Over two thousand five hundred (2,500+) years ago, ancient Greece was made up of many hundreds of little villages and towns grouped together at the southern end of a very large peninsula that jutted out from Europe into the Mediterranean Sea. (A peninsula is a piece of land surrounded by water on three sides.) Smaller peninsulas stuck out from the main Greek peninsula forming a great deal of natural coastline and many natural harbors.
As the population grew, towns teamed up together to form bigger towns that could be better defended. In time, ancient Greece grew into a collection of over 1500 different, independent Greek city-states, each with its own government and its own way of doing things. Some city-states, like ancient Corinth, were ruled by kings. Some, like the warrior city-state of Sparta, were ruled by council. Ancient Athens, the jewel of the ancient Greek city-states, experimented with an early form of democracy. The ancient Greeks all spoke the same language, they worshiped the same gods, they thought of themselves as Greeks, but they were very loyal to their city-state (their home town.)
The Greek city-states did, on occasion, team up against a common foe. They also went to war with each other, unless the Olympic Games were in progress. The Greeks invented the Olympics, and took the event quite seriously. Nearly all the ancient Greek city-states sent teams to participate. If two or more Greek city-states happen to be at war with each other when the game date arrived, war was halted for the duration of the games. The Greek Olympics were not the only games in ancient Greece - the Greeks loved competition of all sorts - but the Olympics were the most important. Every city-state wanted to brag that their athletics (their statues, their theatre, their fabrics) were the best!
Daily life in most of the ancient Greek city-states, like Athens, Corinth, Megara, and Argos, was similar. The exception was Sparta. In Sparta, women were warriors. Women did not ask their husband's permission to do anything. Men lived in barracks. Women lived in homes. Women ran businesses. They worked in the fields. Girls, as well as boys, went to school. The Spartans were warriors. Great works of art were common in ancient Greece. But no great works of art came out of Sparta. Warriors came out of Sparta. In times of war, you wanted Sparta on your side!
In the rest of ancient Greece, families lived together. Men worked in the fields or in their town. They might visit a barber shop, where they heard the latest gossip and news. They came home expecting the house to be clean, the kids to be tidy, and dinner ready to be served. Except in Sparta, Greek women could not leave their home, even to visit a neighbor, unless they had their husband's permission. In the home, however, women were in charge. Provided they had their husband's permission, women could also shop in the marketplace or visit a temple in the center of town. Boys went to school. Both girls and boys had pets and toys, played games, and helped with the chores.
All the people in the ancient Greek city-states, including Sparta, were deeply religious. Every day, they thanked and worshiped their many gods. They loved to tell stories and brag about their powerful gods. Poseidon, lord of the sea, could raise his hand and a new island would appear! Apollo brought up the sun every day, and his twin sister Artemis brought up the moon. Hades, god of the underworld, loved his three-headed dog. Nobody liked Ares much, but he was a very important god, because he was the god of war. The Greeks believed in thousands of gods and magical creatures, and believed that each and every one of them could interfere in their daily lives and often did. Their gods were always causing trouble! The mighty Zeus, king of all the gods, probably caused more trouble than any of them, even more than Aphrodite, the goddess of love.
Many of the Greek mythical beings looked like people, but some looked like monsters, because, well .. they were! Fortunately, the ancient Greeks found a way to beat these monsters with trickery and cleverness, two skills that were greatly admired by the ancient Greeks. Being Greek, they bragged about that too.
To be fair, the ancient Greeks had a great many things to brag about. The Greeks invented so many things that we still use and enjoy today that we call their inventions Gifts from the Greeks - gifts like the Olympics, democracy, the theatre, comedy, tragedy, the wheelbarrow, the alphabet, advances in medicine and science, architectural wonders like the ancient Greek columns, and tales of gods and legends and heroes and fables, to name a few.
Come meet the clever, creative ancient Greeks, and enter a world of competition, trickery, and myth. Learn how the brave Greek hero Theseus escaped the maze, a trick you might find handy some day. Discover how the king of Corinth tricked the powerful god of the underworld and got away with it! Meet Apollo's Oracle, where things are not always as they seem. Argue with Socrates, the great teacher. Join Hercules on 12 dangerous missions and battle evil monsters. Read Aesop's fables, a collection of very short stories that are still popular today. Welcome to ancient Greece!
Gifts from the Greeks:
Mr. Donn's Interactive Quizzes with answers - TEST