Ancient History/Greece/Greek Culture
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- 1 Birth
- 2 Boys' education in Ancient Greece
- 3 Girls' education in Ancient Greece
- 4 Marriage in Ancient Greece
- 5 Women in Ancient Greece
- 6 The Greek banquets
- 7 Daily life in Ancient Greece
- 8 Greek instruments
- 9 Makeup and cosmetics in Ancient Greece
- 10 Colors in Ancient Greece
- 11 Beards in Ancient Greece
- 12 The Olympic Games
- 13 Health and illnesses in Ancient Greece
- 14 Luck in Ancient Greece
Families used to have few children so they didn't have to share their wealth, therefore, it was commonly accepted abortion and abandonment (the 'exposure') of newborns. The act of birth was accompanied by certain social practices and rituals:
When there was a birth of a wanted child, if it was a boy, they put at the door of the house an olive wreath, as an expression of the desire of parents to succeed in war, or bay if they wanted him to be good at sports or arts. If it was a girl, it was placed a ball of wool, as a symbol of their domestic roles.
Recognition of the child
In Athens, this decision was up to the father, who was free to accept or reject the baby. In Sparta, however, depended on the decision of the Council of Elders.
If the child was rejected as a new member of the family, in Athens the father used to expose the child in a public place so it could be picked up by those who have an interest, either by piety, or because it would adopt him or her to the family or as a slave. In Sparta, the solution could be sometimes more dramatic, as the child was abandoned on Mount Taygetos until his death.
It was customary in Athens, at birth the baby was bathed in oil to strengthen it. This initial ritual in Sparta could be done with alcohol, as proof of his strength.
The baby is accepted
By the sixth day after birth a purification ceremony was held, and that was when the father accepted the child as a new family member in the house.
By the tenth day a name was imposed. Normally the child received the name of the paternal grandfather, and to distinguish him from others who may have the same name, then the father's name or the surname was added.
Children stayed with their mothers until more or less 6 or 7 years old, then boys went to study and girls started to help in the house chores.
Boys' education in Ancient Greece
Males were separated from their mothers at age 6 and taken to school by slaves called pedagogues.
It was divided in two parts; music and gymnastics. Music meant not only the art of playing an instrument like the lyre, the harp or flute, but also reading, writing, arithmetic and reciting poems, particularly those of Homer. Gymnastics occupied an important place in education, especially upon reaching age 14.
The Athenians, like all Greeks, had the cult of human beauty and they wanted kids to develop appropriate exercise well. In these exercises, students were naked, in the gym or in the talks, led by special teachers, and which consisted on wrestling, running, jumping, discus throw and javelin. A young man whose moral and physical education was complete, should be called beautiful and good, which is to say that he had strong muscles that served a well-trained mind.
Girls' education in Ancient Greece
Girls were educated in a different way than boys.
- They were property and under the authority of men, so parents or siblings were the ones concerting their marriages.
- They were only prepared to keep the house in order and to serve their husbands. Their education focused on learning to read and write and do basic calculations to keep on track the money of the home. After childhood, they didn't received any further education.
- They learned to knit and sew all the clothes of the family. They spent many hours in this work. They also ground the grain and prepared the bathrooms.
- Some girls in the more rural areas received instructions for certain agricultural work such as fruit and olives.
- Since men were often away from home, they were the ones who worked and supervised the house, the slaves and all the house things and in the Greek life in general.
- They could not have jobs or vote.
- Their main task was to bring children into the world because the army would have more soldiers for war.
Marriage in Ancient Greece
Why marriage was important
Greek marriage was characterized primarily by its religious aspect. The goddess of marriage and protector of married women was Hera. However, priests were not involved in the wedding celebrations.
The main purpose was to give birth to sons who continue the family, celebrate his father's funeral rites and the one who will continue the family after the father's death. This was seen as necessary for the happiness of the dead in the afterlife.
The marriage was also a way to build alliances. Ignoring love, the married do not choose each other, but both parents are in charge of deciding who is the best person for their children.
Ways of marriage
The groom offers the bride's father lots of gifts, which are called hedna. It is what is known as a bought marriage. She does not really marry him, but she is taken only as the wife. With this type of marriage, an alliance between the two families was sealed.
Another way to build alliances is through gifts meilia or repair. The woman was given as a gift to the man because the family made an offense, and the woman was the present to repair it.
