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The Amazing History of Ancient Greece

Updated on April 16, 2020
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Morgan is a high school graduate with a passion for research and international studies with a plan to attend the University of Oklahoma.

Just How Ancient IS Ancient Greece?

Many people do not realize just how long the people of Greece have existed. While Greek civilization can be traced back to even before the Bronze Age (2,900 BC), it was known to be at its peak starting around 1,200 BC. This period, lasting until around 300-400 AD, was known for its architectural, artistic, political, philosophical, and scientific developments that had a major influence on future civilizations. Who knows how long it would have taken society to reach those developments had it not been for the Ancient Greeks!

Architectural Genius!

The Greek Parthenon, seen in the middle right side, is one of the most beautiful and ancient pieces of architecture in this world - built in 447 BC.
The Greek Parthenon, seen in the middle right side, is one of the most beautiful and ancient pieces of architecture in this world - built in 447 BC. | Source

Fun Fact No. 1

In Ancient Greece, people refused to eat beans out of fear/belief that they contained souls of the dead!

Religious Beliefs

The ancient Greeks had several forms of worship. Being a part of daily life, most - if not all - had at least one altar in their homes in order to privately worship the gods and goddesses. In terms of public worship, there were several monuments built in dedication to the gods. Many of these monuments are still preserved and recognized around the world today, such as the Parthenon - a temple for the goddess Athena, the Tempe of Poseidon, and the Ancient Olympic Stadium. The Ancient Olympic Games actually originated in order to worship the king of all gods, Zeus.

One of the most common and lasting forms of worship were to tell and write down stories. These have been told through writings such as Hesoid's Theogeny, and Homer's Iliad and Odyssey. They also practiced rituals and sacrifices - whether it be food or, well, more extreme methods such as animal sacrifice.

Fun Fact No. 2 - Gods and Goddesses!

There are believed to be well over 200 gods and goddesses in Greek mythology, including minor gods/goddesses, immortal heroes, and monsters born of the gods.

Ancient Greece Broken Down

Ancient Greek Traditions
Ancient Greek Accomplishments
Ancient Greek Beliefs
Story Telling
Genius Architecture
Polytheism
Rituals
Political Innovations
Olympic Gods
Sacrifice
Many Famous Philosophers
Daily Worship
Ancient Greece: The basics!

Ancient Greek Art and Philosophy

Ancient Greeks are well known today for their sculpting, pottery, and architectural skills. Sadly, much of it has been lost, but the parts that we are still able to see today are absolutely breathtaking. Some of the most well known artists of the Archaic Period were the six sculptors; Myron, Polyclitus, Phidias, Praxiteles, Scopas, and Lysippus. Some of their original artwork lives on through the Romans.

What has been well preserved for the most part though, is their architecture. One of the most notable would be the Parthenon, which was built in honor of the Olympian goddess Athena. Several other temples were built for the gods, such as the Temple of Olympian Zeus in Athens, the Temple of Apollo in Delphi, and the Temple of Hera in Olympia. The ancient Greeks also had several other monuments built, separate from temples but still in honor of the gods, such as the Ancient Olympic Stadium and the Theater of Epidaurus. These monuments still stand tall today as a reminder of the architectural genius and dedication of the ancient Greeks.

Ancient Art Forms

Ancient Greeks were known for their fantastic sculptors such as Myron, Phidias, and Scopas.
Ancient Greeks were known for their fantastic sculptors such as Myron, Phidias, and Scopas.

Fun Fact No. 3

While Ancient Greece had the world's first democracy, it only lasted 185 years!

Ancient Greek Philosophy

Many of the most renowned philosophers in all of history are from ancient Greece. Some of these include Thales, Plato, Socrates, and Aristotle. Thales is actually known by some for being the father of philosophy - and at the very least, the father of ancient Greek philosophy. He paved the way for those like Plato and Socrates.

