10 Shocking Facts About The Ancient Greeks

10 Shocking Facts From Ancient Greece 10 Agoge As anyone who studied Classics watched 300 will know, the Spartans were pretty badass But the ability to slice through legions of enemies didn’t come without sacrifice

Firstly, disabled and weak-looking Spartans were thrown off Mount Taygetos at birth And those that didn’t spend their first day on Earth being lobbed down a mountain had to enter full time military training as soon as they reached the age of 7 This training, called the agoge, involved learning stealth, fighting, and pain tolerance Children were deliberately given too little to eat to teach them how to hunt and steal off others To toughen them up, they had to survive much of their time in the wilderness, with no shoes and only one item of clothing

The item? A cloak deliberately too thin for winter and too thick for summer The agoge continued until soldiers were 21, at which point they had to live in barracks until marriage at 30 9 Ostrica Most people know that Athens was the world’s first democracy But this passion for people-power took some pretty unusual forms, such as the city’s annual Ostracism In the Ostracism, citizens could vote to kick any person out of the city for a full decade

Provided at least 6,000 people voted, the person with the most votes would be forced to leave for 10 years The exiled person had 10 days to leave, and if they returned before their decade-long sentence the penalty was death The idea behind this seemingly cruel practice was to stop Athens becoming a tyranny by allowing the people to vote out anyone they thought was getting too powerful However, somewhat inevitably, not everyone voted with this goal in mind One voter famously decided to try and ostracize Aristides The Just, simply because he thought it was pretentious to call yourself “The Just”

Which, to be fair, it is 8 Hygiene Classical Greece was, in many ways, extremely advanced Some of history’s most influential philosophers, mathematicians, and scientists came from one of Greece’s city-states Yet, despite their many revolutionary discoveries, their understanding of hygiene was… primitive, to say the least Doctors would regularly taste a patient’s earwax, vomit, or urine to see if it tasted odd

You see, the influential doctor Hippocrates had spread the belief that the body was made up of fluids, and that a properly-trained medical expert could taste what was wrong with a patient by sampling their juices Outside of medicine, the Greeks had some pretty gross fashion trends Rich men would buy the sweat of successful athletes, hoping to be imbued with their powers And if that wasn’t enough to convince you not to hop in your time machine and take a visit to Ancient Athens, most Greeks had to use stones to wipe themselves after going to the toilet 7 Pankration The modern Olympics have almost everything: dramatic openings, dedicated athletes, heart-warming underdog stories

But one thing it doesn't have is men beating each other to death Pankration was an Ancient Greek mixed martial art so intense it would make Jackie Chan quiver Aside from no biting or gouging, there were no rules Punching, kicking, wrestling, and choking were common attacks At the Olympics pankration fights continued until one fighter submitted, was knocked-out or, in some cases, died

To give you an idea of how bloodthirsty this sport was, one Olympic champion, Arrhichion of Phigalia , died in the final But, he still managed to win his fight because he managed to break his opponent's ankle The opponent submitted, not realizing Arrhichion had passed away, and thus lost the match We’re not saying the Olympics would definitely be better with regular death matches in the middle But we are saying it’s got to be worth a shot

6 Penis Festival Greek religion could get pretty weird If you don’t believe us read the myth about the time Zeus turned into a swan and slept with a – presumably pretty desperate – human woman But no part of Hellenic religion was more consistently strange than the City of Dionysia, where there was a large yearly festival honoring the Greek god of wine, theater, and fertility: Dionysus And what better way to celebrate such a deity than getting blind drunk and stomping around with a giant phallic statue? Every year, Dionysian worshippers would drink insane amounts of wine, then grab a giant model penis (which, I guess they just had lying around), and march down to the Theater of Dionysus As they made their way down to the theater, revelers would sing bawdy songs about sex and crack rude jokes