The preparations, the ceremony and all the celebrations
The wedding ritual was usually in winter. The date was chosen carefully. It was recommended to celebrate in the month of January and during the full moon. The celebrations lasted three days, called praílía, gámoi and epaílía.
The first day (praílía)
The first was centered to the preparation of the bride, which took place at the home of her father. It began with a sacrifice. The bride offered on the altar her childhood toys, along with a few locks of her hair or her belt, or both. Offering hair symbolized the abandonment of childhood and submission to the husband, and the belt meant the delivery of virginity. Also the groom cut his hair and made sacrifices to the gods of marriage.
Before or after this, took place the ritual bath of the bride in a or holly waters of a river or fountain. She could bathe at home, but then, they had to transport the water from the holly place. The bath symbolized purification of the bride and the desire to be fertile.
The second day (gámoi)
The second day started with a banquet held at the home of the bride's father. The groom was meeting with all his friends, and the bride as well met with all her friends. It was typical to eat sesame cakes. Afterwards, a child crowned with acanthus leaves and acorns, and whose parents had to be alive, handed out bread or bread rolls which he carried in a basket, while he was repeating "the couple have escaped from bad to find a good ending." After lunch veil the bride was taken in a ceremony called anakalipteria, and during which they proceeded to the deliver of the gifts of the groom to the bride.
By nightfall the bride left her quarters and crossed the city in a chariot drawn by mules or horses to the house that belong to be her future husband. She sat between him and his parochos, which was the closest friend or relative of him, but when a man contracted a second marriage, he did not accompany the bride personally.
The couple were crowned and adorned with colorful ribbons, both dressed with elegant clothes, the bride with her veil, and in in past times suits were exchanged, to symbolize the good relationship they had. The mother of the bride, slaves and other women followed the chariot with torches, meaning that the marriage will last. All were singing and playing instruments such as lyres, flutes and harps, young people were dancing in circles, candy and sweets were thrown, and the whole city was in festivity and happiness. People stopped to look from the halls of their homes.
At the arrival at the groom's house, which was decorated with garlands, laurel and olive leaves, the carriage was burned as a symbol that the bride will never leave the home of her husband. Then the groom's family welcomed her. The mother was in charge of receiving her with a torch, called the hymen. Then, the people threw over the heads of the couple dates, figs and walnuts, as a symbol of belonging to the new home. The bride was taken to the bridal chamber, and in front of the door, a song was sung.
The third day (epaílía)
And the third day after the wedding night, was the offering of gifts. The bride and groom were woke up with a serenade, the diegertikon. At that day, a meal was celebrated at the house of the father of the groom or at the groom's house itself, and this meal excluded women. Not even the bride could attend, but it was she who had the job of preparing the dishes to be served during the day.
Guests contributed what they could: sheep, wine, bread ... Just as the music began to play a dance was opened again.
In ancient Greece, women began to tell her age from the time they married. While she hadn't any heir, the woman was called nymfe. After having a child was gyne, because it meant she was a full wife.
Women in Ancient Greece
The treatment of women
Married women, maidens and girls while they were at care of their mothers and slaves, remained in the ginecceo, and they went out on rare occasions. They grew up with ignorance. The care they provided to domestic duties and her outfit was all the interest they had, and there weren't able to have a friendship with the opposite sex. Even in public ceremonies,they acted independently of men.
Even marriage didn't change her situation. The woman was limited to pass from her father's ginecco to her husband's. It was not considered that a women had more rights than a domestic slave. Happy marriages were not impossible, but in these cases woman was lower than man.
However, Dorians had different customs. They gave full freedom to the maidens to be shown in public and be strengthened through exercise. But this freedom was not the result of the consideration of gender equality, but the thought that to produce strong children, women had to had a good body preparation.
Jobs of a woman
The main female job apart from preparing meals consisted of spinning and sewing. Sewing was very important knowledge for a woman and they spent many hours doing this job.
As for the food preparation, the hardest part was grinding grain for many guests, so the maids did it. In the palace of Ulysses twelve slaves were employed all day grinding wheat and barley. To cook meat and toast it on the grill was also the slave task. In later times it became usual to buy or rent male slaves as cooks.