Many philosophers were students of others - for instance, Aristotle was one of the most influential and skilled of the students of Plato, who was in turn a student of Socrates. Aristotle took a vastly different approach than his teacher. Aristotle believed in knowledge from experience, while Plato believed in knowledge coming from beyond physical senses. Meanwhile, Socrates preferred to question others on their beliefs and experiences in order to formulate his beliefs. These men were some of the most influential philosophers in history, making it even more impressive that they came from the archaic period of ancient Greece.

Now, their political systems varied significantly throughout several centuries.

Brilliance Shown in Sculpting!

Bust of philosopher Socrates.
Bust of philosopher Socrates.

Gods and Goddesses Explained

Olympic Gods and Goddesses:

  • Aphrodite: The Greek goddess of beauty, love, and desire. Aphrodite was said to be born out of the foam in the sea, after the downfall of the ancient god Uranus. Aphrodite was recorded in mythology as being married to fellow Olympic god Hephaestus, though was rarely faithful due to his hideous looks. While she had numerous affairs, the most well known was with Olympic God Ares. In fact, she was told to have had affairs with every Olympic god except for Zeus and Hades - which is rather surprising, as Zeus was known for his countless affairs. She also had relations with mortals Adonis, Paris, and Anchises. She had several children through these affairs. The most well known of her children include; Adrestia, Aeneas, Anteros, Deimos, Eros, Harmonia, Hermaphroditos, Himeros, Phobos, Pothos, Priapos, and Rhode.
  • Apollo: The Greek god of several things; sun, light, music, poetry, healing, plague, prophecy, knowledge, order, and beauty. Apollo is the son of Zeus and Leto, and the twin brother of goddess Artemis. Apollo was known for his lyre, given to him from his brother Hermes. Apollo too had his fair share of consorts, despite them typically ending in tragedy. He had few children, those being Aristaeus, Asclepius, Orpheus, and Troilus.
  • Ares: The Greek god of war. He is known to represent brutality, destruction, and sheer violence. Zeus is the oldest child of Zeus and Hera, with siblings being Hephaestus, Hebe, and Eileithyia. Ares was by far the most hated among the gods, and had he not been Zeus's son, would most likely have been thrown into Tartarus. Despite being the god of war, he has several known defeats - one of which, unsurprisingly, was by the goddess of war Athena. While he had numerous "relationships", the most famous was with Olympic goddess Aphrodite. Through these affairs, he had numerous children - most with Aphrodite. These include; Adrestia, the Amazons, Anteros, Deimos, Enyalios, Eros, Harmonia, Himeros, Oenomaus, Phobos, Pothos, and Thrax.
  • Artemis: The Greek goddess of the hunt, the moon, childbirth, chastity, and nature. Artemis was the daughter of Zeus and Leto, and twin sister of Apollo. Her and her twin brother were very defensive of their mother Leto, tracking down and harming any who so much as mocked her. Artemis was known for being extremely protective of her and her hunters' (also known as her priestesses) innocence and virginity - and always took action toward any who threatened it, even if it was one of her priestesses herself. Many tried to ruin Artemis's chastity, including long time hunting companion Orion. None lived to recount the occurrence.
  • Athena: The Greek goddess of war, wisdom, handicraft, and battle strategy. Athena's birth was quite strange; her father, Zeus, began to experience extreme headaches after swallowing his first wife, Metis who had been pregnant with Athena. When the pain became too great, Hephaestus struck his head with an ax. When his head split, Athena leapt from the opening in his skull. Athena is said to be the female counterpart of both Ares and Hephaestus. Known for being a virgin goddess, Athena never had any consorts or children.
  • Hades: The Greek god of the Underworld. Hades ruled over the land where souls went after death, and very rarely left it. Due to this, there are few myths regarding Hades - the most famous of which concerns one of the only times he did. This was to abduct Persephone, the daughter of Demeter, and claim her as his wife. Hades fell in love with the beautiful goddess Persephone, but when she refused to join him in the Underworld willingly, he kidnapped her. When Demeter learned of this, she abandoned her duties as goddess of the harvest in protest of this injustice. When the earth became dry and infertile, each of the Olympic gods visited her one by one in an attempt to bring her back - but she refused until her daughter was returned. This led to a compromise between Hades and Demeter - Persephone would remain on Earth for 2/3 of the year, and in the Underworld for the other 1/3. This corresponded with winter months, as it is believed that during that time, Demeter once again abandons her duties until her daughter returns. Despite having no children together, Hades remained completely loyal to Persephone - not even being tempted by Aphrodite.
