Knowledge is Power

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“My advice to you is get married: if you find a good wife, you’ll be happy; if not, you’ll become a philosopher.” -Socrates

The ancient Greeks were ahead of their time regarding the ideas, architecture, mathematics, and literature compared to much of the world at the time.  Enjoy these interesting facts about ancient Greece.


42. You may be an “idiot.”

In ancient Greek, the word “idiot” meant anyone who didn’t participate in politics.

Ancient Greece Facts

41. Too sexy for my tweezers.

In ancient Greece, the unibrow was a sign of intelligence and great beauty in women. Some women who didn’t have epic unibrows naturally used makeup to draw one on.

Ancient Greece Facts

40. Save Your Strength For the Games!

No wars were permitted in the month before the ancient Olympics so that spectators could travel to Olympia unharmed. During The Olympic Truce, legal disputes and the carrying out of death penalties were also forbidden.

Ancient Greece Facts

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39. Not so glamourous in red…

In ancient Greece, wearing red lipstick was a sign that you were a person from the prostitute class. Under Greek law, prostitutes who appeared in public without their designated lip paint and other makeup could be punished for improperly posing as ladies.

Ancient Greece Facts

38. Subway woes.

Cities in Greece sometimes accidentally dig up ancient ruins while trying to build or expand subway systems. The Thessaloniki subway system was significantly delayed when they unearthed something that was described as “beyond archaeologist’s wildest dreams” a major commercial centre from the Byzantine Empire.

Ancient Greece Facts

37. Badass ancient dogs.

Spiked dog collars were invented in ancient Greece. Sheepdogs on farms wore spiked collars, called melium, to protect their necks from wolf bites as they defended flocks of sheep.

Ancient Greece Facts

36. Walls? Please, we have shields.

After 800 BC, the ancient city of Sparta had no walls, quite possibly for the most badass reason of all time. According to one historical source: “The Spartan king Agesilaus simply pointed to his fellow citizens, armed to the teeth, the most formidable soldiers in Greece, and said, ‘Here are the walls of the Spartans.’ ”

Historians have since suggested that the walls were demolished on the orders of Lycurgus to heighten the need for militaristic reform in Sparta. This reason isn’t quite as fun, so we choose to believe the Agesilaus story.

Ancient Greece Facts

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35. The apple doesn’t fall far from the heart… we’ll let ourselves out.

In ancient Greece, throwing an apple at somebody was a declaration of love, and in some instances, used as a marriage proposal.

Ancient Greece Facts

34. The calf did not consent.

Legend has it that progressive resistance training dates back to ancient Greece when wrestler Milo of Croton trained by carrying a newborn calf on his back every day until it was fully grown.

Ancient Greece Facts

33. Back to basics, back to glory.

In the 1990’s, a small group of people in Greece revived the Hellenistic religion, and they now worship the Gods of ancient Greece.

Ancient Greece Facts

32. How about those melons though?

The word “melon” has been used to refer to breasts since ancient Greece.

Ancient Greece Facts

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31. A tongue as old as time.

Ancient Greek was the official language in Greece until 1976.

Ancient Greece Facts

30. Turning wine into water.

Drinking undiluted wine in ancient Greece was a major faux pas, enough to characterize the drinker as a drunkard and someone who lacked restraint and principle. Wine was usually mixed with water, at a ration of 3:1. Stronger mixes were rarely used, sometimes orgiastic revelry and rare celebratory occasions.

Ancient Greece Facts

29. From the earth to the sky.

The myth of the griffin, which was hugely popular in Greek mythology, likely began when fossils of Protoceratops skulls were found in gold mines near ancient Greece. There’s also evidence of griffins described in Egyptian and Persian mythology, and historians have suggested that similar fossils may have been unearthed in the Gobi Desert and the Nile Delta.

Ancient Greece Facts

28. Nazi-lympics.

Nazi propagandists invented the Olympic Torch relay to tie the Third Reich to the glory of ancient Greece. It was also Hitler’s Nazi propaganda machine that popularized the five interlocking rings that symbolize the Games.

Ancient Greece Facts

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27. Did Aristotle flip off Socrates?

The middle finger originated in ancient Greece.

Ancient Greece Facts

26. “Let the music-master be the first to play.”

The inventor of the Brazen Bull, Perilaus of Athens, was tricked into being its first victim. The Brazen Bull was a hollow statue of a brass bull. Once the man was locked inside the bull, Greek executioners would light a fire beneath. As the man was scorched to death, his screams would be amplified by a system of tubes to sound like the roar of a bull.

Phalaris, a ruler in ancient Greece, didn’t exactly like Perilaus’ invention.

“His words revolted me. I loathed the thought of such ingenious cruelty, and resolved to punish the artificer in kind. ‘If this is anything more than an empty boast, Perilaus,’ I said to him, ‘if your art can really produce this effect, get inside yourself, and pretend to roar; and we will see whether the pipes will make such music as you describe.’ He consented; and when he was inside I closed the aperture, and ordered a fire to be kindled. ‘Receive,’ I cried, ‘the due reward of your wondrous art: let the music-master be the first to play.’ “ Phalaris I:12

Perilaus was removed from the Bull before he died. He was then thrown off a cliff.

