Greeks Invented...

Although Greece has been negatively portrayed in the media in the last few years, it would be grossly unfair not to highlight the tremendous contributions made by the Greeks in almost every facet of our lives. Many are discoveries embedded in Greece’s rich history; others are more contemporary. Suffice to say, they have left us with a legacy to be proud of.

Here are just a few inventions you probably know and didn't know that Greece gave to the world:

1. Democracy

Democracy is a philosophical and a governance concept that many modern societies use. Democracy permeates the fibre of many progressive political systems. Translated, democracy means the rule of the people.

The use of the word appears in Greece around 5th-4th Century, B.C. and was used in the Greek city-states of the day. The concept, while political and philosophical in nature, denotes a representative government that nations strive for today.

Cleisthenes, of Athenian nobility, is credited as being the father of democracy. One of Greece’s most notable philosophers, Plato, differentiated between political systems, such as monarchy (rule by one), oligarchy (rule by the wealthy few) and democracy (rule by the people).

2. Money

Ahh Money. To have it, is to have power. To not have it, is to be powerless, many would say. All nations and people strive to acquire it in either its paper or metal form. Some would argue that money is the cause of many societal problems around the world. But it would be remiss to ignore its significant contribution to the acquisition of goods and services throughout the ages.

The concept of money is considered, by some, as one of the greatest discoveries made by mankind. Even before bartering was introduced in ancient India, Ancient Greeks known as the Lydians, used circular metal pieces for trade. As such, the Greeks are credited with the discovery of money.

3. Maps

Anaximander (610-546 B.C.) was an ancient Greek scholar who created the first ever geographical map of the world. His world consisted of the areas known today as Europe, Asia and Libya flanked by the ocean and divided by the Mediterranean and Black Seas. This map helped with trade routes and navigation. A Greek geographer called Dikaiarch (350-290 B.C.) later introduced the concepts of longitude and latitude to maps. In the second century, Ptolemy wrote the first treatise on cartography, Geographia. His treatise provides helpful tips on drawing maps and using topographic lists.

Maps are one of the most ancient Greek inventions that are used today. If not for these maps would any of us know where we’re going? Likely not. Okay, we do have GPS and the position of the sun to help us get around.

4. Medicine - Pap Test

While women around the world may grimace at the thought of an annual Pap test, we owe its discovery to George Papanicolaou (1883-1962). Papanicolaou was a Greek-American physician, who first detected cervical cancer in 1943 using this medical procedure.

5. Olympic Games

The stadium in Olympia, Greece, now an archaelogical site, held the first official documented games in 776 B.C. and featured five events: running; wrestling; boxing; equestrian games; and a pentathlon, which included jumping and javelin throws. These games were played to honour Zeus and lasted for one day. In 472 B.C. new games were added extending the event for five days.

Today’s Olympics run for seventeen days, alternating every two years between the Winter and Summer Olympics.

In 2004, Greece hosted the Summer Olympics. Despite doubts about Greece’s ability to pull off such a large-scale event, they surprised everyone and gave the world a memorable two weeks. They even held shot-put competitions in Ancient Olympia!

Coming up on July 27, 2012, London, England will host the Olympics. In all, there will be 302 events in 26 sports. A far cry from the number of events and sports played in Ancient Greece. Over 10,000 athletes from over 150 nations will participate, enabling us to put aside the strifes of the world and come together through our love of sport and athleticism. The event garners a viewership of more than 1 billion people around the world. (Source: Wikipedia)

6. Thermometer

We use the thermometer every day in our lives and climatology as we know it would be very different without this simple device. The thermometer is a very old invention that dates back to the Greeks of Alexandria who discovered that air expanded when heated. Philo of Byzantium, who lived 2,000 years ago, made a basic thermometer that used this concept. Roughly 1,600 years later, Galileo would use this same concept and put a scale on it to help distinguish temperature so that people could know how hot or cold it was on any given day of the week.

7. Crossbow

Created in the 400's BC, the Greeks made extensive use of this highly efficient weapon.

8. Alarm Clock

That's right! You can thank the Ancient Greeks for waking you up. Created in the 200s BC by Ctesibius, who lived from 285-222 BC, the original Greek alarm clock used a dial and pointer for the time and had an alarm system that would drop pebbles into a gong at a pre-set time.

9. Odometer

The automobile was invented in the late 1800's, but the odometer that every car uses today was created over 2,000 years previous by the Ancient Greeks who used an odometer in vehicles to measure distances. This would change how roads were made and how distance would measure for the rest of human history.

10. Vending Machine

Every time you drop money into a machine for a chocolate bar, you can thank the Ancient Greeks. Created by Hero of Alexandria, the original vending machine dispensed water when a coin was put in. When the coin went in, it fell on a pan that was itself attached to a lever, which opened a valve. The pan would tilt until the coin fell off, thereby turning off the water.

11. Automatic Doors

When you walk into the grocery store, you may think that the doors opening for you are very futuristic. Well, going back 2000s years to the first century AD, Hero of Alexandria created automatic doors in Alexandria using steam power. Oh, did we mention that the Greeks also pioneered steam power 2,000 years before the steam engine? Yep, they did!

12. Clock Tower

With the wind vane, which was created by the Greeks as well, the clock tower was invented in 50 BC when the Greeks built the Tower of the Winds, a tower that featured sundials around the top.

Visit us next week as we bring you more Greek inventions.

Which of these Greek inventions has made the biggest impact on your life? Tell us below.