The book Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea: Why the Greeks Matter by Thomas Cahill centered on the ancient Greek culture. The time of the Ancient Greeks was so long ago that most people think they have no reason to learn about them. Most people tend to not enjoy history, and to them the Greeks are only another history lesson to sit through. Those that retain any sort of knowledge about these peoples from their high school history lessons remember the mythology. Today gods like Zeus and Athena are common knowledge, but very few can say anything else about the Greek culture.
A problem in modern day society is that people just don’t care anymore. History can affect us even today, and so many people just don’t see it. If we could open our eyes to all of the things that have been given to us thanks to the past, people would be able to appreciate them a bit more. Taking things for granted tends to be a common problem in not only America, but in almost all developed countries. The Ancient Greeks played a large part in history all over the world. They invented at least forty unique tools to advance their society, most of which we use today.
The Greeks played a large role in early transportation. Anaximander created maps with latitude and longitude lines around 600-500 B. C. Previously, the only maps in existence were small, inaccurate sketches made by sailors. With the creation of latitude and longitude lines, maps were now given a standard accuracy. Later on, two other Greeks were able to take Anaximander’s broken maps and create a full map of the world, or what was known of the world at that time (Baird). The latitude and longitude system is still used today. People use it every day on their GPS’ without even knowing.
If we didn’t have it, travel would be almost impossible, or at least very inconvenient. Even before maps, the Greeks created streets around 400 B. C. The first street was the main street of Elea, a Greek territory in modern day Italy. It was paved with limestone blocks and even included small gutters at the side of the road to collect rain water, which are still on our roads today. Travel would basically be nonexistent today without the help of streets. Almost everyone sees at least one street every day, and adults will generally travel on it at least twice a day to get to and from work.
People use streets without even stopping to think about why we have them or where they even came from, and most don’t know that the small lines on the edge of the road originally served to collect rainwater. The Greeks also had a big hand in creating modern-day construction. Around 500 B. C. the Greeks invented the crane to aid in stacking stone and other materials. Back in the 400’s the Greeks had already created urban planning. With the ability to plan out their cities block by block, communities became cleaner and more organized, giving more people the chance to live in a nice place.
The truss roof style was created during the time of the Ancient Greeks, as well as wheelbarrows, winches, spiral staircases, and water mills (Baird). These are all things we use today, even if they aren’t always seen on a day to day basis. Someone will encounter at least one of these items and use it to make their life a bit easier every day. Greek architecture is rather popular and people will come from around the word to see it, yet very few have any idea of what went into making it and the sort of technology the Ancient Greeks had to create to form such beautiful works of art.
Modern day houses wouldn’t be anywhere near as comfortable as they are today without the help of the Ancient Greeks. One very important thing to a developed society is plumbing. The Greeks made this around 400 B. C. and went on in 200 B. C. to make what was known as an escapement, or now a modern day sink. Around the 300s, the Greeks invented showers and about 200 years later were able to construct a large gymnasium complete with both showers and baths (Baird). So many of our every day comforts were created by the Greeks. They even invented central heating.
Although it was almost lost when the Roman Empire fell, it was recovered during the industrial revolution and we are able to still use it today. To go with central heating, the Greeks also created thermometers. They were created back when the Greeks discovered that air expanded when heated, and with this information a Greek man named Philo was able to create the first thermometer, although Galileo was the one to add the scale to it thousands of years later (Baird). Historians discovered that the first mention of money was back in Ancient Greece.
Although the idea of money had been taken from elsewhere, the Greeks were the first society to use money in a similar manner to how we do in modern day society. It is estimated that money was used around the first part of the 6th century. It was the first state issued currency with a guarantee of universal exchange, meaning that every territory in Greece used it at the time. It is believed, by looking at the writings of that time period, that this money system was a big success with the Greek people. Not all seemed to ike it, however, as people such as Socrates believed charging money for certain things was a lot like prostitution. For this reason, Socrates never charged for his philosophical teachings (Higgins). It’s next to impossible to talk about inventions of the Ancient Greeks without mentioning the Olympics. In 776 B. C. the Olympic Games were created to keep Greek soldiers in shape. The Greeks created Stadiums to hold the Olympics in, as well as starting gates to keep their sports fair. Although the Olympics were shut down for a time, France picked it back up in 1894.
