Ancient History

How did the Ancient Greeks impact our modern Western society?
Answered by Science Channel
  • Science Channel

    Science Channel

  1. Ancient Greece encompassed a peninsula that separated the Aegean and Ionian seas, adjacent islands and the western coast of modern Turkey. Ancient Greece reached its peak of accomplishment in the fourth and fifth centuries B.C., but it continued to exert cultural influence even after it fell under Roman dominance.

    Greek society inspired achievements that shaped the foundation of Western civilization. The Greeks were intelligent, daring, energetic and sensible, accomplishing great feats in the arts, philosophy, architecture and more. The Greeks introduced our cherished concepts of citizens' rights, democracy, and freedoms of speech and religion. They excelled in mathematics, physics and astronomy. The Greeks had a highly developed spiritual life, imparting human traits to their many gods and goddesses.

    Early physicists were mostly concerned with the workings of the heavenly bodies. Greeks in the fifth century B.C. came up with theories about the planets and their movements, but they did not subject them to tests and experiments. Their elegant statements about the universe turned out to be mostly wrong. In all fairness, Aristotle, a Greek philosopher-scientist who lived in the fourth century B.C., laid the foundation of empirical science, but the more reliable Scientific Method was still more than 1,000 years away [source: Experiment-Resources]. He may be justifiably famous for writing the first books on physics; yet his speculations, which were widely adopted by scientists for a long time afterward, were often based only on observation and were generally incorrect.

    Eratosthenes, who lived in the third century B.C., used principles of math and physics to arrive at a rough but pretty accurate measurement of the Earth's circumference [source: PBS]. Around the same time, Archimedes discovered that submerging a solid object will displace an amount of liquid that matches the object's weight. And if you think the Greeks don't still play a role in modern science and math, just check out the symbols often used in physics and higher math equations; many of them are derived from the Greek alphabet.

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