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Answers to Your Questions About Ancient Greece

Updated on January 14, 2015
Yours truly on island of Delos, birthplace of Apollo and Artemis.
Yours truly on island of Delos, birthplace of Apollo and Artemis.

For students of Greek Myth & History

Many visitors to my Ancient Greece Travel Diary surf in through Google, looking for answers to questions like "What are the Roman names for Greek gods?" and "map of the Odyssey."

I hope you'll have a chance to browse my photos and ramblings about my Greek odyssey, but sometimes you just need the answer, right now. So I've checked the questions that keep popping up, and I've attempted to answer them below.

Some of them, anyway.

(Sorry, anonymous Google surfer. I have no idea how tall Medusa is.)

Timeline of Ancient Greece - Greek History at a Glance

Temple of Apollo on Mt. Parnassos (own photo)
Temple of Apollo on Mt. Parnassos (own photo)

Here's my Timeline of Ancient Greece.

I packed a lot of info there, but if you need more, here's some other good web pages on classical Greek history:

Greek Gods, Goddesses, and Famous People

Chart of Greek names and Latin equivalents

Stars (*) mark the twelve gods of Olympus, the Olympian gods. Hover cursor over links for a quick rundown of each god, or click links for in-depth entries on The Theoi Project. Or test yourself with my Gods of Olympus Trivia Quiz.

Don't see the name you need? Check these charts on Encyclopedia Mythica or MessageNet.

† There was no Mythology Police in Greece, and some writers and localities had a slightly different list. Hades never gets to be on Mt. Olympus because he's god of the underworld, but in some myths Hestia is one of the twelve, while others name Dionysos, or even "also-rans" like Herakles, Leto (Apollo and Artemis' mom), Asklepios.

What about Apollo? The Romans and their predecessors, the Etruscans, had their own local gods and nature spirits before the Greeks colonized it. Usually, they'd equate local gods to the Greek god that matched. However, there was no exact equivalent for Apollo, god of light, medicine, knowledge and prophecy. Therefore, he was imported without a name change. (In classical Greece, Apollo was not the sun-god; that was Helios. It was only in the Hellenistic period that Apollo began to merge with Helios.)

How Do We Know Where Things Were 2500 Years Ago?

We know a lot about the geography of ancient Greece because of writing: coins, art and inscriptions identify places whose names have changed in the last 2500 years (in many cases, they haven't changed a bit). We know even more from archaeological sites: the ruins are still there, after all, often buried beneath the streets of modern towns. But a lot of places in mythology can't be pinpointed with certainty, either because they're made up and never existed, or they disappeared long ago.

Best Books on Ancient Greece - Art, Myth & Culture

It's hard to pick just five! But here's some of my top recommendations.

The Genealogy of Greek Mythology: An Illustrated Family Tree of Greek Myth from the First Gods to the Founders of Rome
The Genealogy of Greek Mythology: An Illustrated Family Tree of Greek Myth from the First Gods to the Founders of Rome

Incredibly useful chart: all the gods and mythological names are here, well-organized; there's also inset boxes summarizing most major myths like the Labors of Hercules, the voyage of the Argo, and more.

 
Early Greek Myth: A Guide to Literary and Artistic Sources, Vol. 1
Early Greek Myth: A Guide to Literary and Artistic Sources, Vol. 1

Great resource for the graduate student or scholar: two-volume set on Greek myths with details on what parts of the myths come from which sources. Great present for college students studying Greek or classics.

 
Art and Myth in Ancient Greece (World of Art)
Art and Myth in Ancient Greece (World of Art)

An unusual and very readable book discussing classical art not by style or historical phase, but by subject matter!

 
Art and Experience in Classical Greece
Art and Experience in Classical Greece

Archaeology, art, and history of classical Greece. One of my old reliable textbooks as an undergraduate in classical studies.

 
The Art and Culture of Early Greece, 1100-480 B.C.
The Art and Culture of Early Greece, 1100-480 B.C.

Same thing, but for the preclassical (and especially the Mycenaean/Bronze Age) period.

 

The Wanderings of Odysseus - Maps of Place Names in Homer's Odyssey

Where did Odysseus go? Where did Circe live? Where was the island of the Cyclops? We don't know for sure, but readers of Homer have been arguing about it for thousands of years!

Family Trees of Greek Gods and Heroes - Mythological Genealogy

Whew! I'd love to design my own well-researched mythological family trees for this website, but I've got a lot on the To Do List. So for the moment, I'm going to give you links to others I've found.