In every house, even on a modest wealth, several slaves were kept as cooks, maids and companions of the ladies, for a wealthy woman was improper to leave home without the company of several companions ladies. They just left home for a visit to their neighbors and to attend weddings, funerals and religious festivals, which did represent important public roles.
Women's work was also going to the well to fetch water, which gave them another chance to meet other women. Almost all were community wells, since only the wealthiest households could afford for a private one.
Representations of women bathing, adorning themselves, playing and dancing are numerous. The Athenian maiden, different than the Spartan one, didn't like to bathe themselves in front of other maidens and they were more modest.
The swing was an enjoyment for females. In honor of the death of Erigone, Icario's daughter, had decreed a festival in Athens in which maidens were consent to have fun on a swing.
The Greek banquets
At first the Greeks had their meals sitting, later reclining. Women and children were upright; except courtesans, mostly sitting at the far end of the kline or bed, at the foot of their husbands, or in separate chairs. The children were not allowed to sit reclining until they reached the appropriate age, in Macedonia was considered when they had killed a boar. Each kline used to be occupied by no more than two people. For the Etruscans you could see a man and a woman reclining on the same couch.
Pieces of beef, lamb, goat or pork, roasted on the spit, were placed by the maids at small tables in front of the guests. The bread was round and it was in baskets and at the end of the meal. They usually drank wine that was previously mixed with water in huge metal or clay bowls. They didn't use any knives or forks, that's why they washed their hands carefully before and after dinner. They also didn't have any tablecloths or napkins. These were replaced by a special kind of paste that was used to wipe their fingers after they ate something very greasy. Sometimes spoons were made with the same material as the paste.
Their culinary habits were described as simple. They eat mostly maza, a type of round bread made up with barley which is still eaten in present times at Greece; different types of salad, garlic, onion and pulse. The most refined tastes were only introduced to upper classes. Some types of fish, seafood and new vegetables were now replacing the big and roasted meat of ancient times. The cooks who prepared the meals were rented at the market or were Sicilian chefs, which in Roman times were among the slaves of every Greek rich family.
Deipnon was the name of the main meal or dinner at night. Breakfast is called akratisma, and noon lunch, ariston. In the early days the food was considered completed as soon as they had satisfied their appetite, but later became usual to drink until they got drunk, all animated by conversation, music, mime performances and games.
To remove the dinner table and then to clean the floor of bones, skins and other food scraps, gave the signal to rise. Eventually they washed their hands with scented soap. The meal was closed with a drink of wine unmixed. Another drink introduced the banquet, this time was accompanied by music from a flute, which gave it a sacred character.
The dessert was more or less the same things we eat today. Preferably spicy dishes were chosen inciting the guests to drink, and with cheese they were especially fond of the ones of Sicily and the city of Tromileia, in Achaia. The cakes sprinkled with salt were another Greek dessert. Dried figs of Attica and Rhodes, dates from Syria and Egypt, almonds, melons, etc.. and salt mixed with spices, were rarely missing. There was varied fruit and cakes in a pyramid. The drinking began with the appearance of the dessert, because at dinner wine was not served.
The wine was mixed with hot or cold water. In some cases, they often mixed snow with wine, or put the full glass of wine in a cooler full of snow. The unmixed wine was not so strictly forbidden to the Greeks as the inhabitants of Locri, in southern Italy, where the law made it a capital crime, but to dilute it in water was a custom in Greece since ancient times, as drunkenness was habitual between Greeks. Only in Sparta and Crete it was forbidden completely to drink after the meal.
As soon as the glasses were filled, a king of the party was elected, usually rolling the dice, unless one of the drinkers chose himself. The sovereign had to decide the right mix of wine, the number of drinks each guest had to drink and the general rules of the party, who sometimes had to be with punishment. They began to drink in small cups, soon followed larger ones that every guest had to empty in a drink to the health of the neighbor who was at the right side.
The holidays often ended with a sacrifice to Aphrodite, so we had pretty girls as singers, flutists, dancers...
Jugglers of both sexes were common throughout Greece. They put their jobs, like some people said, where you could find money and dumb people. They would also entertain the guests of a party, jumping forward and backward over tables, the girls threw the balls or hoops and gathered again accompanied with musical instruments.
Daily life in Ancient Greece
There was a big difference between the rich and wealthy temples and the humble homes of the population: the houses, without chimneys, were built with perishable materials, but the temples were erected with stone or marble tiles that were placed one over another because of the absence or mortar or cement. There wasn't also water drainage, and garbage was thrown into the street, but from the classic period, houses had toilets and small tubs of clay, stone or brick.
