The civilization and culture of ancient Greece has evolved over thousands of years, beginning in Mycenaean Greece and continuing most notably into Classical Greece, having been immensely influential on language, politics, educational systems, philosophy, science, exploration, literature, architecture, mathematics and technology both historically and contemporarily.
Sciences and Technology
Mathematics, Algebra and Geometry: the discoveries of Thales of Miletus who is often described as the ‘father of science’, Pythagoras as the ‘father of numbers’, Diophantus of Alexandria as the ‘father of algebra’ and Euclid of Alexandria as the ‘father of geometry’ have contributed to the development of sciences and are still used in teaching today all over the world.
The Greeks developed astronomy, which was treated as a branch of mathematics. Aristarchus of Samos was the first to suggest a heliocentric system whereas Eratosthenes and Hipparchus of Nicea made several contributions, which are considered by historians to be a major phase in the history of astronomy.
The first ancestor of the computer was an analog device that calculated the movements of planets and predicted celestial phenomena, dating from about 80 BC, called the Antikythera mechanism.
Doctors still refer to the Hippocratic Oath which was regarded as laying the foundations of medicine as a science, instituted by Hippocrates, the ‘father of medicine’.
However, the leading figure in the fields of science and technology during classical antiquity and one of the greatest scientists of all time was no else than Archimedes. Being a mathematician, physicist, engineer, inventor and astronomer, he excelled in all scientific fields, with many of his achievements, inventions and contributions laying the foundations for modern science, creating a legacy for humanity. Two of the world-famous phrases attributed to Archimedes are the exclamation ‘Eureka!’ (meaning ‘I have found it’) the moment when he made a discovery and ‘Mi mou tous kyklous taratte!’ (meaning ‘do not disturb my circles’) referring to his mathematical work as his last words when killed by a Roman soldier.
Philosophy, Historiography and Language
The works of Socrates, Plato, Aristotle and other Greek philosophers profoundly influenced Western European tradition, as their contributions mark a turning point in western thought. A new period of philosophy started with Socrates, who marked a watershed in ancient Greek philosophy.
Herodotus is widely known as the ‘father of history’, his Histories being eponymous of the entire field. He was succeeded by authors such as Thucydides, Xenophon and Demosthenes, all of them marking the historical period of Ancient Greece as unique in world history for being the first period evidenced directly in proper historiography.
Having the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, Greek language holds an important place in the histories of Europe, including works of monumental importance and influence for all Western civilizations. Greek roots are often used to coin new words for other languages, whereas Greek is the predominant source of international scientific vocabulary.
Democracy as a political system first appeared in ancient Greek political and philosophical thought in the city-state of Athens during classical antiquity, now regarded as not only the birthplace of democracy, but also the birthplace of political philosophy in a broader context.
Pericles was the most prominent and influential leader of Athens during the Golden Age, rendering the city the cultural center of the ancient Greek world; whose most visible legacy can be found in the Temple of Parthenon on the Acropolis, together with other glorious architectural masterpieces.
Architecture and Arts
The art of ancient Greece has exercised an enormous influence on the culture of many countries from ancient times until the present, particularly in the areas of sculpture and architecture.
Ancient Greek society placed considerable emphasis upon literature, which is considered to have started with the epic poems The Iliad and The Odyssey by Homer, which remain giants in the literature for their skillful and vivid descriptions. Drama was essentially invented by Aeschylus, changing Western literature forever. Sophocles, Euripides and Aristophanes were other influential playwrights, creating the genres of satyr, comedy and tragedy, leading the theatrical culture to flourish and to expand its boundaries outside Greece, preserved until today.
Overall, the civilization of ancient Greece is considered to be the seminal culture which provided the cradle and foundation of Western culture. The cultural and technological achievements of Greece have greatly influenced the world, being imparted to the East through Alexander the Great’s conquests, and to the West via incorporation into the Roman Empire and the succeeding Byzantine Empire.