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By Miranda McCormack

Why do we study classical Greece?

By Miranda McCormack


Where do we come from? Why do we have democracy? Where do our words come from? Why do our buildings look like they do? Why do we have school? Why do we have drama, or performing arts? What about the Olympics, and why are they every four years? The simple answer is: Classical Greece. Not many people realise how many modern ideas come from Classical Greece, but the truth is, most of our society today is based on Greek’s past. Read on.

What are a few Greek things we use without thinking about?

  • Drama, performing arts;

  • Architecture, classic and gothic style;

  • School, education;

  • Democracy, government;

  • Language words;

  • Storys, myths;

  • Sport, Olympics.


Greek drama

The Greeks−especially the Athenians−were very fond of drama, and made some exceptional discoveries: They would wear masks to emphasize the character’s emotion (hence the happy and sad masks as a drama sign)they used amphitheatres to project sound and so everyone watching could see, which changed the way our theatres are shaped, they had an “orkêstra” where−now−the orchestra sit and play, along with the “skêne”, which our word “scene” comes from. Our types of plays also come from the Greeks, not so much “satyr”, but tragedy and comedy. There was also the “chorus” which reacted to the play, AKA, showed the audience how to react to parts of the play. (e.g., if someone slipped and fell, the chorus may laugh.)

Democracy and government

Even our way of selecting leaders comes from the Greeks−democracy. The word “democracy” comes from two Greek words: “demos” and “kratos” quite literally meaning “people power”.

Language and words

About 75% (¾) of our words come from the Greeks, here are a few:

  • ballo−ball;

  • biblion−book “bible”;

  • hippos−horse;

  • kratos−power;

  • korma−coma;

  • mathematicos−love of learning;

  • momos−alone;

  • octo−alone;

  • aothos−authadox;

  • osteon−bones

  • polly−many;

  • tele−far away(phone−sound)tele phone−far away sound;

  • hydro−water;

  • omega−mega;

  • schôla−school. (Leisure.)




Greek architecture

  1. architecture is still very popular today, probably because it makes buildings seem old and expensive. These are buildings such as The Coliseum, Blenheim Palace, Buckingham Palace and The White House. There are three main orders of architecture: the first being Doric, with simple circular capitals and also the thickest. Ionic, the second, it was the thinnest with swirls on its capital. And Corinthian, the last, with the most decorative capital− often embellished by scrolls and acanthus leaves. These all fell under the “Classical style”.



In Sparta girls were educated and did lots of sport, for the Spartans believed that strong women would produce strong babies. Both genders learned how to endure harsh conditions.


Only boys were educated, and they had a “paidagogos”, a slave in charge of a boy’s education. Boys were educated to learn (off by heart) two long stories: “Iliad” and “the Odyssey”, both by Homer, a Greek author. They would also be taught to project their voices for public speaking (called “rhetoric.”)


Greek sport had only two rules: no eye gouging and no grabbing of the private parts. They had a contest every year, though only one remained: the Olympics. It is thought this one remained because it is in honour of Zeus, the god of thunder. That is why every four years we have the Olympics. Some of the Greek contests included:

  • Running;

  • Jumping;

  • Discus throw;

  • Wrestling;

  • Boxing(no gloves);

  • Pankration;

  • Equestrian events.



I hope you can see the importance of studying Classical Greece, because, in the final analysis, so many of our modern ideas are based on, or because of, Classical Greece.

Thank you.