Facts About the Acropolis in Athens

Here are some facts about the Acropolis.

  • The Acropolis is an ancient citadel built on a rock in the centre of Athens, Greece. There are other acropoleis in Greece, although the one in Athens is the most well-known.

  • The large flat outcrop is about 150 metres high, and covers an area of about 7 acres. Its most famous building is the Parthenon, which has become a symbol of Greece.
  • The name Acropolis means ‘edge of the city’ in Greek. The area was also once known as Cecropia, after Cecrops, the serpent-man who was the first king of the settlement.
  • The Acropolis became a sacred area when a temple was built there in the 6th century BC. It was dedicated to the Greek goddess Athena, from which Athens takes its name.
  • Over the centuries, the buildings on the Acropolis have had different uses. They have been used as churches, mosques, for storing money and valuables, and to defend the city of Athens from attack.

Acropolis

  • There are two ancient Greek theatres on the Acropolis. The larger Theater of Dionysus could seat 17,000 people and had a stage floor made from marble slabs.
  • The propylaea was the huge gateway leading to the Acropolis. A 10 metre high marble pedestal is in front of the propylaea, on which originally stood a statue of King Pergamon.
  • During the Morean War of 1684 to 1699, many buildings on the Acropolis were damaged by cannon fire. The Parthenon was being used to store gunpowder, and was badly affected.
  • The buildings have also been damaged by pollution and from crude attempts to repair them. The first major excavations on the Acropolis were carried out in the early 19th century.
  • A major restoration project started in 1975, taking over 20 years to complete. Many fallen stone fragments were collected from the Acropolis and used in the building repairs.

What next? Discover more facts about the Ancient Greeks by visiting our Ancient Greece resources page.

Facts About the Parthenon in Athens

Here are some facts about the Parthenon.

  • The Parthenon is a ruined temple on the Acropolis hill in Athens, Greece. It has become a symbol of the country and is one of the most well-known monuments in the world.

  • It was built between 447 BC and 438 BC, during the height of Classical Greece. It was designed to be a temple to the goddess Athena, the patron of the city.
  • The temple was built to align with the Hyades, a cluster of stars. In Greek mythology, the Hyades were the five daughters of the strong Greek god Atlas.
  • The biggest expense in building the Parthenon was transporting the 13,000 large stones 16 km from Mt. Pentelicus. The mountain is well known for its smooth and flawless marble stone quarried there.

Parthenon

  • The Parthenon contained statues and carvings, many dedicated to Athena. The frieze, or carved wall inside the building shows Greek myths and legends, as well as battles.
  • Some sculptures were removed in 1806 by the Earl of Elgin. Known as the Elgin Marbles, these are in the British Museum, despite ongoing efforts by Greece to get them back.
  • The base of the Parthenon measures 30 by 70 metres. The 46 columns around the perimeter of the temple were designed in the Ionic style and are 10.4 metres high.
  • Although the Parthenon was designed as a Greek temple, it was used as a Christian church in the 6th century. It has also been used as a treasury and as a mosque.
  • In 1656, an explosion destroyed several walls and columns. In 1687 more damage occurred when Ottoman Turks defended themselves in the Parthenon against the attacking Venetians.
  • There is a full scale replica of the Parthenon in Nashville in the United States. The National Monument of Scotland and a memorial in Bavaria, Germany are also closely modeled on the temple.

What next? Learn more about the Ancient Greeks by visiting our resources page.

What are the Elgin Marbles? Facts and Information

Here are some facts about the Elgin Marbles.

  • The Elgin Marbles are a collection of classical Greek sculptures. The marble pieces were originally part of the Parthenon, the temple built on the Acropolis in Athens, Greece.