Interestingly, Aristotle claims that this is where performed comedy first began, with people adapting the jokes they heard for stage shows 5 Slavery It probably won’t surprise you that the Spartans had slaves After all, someone had to do the farming and housework while the Spartans were off at the barracks fighting and coupling up And it also probably won’t surprise you that the Spartans treated their slaves, a local subjugated people called helots, pretty badly Terrified by the fact the helots outnumbered them 20 to 1, every year the Spartans would ceremonially declare war on their slaves

During this period slaves could be killed with impunity, and the Spartan secret police, the Krypteia, would appear outside random houses and kill the helots there But it was Athens, supposed bastion of democracy, that actually had the most slaves One source puts the number of Athenian slaves, who were treated as property and could be legally killed, at 80,000 That's an average of 4 slaves for every Athenian household 4 Witchcraft Though the Festival of the Massive Male Member [Show footage/images from Penis Procession] may lead you to think otherwise, religion was actually very important to the Greeks

And while most people know the Greeks worshipped and sacrificed animals to the Olympian pantheon of gods, there was also an active underground culture of black magic and witchcraft Over the years, tablets found buried in tens of ancient graves have revealed that people across Greece liked to dabble in necromancy Necromancy, or attempting to commune with the spirits of the dead, is also briefly mentioned in the Odyssey and by Plato Chatting with the dead was not the only supernatural feats the Greeks attempted Thessaly, a region in the middle of Greece, became renowned as a haven of witchcraft

People would visit the sorceresses, hoping to buy spells that would do everything from turn them invisible to harming their enemies These practices were looked down on in public But it seems that, in private, they thrived 3 Spartan Relationships As you might have gleaned by now, the Spartans were big on soldiering Even when the Persian army at Thermopylae threatened to fire so many arrows at them it would block out the sun, the Spartan King Leonidas simply shrugged and replied: “Then we’ll fight in the shade”

That confidence wasn’t just built from hours of training Hoplite warfare required complete trust in the man next to you And to build that trust, Spartan soldiers were encouraged to couple up This would make them ashamed to abandon their partners in the heat of battle Trainee soldiers were told to take on older, adult, lovers at the age of 12

In fact, Spartan men spent so much time with one another, they often found it hard to adjust to taking wives Before a Spartan wedding, the bride had to shave her head and dress up on boy’s clothing Then the groom would swoop in and kidnap her from the ceremony 2 Athenian Punishment Of the many innovations Ancient Athens brought in, a system of justice with law courts based on presumption of innocence and a jury of one's peers is among the finest But, while we may recognize some of the legal principles that governed ancient Athenians, other parts would likely shock us

First of all, a slave’s testimony in court was not considered valid unless it was extracted under torture Even if a slave had no reason to lie, and wanted to be honest, they still had to be put under physical pain before their word was viewed as reliable On top of that cruelty, some of the punishments doled out by the Athenian justice system are as weird as they are draconian For instance, the punishment for sleeping with another man’s wife was that the cucked man was allowed to punish the offender using a radish in a way that is best left up to the imagination 1 Athenian Democracy As we’ve already mentioned in this video, Athens was big on democracy

The city’s fortunes owed its safety and riches to a strong trireme [try-ream] navy, which required thousands of citizen volunteers to row With the masses protecting the city, it seemed only just to involve them in the state’s decision-making Assembly Hence, democracy was born Yet, while still revolutionary, Athens’ democracy wasn’t as open as you might think Neither women nor slaves could vote

And since voting on city matters meant taking time away from work, it quickly became dominated by the rich, who could afford the breaks In fact, Athenian democracy quickly became so corrupt and dominated by a small group of the rich that ordinary Athenians stopped turning up at all The city had to start commanding slaves to run around the Assembly with a rope dipped in red paint Any citizen who got hit with the rope was marked, and had to go vote So, that was 10 Shocking Facts From Ancient Greece

Which aspect of Ancient Athens did you find the strangest? What weird Spartan stuff should have made the list? Let us know, in the comments below And if you want more classical content, check out 10 Shocking Facts About Ancient Rome, playing now

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