11 Greek Inventions That Changed the World for Good

Find out some of the most important Greek inventions and discoveries that are still used by people all over the globe.
Kashyap Vyas
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‘Greece: the cradle of Western civilization’

‘Greece: home of the original Olympic games’

‘Athens: the birthplace of democracy’

You must have heard these quotes and sayings sometime, somewhere, right? Well, that’s just the beginning. There are many useful inventions that have ancient Greek origins, and the best part is; they are still being used today.

The Greeks did it first and better

Today, some of the Greek inventions are being used in our daily lives, whereas others are used by the professionals in their respective fields. Their findings in the area of astronomy, mathematics, and geography pioneered a number of fields of science. It’s time to take a glance at them.

Below are some of the interesting and amazing inventions that reflect their contribution in the best possible way. So what did the Greeks invent? 

1. Olympics

Source: Pixabay

Today, the Olympic Games are a global phenomenon. But, do you know where it originated?

The first record of the Olympic Games being held was in 776 B.C. when a cook named Coroebus won the only event - a 630-feet (192-meter) footrace called the "stade" to become Olympic champion.

However, it is likely that the games had been going on for many years by that time.  They were held every four years in Olympia, on the western Peloponnese peninsula. These ancient games were part of a religious festival in honor of the god Zeus.

The modern Olympics began in 1896, thanks largely to the efforts of Baron Pierre de Coubertin, who was inspired following a visit to the ancient Olympic site. The first modern Olympics took place in Athens, Greece. There were 280 participants from 13 nations (all male), who competed in 43 events, including track and field, gymnastics, swimming, wrestling, cycling, tennis, weightlifting, shooting, and fencing. 

The modern Olympics really took off after 1924, when the VIII Games were held in Paris. Around 3,000 athletes (including more than 100 women) from 44 nations competed. The Winter Olympics also began that year and included events like figure skating, ice hockey, bobsledding, and the biathlon. 

2. Astrolabe

Astrolabe Greek Invention
Source: Andrew Dunn/Wikimedia Commons

The astrolabe is one of the most significant ancient Greece inventions. It is an instrument used to make astronomical measurements, like altitudes of celestial bodies.

Its invention is often credited to Claudius Ptolemy, a famous Greek astronomer who lived in the Roman Empire during the 2nd century AD, or even earlier, to Apollonius of Perga between 220 and 150 B.C., or to Hipparchus. It was essentially an analog calculator capable of working out several different kinds of problems in astronomy.

In the eighth century, Muslim astronomers introduced angular scales to the design and began using the astrolabe for both navigation and to find the direction of Mecca, for daily prayers.

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Its use by mariners continued until the development of reliable mechanical clocks, in the 17th and 18th centuries.

3. Theatre

Ancient Greek Theatre
Source: John Galen Howard/Wikimedia Commons

Today, watching a play, movie, or musical is a major source of entertainment for people across the globe. However, did you know that the theatre as we understand it today was introduced by the ancient Greeks?

An early form of drama emerged in Greece around the 6th century B.C. Although theater in India may have preceded this, it is the Greek version that has influenced the later development of theater in the West.

Greek dramatists also created plays in multiple genres,  including tragedy, comedy, and satire, and many of the plays they wrote are still relevant today and have helped to shape modern western culture.

The ancient Greeks also constructed theaters capable of seating hundreds or thousands of people.


4. Water Clock

Greek Water Clock
Source: John Farey, Jr./Wikimedia Commons

The water clock, known as Clepsydra, was introduced into ancient Greece around the year 325 BC. It is a timepiece that measures time by the regulated flow of liquid into or out of a vessel. The liquid is measured, giving the time.

Water clocks are ancient and are known to have existed in Babylon, Egypt, and Persia around the 16th century B.C. However, the Greeks refined this technology and used it to measure a wide range of discrete events.

It was used in trials, where the time of the lawyers and the witnesses’ speeches were measured to make sure that everyone spoke for the same amount of time.

