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A Hodgepodge of Ancient Greek Trivia IV
Posted In: Ancient Civilizations  8/26/12
By: Yona Williams

The ancient Greeks are involved with many scientific contributions, ways of thinking, and observations of the world. In this article, you will learn about the influences of the likes of Pytheas, Democritus, and Ptolemy.

The Contributions of Pytheas

Navigator and astronomer Pytheas was the first Greek to observe ocean tides by watching the waters of the Atlantic in the early part of the 3rd century BC. He became the first person to give an accurate explanation for the tides – about 2,000 years ahead of his time because it wasn’t until Newton linked the moon with the change in tides that people started to take notice. Up until then, the majority of scholars did not want to believe that the moon had an effect on the ocean. It was hard for them to believe that the moon could influence tides when it wasn’t even visible in the sky.

Democritus' Atoms

Around 440 BC, the Greek philosopher Democritus was the first person to suggest that everything was comprised of atoms. He believed that if you were to continuously cut an item into half, it would eventually become a tiny "grain" of matter that could not be cut into half. Democritus gave these "building blocks" of matter a name – 'atoms' – after the Greek work atomos, which translates into 'uncuttable.' Democritus is also known a pioneer of mathematics and geometry. He additionally spent a great time of his life conducting experiments on plants and minerals – writing numerous texts that involved many scientific topics.

..And Let There Be Fire

The ancient Greeks had a practice of creating ground lenses made out of quartz crystals so that they could use for kindling fires.

The Pyramids of Greece

The Egyptians were not the only ancient civilization to construct pyramids. In ancient Greek times, they used porous rocks found in arid climates to build their own pyramids. While the Egyptians kept their dead in the pyramids, the Greeks would use the structures as a way to catch water. The pyramids would catch and condense a great amount of water. Built around 500 BC, there was a group of 13 pyramids found at Theodosia in the Crimea. They were nearly 40 feet high and stood on hills located throughout the city. A system of pipes would help move the accumulated moisture that condensed and traveled about the pyramids. Wind and changing temperatures facilitated this process.

Ptolemy's Misguided Influence

Claudius Ptolemy was an astronomer from the 2nd century who compiled his observations into 13 volumes, which influenced a great deal of people. As he worked in Alexandria, Egypt, his theories gained the respect and attention of being the greatest. Ptolemy believed that the Earth was a stationary object in the sky, while the moon, sun and planets moved around it. Even though his theories were completely off the mark, they still set the science of astronomy backwards for about 1,500 years.

Thanks for the Alphabet

The origin of the alphabet is linked to seafaring Canaanites that lived on the eastern Mediterranean seacoast. The system of letters that the Greeks later expanded upon was a contribution of the Phoenicians.


 

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