Rich households (very few) were very similar to the Homeric palaces, they had an entrance guarded by a caretaker, the men's department, whose rooms went to a courtyard surrounded by a portico, and the women's department, which faced the garden.
Agora and public places
The agora or the market place was a chat place. There were public buildings, temples and the Palace of Justice, which was a place where politicians and philosophers could speak free. Another place to meet were the public baths, in which women were also excluded.
Half of the population were slaves. The life of those working in mines and quarries was very hard. The slaves which did the household chores lived better. They receive good food and could receive freedom.
They loved theater. The love they had for drama and plays was because many theaters were built. The choir, consisting only of men, had lots of importance. Its members were dressed with masks and special shoes. In Greece, they placed great emphasis on the word. The representations, always outdoors, had always stands, giving some comfort to the public.
Beliefs and customs
In general, the Greek people was extremely superstitious. The gods were fundamental and were present in every act they performed. The sacrifice consisted in the offering of animal and agricultural products to those seeking God's protection against misfortune and illness, and the forgiveness for a misconduct. Usually, there weren't any human sacrifices, except in cases of extreme necessity. It is known that in 480 B.C. Athenians sacrificed a person to stop the advance of the Persians.
The oracle of Delphi
The oracle of Delphi was the most visited oracle. People came from all over Greece to speak and to ask questions to the oracle. The oracle always told the truth. If later events contradicted the oracle's answers, it was because the man or woman couldn't understand the words of the divinity.
Among the Greeks instruments, besides the lyre and pandora, we can also see that they used the sistrum, the zither and the flute of Pan or syrinx.
- The sistrum, used by the ancient Sumerians and Egyptians, was a rattle with an U-shape frame on which were placed wires and sometimes rattles.
- The zither was similar in appearance to the lyre, but it was played with a pick. This music was associated with the worship to the god Apollo, representing beauty and order.
- The aulos was associated with Dionysus, god of wine, of dance and of theater. This instrument was a kind of oboe with two tubes attached to the end of the mouth.
- The flute of Pan or Syrinx was named after the mythical Greek god Pan. The nymph Syrinx was the woman who loved Pan, and when she died, he converted her into a cane and then cut the cane into pieces of different lengths, then united them and it made him music which consoled him of the loss.
Makeup and cosmetics in Ancient Greece
The civilization of beauty
Greece was also known as the civilization of beauty. They made lots of influence in other countries and civilizations. This love to such extreme taste for beauty was also written in books, like Apollonius of Herophile, that explains in his book that "in Athens there weren't any ugly old women." In fact, were the Greeks who spread through Europe many beauty products, cosmetic formulas and body worship and baths, and all the concept of aesthetics.
The human body was the part they paid more attention to. Their thoughts about beauty didn't allow fat or women with big breasts. It was necessary to take care of the body for aesthetic perfection consisting, besides having small and strong breasts, to have a thin and slender neck and equal shoulders. In baths was where this love for body care occurred. Before the bath, they made several physical exercises that prepared the body for the bathroom, which was usually with cold water. Massages also had an important role because, along with swimming and gymnastics, it kept the body without fat and made a good and healthy figure with smooth skin.
Cosmetics, in Greece, lived a glorious time, especially in the use of oils. These were extracted from flowers and they were made with natural products. The oils were applied after baths or massages and were made of many different flowers, roses, jasmine, thyme, etc., And its manufacture was concentrated in Cyprus, Corinth and Rhodes. The hair was carefully treated and also dyes were produced with natural things.
The makeup of women in Athens was based on the color black and blue for the eyes, with carmine they colored their cheeks, and the lips and fingernails were painted with a single color. It was considered that the skin color of the face should be pale. But not only women and men Greeks had this concern for aesthetics. Their gods also had passion for beauty, or that's how they described it.
Colors in Ancient Greece
The ancient Greeks represented their gods with blonde hair. In ancient Greece, all men wanted to be blonde. They dyed their hair with especial ointments, and waited until it turned blonde.
For Greeks blue means the color of the sea and the color of the god of the sea.
Greeks used it for Zeus as the color of the gods, but also as the color of duels.
Green meant victory and winning.
