Ancient Greece: History and Heritage

by DavidPaulWagner

All of us owe the world of ancient Greece a debt. The modern world has inherited many valuable things from ancient Greece including drama, philosophy, medicine, and much more.

Ancient Greece is the culture which got the Western world started. Our modern world has been heavily influenced by Greece, right down to the very words we use in our everyday life -- for example, "biology", "geology", "drama", "crisis" and "philosophy" (to name just a few). In this page we will explore some of the history and heritage of ancient Greece.

The Golden Age of Greece

During a brief 50 year period during the 5th century BC, Ancient Greece -- or more specifically the city-state of Athens in Ancient Greece -- enjoyed its so-called Golden Age.

This was a period of great political and cultural achievements that we still look back to today as one of the sources of Western civilization.

Until the 5th century BC, Athens had been ruled by a series of tyrants, but now, under the rule of Cleisthenes and later Pericles, it became a democracy (Greek for "rule by the people"). All male citizens had a part in running the city-state. They could ask questions or have debates in the Assembly (the ruling body of Athens).

Citizens could bring cases in front of a jury of their peers (there were no judges or lawyers).

Taxes were collected and the proceeds were used to maintain the city, pay public servants and equip the army and the navy. The rich were taxed more heavily than the poor.

Athens: Ancient Greek Supercity

Greek Literature, Philosophy, Fine Arts, Science and Medicine

During the Golden Age, Athenian dramatists, such as Aeschylus, Aristophanes, Euripides and Sophocles, wrote tragedies or comedies that are still performed today.

Athens produced great philosophers too, including Socrates, Plato and Aristotle. The 20th century British philosopher spoke for many when he wrote: "The safest general characterization of the European philosophical tradition is that it consists of a series of footnotes to Plato".

The ancient Greeks made breakthroughs in the fields of science and medicine. Greece's renowned scientists and doctors included Archimedes, Pythagoras and Hippocrates. Some of the philosophers wrote on the sciences too (for example, Aristotle wrote on astronomy, zoology and many other fields of science).

Athens and Ancient Greece excelled in the fine arts too. Their wonderful architecture and sculpture in particular have always been greatly esteemed. Ancient Greek temples such as the majestic Parthenon in Athens and sculptures such as Laocoön and His Sons have been admired and imitated over the centuries.

In today's world we use many concepts and words drawn from from Ancient Greece and more particularly from Athens. These include words such as democracy, tragedy, comedy, the names of the major sciences (including astronomy, biology, geology, physics and zoology), the names of major medical fields (including cardiology, dermatology, neurology, and oncology) and thousands more specialized words for scientific and medical concepts (such as myocarditis).

Plato's Academy

Plato's Academy as depicted on a floor mosaic in Pompei
Plato's Academy as depicted on a floor mosaic in Pompei

The Legacy of the Greeks

"Athens, the eye of Greece, mother of arts
And eloquence."

-- John Milton, Paradise Regained (1671)

The Ancient Greeks certainly were not perfect -- women could not take part in the Assembly, slavery was a part of daily life.

Yet their ideas and their ideals, their flourishing culture and their enquiring minds have left a rich heritage for all generations of the Western world that followed.

The Parthenon, Athens, Greece

Greek architecture at its zenith
The Parthenon
The Parthenon
Steve Swayne

Ancient Greece on the Internet

Greece - Geography, History, Language and Literature.
A detailed history of Greece from the earliest times, plus Greek geography, language and literature.

Aristotle quotes
Quotes from the Greek philosopher, Aristotle.

Plato, ancient Greek philosopher
Fascinating summary of life and thought of Plato.

Plato quotes
Quotes from the Greek philosopher, Plato.

More Articles on History

Ancient Rome was a republic and then an empire that existed for almost a thousand years. Today's world has inherited a wonderful heritage from ancient Rome.
Updated: 05/22/2015, DavidPaulWagner
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DavidPaulWagner on 09/20/2015

Thanks very much, Veronica. Most appreciated.

Veronica on 09/19/2015

Your ancient history posts are fascinating and perfect as a comprehensive presentation as Elias says.

Very interesting ty

EliasZanetti on 03/01/2013

Brief but comprehensive presentation! You have many interesting posts about many larger than life and interesting persons!

DavidPaulWagner on 10/15/2012

Thank you, 2uesday. I have never been to Greece personally but know about it just through the medium of books. It must have been a wonderful surprise to find more than a few ancient remains scattered here and there! Andre Malraux spoke of the "voices of silence" that are there for those who take the time to look.

2uesday on 10/14/2012

One of the reasons that I have enjoyed my visits to the Greek islands is discovering the wonderful artifacts that they have in the museums there. Sometimes when you are out walking you discover the ancient remains of places that existed there in the past. I remember one day climbing up a hillside in the heat of a summer's day. I have to admit once or twice I thought to myself is this worth the effort? I had expected to see just a few scattered stones and broken columns that day. In the end it was truly worth the effort. When I got to the top of the climb, there were paintings on the rocks of lions and dolphins and that is one of my lasting memories of visiting that island.

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