Top five Ancient Greek discoveries

Ancient Greek society was about a whole lot more than wrath-filled gods and mythical heroes. Here are just a few of the things the Ancient Greek did for us.

Top five Ancient Greek discoveries © Universal Images Group
1

Drama queens

Early theatre was born out of religious ritual, and it really began to take its own form in Ancient Greece. Developing in Athens between 530 and 220 BC, the plays revolved around three genres: tragedy, comedy and satyr, and were performed to crowds of up to 17,000. There were even some special effects: cranes could lift actors into the air and place them on the roofs of various stage buildings.

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2

Making a splash

The original ‘Eureka!’ moment occurred in the third century BC, when mathematician, philosopher and inventor Archimedes got into his bath. As the story goes, instead of settling down with the latest trashy novel, Archimedes used bathtime to work out that the upward buoyant force exerted on his partially submerged body was equal to the weight of the fluid it displaced. Thus, a fundamental law of physics was born: Archimedes’ principle.

3

Good sports

Beginning in the eighth century BC, the ancient Olympics were held (unsurprisingly) at Olympia, every four years. Originally a one-day event, the festival eventually extended to five days. Chariot racing, running and wresting each featured, but it wasn’t all about sport: 100 oxen were sacrificed to the god Zeus, with all but the thighs devoured by a hungry crowd.

4

Trial and punishment

Used in Ancient Greek courts to decide important cases, peer juries first appeared in Athens in c590 BC. But forget the 6-12 men and women we see in today’s courts: Athenian juries were chaps-only, and could number anything from 500 to 1,501 – because who could afford to bribe 1,502 people?

5

Ringing in the changes

We owe the curse of the morning wake-up call to Greek philosopher Plato, who allegedly needed help waking up for dawn lectures. Water would drain slowly through a funnel to a container beneath. As the second vessel filled, trapped air was forced out of a side vent, making a whistling noise. And so the alarm clock was born. Thanks, Plato!

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This article was first published in the October 2015 issue of History Revealed