In ancient Greece, the color black symbolized life because the day was born of darkness.
Pink and Red
Greeks thought pink came from color white and was represented with the goddess of love, Aphrodite. Red was also very used and popular. They used it a lot to paint buildings, statues, etc.
Beards in Ancient Greece
The Greeks cared a lot about their beards. The barber's shop was famous and everybody went there, not only by those who needed a haircut, but they also went to shave, cut their nails, corns and small hairs they had, but was also a good place were men went to discuss local and political news.
According to a tradition, many Macedonians were killed by the Persians hanging them from their long beards and pulling them to the ground. Because of that, Alexander the Great made his troops to shave during the battle. After the time of Alexander the Great, the barber business became wealthy and important because of the habit of shaving, despite protests from several states.
In works of art, especially in portrait statues, the beard was always a particular feature. They made them in different styles depending on what they wanted to do or get.
The normal hair color was dark, blond hair was considered of great beauty. Homer gives Menelaus, Achilles and Meleager blond curls. Hair beauty was considered a very important characteristic of male beauty.
Among the Spartans became a sacred custom, to let the hair of a child grow as soon as the he reached the age when he was considered a grown up, until then it had to be short. This custom lasted between the Spartans until the were beat by the Achaean federation. They paid no attention to the hair, only on important occasions, like the day before an important battle.
In Athens, about the time of the Persian wars, men used to wear long hair, tied in the top of their head with a tie that was held together with a hairpin. However, the monuments offer no example of this custom. Philosophers also tried to revive the old times by leaving long hair.
So there was the time before Alexander the Great, when people had long hair and beard, and after when people started to change and to have short hair and no beard.
The Olympic Games
The origin of the Olympics
According to mythology, Zeus stroke a lightning in the place he should be honored. Then, the people made him an altar there and offerings were sent there for the god, and they made a pyre. It was with a race that they decided who was going to have the honor to light the pyre, and that's the origin of the Olympic Games.
The Olympics are actually Greek fraternity festivals. The first sports demonstrations took place in Olympia in the Peloponnese. Both the city and the games were named in honor of Zeus, who was characterized as living on top of the Mount Olympus, the highest mountain in Greece.
Olympia was sacred by the games and the religious rituals, so the treasures they had could be deposed there or in Delphi. The representatives or the states met there, despite they were between them in war. Olympia was a neutral city and when the games were celebrated, wars were suspended so everyone could travel to Olympia for the games. This sacred truce was called Ekekheiria.
How much they lasted
At first the games lasted only one day, but later it took three, and later it expanded to five. They were held in the summer, and it is considered that they began in 776 a. C., because that is the year that a list of tournament winners first appears. From that time, was officially done every four years.
The winners did not receive any prize like money or nothing valuable itself, but got lots of honor and fame. Symbol of this honor was the wreath that was given to the winner. It was made of olive leaves, while the Pythian games was of laurel, sacred to Apollo. They also earned the right to have a statue in Olympia, and they didn't have to pay any taxes.
Olympic champions in fact enjoyed the victory of the games in ancient Greece. In their hometowns they made them sculptures and poems. When they returned with the victory, everyone received them triumphant, as heroes, with a parade through the streets. They acquire an almost divine dimension, and some of them even became mythical characters, known after death. The champion could live on account of the state for the rest of his life. To participate in the Olympics, they didn't have to be any important or rich person, they only needed to be a Greek citizen and to had never committed a crime. What couldn't participate, of course, was a woman.
Married women could not compete nor attend the games or not even enter the Olympic stadium. The single could be as public, but not participate.
Some women disobey the law and attended dressed as men, risking their lives by being thrown from the mountain Tipeón. There is the story about a mother who broke the rules to see his son, and, dressed in a robe of coach, entered clandestinely. By embracing his son was discovered, but could escape the death penalty which would have punished their disobedience had not proven mother, daughter and sister of Olympic champions.
There was, however, careers for women, the most famous of which were held at the Olympic Stadium in honor of Hera, goddess of fertility. These games often took place in September, shortly after the male. The winner received a laurel wreath and a piece of the cow sacrificed to the goddess along with the right to consecrate his portrait to the temple.
