Ancient Greece Facts For Kids
Read all about Ancient Greece and be sure to take our quiz to test your knowledge at the end of this article.
Learn all about Ancient Greece, the Greeks, Spartans, their customs and the amazing history of Greece!
Now first, this is gross! A Spartan specialty was a black soup made from salt, vinegar, and blood. No one in the rest of Greece would drink it. Hardly surprising, sounds revolting.
At its height, the Greek’s had conquered many lands and they reached as far as Russia and France to the west and Turkey to the east. They certainly took over a lot of land.
Want to know what Spartan warriors were well-known for? Well it was actually their long, flowing hair. Before battle, it would get a good comb out.
If a soldier was cowardly, they would shave off half their hair and their beards.
The Ancient Greeks had loads of stories to tell. These tales featured the gods and mythical monsters like Cerberus, a three-headed dog which apparently guarded the gates to the underworld; Medusa, who could turn you into stone if she just looked at you; and of course Cyclops, who had one eye in the middle of its forehead.
They don’t sound like particularly pleasant creatures to meet.
The Greek leader Alexander the Great decided that his face needed to be on their coins, well if not why not?
He was the first ruler to do so. Up until then, Greek gods were put on coins. He must have thought he was rather handsome.
This is amazing; the Greek language has been spoken for more than 3,000 years! It’s the oldest spoken language in Europe.
Soldiers (hoplites) in ancient Greece wore up to 70 pounds (33 kilograms) of bronze armor; can you just imagine how heavy that would be to carry around.
That’s like carrying a child on your back when you go to war…they must have had very large muscles.
Weirdly enough only rich people went to war in armor and riding horses.
There were two classes of people in Greece; free people and slaves. Amazingly 40% up to 80% of the population in ancient Greece was made up of slaves! That’s a lot. Luckily we don’t have slaves now, as that wouldn’t be too pleasant!
How weird is this sport? The Minoans used to do bull-leaping. And what does that mean? Well they literally did gymnastic vaults over the back of fierce bulls.
It wouldn’t be cool landing in the wrong spot to anger the bull, and then you’d have to run like mad.
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There is a legend that says that Crete was the home of the Minotaur, a man-eating monster half-human and half-bull. Wouldn’t be cool running into him in a dark alley. Apparently a Greek hero killed him in his underground lair.
He unwound a piece of thread as he went deeper into the cave to make sure he could find his way out. Clever!
Athens the Ancient City
Athens is one of the oldest cities in the world – it has had people living there for over 7,000 years.
Wonder where the math you learn at school comes from? Well you can thank the ancient Greeks who were the fathers of what lies at the very heart of math as it’s taught today.
Hope you like math, as these were great and very clever people including Pythagoras, Euclid, Archimedes and Apollonius.
The Parthenon is super famous and was built almost 2,500 years ago and sits right on the top of Acropolis above the city of Athens. It took a whole 15 years to build.
Imagine trying to build a Lego city for 15 years!
Amazing Geography Facts about Greece
Get your thinking cap on and take in some of these awesome facts about the Geography of Greece. You’ll be a Greece guru by the time you’re finished.
Greece was once a mass of rock that was completely underwater. A tectonic plate crashed into Europe, and the massive collision created Greece’s mountainous ranges.
The plate is still moving and causes earthquakes all around the Aegean.
Greece is 50,949 square miles (131,958 square kilometers), which is about the size of Alabama. Now this is interesting. Alabama has a population of around 4.5 million people and Greece has about 10 million people. Greece must be seriously crowded.
The Islands of Greece
Greece has more than 2,000 islands, but only 170 have got people living on them. Greece’s largest island is Crete which is 3,189 square miles (8,260 square kilometers). It’s about half the size of Hawaii and could fit into Rhode Island 3 times.
Greece has the longest coastline in Europe at 9,000 miles (nearly 14,500 kilometers). If you were travelling at 100 miles per hour (which is unlikely on coastal roads) it will take you about 900 hours to travel that far.