  • They have been on display in the British Museum in London since the early 19th century. Since then, Greece has campaigned to have the works of art returned to Greece.
  • A Scottish diplomat, Thomas Bruce, the 7th Earl of Elgin, removed the pieces from Greece during the early 1800s. He claimed he had been given permission to remove items he excavated.
  • At the time, Athens was a part of the Ottoman Empire, which gave its permission for the items to be taken away. Lord Elgin was very interested in ancient Greek art.
  • Parliament decided Elgin had acted legally and he sold the marbles to the British Museum. The sculptures meant that public were more interested in ancient art and they also influenced art of the period.
  • The Elgin Marbles collection includes about 82 metres of the original frieze, or decorative stone work from the Parthenon, and 17 stone figures. It also includes items from other nearby temples.
  • The collection also includes 15 of the original 92 rectangular carved panels. These show battles between a legendary Greek tribe, the Lapiths, and centaurs, who were half men, half horse.
  • Some of the decorative items from the Parthenon remained in Greece and can be seen at the Acropolis Museum. Others can be seen in museums such as the Louvre and the Vatican Museum.
  • In December 2014, one of the Elgin Marbles left the UK for the first time and was loaned to a Russian museum. The British Prime Minister promised it would be returned.
  • About 40 percent of British people think the Elgin Marbles should be returned to Greece. Organisations and celebrities have campaigned to have them returned, including UNESCO and George Clooney.

Aristotle: Facts and Information

Here are some facts about Aristotle.

  • Aristotle was a scientist and philosopher who was born in Greece in 384 BC. Today he is considered one of the best known and most important of all philosophers.
  • He was born into a noble and wealthy family. His father was the personal doctor to King Amyntas who helped to bring peace to the Macedonian area.

  • Aristotle spent much of his life in Athens, then the world’s largest city.
  • He studied biology, politics, physics, music, languages, poetry and ethics at the school of another well-known philosopher, Plato.
  • He invented a new science called causality, which explained why events happen. He also devised a new way of looking at situations and events by looking for clues as to what happened.

Aristotle

  • Aristotle designed a primitive camera, in which the sun shone into a dark box, creating an image. He also made studies of the stars and planets, and wrote books about physics and geology.
  • Aristotle classified animals into different types, and studied the marine life in the nearby ocean. He believed that living things were created on a scale, ranging from plants to humans.
  • He made notes to help his students, and also wrote many books and papers. However, only about 30 percent of what he wrote survives today, and many of his works were also edited over the years.
  • Aristotle was the first known person to say that the continent of Antarctica existed. The Aristotle Mountains, along the north coast of Antarctica are named for him.
  • Towards the end of his life he tutored Alexander the Great, as well as two other future kings. He founded his own school, called the Lyceum.
  • He died in 322 BC, aged 62 and has been called the most intelligent man who ever lived. His method of questioning things and many of his ideas have influenced philosophers for many centuries.

What next? Learn more about Ancient Greece by visiting our resources page.

Ancient Greek Theatre: Facts and Information

Here are some facts about Ancient Greek theatre.

  • Ancient Greek theatre was popular in Greece between about 550 BC and 220 BC. Tragedies and comedies viewed by many, in the city of Athens and the rest of Greece.
  • Satyr plays were also popular. These were based on Greek mythology, and featured lots of singing, crude jokes, pranks, music, costumes and humour, rather like the modern pantomime.

  • Ancient Greek plays nearly always had political or religious subject matter.
  • Actors often wore elaborate masks, and playwrights were often seen as being important citizens.
  • Each town had at least one theatre and competitions between towns and villages were popular.
  • Attending the theatre was so popular that prisoners were temporarily released from captivity to attend.
  • One of the earliest and best preserved open air Ancient Greek theatres is the Theatre of Dionysus. It was dedicated to Dionysus, the patron of the arts and the God of wine and could seat 17,000 people.
  • Ancient Greek theatre probably developed from religious worship, which featured dancing and singing.
  • Almost all of the female roles were played by men in the theatre.
  • Sophocles was one of the most famous Greek playwrights and he wrote over 160 plays.
  • The first acting competition is believed to have been held in about 535 BC.
  • An Ancient Greek named Thespis had the first ever speaking role on stage and gave us the term ‘thespian’.
  • One of the main writers of comedy plays in ancient Greece was Euripides. He wrote over 90 plays, many of them written in a dark cave on one of the Greek islands.The word ‘theatre’ comes from the Greek word theatron, which means a watching place.
  • Greek theatres were cleverly designed with fantastic acoustics. The sound of the actors’ voices could be heard even at the back of the buildings.