Some women defied the ban and attended dressed as men, thereby risking being thrown from the mountain Tipeón. There is a story about a mother who broke the rules to see her son, and, dressed as a gravedigger, entered secretly. When she went to hug her son, she was discovered, but she escaped the death penalty which would have punished her disobedience because she proved she was mother (daughter and sister was also accepted) of an Olympic champion.
There was, however, races for women, the most famous of them were held at the Olympic Stadium in honor to Hera, goddess of fertility. These games often took place in September, shortly after the male ones. The winner received a laurel wreath and a piece of the cow sacrificed to the goddess along with the right to kept her portrait in the temple.
Physical training of young people was very important, for the Greeks the greatest perfection was in the body of a teenager, so they had to exercise it to the absolute limits to get even more beauty. When the children met twelve years old they were admitted in a place where they learned discipline and developed their muscles. Four years later they trained in gyms, places that had a big places to do sport and outdoor areas between forests. The training ended at age 20. Then they were given weapons and were considered ready to participate in the Games.
Most of them chose to compete naked, rubbed with olive oil and waxed, as a way to show pride of their physical fitness. There was great competition between all cities, but sometimes athletes participate alone or representing themselves and not their state or city. The effort they did was so hard, that sometimes athletes had to damaged their health or even die because of tiredness.
At the beginning the only competition was a race of about 190 meters in the rounds of the city, but eventually the games were expanded. The training became very varied, but the favorite sport competition was five different tasks, similar to current pentathlon. It consisted of fight, race, javelin, long jump and discus throw. Also had chariot races, with coachmen called charioteers, and the most violent sport all the pankration, a mixture of boxing and wrestling in which everything was permitted except breaking fingers, taking the opponent eyes out or to bite.
Cheating or violations
Violations were punished severely. To run early in races meant receiving lashes from the mastigóforo which was located next to the judge. Besides the cheats had to pay a fine which was used to finance bronze statues in honor to Zeus. The statues were then placed on the road leading to the stadium, so that everyone could read the name engraved on them of the one who cheated and misconduct. If the athlete considered the decision of the judge not fair, he could appeal or request to the Senate of Olympia. If he managed to prove that the decision of the judge was not fair, the judge was punished, otherwise, the athlete was the one with the punishment.
Judges and referees
The referees and judges were called helanódices. Their jobs began ten months before the competitions, they had to prove and chose that the athletes had all the conditions that were required. They also had to organize competitions, to make sure the stadium and places were in good conditions, to attend to the tests and the festivities, to name the winners, to give the awards and prizes and to make the sacrifices. They could be re-elected, and anyone who tried to bribe a judge or an opponent was punished with lashes.
After the competition, when the winner's name was announced, the judge placed a palm on the hands or the winner, while he was being cheered by the crowd and the public threw flowers to him. Then they tied red ribbons to his head, as a symbol of victory. The last day, in the lobby of the temple of Zeus, it was time of awards, when the champion received the olive wreath, called kotinos.
Public and other games
The games, for which no tickets were sold, were open to all Greeks, and those who came to Olympia had to have an animal that had to be sacrificed in honor to Zeus. The athletes themselves sacrificed pigs. People came from all over Greece to attend the Olympics or to participate in them. In fact, if a city was given permission to take part in the Games, it was officially considered Greek. Many people came from other countries or cities just for the games. Sometimes, they had to sleep outside or in the stadium because there wasn't enough space for so many persons.
There were other important games in which all Greeks participated, but they were created two centuries after the first Olympic Games. Among them were the Pythian Games, which were held at Delphi every four years, in the middle of each Olympiad, the Isthmian games, on the Gulf of Corinth, and the Nemean, which took place at Nemea. The last two were held at intervals of two years.
Sometimes they also performed musical and literary tournaments, as the Greeks valued spirit products.
The end of the traditional Greek games
There was no interruption in the celebration of the Olympics until 393, when Emperor Theodosius abolished them. The domain of Greece by the Roman Empire had changed the Games, and these no longer make sense. It was all cheating, violence, cruelty, etc, and they even started to make battles between gladiators and wild beasts. Athletes had become slaves, and the rewards started to be material, which ended up corrupting the old Olympic spirit.
The new beginning
The Games took place again in 1896. His promoter was the Frenchman Pierre de Fredy. For the construction of the new stadium in Athens marble was used from the quarries of Mount Penteli, from which, centuries before, the stone had been removed to build the Parthenon. That's when he organized the first Olympic marathon race, which commemorates the Battle of the Greeks against the Persians in 490 a. C., when the messenger who brought the news of the victory fell dead after running the 42 kilometers to get to Athens. The test did not exist in the ancient games. It didn't took place until April 14, 1896.
