Greece is said to be the birthplace of many amazing discoveries. Three thousand years later we still use ancient Greek discoveries in math, philosophy, science, architecture, government, and art. What’s even more astonishing is that ancient Greeks achieved so much without the use of technology or machinery.
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Many of ancient Greeks discoveries and inventions are still used today, even though some of them weren’t popular, like the idea that the sun was the center of the solar system. That idea was ignored and then rediscovered much later. The advancements made by ancient Greece is obvious today because schools all over the world still teach many of the ancient Greek ideas and innovations. The impact ancient Greeks made in history is still noticeable in modern society.
Ancient Greeks are well known for their beautiful architecture. So it’s no wonder they put so much thought and planning into their buildings. Ancient Greeks used a lot of different materials when building which include concrete. The Greeks were the first to start mixing clay with Limestone around 100 BC, however the Romans perfected it giving them more credit.
Think about how cold the winters would be without heat inside your house. The Greeks solved that problem because they invented a type of central heating. The ancient Greeks figured out to transfer heat from the fires under the floors through pipes to different rooms. The pipes under the floor heats the surface of the floor which then heats the room to a comfortable temperature. Slaves did the maintenance for the fires. This invention led to what we call today radiant floor heat.
The ancient Greeks had already designed irrigation systems for farming, so it was a natural next step to bring water into their homes to create extensive plumbing systems for baths and fountains. The greeks figured out that water was important for more than just drinking and bathing so they used stone and clay to make pipes or aqueducts to bring water from streams and rivers. The water from rivers, streams, and rainwater was collected in storage cisterns and some of this water was fed into street fountains which are still being used today. This indoor plumbing system was so brilliant that it made it possible for some houses to be equipped with closets or latrines that drained into the sewer pipes beneath the street. This is how the first ‘flushing’ toilet was made. The water in the cisterns helped flush the waste through the sewers, and terra-cotta pipe work blocked the odors from coming back up. This system was really advanced for their time.
Since the ancient Greeks had already created a plumbing system in their homes, this lead to the invention of the shower. Ancient Greeks liked feeling clean and they wanted to replicate the feeling of standing under a waterfall because they realized that running water poured over the body cleaned them more efficiently than to bathe in still water. Seeing that most ancient Greek cities had channels that moved water into and out of homes and public buildings, it made it a lot easier to bathe. The early Greek showers were found in public bathing facilities that everyone had access to and later on they were installed in private homes. Ancient Greek showers work just like showers today. The water gets pumped in, then comes out of a shower head high on the wall, and the dirty water gets flushed out through the drain pipe.
In addition to the invention of showers, the Greeks were the first to capture water in a bowl which became what we call today a sink. That idea of running water in a sink allowed them to clean both hands at the same time which was original. To wash themselves ancient greeks rubbed lumps of clay and olive oil over their body, had steamed baths, and then scraped it off which removed the dirt. Bathing was a very valued thing to do and a big part of ancient Greek lifestyle so much that bathing and showers where shown on ancient Greek pottery.
Many of the inventions ancient Greeks made or contributed to were related to building and construction. The Greeks had lots of machines and tools to build their monuments and temples. One example was the wheelbarrow which might seem like a simple tool, but it was one of the most important inventions in history. The wheelbarrow was a one wheeled device pushed by two handles used to transport light loads. It was easy to build and use, was efficient to push down rows of crops and rough, bumpy roads. The wheelbarrow also doubled what a man can carry with little effort. Ancient Greek wheelbarrows were more like a cart than a bucket that is common today and was also called the ‘one wheeler’. Researchers thought that the wheelbarrow could have been used for farming before the Greeks, yet there is no evidence of this.
Another ancient Greek machine that was used to help construction was the crane. The invention of the crane was the result of the need to lift heavy stones to make huge temples to honor their gods. Before the invention of the crane people had to move large stones by rolling or pulling on sleds. The crane was a machine specially designed to lift and move heavy objects around. The crane was made by a long piece of wood attached to ropes perched over the edge of construction to hoist up the heavy objects easier and faster. There was no stone or steel involved in this, which was pretty impressive. Archaeologists found holes in the stones which they believed meant the blocks were lifted and moved around. The crane was powered by men and animals such as donkeys. The first cranes just used rope to lift the blocks but later they combined the design of pulleys, winches, clamps, and cogwheels. This crane was so simple but so ingenious that it resulted into one of the greatest construction achievements in history.
One other ancient Greek machine that was very influential to our modern day was called the Archimedes Screw named after the greek born mathematician, Archimedes. This simple machines main purpose was to pump out water. The Archimedes Screw is a tube looped around a rod, set at a angle with the bottom end in the water. It had a handle at the top and when rotated the entire device turns up and water is pulled up in the tube. This remarkable invention is what modern day irrigation systems use to get the water out of the ground. Also when the Archimedes screw was turned sideways under a boat, it then became a propellor which helped send big boats across the sea.
Another brilliant invention by Archimedes was the odometer. The word odometer is derived from the Greek word hodos (path) and metron (measure), therefore it is a device used to measure the distance, by traveling in a carriage. Before the invention of the odometer the ancient Greeks measured distance by how many steps it takes which was extremely inaccurate, so they designed a mechanical device that worked when the chariot wheel rotates a certain amount of times, a pebble falls into a box on the chariot. The distance traveled is determined by counting the number of pebbles in the box. This basic invention helped Greeks create roads, bridges for traveling and figuring out accurate distances between specific places. Thanks to this invention digital odometers are built in every car today.
Since the Ancient Greeks already had invented the odometer, it now became possible to make correct maps. Imagine trying to drive somewhere without knowing where to go or how many miles you’ve gone. Travel and navigation played an important part in ancient Greece, and that lead to cartography, the study and practice of making maps. Anaximander was a Greek philosopher who was the first to make maps with the concept of latitude and longitude and he was the first to make a map of the known world. For this reason he was considered to be the first map maker. Before this concept maps were vague and inaccurate, so therefore this invention was super helpful and made an important contribution to geography and astronomy. This led to modern day GPS and satellite use.
The Ancient Greeks made many more amazing inventions than these that were used in buildings, machines, and navigation and if it weren’t for all their discoveries and their spectacular contributions to the world, then we wouldn’t be where we are today. It’s very interesting to wonder how these greek inventions spread across the world. Historians believe that Alexander the Great was responsible because when his army conquered so many different countries he took the greek ideas with him. After Alexander the Great died in 323 BC, the Romans carried the same greek discoveries even further to more countries, including ours.
Next time your in the hot, steamy shower with the water raining down on your head or you are following a GPS to get to a certain location, take a moment to wonder about how these inventions were created 3,500 years ago and thank the Ancient Greeks for it.
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