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. Many valuable inventions have ancient Greek origins; the best part is; they are still being used today.

The Greeks did it first and better.

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

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

1. Olympics

11 Greek Inventions That Changed the World for Good
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, the games had likely 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 honoring the god Zeus.

The modern Olympics began in 1896, thanks mainly to the efforts of Baron Pierre de Coubertin, inspired by 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 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

11 Greek Inventions That Changed the World for Good
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 the 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 A.D., 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 astronomical problems.

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

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

3. Theatre

11 Greek Inventions That Changed the World for Good
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 ancient Greeks introduced the theatre as we understand it today?

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

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

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


4. Water Clock

11 Greek Inventions That Changed the World for Good
Source: John Farey, Jr./Wikimedia Commons

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

Water clocks are ancient and are known to have existed in BabylonEgypt, and Persia around the 16th century B.C. However, the Greeks refined this technology 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 ensure that everyone spoke for the same amount of time.

5. Greek Fire

11 Greek Inventions That Changed the World for Good
Source: Gts-tg/Wikimedia Commons

Greek fire was developed in Byzantium in the 7th century. It was an incendiary weapon that used a petroleum-based mixture. However, other types of incendiary substances, such as pitch, naphthasulfur, and charcoal, have been used since ancient times to make flaming 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

11 Greek Inventions That Changed the World for Good
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. Archimedes 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

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

But do you know when and who invented it? Archeologists have found cranes in ancient Greece dating to the late 6th century B.C., making them another important ancient Greek 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 develops.

This, in turn, has enabled doctors to treat cervical cancer earlier, 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 with incredible inventions, even in medicine.

9. The Watermill

11 Greek Inventions That Changed the World for Good
Source: Gts-tg/Wikimedia Commons

This ancient Greek technology had a bigger impact on modern technology than you think. After all, using 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. 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

11 Greek Inventions That Changed the World for Good
Source: Santiago Puig Vilado/Wikimedia Commons

A water screw is a machine that transfers 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 this writing led to the screw being attached to his name.

11. Catapult

11 Greek Inventions That Changed the World for Good
Source: Ron L. Toms/Wikimedia Commons

The catapult was likely invented in several different places around the same time, including a 4th-century mangonel 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 catapults by the Romans to make them more maneuverable.

The inventions by the 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, odometer, stadium, and arch bridge.

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

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

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