Facts about Ancient Greece
Ancient Greek is a period compromising almost 3000 years and it has been divided by the Greek writers into different ages.
First, the dark ages ( 1200- 750 BC)was a period when civilization went downhill with many natural calamities and also lack of literacy in the period led to very few sources remaining in this period.
The archaic age (800-500BC) was the recovery from the dark ages when urban centres again started emerging and we witnessed the emergence of city-states.
Classical Greece(500- 323BC) can be said to be the peak of Greek civilization with great achievements in art, architecture, philosophy, literature, theatre, etc. This was also the period when democracy flourished in ancient Greece.
The Hellenistic period(323-146 BC) was the period which stretched from the death of Alexander to the capture of Greece by the Roman Empire. The period witnessed great improvement in art and architecture but was also a period of political instability and the ultimate demise of the glory of Greece.
No one single ancient Greece
Ancient Greece was never one country or state like the modern Greek state in Europe. It comprised almost 1000 islands and about 500 states. Due to the rugged and mountainous topography of Greece, people found it difficult to communicate with the other Greek states and thus the different states grew up in almost isolation with different cultures and customs. It was a decentralized system of city-states ruled by different governments with their various political systems.
The word Greek or Greece was never used by the ancient Greeks themselves. The word ‘Greece’ was actually derived from the Romans and the ancient Greeks used the term ‘Hellas’ for the region and called themselves ‘Hellenes’.
The ancient Greeks wore a long cloth known as the chiton. It was made out of a single piece of cloth and was mostly worn white mainly by the aristocrats whereas the poor people only had a loincloth to wear against the weather.
The children were tested in ancient Greece especially in Sparta to identify any sort of weakness. Weak or slightly handicapped children were left to die outside the city as they wanted strong children to be able to take part in wars with weakness being shunned. Female infanticide was also common due to the heavy dowry which had to be paid during their marriage.
Ancient Greek Gymnasiums
Ancient Greeks loved sports and most cities in Ancient Greece had public gymnasiums where people gathered to train and relax. The Greeks believed that a healthy body was very important.
Most men and boys practised sports every day because they enjoyed them and wanted to keep fit. The sport was good preparation for war too. The Greek armies had to be fit enough to march long distances, carry all their heavy equipment, and then begin the fight with the enemy.
The most interesting part of these gymnasiums was that the participants often practiced naked as they thought it enhanced the aesthetic appeal of the male torso.
The Greeks had four national sports festivals, where athletes from different city-states competed against one another. The most important and the most well known contests was the Olympic Games which was even adapted into a worldwide games in 1896 which we know today . These were played at Olympia, every four years, in honor of Zeus. On the first day of the Olympics, sacrifices of grain, wine, and lambs were made to Zeus.
The Isthmian Games was another held at Corinth being named after the Isthmus of Corinth and were held every 2 years. It is said to have been created by the founder of Corinth, Sisyphus, as a funeral game. The festival included both musical and athletic competitions and was also used to honor the Greek God of the sea, Poseidon. The games were open to all Greeks and consisted of chariot races, wrestling, and boxing but only men were allowed. Women were only allowed to take part in musical and poetic events.
The third was the Nemean Games which were held at Nemea every two or three years and were held in the honor of Zeus. Hercules is said to have started the games after defeating the Nemean lions. The events included a foot race, a marathon like Long race, wrestling, a sport like boxing, and even a chariot race. The winners of the events received wild celery leaves from the city of Argos. Initially, the games were quite warlike and only allowed warriors before being allowed to all Greeks.
The Pythian Games were held every 4 years, two years before and after the Olympics, and took place in the sanctuary of Delphi in honor of Apollo and were considered the second most prestigious after the Olympics. The games lasted six to eight days and their pomp and glamour almost equaled the Olympics. A ritual took place in the temple of Apollo. The events were the same as the Olympics except for a four-horse chariot and the addition of a running race of boys. The games began with festivities and included music, prose, poetry, and painting. Even women were allowed to participate in both athletic and artistic events.
Women in the Olympics
Married women were banned at the Ancient Olympics on the penalty of death. The laws dictated that any adult married woman caught entering the Olympic grounds would be hurled to her death from a cliff! Maidens, however, could watch (probably to encourage getting it on later).
But this didn’t mean that the women were left out, they had their own games, which took place during Heraea, a festival worshipping the goddess Hera. The sport? Running on a track that is 1/6th shorter than the length of a man’s track on the account that a woman’s stride is 1/6th shorter than that of a mans!
The female victors at the Heraea Games actually got better prizes: in addition to olive wreaths, they also got meat from an ox slaughtered by the patron deity on behalf of all participants!
Overall, young girls in Ancient Greece weren’t encouraged to be athletes with a notable exception of Spartan girls. The Spartans believed that athletic women would breed strong warriors, so they trained girls alongside boys in sports. In Sparta, girls also competed in the nude or wearing skimpy outfits, and boys were allowed to watch (to encourage getting it on later marriage and procreation).
The ancient Computer
In 1901, a Greek sponge per discovered the wreck of an ancient cargo ship off the coast of the Antikythera island. One of the items recovered was an ancient mechanical computer that became known as the Antikythera mechanism. Scientists estimated that it was created in 150 to 100 BC.
For over a hundred years, scientists debated the true purpose of the Antikythera mechanism and marveled at the intricacies of the device (mind you, the mechanical clock didn’t appear in the West until about a thousand years later).
Recently, scientists believed that they’ve finally cracked the mystery:
Tony Freeth, a member of the Antikythera Mechanism Research Project, said he was astonished at the discovery.
The Olympiad cycle was a very simple and Important Facts, four-year cycle and you don’t need a sophisticated instrument like this to calculate it. It took us by huge surprise when we saw this.
But the Games were of such cultural and social importance that it’s not unnatural to have it in the Mechanism.