10 facts about the Ancient Greeks


Ready for an adventure back in time, gang? The join us here at National Geographic Kids as we discover 10 fascinating facts about Ancient Greece...

1. It’s believed the first Ancient Greek civilisations were formed nearly 4,000 years ago (approximately 1600 BC) by the mighty Mycenaeans of Crete (a Greek Island). The Ancient Greek Empire spread from Greece through Europe and, in 800 BC, the Greeks started to split their land into city-states, each with its own laws, customs and rulers.

2. The Greeks had some strange superstitions about food – some wouldn’t eat beans as they thought they contained the souls of the dead!


3. The Ancient Greeks had lots of stories to help them learn about their world. The gods featured heavily in these tales, and so did mythological monsters – like Cerberus, a three-headed dog that guarded the gates to the underworld; Medusa, a slithery sorceress whose look could turn people to stone; and the Cyclops who had one eye in the middle of its forehead. Yikes!

4. Events at the Greek’s Olympics included wrestling, boxing, long jump, javelin, discus and chariot racing. But those taking part in the wrestling event had to be the toughest, as there were hardly any rules – and they had to compete naked. Eek!


5. Most Ancient Greeks wore a chiton, which was a long T-shirt made from one large piece of cotton. The poor slaves, however, had to make do with a loincloth (a small strip of cloth wrapped around the waist)!

6. The Greeks put statues of their gods inside temples, the most famous of which is the Parthenon. This temple in Athens was built for the goddess Athena, the protector of the city.


7. A famous legend tells how, in 1180 BC, the cunning Greeks conquered the city of Troy – by hiding inside a giant wooden horse! The horse was left outside the city’s walls and, thinking it a gift, the people of Troy wheeled it inside... only for the sneaky Greek soldiers inside to creep out and seize the city!

8. Did you know that the Ancient Greeks invented the theatre? They loved watching plays, and most cities had a theatre – some big enough to hold 15,000 people! Only men and boys were allowed to be actors, and they wore masks, which showed the audience whether their character was happy or sad. Some of the masks had two sides, so the actor could turn them around to change the mood for each scene.


9. The Ancient Greeks held many festivals in honour of their gods. To celebrate the god Zeus, for example, the first Greek Olympics were held in the city of Olympia in 776 BC and are thought to have inspired our own Olympic Games! The winners of each event were given a wreath of leaves, and when they returned home, they would be given free meals and the best seats in the theatre!

10. The city-states were often at war, but just before the Olympics, a truce would be called so that everyone could travel to Olympia safely.


Photos and illustrations © Getty Images UK. 


Find these facts fascinating? Then read all about Greek mythology in our Terrible Tales from Ancient Greece, and meet the Greek gods in our cool comic, Max on Mount Olympus!


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