5 Great Accomplishments of Ancient Greece
Ancient Greece gets to be tagged as one of the greatest civilizations to ever exist because of the numerous and important contributions to areas such as mathematics, astronomy, medicine, literature, philosophy and governance. There is no doubt that our Western civilization was based on the political, social and other intellectual innovations of the ancient Greeks.
To show just how important ancient Greece was to the course of human development and progress, here are 5 great accomplishments of ancient Greece.
Ancient Greeks were the originators of democracy
It is a well-known fact that the concept of democracy first originated from ancient Greece, particularly from the Greek city-state of Athens. Long before the Romans had their senate, the ancient Greeks were already familiar with a system of governance that sought to create equal opportunities for it citizens. The generally held belief is that democracy in Greece was introduced to the Athenians around the fifth century BCE (in the year 507 BCE) by a great thinker known as Cleisthenes. The Athenian leader established a set of political reforms (demokratia) that emphasized “rule by the people”. Revered as “The Father of Democracy”, Cleisthenes’ political invention also comprised the separation of three institutions. His goal was to place power in the hands of the people (kratos).
Seeing how democracy is widely practiced in our modern world, this particular invention of Cleisthenes is undoubtedly the most significant and enduring contribution by ancient Greece.
Contributed immensely to numerous branches of science
Very few ancient civilizations in the history of the world can claim to have made as many contributions to the physical sciences as the ancient Greeks did. Ancient Greek scientists such as Pythagoras, Aristotle and Archimedes contributed immensely to fields such as mathematics, astronomy, biology, zoology, and physics.
Archimedes (287 BCE – 212 BCE) for example was an absolute mathematics genius best known for his many inventions while living in the court of the King of Syracuse. He famously used density to figure out whether the king’s crown was made from pure gold or not. Many of his inventions were used to defend Syracuse against attacks by the Romans. For example, Archimedes is credited with inventing a large crane (known as the Claw of Archimedes) that was used to such devastating effect in tipping enemy ship over.
Greek philosopher and scientist Aristotle was way beyond his time that he reasoned that the earth was not flat but rather a globe. A student of the great philosopher Plato, Aristotle contributed immensely to the fields of botany and zoology, earning the title the “Father of Zoology”.
With regards to Pythagoras (c. 570 BCE – 495 BCE), the Ionian Greek philosopher and mathematician came out with many mathematical and scientific ideas, most famous of them being the Pythagoras theorem which he used to calculate the length of sides of right-angled triangles. His ideas in ethics, geometry and religion had tremendous influence on the likes of Plato and Aristotle as well as Nicolaus Copernicus and Isaac Newton.
Did you know: The mathematics genius Archimedes was able to get the value of pi using the “method of exhaustion”?
Ancient Greece achievements in the area of philosophy
In spite of all the infighting that took place amongst the various ancient Greek city-states, as well as the constant threat from Persia, the Greeks were still able to produce world renowned philosophers. Western civilization as we know it owes a lot to the contributions made by influential philosophers such as Socrates, Aristotle, Epicurus and Plato. Socrates for example not only came out with the Socratic Method of examining things around us, but he also had tremendous influence on philosophers Plato and Xenophon. Born in Deme Alopece, Athens, Socrates is widely considered as the father of political philosophy.
Socrates’ student Plato (428 BCE – 424 BCE) also did very well in developing the field of metaphysics, ethics, and political philosophy. His written dialogues such as the Apology, the Symposium and the Republic have been pivotal in shaping human reasoning throughout history.
Did you know: Alexander the Great’s military campaigns and conquests helped spread ancient Greek culture and technological innovations to other parts of the Mediterranean and beyond?
Started the Olympic Games
In 776 BCE, the ancient Greeks began arguably the greatest sporting festival in the history of mankind – the Olympic Games. The Games, which were organized every four years, were used mainly to honor the Olympian gods, particularly Athena and Zeus. The sporting spectacle was a time period that witnessed peace amongst the various Greek city-states, as all conflicts and wars were halted to allow people from all over Greece to converge on the plains of Olympia. Initially, the sporting events that took place were foot race and diaulos (similar to the modern day 400-meter race); however, as time progressed, chariot race, boxing, wrestling, and gymnastics were added to the ancient Olympics.
The ancient Greek Olympic Games endured until the latter part of the 4th century CE, when it was banned by Roman Emperor Theodosius I. After more than a millennium and half, the Olympic Games made a comeback in the year 1896 in Athens, Greece. Unlike the ancient Olympic Games, modern Olympic athletes and sportsmen and women do not have to be Greek male and compete nude.
Contributions to theatre
Ancient Greeks’ love for theatre allowed for two types of plays – comedy and tragedy – to flourish. In terms of comedy, no one wrote better plays than the father of comedy, Aristophanes (c. 446 BCE– c. 386 BCE). Born in the Greek city-state of Athens, Aristophanes was a genius of comic playwright who produced famous works such as The Clouds (423 BCE), The Women at the Thesmophoria Festival (411 BCE), and The Wasps (422 BCE). He had such a unique way of bringing to life on stage the social life and political environment of the ancient Greeks.
The goal of ancient Greek tragedy writers such as Aeschylus, Euripides and Sophocles was to express in a vivid manner what ancient Greeks held most dearly. For his contribution to the tragedy genre, Aeschylus is considered the “Father of the tragedy”.
Sophocles for example wrote more than 100 plays in his lifetime. Many of his plays, including Oedipus the King and Antigone, inspired (and continue to inspire) writers throughout the centuries.
Did you know: The comic playwright Aristophanes is also known as “the Prince of Ancient Comedy”?
Other important achievements and discoveries by ancient Greece
The following are some very notable achievements and inventions made by the ancient Greeks:
- Water mill
- Water clock
- Torsion catapult
- Invented three types of columns – the Doric, the Ionic, and the Corinthian
- Screw press
- Lighthouse – the lighthouse at Piraeus
- An analog computer – the Antikythera mechanism
- Many of the symbols used in math and physics came from the Greek alphabet
- Fire hose
- Advancements in medicine and evidence-based methods of treating illnesses
- Ancient Greeks were the first known civilization to use showers and have plumbing systems.