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Five Ancient Greek Discoveries that Shaped Our Modern World

Plato and Aristotle walking in school of Athens
Five Ancient Greek discoveries that shaped our modern world. Credit: Jorge Valenzuela/ Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 3.0,

If you are wondering exactly what the contributions of ancient Greece to our modern world were, here is just a small sample of the top inventions and discoveries of the ancient Greeks that are remarkably still used today.

Plato’s Alarm Clock

Plato, the famous ancient Greek philosopher and mathematician who founded the first institution of higher education in the Western world, the Academy of Athens, was said to be the first person to introduce the first snooze alarm into human history.

In his effort to wake people up and get them to their lectures on time—at dawn—Plato designed a mechanism which might be considered the first alarm clock ever.

In his mechanism, water would drip from one vessel into another via a small hole, and as the second vessel filled during the night, trapped air was forced out of a side vent, making it whistle like a tea kettle when it filled up quickly.


Ancient Greek drama was born in the city-state of Athens, one of the most significant cultural, military, and political centers of ancient Greece.

Around 700 BC, a part of a rite called Dionysia carried out in honor of the Greek god Dionysus was the predecessor of what we call theater today.

The three principal dramatic forms in the theater of classical Greece that originally flourished in Athens and later spread to numerous other allied city states and colonies were  tragedy, comedy, and satyr play (which preserves the structure and characters of tragedy while adopting a happy atmosphere and a rural background).

Ancient theater of Epidaurus

The principle of the Greek mathematician Archimedes

The exclamation “Eureka!” is attributed to the brilliant ancient Greek mathematician, physicist, engineer, inventor, and astronomer Archimedes, who lived from 287 BC to 212 BC.

After he worked out one of the greatest discoveries of all time while he was taking his bath, Archimedes uttered his famous phrase.

This brilliant Greek mind, which was already known for his discoveries in the ancient world, was the first known person on Earth to realize that “the upward buoyant force that is exerted on a body immersed in a fluid, whether fully or partially submerged, is equal to the weight of the fluid that the body displaces.”

Olympic Games

The first Olympic Games can be traced back to 776 BC. The athletic competitions, which were held every four years for representatives of various city-states of ancient Greece in honor of Zeus were a celebration of the achievements of the human body. They were staged on the ancient plains of Olympia, a town in the western part of Greece’s Peloponnesian Peninsula.

ancient greek vase
Ancient Greek vase depicting a race. Credit: MatthiasKabel/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY 2.5

Victory in the Olympic Games was one of the highest honors that could be bestowed upon a mortal, but, besides a crown made of olive branches, no material reward was afforded to the winners. They were celebrated until 394 A.D. when the Games, held in honor of Zeus, were suppressed by Emperor Theodosius I in his effort to impose Christianity as the only religion of the Roman Empire.

Courts of law

The law courts in 4th and 5th centuries B.C. Athens consisted of either 200, 500, 1,000 or 1,500 members (+1 to avoid ties). The annual pool of jurors, which was called Heliaia, included around 6,000 members.

The Athenian jurors, who belonged to different social classes due to the fact that they were chosen randomly, received payment of two, and later three, obols a day. The jurors had to swear by the gods of Apollo, Zeus, and Demeter the Heliastic Oath as they were sitting on wooden benches, being separated from spectators.

Precinct of the ruins of Heliea, the supreme court of ancient Athens.
The ruins of Heliea, the Supreme Court of ancient Athens. Credit: Wikipedia/Public domain.


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