multitude that we see now, and it was a short 200 meter sprint. In fact, during the first 15 games, running was the only sport included in them.
Thousands of people from all over Greece would come to watch the game, as the main stadium held 45,000 people. Even in times of war, the fun went on. During the Olympics, the Greeks would set aside one month as a truce so athletes and spectators from different parts of Europe could come to the games.
And there were no gold, silver, and bronze medals for those who won, just olive wreaths for the winner and possibly some money or jars filled with olive oil and celery sticks.
9. In the month before the ancient Olympics, no wars were permitted so that spectators could travel from across Greece unharmed
10. Griffins were 'created' because of Greece 🇬🇷
The myth of the Griffin began when fossils of Protoceratops skulls were found in gold mines near Ancient Greece.