What next? Learn more about Ancient Greece by visiting our resources page.

Pythagoras: Facts and Information

Here are some facts about Pythagoras.

  • Pythagoras was an Ancient Greek mathematician and philosopher.
    He was born on the Greek island of Samos around 570 BC and died in Greece probably around 495 BC.

  • In 530 BC he moved to Italy and established a religious group known as the Pythagoreans. The group was very secretive and were vegetarians who worshipped the God Apollo. They didn’t own any possessions.
  • He is best known for the Pythagorean theory named after him. Often referred to as Pythagoras’ Rule, Pythagoras’ Theorem states that in a right-angled triangle, the square on the hypotenuse is equal to the sum of the squares on the other two sides.

Pythagoras Theorem

  • He believed that science and religion were connected. He also believed that the human soul returned over and over again into people, animals and even vegetables.
  • Pythagoras believed that he had already lived four lives, all of which he could remember. Others claimed that he was able to travel through space and time and could talk to plants and animals.
  • Pythagoras believed the Earth was round and that mathematics could explain the physical world. He also devised the triangular figure of 4 rows, adding up to 10 and believed the design to be sacred.
  • A special type of cup is credited to Pythagoras. The cup works normally when the user sips from it, although the contents are spilled if the user drinks too quickly.
  • Pythagoras may have had a condition known as synesthesia. A person with the condition is said to be able to hear colours and see music, or associate smells with people’s names.
  • No books or writings by Pythagoras have survived. He probably taught by speaking to his followers, although in the centuries after his death, several forgeries were discovered.
  • The philosopher Plato was influenced by Pythagoras, and thought that mathematics affected philosophy. Pythagoras also influenced the establishment of the Freemasons and other secret societies.

What next? Learn more about Ancient Greece, or discover some facts about other famous mathematicians.

Medusa: Facts About the Ancient Greek Gorgon

Here are some facts about Medusa.

  • Medusa was a monster in Greek mythology, known as a Gorgon. She had the face of a hideous woman, but had poisonous snakes on her head, instead of hair.
  • She was the daughter of Phorcys, a God of the sea, and Ceto, a female sea God. Phorcys is said to have had claws for legs and skin covered with red spikes.

  • Medusa was originally a beautiful woman with long golden hair. She was punished by the Gods for falling in love with Poseidon.
  • Medusa spent some time wandering in Africa. According to legend, some baby snakes fell from her head, which is why there are so many snakes in Africa.
  • Anyone looking directly at Medusa would be instantly turned to stone. She was killed by Perseus who saw her reflection in a mirror, to avoid looking at her.
  • Perseus is one of the most famous of the Greek heroes. He was sent to kill the Gorgon, armed with a mirrored shield, winged-sandals, and a cloak of darkness.
  • Medusa was killed when Perseus cut her head off. From her neck emerged a winged horse, Pegasus, which has become one of the most well known mythological creatures.

Medusa

  • The head of Medusa was often seen to be a protective symbol. She can be seen on roman mosaics excavated in Pompeii, and during the French Revolution she was seen as a symbol of freedom.
  • She has been featured in several films, including two versions of Clash of the Titans. She was the star of a 1964 British horror film, called The Gorgon.
  • Medusa appears on the flag of Sicily, as well as on the flag of a village in the Czech Republic. She has been depicted in paintings by many well known artists, including Pablo Picasso, Rubens and Caravaggio.

