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The Greek Civilization was in many ways the birthplace of western culture. Classical Greek philosophy, literature and political theory had, and has, a huge and continuing influence on our modern world. The Greeks left a treasury of literature, for example Homer's epic poems The Iliad and The Odyssey and the poetry of Sappho, the drama of Sophocles and Aristophanes, alongside the philosophical works of Aristotle and Plato, the mathematical treatise of Pythagoras, the medical writings of Galen, and the mythology of Hesiod. One of Greece's most important contributions to western culture was the democratic system of government, which reached it peak in Athens during the Age of Pericles in fifth century B.C. Early Rome adopted much of the Greek pantheon and religion, as well as the Greek philosophical tradition, and what Rome did not pass down directly to the Middle Ages was rediscovered during the Renaissance period. While much of Greek theory in natural science and medicine has been discarded in the light of modern discoveries, their mathematical and philosophical contributions are still the basis for modern theorists.

Although Greece came under Roman Law when it became part of the Roman Empire in the year 146 B.C., the country retained both its cultural and linguistic identity. When Diocletian reorganized the Empire in the late third century, he divided it first into the Latin-speaking west and Greek-speaking east, with Diocletian retaining the rule of the east. The importance of the eastern Empire was increased when Constantine the Great altered the division of the Empire: following his conversion to Christianity, he officially moved the capital of the Empire from Rome to the Greek city of Byzantium, which was then renamed Constantinople. The eastern Roman Empire survived the fall of the western Empire in the fifth century, becoming known as the Byzantine Empire, which in its turned survived until its fall to the Turkish Ottoman Empire in 1456.

Despite the restrictions and oppression of the Turks, the Greeks were allowed to retain their religion and continue education in the Greek language. It was in part the continuation of the Greek Orthodox religion which helped the occupied Greeks to retain both their national and linguistic identity. The Greeks remained an unwilling part of the Ottoman Empire until the Greek War of Independence, which began in 1821. The war was resolved, with the help of Russia, Great Britain, and France, when the 1829 Treaty of Adrianopl forced Turkey to recognize Greek independence.

The political situation in Greece from the end of the nineteenth century to the early 1970's is characterized by periods of instability. The monarchy, established in the late nineteenth century, was overthrown and reinstated repeatedly, and was finally abolished by popular vote in 1975; a republican constitution was written that provided for a parliamentary democracy.

The Greek language as it is spoken today is descended from koinČ, which comes from the Attic-Ionic branch of classical Greek.


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