Over two thousand five hundred (2,500+) years ago, ancient Greece was made up of many hundreds of Greek city-states, grouped together at the southern end of a very large peninsula that jutted out from Europe into the Mediterranean Sea. Smaller peninsulas stuck out from the main Greek peninsula, forming a great deal of natural coastline and many natural harbors. It's no wonder the Greeks were great sailors and fishermen!
The ancient Greeks believed in thousands of gods, goddesses, and magical creatures. They built temples to honor their gods. They prayed at home. They prayed all the time. Honoring their gods was part of their daily life and part of just about everything they did. That's because they believed their gods controlled the heavens and earth, and could interact with humans and cause all kinds of trouble!
A huge mountain range ran down the middle of the Greek peninsula. The people believed that the ancient Greek mystical world was ruled by a small group of powerful gods called the 12 Olympians, who lived at the top of the highest mountain, Mount Olympus. You could try to get to the top, but you'd never make it. The top of Mount Olympus was hidden in fog and snow and magic. When things had to be decided in the mythical world, the council met on Mount Olympus to discuss things, which was a very Greek thing to do - talk it over first, then go to war or get even!
The Greeks told wonderful myths about their 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. Most of the gods avoided Ares. Nobody liked him much, but he was the god of war, so you had to keep him on your side if you could. The mighty Zeus, king of all the gods, probably caused more trouble than any of them, even more than Aphrodite, the goddess of love. The Greeks did not limit their myths to stories about the 12 Olympians. They told stories about nearly all the magical, mythical creatures in which they believed.
Many of their mythical beings looked like people, but some looked like monsters, because, well .. they were! Fortunately, the ancient Greeks found a way to beat monsters, nearly always with trickery and cleverness, two skills that were greatly admired by the ancient Greeks.
Ancient Greece was not a country. It was not an empire. It was a collection of over 1500 independent 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 were very loyal to their city-state.
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!
The Greeks all spoke the same language, and they all loved to brag. To be fair, they had a great deal to brag about. The Greeks gave us so many gifts - 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, incredible myths, and tales of legends, heroes, and fables, to name a few. Theirs was a culture envied and copied by other ancient cultures.
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 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, battling evil monsters. Read Aesop's fables, a collection of very short stories that are still popular today.
Come meet the clever, creative, ancient Greeks, and enter a world of competition, trickery and myth.
Gifts from the Greeks:
Mr. Donn's Interactive Quizzes with answers - TEST
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Maxie's Ancient History PowerPoints Series
Written by Lin & Don Donn,
illustrated by Phillip Martin, Published by Good Year Books
Mr. Donn and
Maxie's Always Something You Can Use Series
Written by Lin & Don Donn, Published by Good Year Books