Yet there is so much more to Greece than its present unfortunate predicament.
Today we ask the question what have the Greeks ever done for us? We will begin by taking a look at the time Greece was (really) bankrupt.
The Modern Olympics
The organising committee met for the first time only fourteen months before the games began. In a dazzling display of virtuoso Greek bravura they decided that they would not accept a penny from abroad. The people of the bankrupt state of Greece would raise each and every drachma.
It worked – the monks of Mount Athos even contributed. Altogether the people of Greece raised 1.5 million drachma, with a further million coming from a single individual, the mega rich expatriate merchant Georgios Averoff.
This was ten times more than the amount needed estimated by Coubertin. Greece successfully gave birth to the modern Olympics at a time when it was virtually destitute. Perhaps we really shouldn’t write it off as a spent force at the moment?
Trial by Jury
A judge would decide whether the injured party’s claims were sufficient, in terms of evidence for a trial to be called, by asking both parties questions. Juries were paid little for their services but you had to be a citizen aged over thirty to be on one.
In order to avoid bribery some juries had as many as five hundred people on them – no one could afford to buy so many people.
The jurors had to make an oath that they would listen to both sides equally. It wasn’t so much innocent until found guilty as innocent until found guilty by the jury (sound familiar?).
Every town in ancient Greece had at least one theater. It was so important that prisoners could be temporarily released from jail so that they could go and see the latest piece.
Competition between the different city states was fierce with many competitions. So many people wanted to watch that the theaters had to be built outdoors.
The staggered seating area, built on hillsides so that everyone could see what was going on in the stage area was called the theatron (and no prizes for guessing how that word went on to evolve).
These men (for women were not citizens but give them a break this was twenty five centuries ago!) would create the laws of the city for the next year. Once created, they would be voted on by every citizen and the majority decision was the one which passed. Imperfect this system may have been but without it we might not have our democratic systems today.
The Analog Computer
For many years, systematic examination of the object, now known as the Antikythera Mechanism failed to illuminate the purpose of this strange machine. Yet research over the last fifty years has shed some light. The machine was made around 200BC and is the most complex and refined piece of machinery yet discovered from the ancient world. There is no evidence of anything as sophisticated as this for the next thousand years. The Antikythera Mechanism is now understood to be dedicated to astronomical phenomena and operates as a complex mechanical computer which tracks the cycles of the Solar System.
All that maths!
The catapult and crossbow
Created to fire arrows (big arrows, enough to take out a Na'vi), the first catapult was deployed against the Carthaginians in 399BC. The crossbow came about even earlier, to the late 5th Century BC. Just think what your average Spartan would have thought of an Uzzi 9mm.
The Steam Engine
When the vessel is pressurized with steam, steam is expelled through the nozzles, which generates thrust due to the rocket principle.
The forces result in a rotational movement and the vessel spins on its access. Drag and frictional forces build up and (having canceled the accelerating torque) achieve a steady state speed.
In other words a steam engine, which must have enchanted those who were children at the same time as a certain Jesus of Nazareth. Hero did create automatic doors for a temple with the aid of steam power too, but the idea failed to catch on.