What next? Discover more about the Ancient Greeks by visiting our resources page.

Athens: Facts About the Ancient Greek City State

Here are some facts about Ancient Athens.

  • Ancient Athens spanned several thousand years, from about 6,000 BC to about 322 BC. During this time it grew from a small fishing village to the most important city in the ancient world.
  • Athens was at the centre of an area known as Attica. The area became wealthy and powerful partly because of rich deposits of marble, lead and silver.

  • The first Olympic Games were held in  Athens in 776 BC. They were dedicated to the Greek gods and continued for about 1,200 years, with palm branches given to the winners.
  • The city’s classical period lasted from 500 to 322 BC. During this time, Athens was a major centre for learning, the arts and philosophy as well as a centre for democracy.
  • The city’s famous Parthenon temple was built in 438 BC. It was built to precise dimensions, and over the centuries has been used as a mosque and a store room for ammunition.
  • Plato was one of the most famous people in ancient Athens. He travelled widely, had an advanced knowledge of geometry and founded the world’s first university.
  • Democracy was invented in ancient Athens, although only men could vote. Voters also had the power to banish politicians from the city for 10 years.
  • Just like today, the rich people in ancient Athens paid more in taxes. The city also required that anyone up to the age of 50 had to join the military, for up to a year.
  • Wealthy families had slaves who went shopping, cleaned the house and looked after the children. Women were expected to stay home, rather than go to work.
  • Meat was rarely eaten, and most residents ate cheese, figs and grapes. Children were taught at home, and learned the works of Homer, as well as how to play the lyre.

What next? Discover more facts about Ancient Greece or learn more about Sparta, another important Ancient Greek city state.

What are the Seven Wonders of the World? – Facts and Information

There are many different Wonders of the World lists in existence, but this article will focus on the Seven Wonders of the World set out by Herodotus, the historian from Ancient Greece. This list is sometimes known as the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World and only includes wonders from around the Mediterranean.

Here are some facts about the Seven Wonders of the World:

The Great Pyramid of Giza

Great Pyramid of Giza

  • The Great Pyramid is the oldest of the the Seven Wonders of the World. It was constructed in Giza, Egypt in about 2560 BC.
  • Despite its age, it is the only one of the Seven Wonders to remain intact.
  • Historians believe that it was built as a tomb for Ancient Egyptian Pharaoh Khufu.
  • The pyramid is about 140 metres high.

The Hanging Gardens of Babylon

Hanging Gardens of Babylon

  • The Hanging Gardens were supposedly built by Nebuchadnezzar II, the King of Babylon (a city-state in modern-day Iraq). However, many historians believe that the Hanging Gardens were only a legend and never really existed. The archaeological evidence is inconclusive and they are not mentioned in any ancient texts from the Babylon region (although they are talked about by both Greek and Roman writers).
  • It is estimated that it would take 35000 litres of water in order to irrigate the Hanging Gardens of Babylon.

The Temple of Artemis at Ephesus

Temple of Artemis

  • Located in Ephesus (in modern-day Turkey) the Temple of Artemis was built by the Ancient Greeks and was dedicated to the Artemis, the Ancient Greek god.
  • The temple was damaged and rebuilt three times before it was finally destroyed, possibly in 268 AD by the Goths (a Germanic tribe).
  • The site of the temple was re-discovered by John Turtle Wood, a British archaeologist, in 1869.

The Statue of Zeus at Olympia

Statue of Zeus at Olympia

  • The Statue of Zeus was created by the Ancient Greek sculptor, Phidias in the 420s BC.
  • The statue was 13 metres high and it depicted Zeus, the leader of the Greek gods, sitting on his throne.
  • It was located at the Temple of Zeus in Olympia, Greece.
  • The statue was destroyed in the fifth century.

