33 Ancient Greece Facts That Reveal The Strange Side Of The Founders Of Western Civilization

Published August 9, 2018
Updated September 29, 2023

From their bizarre toilet paper to their horrific torture devices to their controversial sexual customs, here's everything about Ancient Greece that doesn't tend to show up in history textbooks.

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33 Ancient Greece Facts That Reveal The Strange Side Of The Founders Of Western Civilization
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It all but goes without saying that Ancient Greece has had an unparalleled influence on Western civilization as we know it.

The best and brightest of the Greek kingdoms and colonies between approximately the eighth and second centuries B.C. pioneered everything from drama and literature to mathematics and astronomy. Greek artwork hangs in museums all over the world and the wisdom of Plato and Aristotle is still taught in high schools and universities today. And without the Ancient Greeks, we almost certainly wouldn't have geometry, the Olympics, or democracy itself.

And yet, there's even more to the story of Ancient Greece than first meets the eye.

For starters, historians don't always agree on what exactly "Ancient Greece" means. The timeline implied by this phrase isn't exactly set in stone, but most agree that the period began in the eighth century B.C., a time when Greek writing first emerged in earnest, the legendary poet Homer created his seminal works, and the Greek people started living in developed city-states.

From there, those city-states like Athens and Sparta developed further and forged advancements in technology, culture, and government that persist to this day. Everything from history's first computer to its first dramas came into being in Ancient Greece.

Meanwhile, the Greeks made advancements in warfare and diplomacy that allowed them to take the technology and culture that they'd developed to the rest of the world as they knew it at that time. By the fifth and fourth centuries B.C., most of the northern Mediterranean was under Greek control.

But by the second century B.C., invading Roman forces were rapidly dismantling Greek domination of the region. Historians generally agree that the end of Ancient Greece as we know it came with Roman victory in the Battle of Corinth in 146 B.C., at which point the Greek peninsula came under Roman rule.

Although Greek dominance may have ended then, their influence lasts to this day.

And as much as the Greeks are rightly revered for essentially giving birth to Western civilization, any comprehensive list of Ancient Greece facts is also sure to include some surprising tidbits that reveal a stranger, sometimes darker side of Hellenistic life.

For one, some ancient Greeks embraced pederasty to an extent that would be unthinkable today, while the young men of Spartan hunted and murdered slaves for sport as part of a ritual meant to turn them into full-fledged adult warriors.

From the dark and bizarre to the marvelous and revered, discover the most fascinating Ancient Greece facts in the gallery above.

After checking out the Ancient Greece facts above, read about the most important Greek battles in history. Then, discover the most interesting facts about Ancient Egypt.

Erin Kelly
An All That's Interesting writer since 2013, Erin Kelly focuses on historic places, natural wonders, environmental issues, and the world of science. Her work has also been featured in Smithsonian and she's designed several book covers in her career as a graphic artist.