  • Hephaestus: The Greek god of fire and blacksmiths. Due to his hideous appearance, he was thrown from Mount Olympus and crippled by his father Zeus, on behalf of mother Hera. In other tales, he was born solely through Hera by parthenogenesis, and it was her who crippled him. Despite his looks, he was the husband of Aphrodite. He was well known for his genius creations, including his automata, the mansions that each Olympic god and goddess resided in, and his phenomenal weapons and armor. His automata were his creatures that could listen, assist, and protect. He had his golden handmaidens and dogs, and the giant bronze man to protect Crete. While he had no children with wife Aphrodite, he was known to have children from Gaia - Erichthonius, and the youngest Grace Aglaea - Eucleia, Euthenia, Eupheme, and Philophrosyne.
  • Hera: The Greek goddess of marriage and family, and the Queen of the gods. While she remained completely faithful, her husband Zeus had numerous affairs, and Hera made sure each and every one of them paid for their mistakes. Hera gave Zeus five children, though he had many many others with his various love affairs. Those children were Ares, Eileithyia, Eris, Hebe, and Hephaestus. She was well known for her vengeful tendencies, usually managing to find some way to subject her husband's many consorts to long, very harsh deaths.
  • Hermes: The Greek messenger god, and god of tricks, roads, commerce, and thieves. Hermes was known for his various "pranks" on his Olympic family. The most notable of them would be him stealing Apollo's cattle (after which he returned home and tucked himself back into his cradle, appearing by all accounts sweet and innocent). However, this was resolved by his invention of the lyre, which he gave to his brother as an appeasement gift. He was also known for being his father's wingman in his affairs, and being the only one to travel seamlessly between the lands of the living and the dead. He had rather few consorts and children. These include; Abderus, Angelia, Autolycus, Cephalus, Eudorus, Hermaphroditos, Myrtilus, Pan, Peitho, and Tyche.
  • Hestia: The Greek goddess of the hearth. Though she is not involved in myths, she was known for being pure and peaceful. The third of the virgin goddesses, she swore a vow of chastity when both Poseidon and Apollo wished to marry her, as she did not want to cause turmoil. Despite the lack of myths, she was worshiped daily in nearly every Ancient Greek home at dinner time.
  • Poseidon: The Greek god of the sea. Known for being violent and short tempered, he was also feared for his ability to cause several natural disasters. He was well known for his vengeful habits, often turning against both gods and men. he, like his brother Zeus, was very fond of women. However, they typically did not return this affection, so he took them by force and trickery. Among these women were Demeter, Medusa, Amymone, Aethra, and wife Amphitrite. While he had fathered too many children to count, the most notable were; Arion, Atlas, Benthesikyme, Chrysaor, Despoena, Nauplius, Pegasus, Polyphemus, Rhode, Theseus, and Triton.
  • Zeus: The Greek god of the sky and thunder, and the King of gods. While he was extremely prideful and naive in the beginning, he led his siblings and children through the Titanomachy and the Gigantomachy. He also successfully prevailed against a mutiny from his fellow gods. Throughout his reign, he had seven wives and countless affairs. With too many children to name, the most well known were; Apollo, Ares, Artemis, Athena, Dionysus, Eileithyia, Eris, Hebe, Helen of Troy, Heracles, Hermes, Hephaestus, and the Muses.

Olympic Gods

Sculptures depicting the Olympic Gods.
Sculptures depicting the Olympic Gods.

To Conclude...

The Ancient Greeks, despite living so far back in time, were some of the most influential people in history in terms of art, politics, and philosophy! These things must continue to be preserved in order to remember the fantastic things accomplished in Ancient Greece.

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    • hubber8893 profile image

      Sourav Rana 

      7 weeks ago

      Thanks for writing this interesting article. It's really a great tribute to the history of greece and the people of ancient times.

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