THE CRADLE OF CIVILIZATION

All The Ways Ancient Greece Influenced The Modern World


Published on May 8, 2024


Credit: Aleksandar Pasaric

Ancient Greece stands as a beacon of civilization, a cradle of democracy, philosophy, arts, and more and it continues to blow our minds centuries later.

This captivating country has come a long, long way, and it has evolved over thousands of years influencing the world as we know it today in more than one way: political structures, sports events, scientific discoveries, everything we take for granted today was once a breakthrough made by this civilization.

Read on and delve into some of the most influential aspects of Ancient Greece!

1

Democracy and government

Credit: Arnaud Jaegers

Democracy is probably among the most important contributions from Ancient Greece. Even if it was exercised differently, the essence of democracy still remains.

According to its Greek roots, democracy means "government by the people" and it is a form of government by means of which the power is vested in the people who, directly or indirectly, choose their representatives through elections.

The difference between democracy then and democracy as we know it today, is that only a small portion of the population was allowed to participate . In Ancient Greece, the democratic government consisted of an assembly of 6,000 adult male citizens who voted on all kinds of issues. Similar to today’s system, a majority of votes were needed for laws to be passed.

Thanks to the evolution of societies and the system itself, men and women from all walks of life are allowed to vote and contribute to democratic governments today.

2

Trail by Jury

Credit: KATRIN BOLOVTSOVA

The institution of trial by jury is a cornerstone of modern legal systems, but it can be traced back to the democratic principles discussed before. This concept back then was not so different from today’s: it was a judicial process that aimed to provide a resolution to conflicts and justice in civil and criminal matters.

The jurors were chosen through a random allocation among the citizenry and they were in charge of hearing the evidence, assessing the testimonies, and determining the innocence (or not) of the accused.

This breakthrough shaped legal systems and principles that are still set in stone today and it remains a fundamental way to cherish the principles of justice and democracy.

3

The Olympics

Credit: Bryan Turner

No Gods are honored in the present, but we still hold some of the traditions of this ancient sports event. The Olympic Games, which receive their name after the city they were held in, Olympia, were much more than just a sporting event back then.

First and foremost, the Olympics were a sacred ritual to honor Zeus , the God of the Sky and Thunder, they were held every four years and all kinds of (sometimes dangerous) sports were played. Swimming, gymnastics, and "pankration" a hybrid between wrestling and boxing, that could turn the place into a bloodbath in a matter of minutes.

Today, the Olympics aim to bring the nations together to feature their sports stars , but some traditions are still displayed: the olive leaf crowns, the opening and closing ceremonies, and, of course, the great lightning of the flame.

4

Mythology

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Zeus, Hercules, Hera, Hades, you probably know all of these names. That is because Greek mythology and its stories are some of the best-known in the whole world. Not only served us with legendary myths of every topic we can imagine, but it has inspired thousands of versions of those myths and their main figures.

Greek mythology inspired iconic pieces of art, like The Birth of Venus, a painting by Sandro Botticelli that depicts the Roman equivalent of the Greek goddess Aphrodite, the goddess of love, beauty, sex, and desire.

On the other end of inspiration, Greek Mythology made it all the way to Disney movies , considering that their version of "Hercules" is one of the most famous adaptations of the myth.

The variety of universal topics dealt with in Greek mythology has permeated and there is no sign this will stop anytime soon.

5

Modern Medicine

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Ancient Greece contributed to medical advancements that represented a pivotal moment in the evolution of healthcare practices. Medicine as a discipline was already a common practice in places like China or Egypt, but the standardization of it can be attributed to the Greeks. In this sense, modern medicine is very similar to ancient medicine since it consists of a diagnosis and a consequent treatment .

Moreover, Hippocrates, a well-known physician of the time, made contributions in terms of work ethics. For this reason, he is known as the "Father of Medicine" and his name is still honored with the title of the oath made by doctors today, the Hippocratic Oath. We have him to thank for the categorization of diseases and the use of prognosis too.

6

Architectural Marvels

Credit: Josiah Lewis

The concept of beauty and proportion of the ancient Greeks is probably one of their most characteristic features. Even if we think of the time, the architectural achievements are a true testament to the artistic prowess of this civilization.

At the heart of this field, we will find Doric, Ionic, and Corinthians orders . Each of these had distinctive features and proportions and they all exemplified different things. The Parthenon, a masterpiece of Doric design, for example, was praised for its harmonious proportions and mind-blowing craftsmanship .