5. Greek Fire

Greek Fire Flamethrower
Source: Gts-tg/Wikimedia Commons

Greek fire was developed in Byzantium in the 7th century. It was an incendiary weapon that used petroleum-based mixture, although other types of incendiary substances, such as pitch, naphthasulfur, and charcoal had been used since ancient times to make flamming arrows, firepots, and other weapons. In later centuries, saltpeter and turpentine were used, and these mixtures were known to the Crusaders as Greek fire or wildfire.

What is often thought of as true Greek fire was likely a petroleum-based mixture, and was probably invented during the reign of Constantine IV Pogonatus (668–685) by Callinicus of Heliopolis, a Greek-speaking Jewish refugee who had fled the Arab conquest of Syria. The substance could be thrown in pots or discharged from tubes; it apparently caught fire spontaneously and could not be extinguished with water. 

6. The lever

Ancient Greek Levers
Source: Bill Smith/Flickr

The earliest evidence of a lever dates back to the ancient Near East sometime around 5000 B.C., and they were used in ancient India and Egypt to lift water and to move heavy objects.

However, some of the earliest remaining writings about levers date from the 3rd century B.C. and were written by the Greek polymath Archimedes. It was Archimedes who first explained the underlying ratios of force, load, and distance from the fulcrum point, and provided mathematical principles and laws governing the use of levers. 

7. The Crane

11 Greek Inventions That Changed the World for Good
Source: FangXiaNuo

Cranes are the ultimate help when you need to lift heavy objects while constructing a building or while transferring supplies from one place to another. Today, we cannot imagine the world of construction without cranes.

But, did you know when and who invented it? Archeologists have found cranes in ancient Greece dating to the late 6th century BC, making it another important ancient greek ancient invention.  

8. Pap Smear

George Papanikolaou – a veteran of Greece’s medical corps created the cervical screening method. This test detects changes in cervical cells before cancer actually develops.

This, in turn, has enabled the doctors to treat cervical cancer earlies, leading to improved outcomes for millions of women. 

The introduction of the Pap smear test reduced deaths due to cervical cancer by almost 70% over the last 50 years. Thus, Greece has gifted the world incredible inventions even in the field of medicine.

9. The Watermill

Greek Water Mill
Source: Gts-tg/Wikimedia Commons

This ancient Greek technology had a bigger impact on modern technology than you think. After all, the use of water power to grind wheat allowed it to be turned into a mass-produced staple food. 

The Greeks invented the two main components of watermills, the waterwheel and toothed gearing, and some of the earliest evidence of a water-driven wheen appears in the technical treatises written by the Greek engineer Philo of Byzantium (ca. 280−220 BC). 

10. Archimedes Screw

Archimedes Screw
Source: Santiago Puig Vilado/Wikimedia Commons

The water screw is a machine used for transferring water from a low-lying area into irrigation ditches. Water is pumped by turning a screw-shaped surface inside a pipe.

While Archimedes did not invent the screw bearing his name, he did write about the mathematical principles behind it, and it is this writing which led to the screw being attached to his name.

11. Catapult

Greek Catapult
Source: Ron L. Toms/Wikimedia Commons

The catapult was likely invented in several different places at around the same time, including a 4th-century mangonel in use in China, and was used by the Greek army in 399 BC.

They may have been introduced to Greece by Dionysius the Elder of Syracuse. 

Later, wheels were added to catapult by the Romans in order to make them more maneuverable.

The inventions by Greeks don’t end here

Greeks have bestowed the world with many other inventions. According to some sources, the Greeks are responsible for the alarm clock, computer, shower,  automatic doors, cartography, the odometer, the stadium, and the arch bridge.

There’s no doubt that ancient Greek civilization as whole inspired achievements that eventually shaped ancient western civilization. They performed exceedingly well in different areas including arts, science, philosophy, architecture, and many more, and gifted the world with incredible innovations that are still used by people all across the globe.

If you want to learn more about ancient inventions, be sure to stop by here.  

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