Ancient Greece 101 | National Geographic


– [Narrator] Art, philosophy,
democracy, and heroes. These are just a few achievements of the legendary civilization
known as ancient Greece. Ancient Greece was born on
the shores of the Aegean Sea about 4,000 years ago. In over a millennium, it expanded to lands as far west as Spain and
as far east as India. Throughout this age of empire, the ancient Greeks made
political, militaristic, and cultural achievements that resonated long after their empire fell. Part of the ancient Greeks’
legacy involved politics, one of which was the political
system of Greece itself. Unlike many nations that
were under unified rule, Greece was a collection
of over 1,500 territories that acted as sovereign nations. Called city-states, these territories had their own rulers and
sometimes fought each other. Another political development
was the institution of the first large-scale democracy. Developed in the city-state of Athens, democratic rule was a way
to give the Greek people representation and political power. The Greeks also earned a strong reputation for their military. The military helped
expand the Greek Empire by establishing colonies overseas, and it protected Greece
itself from foreign invaders like the Persian Empire. When such a threat
occurred, city-states united to defend their homeland. Many Greeks, particularly in Sparta, took immense pride in their military and regarded their soldiers as heroes. Their heroism was often turned into legend thanks to literary works like “The Iliad.” War heroes also inspired the
creation of the Olympics, which celebrated physical competition. Of all aspects of ancient
Greek civilization, their cultural contributions
left a considerable mark on the western world. Particularly noteworthy
were the ancient Greeks’ art and architecture. They created incredible sculptural works, such as standing figures and reliefs. Plus, they developed
three types of columns and incorporated them to
structures like the Parthenon. This artistry was imitated
by other civilizations and spread throughout the
globe for thousands of years. How the Greeks interpreted the world was also reflected in other cultures. Greek religion, which was comprised of many anthropomorphic deities, helped shape the spiritual beliefs of the Etruscans and,
later, the ancient Romans. Greek philosophy, which
explored matters of reason, ethics, and natural law influenced later civilizations’ achievements
and politics and science. Greek language made
quite an impact as well. Ancient Greek, at about 3,400 years old, provided the basis of
many modern languages. The English language alone
has thousands of words with Greek roots. Ancient Greece’s artistry,
regard for heroes, and democratic rule left
a considerable impression on world history. With contributions that
lasted for millennia, the civilization of ancient Greece is nothing short of legendary.

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