Why did Ancient Greece seem to produce so much science?

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I mean, Eratosthenes accurately measuring the size of the Earth, advances in geometry and math, etc. I just read that Thales of Miletus might have predicted an eclipse in 500 BCE. Making discoveries about the natural world that Europe didn’t get back to for like 2,000 years.

I know Greece wasn’t the *only* region that had mathematicians, but it was “just” a bunch of cities, almost a backwater, while Persia was a whole empire and Mesopotamia and Egypt were massive centers of civilization. I’d *think* that the biggest, richest cities that had stable empires protecting them would be the most likely to support scientific and technological discoveries.

Does Greece get so much attention just because we Westerners have decided to pay tons of attention to it? Have we forgotten centuries of great minds because they didn’t happen to live in Greece at the time? Or was there really something special about ancient Greece?

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Anonymous 0 Comments

The greeks took info from all the numerous places you mentioned. And they recorded what they did. And the recordings of it survived.

Some of the places you mentioned were warring with other of the places, some had died out. Greece was just the right place/time scenario. Then the Romans admired what the greeks did and re-recorded it. Then the christian scholars admired the romans admiring the greeks and re-re-recorded it.

And then the christian universities did the one thing that no other culture up to date had done, they separated theological study from medical/scientific (well, technically they invented science in doing this…but that is arguable i suppose).

At that time the Chinese and the Arabs and the Hindi’s all had university, but they forced their students to mix their ‘god’ stuff all up in with their math and their other studies. The western schools made a point to keep them separate.

Anonymous 0 Comments

The Greeks had the advantage. They had the scholars and liked to write things down. And broadly speaking, we still understand their written form through the millennia. There was a continuous arc of preservation and refinement of their records.

Unfortunately the ancient Egyptians and Persians used cuneiform (different versions) which was mostly undeciphered until relatively recent efforts (which are still ongoing). A break of a few thousand years is simply rather hard to bridge.

Anonymous 0 Comments

Because they didn’t have TV, social media, cell phones, or cat videos to distract them. Lol

Anonymous 0 Comments

They had enough excess wealth that they they had people who could spend time figuring things out. That, and a propensity to write things down, we know how to read it, and the Romans did as well.

Anonymous 0 Comments

It’s also not so much that they were the only ones producing it, but they’re the ones who we have surviving writing from. And that written legacy is a huge part of our perception of them.

If we didn’t have those Greek writings (mostly from copies that survived in Islamic libraries) we wouldn’t realize that the work of the Renaissance was a continuation of the Greeks. That work jump started the modern era.

Anonymous 0 Comments

The keyword here is “seem” and that’s not to say that they didn’t, but it also doesn’t mean that they were the only ones doing it. The key difference between Greece and other contemporary regions was that one way or another they managed to write down and spread that information. And that’s something that’s not often talked about in ancient history but it’s arguably one of the most important things at the time. Proper record keeping and the spread of knowledge was crucial to the development of a region, and established frameworks for it didn’t really exist for most of human history.

Ancient Greece produced many written works that managed to survive the decline of the region because it was spread far and wide, and also co opted and developed upon by the Roman Empire who did an even better job at record keeping. And most importantly, the language was prevalent in many contexts like a Christian clerical language, a diplomatic language and a scholarly language. By contrast most ancient messopotamian languages died out, just like ancient Egyptian did, making any written records effectively useless, so their knowledge did not spread as far or was lost. Meanwhile regions like India or China generally kept to themselves and had no contact with Europe, the Middle East and North Africa which were regions that traded and exchanged knowledge for centuries.

And of course there’s the obsession of high class Europeans with ancient Greece that definitely helped in preserving and spreading this knowledge even further.

Anonymous 0 Comments

Because the Greeks started pursuing what we would call science from almost ground zero. Before the late Greek archaic period, the existing technologies were seen as an outgrowth of religious practices, usually performed under the auspices of priests. The Ionian Greeks started investigating natural phenomena looking for natural causes of the observed phenomena. This caught on, and hundreds, if not thousands of them, began to inquire into the natural world, looking for real-world answers.They were the first to do this. (at least, in the west) So, in other words, lots of low hanging fruit.

Anonymous 0 Comments

Greece really was special. While other civilizations had made important discoveries in math, the Greeks created the conception of math as grounded in theoretical proof.

Insight is one of the hardest events to explain, and we can’t give total explanations for events in history more generally. We might guess that the Greeks had an interest in and knack for thought and discovery.

But Athens was also a democracy, a rarity in the ancient world. This is a salient coincidence with their accomplishments. So democracy might foster more independent interest and thought. Another factor could be the highly competitive attitude of the Greeks.

Research and development can be expensive, and it can be hard to figure out how to start if you have no general / theoretical knowledge to guide you. Kings and pharaohs might not have imagined that there were yet unknown laws and general facts *to discover -* much less the skill or interest to promote that research.

Anonymous 0 Comments

Mostly because they sat at the east and west crossroads, so they were able to absorb cultural artifacts from places like India; which is where they likely learned about trig ratios. We have imperfect historical records so sometimes things are attributed to Greece when, in actuality, it should be attributed to Babylon or India or someone else.

Now, that isn’t to say that Greece doesn’t deserve the accolades we give them, you mentioned a couple of big ones but there are more. Anaxagoras (~500 BCE) posited that the stars were not ‘heavenly orbs’ but huge flaming rocks that appeared to us to be small because they were just extremely far away. We are talking like…the time of Hubble (Edwin, the namesake of the telescope) when he was essentially proven correct. Aristarchus of Samos (~310 BCE) developed the heliocentric model; something that was finally accepted as fact in the days of Galileo. Leucippus (my handle!) ~5th century BCE developed the idea of the atomism (uncuttable, indivisible) which is often attributed to his student whose name will sound familiar to Americans – Democritus.

That is just the realm of science and math, Greek philosophy also has many modern ideas – like absurdism, which we normally attribute to someone like Camus could easily be said of Diogenes. If you want to learn and laugh, read about Diogenes. Even the idea of atheism, something we typically think of as a renaissance idea, has its roots in Greek philosophy as ideas of mechanism and the natural world being the only *thing* was explored.

Greek literature *is* Western literature, the first real novel (one meant to be read cover to cover and not as a lyrical poem performed), *Don Quixote* is a satire of the hero’s journey, screw you *Odyssey.*

It is important to point out that I said a lot of Greek names, but with things like atomism, there is substantial evidence that these ideas were Indian in nature. That doesn’t necessarily take away from the Greeks, but it illustrates ***why*** Greece was such a breeding ground for civilization – they were open to ideas from the orient and were capable of collecting and disseminating that information. Greece wasn’t just Greece, it was Greece and her colonies – a word that is Green in origin. Marseille started life as a Greek colony, and that was just one of many. So, as Greece was learning from places like India, and developing their own ideas – their economic system and seafaring ways (not unlike Great Britain) was able to seed this culture across the Mediterranean and places we would consider ‘Western’ civilization.

Anonymous 0 Comments

Watch Carl Sagan’s Cosmos (all the episodes are on Daily Motion). There are a number of episodes where he dives into this topic. I believe episode 7 – The Backbone of Night – has the most extensive section. Enjoy