Like so much in ancient mythology, there are a lot of variant myths about who's related to whom and how, so these aren't set in stone.

How Do I Know All This Stuff?

When you find information on the internet, always ask yourself, "Who wrote this and how do I know what she's posted is accurate?" After all, ANYONE can post anything-- and that includes Wikipedia articles, by the way! I'm sure I've made a few mistakes, but here's my academic background:

  • Bachelor's degree in classical languages (Greek and Latin), Bryn Mawr, cum laude
  • Masters in classics, Tufts University; worked for the Perseus Project
  • Masters in mythological studies, Pacifica Graduate Institute
  • Taught at university level: First year Latin, Greek and Roman roots of English
  • Teacher's assistant: Greek mythology, western art history (including art of Greece, Rome, Egypt)
  • Bard/amateur storyteller in the Society for Creative Anachronism

So that's me, and that's all for now! I hope you've found this page useful. Now, to thank me, please observe the following simple rule:

Don't be a greedy

Charybdis! Always give credit when you use someone's words or pictures.

© 2008 Ellen Brundige

Reader Feedback and Comments

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    • Hobgoblin LM profile image

      Hobgoblin LM 9 years ago

      Cool lens. I found it very informative. Sort of a 101 things you wanted to know about Greece but were afraid to ask:-) Good work.

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      anonymous 9 years ago

      how did the greeks get oliveoil?

    • mythphile profile image
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      Ellen Brundige 9 years ago from California

      Sam: The olives are ground up and mashed into paste by millstones, then the paste is squeezed by some kind of press to get out the oil and water. That liquid is put into some kind of container where you can skim the oil off the top of the water. [url=http://www.oliveoilsource.com/mill_and_press_facts...]Here is a great website[/url] about how olive oil is made today which has pictures of some old (although probably not classical) equipment. The machines used today are more complicated and efficient, but the ancient Greeks followed the same steps using simpler equipment.

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      anonymous 9 years ago

      what is the term described as a society where peoples roles are based on whether they are men or women?

    • profile image

      anonymous 9 years ago

      The list of Greek/Roman names got mixed up towards the end.

    • mythphile profile image
      Author

      Ellen Brundige 9 years ago from California

      Uri -- cross fingers -- with a little help from friends in the SquidU lounge, I think I've fixed it. Thank you very much for alerting me to the problem!

      jersychick-- I'm so sorry. I've thunk and I've thunk, and I've done some searching, but all I can come up with is "division of labor by gender." I have a feeling there's a term from anthropology that I'm forgetting, but I'm stumped!

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      anonymous 9 years ago

      what is a hearthfire?

    • mythphile profile image
      Author

      Ellen Brundige 9 years ago from California

      jane: hearthfire is the central fire kept inside the home before electricity. Most meals were cooked over it, and it provided warmth and light. A fireplace is one kind of hearth fire, and even though it's just a luxury nowadays, think how families gather around it on cold, dark days, even hang stockings on it at Christmas. A hearth is an old symbol of "home sweet home," plus it's what people used to cook before stoves were invented, so it makes people think of a good home-cooked meal.

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      anonymous 9 years ago

      do you know much about the aincent sports and how we today know of them?

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      Kitsune64 8 years ago

      Fantastic lens, with a lot of great information. I especially like the maps. Nice job!

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      anonymous 8 years ago

      how long was pluto of aincent greece how long was he a god?

    • mythphile profile image
      Author

      Ellen Brundige 8 years ago from California

      [in reply to school kid] Argh, it's far too late to help you with schoolwork -- I'm sorry, I've been doing my own lately, writing a dissertation! But just in case anyone else asks: I don't know THAT much about ancient sports, except that in Greece they were often done as part of religious festivals, and they rotated between 4 different cities, one each year. Olympus was the most important, so that's why the Olympics were/are every 4 years! There were foot races, discus throwing, wrestling, boxing, chariot races... that's what I remember off the top of my head. Athletes got honored with statues and inscriptions, and sometimes left offerings in temples thanking the gods for their victories, so that's how we know about them. Also people talked about sports then as now, so you read about great charioteers and racers in classical Greek literature, in comic plays, etc.

      Here's a link that may help: The Ancient Olympics

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      anonymous 8 years ago

      Thanks for the obvious tedious work in preparing and providing the wealth of information here. I will be going to Greece for the first time in Sept and have begun to lean the history and more on these pages. The best I have seen yet.

      Again thanks for sharing your knowledge.