Health and illnesses in Ancient Greece
Illnesses suffered by the Greeks were similar of those we suffer today, dominated by epidemics, which they called plagues, produced high number of deaths, which meant a constant concern for the Greeks.
In Greece, health care was practiced by different groups. But not everyone could enter the groups because it was considered to be very intelligent to enter that groups. They didn't believed in spirits or other supernatural causes.
They interpreted illnesses in a way similar to the Mesopotamians, considering them as a punishment of bad behavior or of state of impurity.
Were the Greeks the first ones who gave a natural explanation to illnesses and diseases. This happened because the surgeons, pharmacopoeias, etc., were able to take advantage of the knowledge of their philosophers. Increasingly, doctors came together and formed small technical medical schools which taught the study of man in every way. At the beginning, these schools were familiar hereditary but later they were extended to more people, even paying the classes.
There were mainly four types of doctors, which could be known as the ancestors of the current professionals:
- Surgeons: They were dedicated to the treatment of diseases with experience, they had no theoretical training. There were three groups: the pharmacopoeias, who collected and administrated herbs, the rizotomas, who collected and managed roots, and gymnasts, who practiced gymnastics and massages.
- Slaves: Were the doctors assistants. They performed were the ones who took care of the patients and the ones who help the doctors for example with some specific tools. In some writings it tells that the server assistant or helper of the doctor were the ones who gave the specific guidelines on applications, liquid diets, hot baths, etc.. These writings show how important were the assistants for the doctors to work successfully.
- Midwives: They were the women who help to gave birth to babies. Doctors only assisted to the birth if it was difficult or abnormal. As midwives were common, other health assistance was forbidden to women. Greek women could not learn any type of art, but the care of the family was mainly the wife's responsibility.
- Medical technicians: Truly they were the ones who knew the knowledge related to health care. They began to practice medicine education, reporting and recommending to patients in every way. These recommendations were addressed to very few ones in society, so that the majority of people didn't know how to take care of their health.
In the golden age (V BC) we discovered the first medical treatises that have come down to us. Students were young boys with 15 years old, from high positions in society and well prepared in all aspects, which wanted to enter to medical school. Medical knowledge belonged only to those who swore to practice it and dedicate their live to it. Among the most famous Greek physicians were Hippocrates and Pedanius Dioscorides.
Luck in Ancient Greece
One of the most curious things of the Ancient Greek culture are their superstitions from religion.
In villages, bread is considered a gift of the Gods, the old women blessed the bread and made the sign of a cross with a knife before cutting it.
The evil eye
Some Greeks, especially in villages, believe that some one can have and evil eye thanks to envy or jealousy. Some one had an evil eye when they felt bad physically and psychologically. To prevent this things, they had some good-luck charms: a small blue wineglass made of marble with an eye painted on it, or a blue bracelet. It was thought that blue took bad luck away, but it is also thought that people with blue eyes are the ones who give the evil eyes to other ones. Garlic is another way to keep the evil eye away, and some times you could see some garlic hanging from some homes. And it is also believed that garlic and onion were good to cure illnesses.
Greeks never give directly another person the knife, because it is considered that if you do so, there will be a fight. So they always had to leave it on top of a table and the other person could get it then.
The Greek Orthodox priests (popes) are highly adored and it was a custom to shake the priest's hand when greeting one. Today this practice it is only used in villages. It is believed that to see a black cat and a priest on the same day is bad luck.
It is customary for Greeks to spit to take evil away. When a Greek hears bad news, they usually spit three times over themselves to protect themselves from the possibility that something bad will happen. It is not real spitting, the reproduce just the sound. Another example is when someone wants to compliment a baby, a child or even an adult for their beauty, they also spit three times.
Day of bad luck
Unlike the western belief, in Greece the unlucky day is Tuesday 13 not Friday 13.
The expression “Piase Kókino” (the red touch)
When two people say the same thing at the same time, the say immediately “Piase Kókino”, to each other and both have to touch something red that is around. This happens because the Greeks believe that saying the same thing is a bad sing and that the two people will fight if they do not touch anything red.