It is still a big competition to this day (OpenLearn). The Greeks also made a huge contribution to today’s study of humanities. Philosophy took a giant leap forward during this period, but Literature hit the ground running. One of the first epics of its time was created in Ancient Greek, a poem known as The Iliad. This epic and its sequel, The Odyssey, are still known as two of the world’s greatest epics. The Greeks also made a large twist to drama. This was the first time plays were acted out and different personas were taken on by people we now know as actors (Summers).
The Greeks also gave us a handful of smaller inventions as well. Around the 400s they made the crossbow and about 300 years later came the clock tower, both inventions used to this day, though not as commonly. The Odometer was also made by the Ancient Greeks. Even though cars wouldn’t be invented for another couple thousand years, the odometer was used to measure road distances. Ctesibius created the first alarm clock back in the 200s using a dial and pointer as the clock face.
At a pre set time, pebbles would fall onto a gong to create the alarm sound. The first vending machine dispensed water when a coin was inserted. The coin would fall onto a pan and release the water until it fell off. Steam power was also first used by the Greeks, which was the power behind the automatic doors they created in Alexandria (Baird). The remnants of the first computer were also found in Ancient Greece. The gears, cogs, and other assorted parts would move when a lever was pulled, displaying a rather accurate moving picture of the planets.
Current day concepts such as democracy, ethics, justice, science, mathematics, and music are all able to be traced back to Greek roots. War is another familiar art that we took from the Greeks, whom treated war with so much respect that it was considered the greatest honor to die for one’s country in battle. It is also believed that the Ancient Greeks were able to harness solar power and create other advanced objects such as robots and telegraphs (OpenLearn). The problem with today’s society is that we aren’t able to look back on and appreciate history.
Too many people don’t care, and it’s when you stop caring about history that you repeat stupid mistakes. If people would take the time to look back on the Ancient Greek culture and compare it to current day cultures, they would be able to stop and see that we’re obviously doing something wrong here. If such an old civilization was able to create advanced technology that most believe was only created recently, with our advancement we should be able to create even more miraculous new inventions. Yet, we’re not.
Very few things have been considered completely new, genuine, and ingenious in today’s society. Even some of our new inventions, take nuclear power for example, are harmful to ourselves and everything around us. Of course, having different cultures is a good thing. It’s great that people can be so similar and yet so different at the same time. Difference brings new ideas to the table and gives us the ability to create wonderful technology. Yet we can’t stray away from our roots. History gives us the ability to advance ourselves even further.
What is the point of having different cultures if we can’t surpass the outdated ones that came before us? There isn’t one. Culture is such a big point in society and yet most of us can’t even see culture as a whole or what we could be doing with it. Instead we choose to live in their ignorant bliss and let the world fall apart around them, while the educated minority attempt to use the example of other cultures to fix the mess modern day humans have managed to create.
Baird, Craig. “Things We Use That the Ancient Greeks Invented. ” – Road Tickle. Road Tickle, 22 Apr. 2010. Web. 24 Oct. 2012. <http://roadtickle. com/things-we-use-that-the-ancient-greeks-invented/>. Cahill, Thomas. Sailing the Wine-Dark Sea: Why the Greeks Matter. New York City: Random House, 2003. Print. Higgins, Charlotte. “What Can the Ancient Greeks Do for Us? ” The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 01 Aug. 2011. Web. 24 Oct. 2012. <http://www. guardian. co. uk/world/2011/aug/01/what-can-ancient-greeks>. “OU on the BBC: What The Ancients Did For Us – The Greeks. ” – OpenLearn. The Open University, 25 Jan. 2005. Web. 24 Oct. 2012.