Ancient Greece was a powerful nation, whose conquests are legend. In his time, he managed to create one of the largest empires in the world, starting in Greece and going up to the Himalayas. His contribution to science and philosophy is still recognized in modern society and is regarded as the basis of Western civilization. This article will explore how to learn about ancient Greece and invite you to try some Greek experiences!
Method 1 of 3: The Basic Timeline
Step 1. Familiarize yourself with the time period of ancient Greece
Greece, as an empire, was active for a time before the Roman Empire originated in approximately 800 BC. C. and continued until the Romans conquered it.
- To the period prior to the year 800 a. C., It is known as the Dark Ages of Greek history and the era after that is commonly known as the Archaic Epoch. At this time, the great cities, philosophy and science, theater, classical art, law and Greek writing began to lay their foundations. This era had many rulers known as tyrants (a word we still use today) whose gradual overthrows paved the way for Greek democracy and the Athenian model of government. Artistically, this era was influenced by the Egyptians and what we now call the Middle East. This is commonly known as the orientalization of Greece.
- After the last tyrant was overthrown in 510 BC. C., marked the beginning of the Classic Period which is, perhaps, the best known of all. The most remarkable fact of this time occurred when the Athenians successfully defended Greece from the Persian invasion. This period continued until the Hellenistic civilization began in 323 BC. At this time, the empire became dominant under the command of Alexander the Great, who rose to power and expanded the empire to India. This time ends with the death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC. C., and continues with the Hellenistic Period.
- The Hellenistic period focuses more on maintaining the empire, but ends in 146 BC. C. when the divided Greek Empire falls to the Roman conquest and is part of the Roman Empire.
Method 2 of 3: The Basics of Greek Society
Step 1. Consider the social structure of Greece
Ancient Greece had a strict social structure, but was more flexible in other areas.
- In many ways, Greece was more democratic than its former neighbors, the Romans, since social status did not give additional rights. Democracy is a Greek word.
- In Athens, there were four main social classes, but if you made more money and owned property, you could move up the social ladder.
- Education was an important factor in moving up the social ladder, since most rights were granted once education had been completed. However, the education was expensive and private and consisted of hiring a tutor. Apparently, only the Spartans had a public and compulsory education.
- Slavery was common in Greece, but it was different from Roman slavery. The Greeks treated their slaves better than the Romans. Beating or killing them was forbidden, and many slaves were offered freedom as an agreement to do their jobs better. However, the count of the slave population varies because they were the majority of the total population. Even so, it is clear that they were an important part of the population and many of them carried out a job in the public service. Unlike the Romans, slaves did not accommodate the rights of the citizen after obtaining their freedom, but were part of a social group known as "metic". On the other hand, in Sparta, things were harsher for the slaves, since normally the group of slaves of an army that had just been conquered was assassinated.
- The men had an obligation to serve the army, as it was not only a way to maintain and defend the empire, but they also taught engineering and management.
Step 2. Explore Greek religion and mythology
Before Christianity became the main religion in AD 529. C., the Greeks were pantheists and the veneration of heroes was an important factor.
- One of the central dynamics of the religion focused on the epic conflict between the gods of Mount Olympus and the Titans. The gods and the titans are characters of the same creation myth, but they were always divided and at war. The Greek gods and goddesses were more biographical and personalized than the Roman gods. Also, these deities and legends had a complex relationship between themselves and humans.
- The (almost cultured) venerations of heroes such as Heracles (also known as Hercules), Perseus, Achilles, and their respective stories were important to Greek society, as they served as examples and sources for national pride. The "anti-hero" was also important, but he was not the villain of the story, but an unheroic or soft character who was not close to becoming a hero or acting heroically.
- The ancient Greeks also got to know the Hindu religion and other religions thanks to a king known as Menander I Soter (or Milinda in the Indo-Greek world), who clung to Buddhism and reigned for 150 BC. C. in the eastern part of the empire. This religion influenced Greek architecture, which in turn strongly influenced Roman architecture. On the other side of the territory, the influence extended to Japan.
- The Greeks also focused on oracles and prophecies, such as the famous oracle at Delphi. Prophets normally went into a trance and priests translated their expressions for those who had paid for the prophecy.
- After the Roman conquest, many of the Greek gods were synthesized with their Roman equivalents, this worked so that the Romans can continue to worship their gods in Greece. This synthesis increased the power of the Roman gods. Most planets (not counting Earth, Mars, and Venus) are named after Greek gods and goddesses.
Step 3. Learn about the philosophy and science of Ancient Greece
Normally these two fields were part of the same school, whereas today philosophy is a separate field and is sometimes not considered a science.
- Learn more about famous Greek philosophers and scientists such as Thales of Miletus, Socrates, Plato, Epicurus, Pythagoras, Zeno of Citius, Euclid, Archimedes, and others.
- The early philosophers were more interested in science than in wisdom, but in the classical period, wisdom, ethics, good governance, and other virtues were just as important. Greece was normally at war with other nations belonging to Greece itself (such as Athens or Sparta), but they also faced nations outside their empire, such as the Persians and other nations, so philosophy was an important science.
- The Greek language has contributed a lot to our language, as many modern names within science come from ancient Greek words. Some examples of this are the words physics, philosophy, astronomy, geography, mathematics, and cartography.
- Other interesting technologies and inventions include machines for lifting objects and building roads, the antithera (believed to be a complex astronomical calendar) compasses, astrolabes, headlights, showers, water mills, and many other machinery for which they used steam and water. as a source of energy.
