Legacy of Ancient Greece

Ancient Greece existed over 2,000 years ago but is one of the most influential civilizations for the western world.

Although Greek society was very different from the way modern humans live, there were a lot of similarities between the two.

Perhaps the biggest Greek influence was the idea of democracy.

A democracy is a system of government where every person has a vote in the leaders and laws that controlled people.

In ancient Greece, every adult male citizen could cast a single vote in city-states like Athens.

Many future countries would copy this idea, including the United States, Ireland, the United Kingdom, and France.


The Greeks possessed a lot of philosophers, or people who tried to understand human nature. Among the most famous were Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle.

These men created some of the basic ideas that govern western thought. One of the biggest ones was ethics, or the right ways for humans to behave.

The Greeks were complicated. They tried to understand just how humans worked and believed in a soul that governed the body.


The Greeks favored stone and marble for their important buildings and created a lot of columns and open-air designs. Many of their columns had intricate scrolls.

Other civilizations like the Romans and the Renaissance Italians copied Greek ideas in their own buildings.

In modern times, countries like France, the United States, Italy, Germany, and others also used ancient Greek designs to build important government buildings and even fancy houses.

The easiest way to tell if something is based on Greek architecture is to look for the distinctive white columns that characterized many of the ancient buildings.


The ancient Greeks also invented the way most western theater is performed. The Greeks created two main story types: the comedy and the tragedy.

Comedies were lighthearted stories designed to amuse and entertain. Many were satires that made fun of the government, important people, and society.

All of the actors were male and there were usually three main actors and then twenty-four people in the chorus.

All free male citizens could go to the performances but most think women weren’t allowed.

Tragedies were often sad stories that told about a person’s downfall.

Sometimes the individual was born unlucky, angered a god, or failed because of their own pride.

Most of the tragic characters were nobles whose personality flaws resulted in them losing everything.

One of the most famous Greek tragedies was the story of Antigone, a woman who had to either defy her uncle or defy the gods to bury her brother.

Other famous Greek plays were:

  • Oedipus Rex
  • Lysistrata
  • The Birds
  • Medea
  • Electra
  • The Trojan Women

Greek theater would influence other famous playwrights like William Shakespeare, who copied the traditions of tragedies and comedies to write dramas like Romeo and Juliet, Henry V, and Hamlet.

Even modern writers use the same standards created by the Greeks to make successful movies and TV shows.

Science and Technology

Believe it or not, but humans owe a lot of their scientific advancements to ancient peoples.

Ancient Greek scientists created the groundwork for mathematics and discovered numerous theories and ideas like the Pythagorean Theorem.

This theorem helps people figure out the sides of a right triangle, or a triangle with three equal angles.

The Greeks were also avid astronomers and managed to locate many major planets and stars.

Finally, they figured out smart ways of placing buildings and how to handle sewage through plumbing.

Professionals throughout the years were able to build off of the old Greek ideas to come up with new ones.

Art and Sports

Like anyone else, the ancient Greeks wanted to be entertained and beautiful.

The most significant form of art that Greeks contributed to was sculpture.

Ancient artists were able to make some of the most realistic sculptures ever.

The Romans copied the Greeks here again, and so did European artists during the Renaissance.

The Greeks also painted, but not traditional paintings like today.

Instead, they painted on walls and made frescos. A lot of their old buildings were even painted in bright colors.

The Greeks also invented the Olympics. Originally, athletes would come during each of the major city-states and compete in basic events like spear-throwing, foot races, and wrestling.

Over time, the Olympics evolved into the current games that include people from over 200 nations.

Facts about the Greek Legacy

  • The Greeks invented the medical Hippocratic Oath
  • The Greek language influenced many current words like dinosaur, galaxy, and music
  • The Greeks built the first library in the world in Alexandria
  • The Greeks were the first to say that the sun was the center of the galaxy
  • The Greeks were the first to use juries to judge whether someone was innocent or guilty
  • The Greeks built the first lighthouse in Alexandria
  • The Greeks were able to figure out the circumference of the earth

Questions and Answers

What type of government did the Greeks invent?


Who were three Greek philosophers?

Plato, Aristotle, and Socrates

What were the two types of Greek plays?

Comedies and tragedies

What theorem did the Greeks discover?

The Pythagorean theorem

What is the name of the games that the Greeks invented and people still play today?

The Olympics

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