Is it Greek to You?

There is no question that today’s society and economy is a global one. The diversity of people groups, the interconnected trade agreements, and even the leisure trips abroad show just how connected each county is to one another. While many famous idioms involve quips and reflections of ancient days (such as when in Rome), the foundations of many things in the U.S. and around the world began as efforts and successes within the Greek civilization.

1. The Olympics

Perhaps the most famous of all Grecian contributions to the modern world is the Olympic games. This original design for this competition was to honor the Greek god Zeus, and the performance of the many athletes from around the country become a visual representation of the actual Greek symbol of strength. The physical and mental prowess of the athletes that took place in the games were reminiscent of the battles that Achilles endured throughout his epic journey in the Odyssey. He too became a figurehead as a Greek symbol of strength, but excelled in his abilities as a warrior.

2. A Democratic Government

As long ago as it may have been, the Greeks were the first successful civilization to implement democracy as their choice in government. It was around the turn of the 6th century that ruling nobility of the Athenians was broken into representative groups based on location rather than wealth. Only adult males were allowed to participate, but they engaged in legislative decision-making, turning prior reliance on oral law into written law that was enforced by an established court of law. Although it struggled throughout history, Athens established the first successful democracy.

3. A Healthcare Industry

Modern medicine has come a long way from the primitive schools of thought found in ancient civilization, but the work of Hippocrates, (the Father of Modern Medicine) still has an impact on the way healthcare providers operate today. The Hippocratic Oath is one of the earliest texts associated with Greek medicine, and it established a code of ethics for physicians and healthcare personnel. The basis of the modern oath to first do no harm is attributed to the wording of the Hippocratic Oath. Those who take on the mantle of healthcare assistance in today’s medical field still follow the guidelines set forth by the oath to conduct their behaviors and actions ethically and for the good of the patient.

4. The Theater

Although the U.S. is known around the world for its Broadway productions and Shakespeare was known as the world’s most successful playwright, the foundations of theater lay deep in the heart of Ancient Greece. The theater was devised to please and entertain the god Dionysus, who was regarded as the god of the vine. Plays and lyrical creations of tragedy, comedy, and poetry were written and performed in his honor, and over time, the work of theater developed into a true art form. Interestingly, the Roman name for him was Baccus, which has been adopted by one of the most well-known Mardi Gras krewes in all of celebration history.

5. A Trial by Jury

Although it seems that many Americans dread receiving a jury summons in the mail, rather than grumble, you should thank the Greeks. The right to a trial by a jury of your peers is one of the founding principles of the American justice system, but it originated in ancient Athens. In order to limit bribery and corruption, a jury pool was established. Sometimes, it contained as many of 500 participants.

The Greeks have contributed much to the society and culture we enjoy today. Some of the things you take for granted as American privilege may just be a blessing in disguise from the Greeks.