Greece: Cultural Information

Category: Greece - 2nd LYCEUM OF KOS Created: 11 January 2014
Last Updated: Monday, 13 January 2014 19:42 Published: 11 January 2014
Written by Hlapanis Giorgos Hits: 2804


Five thousand years of history have molded many political systems/types of governing (monarchy, city-state, dictatorship, etc.). In Classical Greece as early as 594 BC, there was already a sense of democracy (in Athens) and this paved way for the democracy that is being practiced today.

Philosophy, Science and Mathematics

Greeks developed philosophy during the Classical period as a way of understanding the world around them, without resorting to religion, myth, or magic by making make inferences from observations. Early Greek philosophers were also scientists who observed and studied the known world, the earth, seas, and mountains here below, and the solar system, planetary motion, and astral phenomena, above. The three most distinguished philosophers of ancient Greece were Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. Aristotle was a Greek philosopher and also a scientist (born 384 BC). His writings cover many subjects, including physics, metaphysics, poetry, theater, music, logic, rhetoric, linguistics, politics, government, ethics, biology, and zoology. Aristotle's writings were the first to create a comprehensive system of Western philosophy, encompassing ethics, aesthetics, logic, science, politics, and metaphysics. All aspects of Aristotle's philosophy continue to be the object of active academic study today.


Some others notable Greeks who contributed to Science and/or Mathematics are: Pythagoras of Samos (6th century) made influential contributions to philosophy and religious teaching in the late 6th century BC. He is often revered as a great mathematician, mystic and scientist, but he is best known for the Pythagorean theorem which bears his name. Democritus (460-370 B.C.) formulated an atomic theory for the universe. He realized the Milky Way was composed of millions of stars. He was the author of one of the earliest parapegmata tables of astronomical calculations. Euclid of Alexandria (c. 325-265 B.C.), often referred to as the "Father of Geometry". His Elements is one of the most influential works in the history of mathematics, serving as the main textbook for teaching mathematics (Euclidean geometry) from the time of its publication until the late 19th or early 20th century. Archimedes of Syracuse (c.287-c.212 B.C.) was a mathematician, physicist, engineer, inventor, and astronomer. Among his advances in physics are the foundations of hydrostatics, statics and an explanation of the principle of the lever. He is credited with designing innovative machines, including siege engines and the screw pump that bears his name. He used the method of exhaustion to calculate the area under the arc of a parabola with the summation of an infinite series, and gave a remarkably accurate approximation of pi. He used infinitesimals in a way that is similar to modern integral calculus. Eratosthenes (c.276-194 B.C.) was a mathematician, geographer, poet, astronomer, and music theorist. He was a man of learning, becoming the chief librarian at the Library of Alexandria. He invented the discipline of geography, including the terminology used today. He is best known for being the first person to calculate the circumference of the earth. His calculation was remarkably accurate. He was also the first to calculate the tilt of the Earth’s axis (again with remarkable accuracy). He also created the first map of the world incorporating parallels and meridians, described countries of Europe, Asia, and Libya. Hippocrates of Kos (c. 460-377 B.C.) is considered one of the most outstanding figures in the history of medicine. He is referred to as the father of western medicine in recognition of his lasting contributions to the field as the founder of the Hippocratic School of Medicine in Kos island. Previously, illness had been thought to be a punishment from the gods. Medical practitioners were priests of the god Asclepius. Hippocrates studied the human body and discovered there were scientific reasons for ailments. He made diagnoses and prescribed simple treatments like diet, hygiene, and sleep. The Hippocratic Oath requires a new physician to swear that he will uphold a number of professional ethical standards.


Greece is located at the southeastern part of Europe. The capital of Greece and the largest city is Athens, one of the world's oldest cities, with a recorded history spanning around 3,400 years. Greece features a vast number of islands, between 1,200 and 6,000, depending on the definition. Due to its highly indented coastline and numerous islands, it has the 11th longest coastline in the world with 13,676 km coastline.