Well, guess we won’t be taking that trip just yet.
Greece by the Sea
The longest distance from any place in Greece to the sea is 85 miles (around 137 kilometers).
80% of Greece is made up of mountains. Best you start learning to rock climb if you’re planning on taking a trip here.
Now if you love the sun and the beach, Greece is the place to go. The sun shines for 250 days of the year which is about 180,000 minutes of sunshine in a year! Cool.
We’ve already seen how many people live in Greece, and it’s a bit crowded. Now picture those 10 million people and imagine another 16.5 million tourists coming to visit each year. That’s about an extra 1.4 million per month visiting this island. That’s a lot of people.
But they’re all ready for this as they have the more airports than most other countries in Europe. They’re quite used to it one would guess.
The highest mountain in Greece is Mount Olympus, which has over 50 peaks and the highest reaches 9570 feet (2917 metres). That’s nearly 8 times higher than the Empire State Building. It’s a long way to climb up there.
Greek Nature Facts
At one time most of Greece was forests, but many of those have disappeared as they were cut down for firewood, lumber and to make room for farms.Most of the country was forested at one time. Over the centuries, the forests were cut down for firewood, lumber, and to make room for farms.
Today, forests can be found mainly in the Pindus and Rhodope ranges.
The Greeks really care about nature and their landmarks, and they’ve got 10 national parks. They’ve also got marine parks which are there to protect two of Europe’s most endangered creatures, the loggerhead turtle and the monk seal.
There are only 250 monk seals left. How sad.
You can see loads of birds as they migrate from Europe to Asia and spend their winter in Greece for a very well deserved rest.
Greece has 116 different types of mammals, 59 different species of reptiles, 240 types of birds and 107 different types of fish. So if you go here, you’ve got loads to spot.
Mount Olympus, which we know is the highest point in Greece was the country’s first ever national park.
Greek People and their Culture
Families are very important in Greece and their children often still live with their parents even when they’re married. Their houses must be full.
Greeks are very healthy and live long lives as they eat such healthy food like olives, olive oil, lamb, fish, squid, chickpeas, and lots of fruits and vegetables.
In the cities people wear modern clothing, but if you go to some rural areas you’ll still see people wearing traditional clothes. That would be cool to see. A lot of people in Greece wear black all the time to honor the dead.
They are exceptionally friendly and don’t be surprised if you get invited over for dinner if you meet someone in the street.
Aesop’s fables were apparently written by a Greek slave around 600 B.C. and every story ends with a moral.
Many Greek families wanted to have boys as children. It was believed that a son would be able to look after them when they were old and that the cost of a daughter getting married could be too expensive.
Luckily, our parents don’t mind whether we’re boys or girls.
At 3, children were given small jugs – this meant that their baby days were over. Boys went to school at age 7 and girls were taught at home by their mothers.
Most Greek schools had fewer than 20 boys, and classes were often held outdoors. That would be quite awesome, especially as they have so much sunshine.
Celebrating Easter in Greece
Most people celebrate Easter and it’s a bigger holiday than Christmas in Greece.
Easter celebrations begin after 40 days of fasting (when you don’t eat or drink during the day). Special Easter bread is cooked that has hard-boiled eggs in it. Easter eggs are colored red.
Children play a game with their Easter eggs. Each child holds an egg and tries to break another child’s egg. The child left with an unbroken egg is considered lucky.
There are restaurants in Greece called Tavernas where people go to eat. Dinner normally only starts at 9pm and can end way after midnight. That’s way after bedtime.
Olive trees have been cultivated in Greece for over 6,000 years. Every village has its own olive groves.
Other Unbelievable Facts about Greece
About 7% of all the marble in the world comes from Greece. Hardly surprising with all those marble statues.
The word ‘Alphabet’ comes from the Greek words ‘Alpha’ and ‘Beta’. There are thousands of other words that come from the Greek language.