Method 3 of 3: Daily Life
Step 1. Explore the culture of ancient Greece
The Greeks loved music, dance, poetry, and theater. They liked tragic and comic works as well as epics like the Odyssey and the Iliad. They also enjoyed the stories about the battles between Athens, Troy, Sparta, and other nations, which remain classics to this day.
- The theater developed mainly during the classical period, after the Persian invasions destroyed much of the Athenian work. This revival and reconstruction led to a great reinvention of Greek literature to the point that the word actor had its origins in Greece. The Greeks formed large audiences in theaters, as it was the main source of entertainment.
- Masks were a key custom in Greek theater and some of them even had metal-based instruments that functioned as megaphones to amplify the actor's voice. The famous pair of comedy and tragedy masks, which is a symbol of the theater, has its roots in Greek theater.
- Some of the most famous playwrights were Sophocles, who narrated the story of Oedipus; and Aristophanes, who did many comedies, but also wrote "The Clouds" a fictional parody of Socrates. Some time later, this parody was used as evidence to show (falsely) that the philosopher was immortal; as a consequence, he was sentenced to drink from hemlock.
- Traditionally, music in classical Greece was an expression of philosophy, as a metaphor for the harmonies of the universe with everything vibrating in harmony. It was also an expression of ethos, some pieces were played at certain times according to their inherent qualities. Later, music became a form of entertainment.
- It can be said that the music of ancient Greece was more varied than modern music, as it had tones and semitones. Greek tones were up to a quarter of a tone and even finer tones to create the perfect balance.
- Greek instruments included strings, winds, and percussions. They had instruments like panpipes, lyres, and harps; as well as more complex instruments such as the citara, the drum, the trumpets, shells, and a hydraulic organ known as hidraulis. Later, these instruments were adopted by the music of ancient Rome.
Step 2. Learn about the cuisine of ancient Greece
Greece had an essentially Mediterranean diet, but it was not as complete or varied as today's Greek food.
- The cuisine of ancient Greece was frugal and austere, the main influence coming from the city of Sparta, a word that, to this day, remains synonymous with frugal and austere.
- The ancient Greeks loved wine. For the men, a frequent way to hang out was to attend a symposium, a gathering that took place at night and attended by a few men (the only women who entered were courtesans and artists). The meal included nuts, cereals and legumes as well as honey cakes to extend the drinking time. As in Roman culture, the great festivals were reserved for religious and wealth themes, but even so the Greeks were still more austere considering the extravagances of the Roman Empire.
- Bread was a staple ingredient, made mostly of wheat or barley, which was ground to make a paste or dried to make flour. Bread was leavened with yeast and other ingredients to increase size, but was subsequently reserved only for holidays. Bread made in bakeries was expensive, so most of the food was made with basic products and at home.
- The Greeks ate vegetables, such as cabbage, onion, garlic; and legumes, such as peas, chickpeas, beans, and lentils. Poor people had their own foods that included acorns, carob beans, and wild herbs.
- Fruits included figs, pomegranates, raisins, and grapes if available.
- The olive was an important ingredient, since this plant survived the hot and dry climate and grew in the alkaline and infertile soils of the region. From this plant, both olive oil and olives for pickles were obtained.
- Drinks usually included water. The Greeks considered water as a nutritious source of life. Just as nowadays a taster can describe and even judge the origin of a wine, in those days, water experts could do the same. Wine was a common drink. Normally, it was served with water, as it was believed that, if taken pure, it could be fatal or cause insanity. Milk was not drunk regularly, although it was possibly because its qualities were not maintained in that climate, so it was only used to make cheese.
- Meat was very important in the Greek diet, as fresh produce was difficult to harvest and was not easily transported. If the poor had access to land, they usually raised geese and chickens, but they also hunted hares and birds for entertainment. Sausages were consumed by all social classes, but the price of a suckling pig in a city butcher shop was equal to the pay of three days of work. Normally, sautéed and cooked meats were consumed, as fresh meats usually required a religious ceremony in which the fat and bones were burned in honor of the gods.
Step 3. Dress like the ancient Greeks
Greek clothing was normally made at home. While in the movies they are portrayed as white garments, the true Greek fabrics were quite colorful and patterned. No full traditional clothing has survived to our time, so much of what we know comes from art and mentions made in ancient literature.
- The clothes were made mainly of wool and linen, usually imported from Egypt and other countries of the Greek empire.
- Both men and women wore a suit known as a chiton, which was a large, rectangular piece of cloth that usually ran from the shoulders to the floor. Generally, men wore it up to their knees, while women wore it up to their heels. The excess fabric made it look like a robe. It was fastened and secured with a belt or clasp under the wearer's chest. Sometimes the fabric was pleated to give it a more decorative touch.
- Men and soldiers normally wore a cape made of wool that was roughly the size of a blanket and which, at the same time, served as a blanket. Generally, it had an edge that prevented fraying and also gave it a decorative touch.
- The himathion was a winter garment worn by both men and women over the chiton, although it was sometimes worn alone. It resembled the Roman toga, but it wasn't that long.
- Usually, women wore veils or shawls because modesty was an important virtue, but it also served to protect themselves from the sun and the weather during trips and public events.
Step 4. Explore more facets of ancient Greece
You can learn more from online sources, documentaries, museums. You can also ask history experts to better understand an empire (its culture, its people, etc.) whose effects are still felt in the modern world.