Temples, theaters, stadiums, agoras, and all kinds of civic buildings were just the beginning of architecture as we know it today. Together with democracy, the principles embodied in their view of architecture can be easily considered to keep inspiring us centuries later.

7

Philosophy

Credit: Gabriella Clare Marino

Ancient Greece and philosophy are one and the same. And that is because the philosophical heritage of the Greeks was a true cradle of civilization.

This doesn’t mean they invented "thinking," but they surely came up with a name for the art of it. Philosophy comes from two Greek words, philos, which means "love" and sophia ****, "wisdom." In essence, the discipline was in the quest for knowledge and tried to systematically answer existential questions.

Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle are the fathers of philosophy, responsible for laying the foundations of a comprehensive system. Their work has shaped thousands of studies and sciences around the world and throughout history offering deep insights on the human condition and reality itself. Academic knowledge as we know it today, especially in the Western world, wouldn’t exist were it not for these key figures.

8

Linguistics: Language and Literature

Credit: Aaron Burden

This ancient civilization has left a mark also through words and lexicon. Fields like mathematics, astronomy, medicine and, as we said, philosophy are full of terminology with roots in the Greek language .

The ancient Greek language is unparalleled in terms of precision and clarity, and its grammar had a profound impact on the development of linguistic theories and analysis of today. Needless to say, our understanding of language structure, morphology, and syntax wouldn’t be the same without the influence of the ancient Greeks.

In the same way, literary contributions were the way to preserve all these cultural elements we discuss today. Books like the Iliad and the Odyssey, which depict the Homeric epics, laid the groundwork for narrative conventions that are still present in Western literature today.

9

Art and Aesthetics

Credit: Sean Robertson

Ancient Greek art stands today as a testament to their ceaseless pursuit of beauty, symmetry, and the human form. The art of this civilization encompassed a wide range of media including pottery, painting, and sculpture.

The most iconic features were the mastery of technique and, again, an acute sense of proportion which was an innovation back then. And quite impressive today when you come across any of their sculptures. In terms of topics, the Greeks were concerned with universal themes in all fields: human nature, beauty, and truth.

They have undeniably influenced all kinds of artistic movements throughout history and this is a legacy that continues to inspire artists and art lovers today.

10

Naval Innovations

Credit: Pixabay

The naval innovations of the ancient Greeks are also a defining chapter in maritime history. At the forefront of this revolution stood the trireme warship which, as its name indicates, was powered by three rows of oarsmen arranged in tires. This ship boasted unparalleled speed and agility and enabled the Greeks to assert control over strategic points and trade routes in the Mediterranean.

Their expertise showcased a sense of innovation and they became pioneers in shipbuilding which ultimately shaped the evolution of sea voyages and traditions to come.


GET YOUR HEAD IN THE GAME!

Touchdown! Do You Know These Ten Idioms From The World Of Sports?


Published on May 8, 2024


Credit: Riley McCullough

It is said that baseball is America’s favorite pastime, but we would like to argue that several other sports are heavy contenders for the title. Or perhaps it would be more suitable to consider that the thrill of sports themselves fuel millions of Americans every day. From the excitement of a "Hail Mary" pass being completed, to an indomitable boxer getting up for one more round, sports are undeniably an essential part of American culture.

We might sometimes fail to realize how many of our everyday expressions come from the world of sports. With that in mind, we have gathered ten of our favorite sports idioms for your enjoyment. Some you know, and some might be a bit of a surprise. Who knows? You might end up with a new catchphrase for the next game you watch with your friends.

Credit: Samuel-Elias Nadler

1

The ball is in your court

We’ll begin this list with one of the most popular sports idioms out there. Whenever you hear someone say "The ball is in your court now", you might suddenly feel burdened with the responsibility of taking action. And while this is its most common use, this idiom might also mean an opportunity to make amazing things happen.

The origins of this idiom most likely come from the world of tennis , since a player might only take action whenever the ball is on their side of the court. While this phrase was most popular during the 1970s, it can be traced back to the 19th century.

