Facts about Ancient Greeks that you did not know!
Are you getting ready for your Greek vacation, but are concerned your kids might not appreciate the history as much as you? These some interesting facts about Ancient Greece that probably you (or your kids) did not know! Let’s get them interested!
Who were the Ancient Greeks?
Nobody really knows exactly when Greek Civilization began. Some people believe it began with the mighty Minoans of Crete, but little is known about them. Even their writing is yet to be properly deciphered!
Most people believe that the first ancient Greeks would have been people from the Mycenaean civilization. The center of their power was held at the cities of Mycenae and Tiryns. These cities still survive today and are UNESCO World Heritage sites.
You visit Mycenae with our family-friendly guide: Mycenae – Nafplio for FamiliesCheck availability
Facts you did not know about Olympic Games
Greece is the birthplace of the Olympic Games and the first Olympic Games were held about 3,000 years ago in Olympia in the Peloponnese. It is from here that we get the name of the Games.
The Olympic Games held in ancient times were much different than today though. Did you know that…
- Initially, there was just one event, a running race of 190 m (623 ft), the length of the stadium.
- The Games initially lasted one day only and eventually expanded from one day to five days.
- All the runners were men and women who wanted to race had a separate festival called the Heraia.
- Male athletes Greeks used to compete naked, to show off their bodies!!! Later on, trainers had to be naked as well.
- Athletes used to rub olive oil over their bodies.
- Only men and unmarried women could watch the games.
- There were no gold, silver, and bronze medals.
- Athletes who broke rules during the Olympics were physically punished.
Find out more here about Visiting Ancient Olympia with the Family.Check availability
Ancient Greeks and their appetite!
Did you know that for some time in Ancient Greece, people wouldn’t eat beans because they believed that they contained the souls of the dead?
Greeks were not called Greeks!
Greeks did not call themselves Greeks, but they call themselves ‘Hellenes’. This is because the country of Greece was called ‘Hellas’. The word “Greek” comes from the Latin “Graeci”.
There was not really a country called Greece…
Although today we know of the country Greece, in ancient times it was not really thought of in the same way. Instead, Ancient Greece had a lot of city-states.
Examples of powerful city-states were Athens, Sparta, and Thebes. each fiercely independent of one another. Each city had different laws, government, and even its own army! Whilst they identified as ‘Greeks’ – by sharing the same language, Gods, and customs – they only united in times of need.
One example of this is when the Greeks fought against the Persians on several occasions. Once they had defeated the Persians, they would disband their joint army, and then return to their own rivalries once more, often fighting against each other!
Sadly, slavery was very common
It sounds horrible, but most Greek families in Ancient Greece owned slaves, even the poorest families. Actually, it is estimated that almost 30-40% of the population were slaves!
Slaves were allowed by some of their owners to save up money and buy their own freedom. That said, freed slaves still had obligations to their former owners.
Ancient Greeks had many Gods and Goddesses
There were literally hundreds of ancient Greek Gods and Goddesses. Some would be local to a particular town or community, whilst some such as Zeus would be recognized everywhere. Each one was to be worshipped or respected in a certain way on different days or circumstances. We imagine it might be quite confusing!
To find out more about Greek Gods and Goddesses during your family vacation in Greece, we highly recommend our Percy Jackson inspired tours. These have been specifically developed with families in mind who love both Greek mythology and the Percy Jackson books. Talk to one of our online assistants today about them for more information!
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