Greece is home to the first advanced civilizations in Europe and is considered the birthplace of Western civilization, beginning with the Cycladic civilization on the islands of the Aegean Sea at around 3200 BC, the Minoan civilization in Crete (2700–1500 BC) and then the Mycenaean civilization on the mainland (1900–1100 BC). The Classical period was a 200 year period in Greek history and culture (5th -4th centuries BC). This period had a powerful influence on the Roman Empire and greatly influenced the foundations of the Western Civilization. During the 4th century BC, Philip II of Macedon managed to unite Greek States. His son who succeeded him to the throne, Alexander the Great, was tutored by Aristotle and by the age of thirty had created one of the largest empires of the ancient world, stretching from the Ionian Sea to the Himalayas. He remained undefeated in battle and is considered one of history's most successful commanders. He managed to bring the East into close connection with the European civilization during the Hellenistic period (326 BC -31 BC).  Later on, Greece became part of the Roman Empire.

During Middle Ages in Western Europe, the Byzantine Empire (Byzantium) predominated in Greece. Initially the eastern half of the Roman Empire, it survived the 5th century fragmentation and collapse of the Western Roman Empire and continued to exist for an additional thousand years until it fell to the Ottoman Empire in 1453. During most of its existence, the empire was the most powerful economic, cultural, and military force in Europe. After the conquest of Constantinople (Istanbul), several Greek intellectuals fled the city before and after the siege, with the majority of them migrating particularly to Italy, which helped fuel the Renaissance and marks the end of the Middle Ages.

Greece was under Ottoman occupation for almost 400 years, when on the 25th of March, 1821 the Greek people stood up against the Empire and achieved full independence just 7 years later, in 1828. The 25th of March is now a Greek national day.


Art in Greece began in the Cycladic and Minoan civilization and has mainly five forms: architecture, sculpture, painting, pottery and jewelry making. During the Classical and Hellenistic period it came to its peak, it influenced Roman art and continued in the Byzantine and post-Byzantine period (Cretan school, El Greco). The Parthenon, a temple situated at the Acropolis of Athens (ancient citadel) and dedicated to the maiden goddess Athena, is the most important surviving building of Classical Greece, regarded as an enduring symbol of Ancient Greece, Athenian democracy, western civilization and one of the world's greatest cultural monuments. Its decorative sculptures are considered some of the high points of Greek art.


Greek music has been through many places over the years. In the Byzantine era, the music of the Byzantine Empire was the Byzantine music composed to Greek texts as ceremonial, festival, or church music. Greek folk music is named Dhimotiká. There are distinct types of it, such as Nisiotika which is a general term denoting folk songs from the Greek islands. From the early 1920’s quite popular are the Rebetika initially appealing to the lower class. The central instrument of Rebetika is the bouzouki which also originated from Asia Minor refugees.


Homer is the author of the Iliad and the Odyssey, and is revered as the greatest of ancient Greek epic poets. These epics have had an enormous influence on the history of literature. Tragedy is a type of dance-drama based on human sufferingthat formed an important part of the theatrical culture of the city-state. Sophocles, Aeschylus and Euripides were the most known writers of the Classical period. Contemporary Greek literature is represented by many writers, poets and novelists: Nikos Kazantzakis (ZORBA the greek), Antonis Samarakis, Andreas Embeirikos, Kostas Karyotakis, Constantine P. Cavafy, while poets George Seferis and Odysseas Elytis have been awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.


Ritual sporting events are seen in Minoan art (gymnastics, bull-leaping) and funeral games are known from Homer’s Iliad. The ancient Olympic Games were as much a religious festival as an athletic event. The games were held in honor of the Greek god Zeus. They began in 776 BC in Olympia and they were a series of athletic competitions among representatives of city-states of Ancient Greece. The games or Olympiad were held every four years which became a unit of time in historical chronologies. The prizes for the victors were olive leaf wreaths or crowns. The Olympics also featured religious celebrations and artistic competitions. During Olympic Games, a truce, or ekecheiria was observed.

The revival of the Olympic Games by Baron Pierre de Coubertin began with the 1896 Olympics which were held in Athens. Modern Olympic Games were also held in Athens in 2004. During the last 30 years Greeks are mostly fond of their National Basketball and Football teams.