There are many famous Greeks. We refer sometimes to their many achievements, discoveries, and inventions as "Gifts from the Greeks". Most historians agree the Greek culture was a foundation culture of Western Civilization, which means a root or a beginning. There is no doubt that the ancient Greek civilization has been immensely influential on language, literature, educational systems, philosophy, art and architecture, politics, theatre, drama, medicine, and mathematics. Here are a few of the famous Greeks who changed the ancient world, and whose achievements live on today, including Hippocrates, Archimedes, Socrates, Aesop, Homer, Plato, Pericles, and more.
Aristotle: Aristotle was not Greek. He was born in Macedonia, a country to the north of the Greek city-states. But he lived in Greece for a very long time. Like Confucius, the famous Chinese philosopher, Aristotle is remembered for his sayings. He used sayings to help his students, students like Alexander the Great, become wiser. He is still quoted today. For example, Aristotle said: "We think in pictures. If you wish to change what you think, change the picture." Aristotle was also a scientist. He insisted that the Earth was a globe, and that the Earth revolved around the sun. In later times, his beliefs were ignored, but in more modern times, it was discovered that Aristotle was right!
Socrates: There were many teachers in ancient Athens. Socrates was one of the most famous. He used questions to help his students think about things and question things. He asked questions like: "How can we improve our government? Are the stories about the gods real? " Some nobles in Athens thought he was mocking the gods and they put him on trial, which was a sad day for free speech in ancient Athens.
Aesop: Some scholars think Aesop never existed. Others believe he was a slave in ancient Greece. There is no record that Aesop ever wrote anything down. He probably just remembered the stories he told, since he told them over and over and over again. His stories were very short and called fables. Each fable had animal characters and a lesson and a moral to teach.
Pericles: Pericles was a famous Greek general. He gave a public speech in Athens, honoring the many warriors who were killed in battle. Scholars found a written record of this speech. It is an incredible speech. It talks about democracy and Athenian patriotism. It shares a great deal about life in Athens and events in Greek history.
Hippocrates: An ancient Greek doctor who lived around 460 BC and is known today as the father of western medicine.
Archimedes: An ancient Greek scientists who discovered that submerging a solid object in water will displace an amount of water matching the object's weight - in other words, how things float!
Alexander the Great: Alexander was not a Greek, although he is referred to by some historians as "The Great Greek". He was the king of Macedonia, a country to the north of ancient Greece. Alexander and his army conquered the entire Mediterranean region. Alexander taught all the people he conquered about the ancient Greeks - he shared their stories, their myths, their gods, their language - just as he had been taught by his teacher, Aristotle. It was Alexander who spread the Greek culture throughout the Mediterranean. Without Alexander, a great deal of the ancient Greek culture might have been lost. But it's important to understand that Alexander did not lead the Greeks to greatness. Alexander conquered the Greeks. (The Greeks were already great.) His rule last only about 12 years. Alexander died young.