Echoes of Olympus: 26 Captivating Facts About the Greeks

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1Hipponax

Hipponax

The Greek poet Hipponax was so good at insulting people that his victims sometimes killed themselves.


2. Draco was the Ancient Greek legislator who wrote the first code of law in Athens. Over time his laws were seen as increasingly harsh and punitive, which is why we say a law is "draconian" when the punishment is too extreme for the crime.


3. Both ancient Greek and Egyptian medicine recognized obesity as a medical disorder. Hippocrates wrote that "Corpulence is not only a disease itself but the harbinger of others".


4. Wealthy Ancient Greeks sometimes sent their slaves to sit on the public toilets to warm it up "in anticipation of their arrival".


5. The ancient Greeks had a system called Ostracism where every citizen could vote to exile any politician for 10 years.


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6Cyclops

Cyclops

It has been theorized that the myth of the Cyclops came about when Greeks discovered dwarf elephant skulls and misinterpreted the trunk cavity as a single eye socket.


7. Pyrrhus of Epirus, an ancient Greek General, died while fighting an enemy soldier in the streets of Sparta. The soldier's mother, who was watching their battle from a rooftop, threw a tile that hit Pyrrhus in the head and paralyzed him, sealing his fate.


8. Putting candles on birthday cakes dates back to the Ancient Greeks, who often burned candles as offerings to their many Gods and Goddesses. It was their way to pay tribute to the Greek Moon Goddess, Artemis. Round cakes symbolized the moon. Candles were added to represent the reflected moonlight.


9. There are no surviving copies of Socrates' actual work. Everything from him was written by Plato, with comments by Xenophon, Aristotle, and Aristophanes.


10. Plato believed not in democracy but rather a ruling elite that was best suited to make decisions for the community.


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11Eratosthenes

Eratosthenes

The ancient Greek astronomer Eratosthenes of Cyrene, proved that the earth was round in 240 B.C. and also came up with latitude/longitude and was able to calculate the earth's circumference which is off by less than 2% from the modern value of 40,041 km.


12. The Greek origin of the word "idiot" was used to mean someone who did not participate in politics and public affairs.


13. Every year in the Greek town of Vrontados, two rival church congregations perform a "Rocket War" by firing tens of thousands of home-made rockets across town, with the objective of hitting the bell tower of the church of the other side.


14. Ancient Greek cities honored victorious Olympian athletes by demolishing part of the city wall so that, on their return, they wouldn't have to use the gate like ordinary mortals.


15. In the 1821 Greek War of Independence, the Ottoman Turks ran out of bullets and started to strip the columns of the Parthenon for the lead. When the Greeks got wind of this, they gathered up their bullets and sent them to the Turks to use against themselves to protect their ancient heritage.


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16Empedocles

Empedocles

Empedocles, 5th-century Greek philosopher most known for the development of the idea of the Four Elements, also concluded that matter could neither be created nor destroyed and developed a theory of evolution concluding that form followed function and that the fittest survived.


17. The Greek mathematician Pythagoras created his own cult which forbids the consumption or touching of the beans, and according to legend died when being chased by assassins and refusing to escape through a bean field.


18. The word "echo" comes from Greek Mythology. Hera (Goddess of women and marriage) was so annoyed at echo that she punished her by taking away her voice, except in repetition of another's shouted words. Thus, all Echo could do was repeat the voice of another.


19. Aristotle's Eudemian Ethics, which is about happiness and what makes life worth living, was only published for the first time in a modern language in 2011.


20. Plato, the famous ancient Greek philosopher, believed people have knowledge "from past incarnations" and that learning is a matter of "rediscovering" it.


21Aristotle

Aristotle

Aristotle believed that the brain was just a minor organ for cooling the blood and heart and a place for the spirit to reside.


22. A few thousand years before Plato described Atlantis there really was a big island which disappeared in the middle of the North Sea.


23. The word "panic" comes from the Greek woodland God Pan who was believed to be the source of mysterious forest sounds that would cause contagious, groundless fear in animals and humans alike.


24. There is a Greek man named Vassilis Palaikostas also known as "Robin of the Poor" who stole money from the rich, gave it to the poor and has escaped from the same high-security prison twice.


25. Ancient Greeks built a 7-mile wall from Athens to the port of Piraeus to guarantee safe passage to the sea.

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