The Mausoleum at Halicarnassus

Mausoleum of Halicarnassus

  • The Mausoleum was a tomb built for Mausolus, a governor (or satrap) in the Persian Empire and his wife, Artemisia II of Caria.
  • It was constructed between 353 BC and 350 BC and was designed by Greek architects and features reliefs by Greek sculptors.
  • We get the word mausoleum (or tomb above ground) from this Wonder of the World.
  • It was destroyed at some point during the 12th century and 14th century.

The Colossus of Rhodes

Colossus of Rhodes

  • Constructed to mark the victory of Rhodes over Cyprus in 305 BC, the Colossus of Rhodes is a massive statue of the Greek Titan called Helios.
  • The Colossus was more than 30 metres high.
  • Many people believe that the Colossus straddled the harbour of Rhodes. In fact, this is probably a misconception. Most historians now agree that both of the Helios’ feet rested on the same pedestal.
  • The Colossus was destroyed in an earthquake in 226 BC.

The Lighthouse of Alexandria

Lighthouse of Alexandria

  • The Lighthouse of Alexandria was located on the island of Pharos in Alexandria, Egypt.
  • It was constructed between 280 BC to 247 BC.
  • Historians believe that the height of the lighthouse was greater than 120 metres and when it was built, it was the highest man-made structure in the world.
  • The lighthouse was abandoned in the 14th century after it became ruined following an earthquake.

In the very earliest Seven Wonders of the World lists, the Ishtar Gate (the eighth entrance to the inner city of Babylon) replaced the Lighthouse of Alexandria.

Alexander the Great: Facts and Information

Here are some facts about Alexander the Great, King of Macedon (a northern state of Ancient Greece) and one of history’s most famous and successful military leaders.

  • Alexander the Great was born on 20th July, 356 B.C. in Pella, Macedonia. His parents were Philip II, the King of Macedon and Olympia, daughter of King Neoptolemus.

  • It is said that Alexander was of a rebellious nature from his early childhood. His earliest tutor, Leonidas, had a hard time controlling the restless boy. Lysimachus, another one of his tutors, had to use role-playing to capture Alexander’s attention.
  • Alexander was also tutored by Aristotle. The famous philosopher taught him poetry, drama, philosophy, science and politics. It was through Aristotle that Alexander came to be familiar with Homer’s Iliad and it is said that it is the epic of Homer that inspired him to become a great warrior hero. In fact, it is known that he always used to carry the book with him.
  • Alexander and his mother, Olympia, fell out with Alexander’s father, Philip II, when he married Cleopatra Eurydice. They were made to flee Macedon and stayed in Epirus with Olympia’s family until the father and son were reconciled again.
  • In 336 B.C., Philip II was murdered by a Macedonian noble. Then only 19, Alexander showed great presence of mind by bringing the Macedonian troops to his side and by seizing the throne. Shortly after, he was also elected the leader of the Corinthian League (a group made up of all of the Greek states).
  • In 334 B.C., Alexander the Great started his expedition to conquer the Empire of Persia. In the space of one year, after a number of battles, he defeated Darius, the King of Persia, and declared himself the King of the Persian Empire.
  • In 331 B.C., he achieved his conquest over Egypt and created the city of Alexandria – one of twenty cities to be named after Alexander the Great.
  • In 327 B.C., he won another important battle, against Prince Oxyartes of eastern Iran, and he married Rhoxana, the prince’s daughter.
  • Alexander the Great had stretched his empire, one of the biggest of the ancient world, as far as to Punjab in northern India. He had defeated King Porus’ troops in India, but, impressed by Porus’ intelligence and courage, gave him back his state and reinstated him as king.
  • Alexander the Great died in Babylon in 323 B.C. at the age of 32. It is not known for certain how he died. Some think he was poisoned by his enemies, whereas others suggest his death was due to malaria or typhoid fever.
  • Alexander the Great has been the subject of many novels and movies. In 2004, the role of Alexander was played by Colin Farrell in the Oliver Stone movie, Alexander.