This is a cool legend. The legend says that when God created the world, he sifted all the soil onto the earth through a strainer. As soon as each country had good soil, he tossed the stones left in the strainer over his shoulder and created Greece. No wonder it’s so mountainous.
Greek Olives and Healthy Greeks
Unsurprisingly they produce a huge amount of olives; they are the world’s third highest producer. Olive trees have been around for thousands of years and there are even some olive trees that were planted in the 13th century and they’re still going strong making gorgeous olives.
As we’ve seen, they are fairly healthy. Greeks are expected to live until about the age of 82.
They rank 26 in the world for the highest life expectancy, where US ranks 49th. It’s clearly a good place to live with all that healthy food and sunshine.
The Greeks love the sea and their ships make up 70% of the total merchant fleet of the European Union. Wow. According to law, no Greek ship may sail unless 75% of its crew are Greek.
Turquoise Blue Buildings
Have you ever seen pictures of homes in Greece that are painted with a turquoise blue? Well there’s a reason for that! It is used because of an ancient belief that this color keeps evil away. Best we start using turquoise blue paint on our houses.
Every Greek man has to serve in the armed forces for between 12 and 18 months.
In Greece, you don’t have your very own birthday. Instead you celebrate your ‘name day’ of the saint who you were named after. Weird fact.
Hercules and the Bull
Ever heard of the saying ‘taking the bull by the horns’? Well it comes from the Greek myth where Hercules saved Crete from a raging bull by grabbing it by the horns. Cool fact huh. Now you know where it comes from.
Next time you see a Greek person watch how they wave. You’ll notice that their palm will always be closed. It’s considered an insult to show the palm of your hand with your fingers extended.
After they’ve given you a compliment, the Greeks make a puff of breath through pursed lips. It almost looks like they’re spitting. This is meant to protect you from the ‘evil eye’. Wow, they’ve got some interesting habits.
What does the Greek flag mean?
The Greek flag has nine blue-and-white horizontal stripes, which some people say stands for the nine syllables of the Greek motto “Eleftheria i Thanatos” or “Freedom or Death.” Blue represents Greece’s sea and sky, while white stands for the purity of the struggle of freedom.
In the upper left-hand corner is the traditional Greek Orthodox cross.
Before Greece’s currency the drachma was replaced with the Euro in 2002, it was the oldest currency in Europe and had been around for 2,650 years. That’s a seriously long time.
If you go to Greece you know you’re going to be safe, as they have the lowest crime rate in Europe and the second lowest in the world.
Greece has more goats that any other country in Europe.
The “Lost City of Atlantis” is apparently in the island of Santorini, after a volcanic eruption occurred.
Some Greek philosophers didn’t mind being laughed at or shocking people, they just wanted to prove their point. One such philosopher, Diogenes, lived in a barrel to show people he didn’t need riches. Imagine how uncomfortable it must be to live in a barrel?
You do not want to have gone to a public toilet in Ancient Greece as they were, well, very public. There used to be as many as 30 people standing in a row over a pit. Not cool at all.
The New Testament (second book of The Bible) was written in Greek.
Greek men and women ate separately and slaves carried in the food. The man always got the best chair called a ‘thronos’ and his wife and children sat on small stools and chairs.
He was obviously the most important man of the house.
Imagine playing a game like this after dinner. It was called ‘kottabos’ and people flicked spots of wine from their wine cups and tried to hit a target.
The Greek National Anthem has 158 verses. It would be quite a challenge trying to learn that.
Another slightly strange superstition…some Greeks wouldn’t eat beans as they thought they contained the souls of the dead. Almost wants to make you stop eating beans.
What an interesting country Greece is! From a long history, to amazing nature, interesting superstitions and way more – we’ve got it all here.
Do you feel super Greek-smart now?
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Click to download our PDF page for use in class or at home: Questions about Ancient Greece