Ancient Greece

To most people, ancient Greece conjures up images of Classical Greece, the Acropolis and grand temples, mythological gods and goddesses, and the beginnings of democracy. Some might think of the fierce Spartan warriors, the Trojan War and its legendary wooden horse, and the original games held every four years in Olympia. But few know a great deal about the everyday life of these people. Ancient Greece clothing (other than togas and sandals) and ancient Greece food are something not often examined, and democracy in Ancient Greece is often idealized and misunderstood.

Ancient Greece food actually had a great deal to do with the mythological gods and goddesses, and different food and drink items each had their own religious and philosophical significance. This significance probably derived from the geography of the region and what could be grown in the rocky soil and the dry Mediterranean climate. The mountains and rocky topography was not hospitable for meat animals like cows, so it became considered barbaric to eat meat unless it was ritually sacrificed or hunted wild. Olive trees and grapes thrived in the country, so wine (overseen by the god Dionysus) was a staple, as was olive oil (presided over by the goddess Athena). This ancient Greece food is still an integral part of the country's diet, which is rich in olive oil and vegetables, creating some of the healthiest and most long-lived people in the world. This is especially true on Ikaria Island where more than a third of the population reach their nineties and on the island of Crete, which produces more than 20 percent of the country's wine and olive oil. Other staple foods in ancient Greece that are still important today include bread, made under the auspices of Demeter; honey, as there was no sugar in these times; cheese made primarily from goat's milk; and fish, dedicated to Poseidon who watched over fishermen. You will find all of these while shopping in the colorful markets, something that Greeks do daily to ensure they have the freshest foods for each meal.

Ancient Greece clothing was dominated by the sleeveless tunic—not the toga, which was primarily from Rome. Men's tunics were generally knee length, while women's tunics came to the ankles. Pins, brooches, and other jewelry were used to hold the garment (usually a large piece of cloth) in place. This created artful draperies that you can see adorning ancient statues in the National Archaeological Museum in Athens as well as on the famous "Winged Victory" statue in the Louvre of Paris. Today, we have a very detailed record of the fashions of the time through the many statues, mosaics, and friezes that survived and are preserved in museums throughout the world.

The ancient Greece clothing and tunics of common people and slaves were made of plain, drab cloth. Rich citizens had cloth colored with vegetable dyes. Part of the ancient Greece government also involved tunics, which would have borders with different designs indicating the wearer's province and political standing.

This great empire was dominated by separate city states, each with their own form of government. The classical period from about 500 to 300 B.C. is the period that saw the most widespread development of democracy. All male citizens were given the right to vote. Term limits were set for those serving in government. Juries of ordinary citizens helped to make decisions, and all citizens could attend any government meetings. Women could accumulate wealth and own property. Even slaves could earn their freedom. During this time, the punishment of ostracism was developed, allowing the governing body to exile a troublesome citizen, originated by the legal scholar Draco—thus, the origin of "draconian" punishment. This led to the important custom of asylum, in which an exiled person could live without fear of arrest or punishment - a cornerstone of today's international diplomacy. One of the most important places of asylum during the classical period was at the ancient Greek city of Ephesus in present day Turkey, and we have excellent records about ancient Greece government because so many poets and historians found themselves exiled in places of asylum.

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