    • profile image

      anonymous 7 years ago

      thank you for studying all this info for us, you are a good person for that, sorry but i have on more question, are ancient greek houses still in use today, and if they are what for?

    • mythphile profile image
      Author

      Ellen Brundige 7 years ago from California

      @anonymous: The short answer is: I don't know for sure!

      However, I can make some educated guesses. I know that lot of ancient Greek houses were made of materials like mud brick and wood that would've crumbled away by now. Some houses were made partly with stone, so it's possible they've been kept up and reused. However, I doubt it: that would be big news in archaeology, and I think I would've heard of such a house.

      However, I have heard of OTHER kinds of ancient Greek buildings surviving. Big, important buildings tended to be made out of stronger materials, so they were more likely to last. For example:

      1) The Parthenon, the big temple of Athena in Athens, was converted to a Christian church, then a Turkish mosque. I'm sure other Greek temples have gotten turned into churches.

      2) In modern times, the Stoa of Attalos -- an ancient Greek shopping mall in Athens -- has been rebuilt from ruins and turned into the Agora Museum, displaying artifacts found in nearby excavations.

      3) On the island of Naxos, if you look in medieval houses and walls around the main town, you'll see bits and pieces of beautiful white marble in walls, steps, doorways. They're chunks of an old Greek temple that used to stand at the edge of the harbor! So few pieces of the original temple are left standing that we don't even know what god the temple belonged to.

      I'm betting that some of the stones of modern Greek buildings are recycled from old Greek houses and other temples.

      Hope that helps. Great question! :)

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      AnneDam 6 years ago

      I have a question,

      what were the political and economical benefits in ancient greece when people married?

    • mythphile profile image
      Author

      Ellen Brundige 6 years ago from California

      @AnneDam: Ooh, that's a good question, deserving an essay not a pat answer. Let me take a stab at it.

      Marriages were essentially political alliances between noble families, or between families of lower economic status, tying the fabric of the community together. Kinship with another family meant allies rather than enemies within the community. Aristocratic families regularly reinforced and renewed their alliances and obligations to each other through marriage. Marriage was always arranged by parents, or, if the man was over thirty, the bride's parents would negotiate with him directly.

      The most direct benefit, both political and economic, was children. One needed children to help with and inherit family businesses, farms and/or property, to keep property within the family, and to maintain the family line. Some families had special posts within the community that were hereditary, like the priests of certain cults (I think Eleusis was one). Children were also vital to the polis, which needed citizens.

      Who got the economic (from oikos, "household") benefit from the arrangement? The man would get a dowry (which he hoped was a rich one) from his young bride's family, and of course a woman to supervise his household slaves and maintain the house -- think of Penelope as an idealized version of what a man hoped for in a wife. Respectable women were not allowed outside the house much and couldn't work in public, so marriage for a woman was simply the only way she could survive. The bride's family would get someone to take their daughter off their hands so they no longer had to support her.

      As you can see, the bride's family didn't get as much out the deal, since they were paying to have a girl taken off their hands. That's why female infants were sometimes exposed at birth.. But still, daughters were a useful bargaining chip. Women were classified like slaves, as property, a valuable resource. Women did not have any say in their choice of "master" -- parents or husband -- they just prayed for a good one. If a wife failed to produce children, the husband would divorce her, which again shows what the basic goal of marriage was. The bride was at least somewhat protected from being divorced by the fact that her husband would have to repay the dowry if he got rid of her. It's hard to imagine putting up with a system like that, but girls were raised from birth with this as The Way Things Were; they knew of no other way to live, to marry, and to have a family.

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      WriterBuzz 6 years ago

      Nice idea for a lens. Very informative. Gave you a quick thumbs up

    • hotbrain profile image

      hotbrain 6 years ago from Tacoma, WA

      What a great idea for a page! Angel blessed and enjoyed :)

    • MargoPArrowsmith profile image

      MargoPArrowsmith 6 years ago

      1. I have been to that theater where you are pictured

      2. Angel Blessed and lensrolled to Born to Be Angelic and My Greek Odyssey

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      JoyfulPamela2 5 years ago from Pennsylvania, USA

      Oh, I'm so excited to find your pages!! As we are studying ancient cultures in our homeschool this year, this page and your others will be a fantastic resource for us. Thank you very much!! =D I'm adding this to our study lens. AngelBlessed!

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      Rose Jones 5 years ago

      Back to pop a Squidoo blessing on this page: this is really excellent information. A teacher could make a whole unit just off of this lens.

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