Do you know why we have birthday candles? Or what beauty trend the Greeks were crazy about? From Athens to the Olympics, here are the craziest facts from ancient Greece!
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5 – Greek Expulsion
Ostracism is sometimes known as honourable exile and is one of the earliest known forms of absolute social shunning. Ostracism was a procedure done under ancient Greek Athenian democracy, which states that any citizen could be expelled from the city-state of Athens for ten full years. This was done to any citizen who was perceived to be a treat to the state or potential tyrant. Each year, the assembly would gather and if a citizen was placed on the chopping block for the penalty of Ostracism, a trial was held, if found guilty, the potential criminal was given ten days to leave the city, if they attempted to return, the penalty which awaited them was death. After ten years had passed this citizen would be allowed to return without stigma. There were a few times when the ostracism was declared unjust and the ostracised were allowed to return, but this was extremely rare.
4 – Strange Punishments and Bizarre Laws
Ancient Greece may have been the birthplace of Democracy, but that doesn’t mean that everything was just and orderly. Turns out they had quite a few unusual things going on in those high courts. The earliest written law code was written by a politician named Draco, which is where we get the word draconian, which is synonymous with severity. So in case you haven’t guessed it yet, Draco’s laws were exceptionally harsh. It is said that his laws were written in human blood rather than ink. Brutal. One such law is that if you were a man who was found guilty of adultery, the husband of the woman with whom you committed the crime had the right to sodomize you with radishes. Yikes.
3 – Forbidden Fame
The temple of Artemis is now considered one of the seven wonders of the world, and in ancient times, this palace of prayer to the goddess of the moon had even more notoriety. One arsonist who went by the name of Herostratus wished to make a name for himself. How did he choose to gather fame and notoriety? He decided to do something so horrendous, that he would be written about in the history books for all eternity, and so he went about burning down the famed temple.
It happened in the 4th century BC, Herostratus set fire to the temple and took off running. He was captured shortly thereafter. The fame seeker was then tortured on the rack where he was made to confess to his crime. He admitted to setting the fire in a desperate attempt to immortalize his name. Afterwards, the judges executed Herostratus and quickly erected a law which forbids any Greek citizen from speaking his name. But it seems their tactic didn’t work, as we’re still talking about this guy even today.
2 – Brazen Bull
This device designed in Ancient Greece is meant to torture and execute criminals. The bull was made entirely from bronze, was hollow and had a door on one side. The bull was constructed to be the exact size and form of an actual bull. The condemned criminals would be locked inside this bizarre device, then, a fire would be lit beneath it, heating the bronze statue until the convict inside was roasted. This strange torturous lethal instrument of doom also included an acoustic apparatus, which converted screams into the sound of a bull. The inventor of the Brazen Bull was a man by the name of Perilaus, who hailed from the city of Athens. Legend has it, that Perilaus was asked by the Greek King who commissioned this device, into testing out the screaming audio conversion mechanism. As soon as Perilaus climbed inside the Brazen Bull, the King’s men closed the door, locking the inventor inside his own creation. The fires were lit and poor Perilaus, was the first of many, many Greeks, to meet his end inside this twisted, sadistic execution device.
1 – Crazy Days at the Plays
In ancient Greece, plays were considered a part of the culture, there were festivals designed to honor the prolific works and the writers and actors who worked in the theatre, were among some of the most highly regarded in all of the land. Yet sadly, only men were allowed to write plays and only males were given the right to act in them. If the actor was to play a woman character, he would don a large mask with a detailed face of a female painted on it, this was done so the audience members would know who in the play the male actor was attempting to portray. If a female was caught impersonating a man to play a role in a play, she would be faced with terrible consequences, including in some city-states, execution. These theatrical tellings were so popular in these ancient days, that theatre staff members often carried large sticks, because sometimes the humongous audience would get so excited or upset by the play they had just witnessed, that they would riot.