25. Glamourous in red.

The glamour associated with the Red Carpet dates back to ancient Greece. The play Agamemnon mentions a “Crimson Path” that signified stature, as it was luxury fit only for the gods.

Ancient Greece Facts

24. Centarian.

Some citizens of ancient Greece lived over 100 years due to a healthy Mediterranean diet, the culture of physical activity, and sanitation.

Ancient Greece Facts

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23. Direct sales.

Prostitutes in ancient Greece wore sandals that left the words “follow me” imprinted on the ground as they walked.

Ancient Greece Facts

22. No peace, no play.

There’s an ancient Greek play called Lysistrata where Greek women end a war by withholding intimacy until the men agree to peace. We can’t be sure, but this may still be effective today.

Ancient Greece Facts

21. Makes my head hurt…

It was common in ancient Greece to write manuscripts bi-directionally, meaning that one line would be written from left to right and the following line would be written from right to left. Just to make it doubly confusing, the letters were also mirrored from one line to the other. This was called boustrophedon text.

Ancient Greece Facts

20. The leadership diet: Big Macs and Twinkies.

In ancient Greece, men with potbellies were thought to be exceptional leaders.

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19. Ouch.

In ancient Greece, “Figging” was the insertion of the skinned ginger root into the anus or vagina to cause an intolerable burning sensation and discomfort.

Ancient Greece Facts

18. I liver you.

In Greek mythology, the Gods punished Prometheus by having his liver eaten by eagles. It was then regrown so it could be eaten again every day. The reason for this was that in ancient Greece, the liver, rather than the heart, was thought to be the center of human emotions.

Ancient Greece Facts

17. Bells and whistles… mostly just bells.

Kettlebells date back to ancient Greece. A 143 kg kettlebell was found in Athens with an inscription that reads, “Bibon heaved up me above the head by one hand.” Well done, Bibon, Well done.

Ancient Greece Facts

16. The course of history.

Historians believe that the Battle of Salamis, a naval battle fought between an alliance of Greek city-states under Themistocles and the Persian Empire under King Xerxes in 480 BC, is one of the most significant battles in human history. A Persian victory may have hamstrung the development of ancient Greece, and by extension western civilization.

Ancient Greece Facts

 15. Happy Birthday, Plato.

Birthday candles began in ancient Greece when people brought cakes adorned with lit candles to the temple of Artemis, goddess of the hunt. The candles were lit to make them glow like the moon, a symbol associated with Artemis.

Ancient Greece Facts

14. Slaves by the thousand.

Depending on the ancient period, between 40 to 80 percent of the Athenian population were slaves.

Ancient Greece Facts

13. Thank you, Greece. Your contribution won’t be forgotten.

The first vending machine was invented in ancient Greece.

Ancient Greece Facts

12. Beans, beans, the magical fruit.

“Spill the beans” came from ancient Greece where they would vote using beans.

Ancient Greece Facts

11. At most modern gyms, you will be banned for this.

In ancient Greece, people used to go to the gym naked. In fact, the word “gymnasium” means “school for naked exercise.”

10. Fame and glory.

The Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, was burned down by an arson who wished to be famous for his crime. Following his execution, the ancient Greeks made it a capital offense to mention his name. But the jokes on the Greek lawmakers because his name was Herostratus, and in 2017, he has a pretty solid Wikipedia page, which is pretty much the secret to immortality.

9. The opposite of “will power.”

The ancient Greeks had a word, akrasia, which described the lack of will that prevents us from doing something that we know is good for us.

Ancient Greece Facts

8. If only we had this…

In ancient Greece, there was a system where citizens could vote to exile a politician for 10 years.

Ancient Greece Facts

7. Placeholder.

In the ancient Greece mythology, there was an Unknown God, a placeholder for those gods yet unknown to the ancient Greeks.

Ancient Greece Facts

6. Democratic forever?

Ancient Greek democracy, which was the world’s first democratic government, lasted for only 185 years before giving way to tyrannical rule.

Ancient Greece Facts

5. This is Sparta!

Ancient Athenian boys went to school at the age of 7.  At the same age, soldiers took Spartan boys from their mothers, housed them in a dormitory with other boys and trained them as soldiers. Spartan men were not allowed to live with their families until they left their active military service at age 30.

Ancient Greece Facts

4. Worth your salt?

Ancient Greeks and Romans often bought slaves with salt. This is where the phrase “not worth his salt” comes from.

3. Universe where art thou?

The theory that planets orbit the sun was first proposed by the ancient Greek Aristarchus of Samos in the 3rd century BC.

Ancient Greece Facts

2. Your butt is mine, by right of fire and blood.

If you were found guilty of adultery in ancient Greece, the husband of the woman with whom you committed the crime had the right to sodomize you with radishes.

Ancient Greece Facts

1. Move to the muses.

The word “music” comes from the Muses, goddesses of the arts in Greek mythology.

Ancient Greece Facts

Sources: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21

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