2

Hail Mary

Credit: Riley McCullough

A "Hail Mary" is a last-minute, long-distance pass, usually made in a last-ditch attempt to score. While other popular sports like basketball had some incredible "Hail Mary" moments, this move is mostly associated with football. The perhaps most iconic Hail Mary pass happened in a 1984 game between the Miami Hurricanes and the Boston College Eagles when Boston quarterback Doug Flutie made a 63-yard successful pass that resulted in a touchdown. This iconic game is now known as "the Hail Flutie", and a statue of Flutie commemorating the pass was unveiled in Boston College in 2008.

The origins of this idiom come from Christianity, most accurately from the "Hail Mary" prayer. Considering the difficult odds of completing this pass, the play references a prayer for help and success.

3

Out of left field

Credit: Keith Johnston

This one is a bit of a mystery. The idiom "Out of left field", which means something that is very surprising or completely unexpected , comes from baseball. What’s not completely clear is why baseballs thrown from the left field are considered odd or unexpected, since most batters are right-handed and would tend to hit the ball onto the left field. Some people believe that, because left fielders tend to be the most far out, a fast throw from the left field would be an unexpected surprise.

According to music historian Arnold Shaw, this idiom was first used by the music industry to refer to songs that unexpectedly performed well . In the 1940s, "Out of left field" hits were heavily promoted by song pluggers as songs that were easily sold.

4

On the ropes

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Allow us to describe this idiom with a timeless cinematic scene. In the first "Rocky" movie, after the up-and-coming new boxer knocks Apollo Creed for the first time, the enraged heavyweight champion launches a flurry of punches at Rocky. The Italian Stallion can only protect himself, and finds himself restricted to the corner of the ring. This image is a perfect example of being on the ropes: to be in an extremely desperate situation, from which it's very difficult to recover.

5

Down for the count

Credit: Johann Walter Bantz

Another staple of boxing films is the iconic countdown when the underdog hits the canvas after what seems to be a defeating punch. What follows is an excruciating count, on which our hero pulls out his last hurrah and stands right before a referee in slow motion as it reaches ten.

While its origins obviously come from boxing, this idiom is extremely popular and regularly used in American slang. Its connotation is usually of being completely defeated, and unable to recover from a spectacular beatdown.

6

Throw a curveball

Credit: Jose Francisco Morales

A tricky question on an exam or an awkward dinner with the in-laws are some of the curveballs that life usually throws at us . This idiom is used to describe an unexpected and tough situation or problem, and it of course comes from baseball.

There is actually some debate on who threw the first curveball, but what we do know is that it was in the 19th century. Fred Goldsmith, one of the players who claims to have thrown the first curveball, would set poles on a baseball field and amaze fans by throwing a curve between them.

7

Drop the ball

Credit: Luis Santoyo

We have all dropped the ball at some point in our lives. Maybe we said the wrong thing on a first date or forgot to pick up the dry cleaning before they closed for the weekend. To "Drop the ball" is an expression used for making a mistake , or for forgetting something important.

This idiom comes from football, in which a pass has to be caught in order to be completed. Dropping the ball would result in an incomplete pass or, worse, on the opposing team gaining possession.

8

Go the distance

Credit: Attentie Attentie

It seems that the world of boxing is ripe with idioms , as a third expression originated in "the sweet science" makes it to this list. To go the distance means to fully commit to a challenge, and it references when a fighter would last the entire length of a fight instead of being knocked down early.

Nowadays, the idiom is used to highlight the endurance and resilience of someone facing an adverse or challenging situation, and their willingness to see it through.

9

Run interference

Credit: Keith Johnston

This idiom sounds way more negative than it actually is. If you heard that someone is "running interference" on you, you might be suspicious and think that this ill-intentioned stranger is trying to sabotage your life in any way. However, it might surprise you to know that this idiom means the opposite: If you are running interference on someone, you are in fact trying to deal with someone’s problems as soon as they happen. This idiom comes from the way football players protect the player who has the ball by physically blocking the opposing team.

10

Thrown in at the deep end

Credit: Clark Tai

Some parents believe that the best way to teach a kid to swim is to throw them into the deep end of a swimming pool, in order for their survival instincts to kick in. While we definitively don’t approve of this method, a situation like this was more than likely the origin of this idiom.

To be "thrown in at the deep end" means to make someone begin a difficult challenge (like a new job) without preparing them for it. As we mentioned before, this idiom comes from the different ends of a swimming pool , of which one is shallow for beginners while the other is deeper and more suitable for experts.

Looking for an extra scoop of literary fun?

Learn more with our Word of the day

quibble

/ˈkwɪb(ə)l/