The classical world, Ancient greek contributions.

Ancient greek contributionsThe classical world: Ancient greek contributions.

Classical Greece was home to the great philosophers, athletes, thespians and scientists that most people associate with the country’s brilliant history.

The first democratic society in the world, Classical Greece boasted a forward-thinking culture, dedicated to the advancement of the highest levels of thought and education. During this time, trade continued to flourish with Egypt and many people continued to use the traditional skin care techniques they had first learned from the Egyptians.

Opinions about health and beauty were shifting, however, and were putting a new focus on exercise, physical fitness and the beauty of the male body.

For the most part, men and women continued to use the same skin care treatments they had used for centuries. Oils derived from herbs, plants and organic compounds were applied to make the skin soft and supple. Honey also continued to be a popular moisturizer. Women continued to powder their faces with chalk dust or lead to give themselves a pale complexion, and then painted their lips and cheeks with henna-tinged pigments. While skin care products were derived from natural ingredients that grew abundantly in the Mediterranean climate, their use was usually reserved for the upper classes of Greek society.

The First Olympians

While most people continued to practice traditional, organic methods of skin care, the Greeks began to draw a larger connection between physical fitness and beauty, especially among men. You need only look at their gods to see that athletics had long been a part of Greek culture, and strength had always been admired. Heracles and his displays of strength are the perfect example of what Classical Greeks saw as a male ideal. As physicians and philosophers began to connect athletics with health, however, a greater focus was put on this ideal. Exercise was believed to be a major component of beauty. Beautiful skin was a much a result of physical fitness as greater strength and a toned physique was.

In fact, physical beauty was a large factor in the public enjoyment of athletics. The word “gymnasium” stems from the Greek word for “naked.” Athletes would compete in the nude to show off the beauty of the male body: their toned muscles, their quick reflexes and their flawless skin. The gymnasium was also a place for socializing and discussing philosophy. Greek men saw all of these things as being connected to good health. Good health was, of course, connected to beauty.

The Father of Dermatology

Classical Greece saw advancements in almost every area of scholarship. Greek philosophers, politicians and artists developed theories that are still used today by experts in their fields. This period also saw the beginning of a new medical discipline. Until this time, medicine was usually considered a branch of philosophy and was not a profession in its own right. The great physician Hippocrates, however, changed that. He was the first in the western world to develop a system of diagnosis and treatment based on set symptoms. Several of the conditions that he first diagnosed are still acknowledged by today’s medical professionals.

While Hippocrates is often referred to as the Father of Modern Medicine, many people also consider him to be the Father of Dermatology. He encouraged strict standards of hygiene and professionalism and was one of the first to see treat skin conditions with the same medical attention reserved for other illnesses. He saw skin health as a part of overall health and believed that the skin would respond to treatment the same way as any other part of the body. Many of the diagnostic and treatment methods developed by Hippocrates and his students are still used today by skin care experts.

While the scholars of Classical Greece may be better known for their contributions to philosophy and science, the effect that they had on skin care is undeniable. From using plant-based cosmetics to associating physical fitness with beautiful skin, to laying the groundwork for the profession of dermatology, the Ancient Greeks played a huge role in developing the practices that are still a part of good skin care today.

Withstanding the test of time, Greek Pottery has been a crucial element in the world’s comprehension of the ancient Greek culture. Mostly found in the Etruscan Tombs, Greek Vases and Greek Pottery are canvases that paint a portrait of the world of ancient Greece. While much of ancient Greek art is forever lost, Greek pottery offers a glimpse into both the every day life and the mythology of ancient Greece.

Starting with the Minoan civilization that existed in Crete, the culture made remarkable contributions to the Greek way of life; especially, in the artisanship of pottery and vases. The Minoan potters designed pottery for food gathering and storage. A practical need became one of artistic expression with the potter looking to nature to influence the designs that transformed the pottery, creating art from what was once only a tool.

As time progressed, Minoan’s created vases in forms that were used for specialized purposes. For example, the Amphora vase is a swollen vase with a wide mouth and two opposing handles. It was used to transport and store oil, wine and other liquids. Painted with grass and flowers, and marine scenes, the Minoan’s set precedent for future designs.

The classical world

During the Protogeometrical Period, Greek vases were decorated with simplistic designs that consisted mainly of circular patterns. The Geometric style followed with new motifs, building upon the latter with wavy lines and triangles. In the middle of the 11th Century, the first images of human figures were seen painted on the Greek vase, and by the end of the period, mythological figures became prominent images on much of the pottery of the era.

The Orientalizing Period came after trade-links with Syria and the Aegan World. The popularity of human depictions slowed during this time, and the artisan used the Greek vases for depicting lions, griffins and sphinx with lotuses as accents.

Through the Corinthian invention known as the black-figure process, artists used iron-rich clay that turned reddish-orange after firing. They then sketched their design in outline, and filled it with clay. The Greek vases would be kiln fired at a temperature of around 800 degress Celsius. The pottery would turn a reddish-orange color. Next, the temperature was raised to 950 degrees Celsius, and the vase would turn black. Finally, the kiln vents were opened to let in oxygen, and the pottery would turn back to the reddish-orange color, but the paint layer remained black.

The Corinthian used these vases to depict animal friezes. It was the Athenian painters who developed a narrative method, depicting mythological scenes of battle, gods and heroes.

Following the black-figure method, the red-figure method was introduced in Athens. At its core, the process is exactly the opposite of the black-figure method. Scenes were applied to the Greek vases, but to unfired pieces after they were dried. The Athenians drew outlines on the pottery or vase with a blunt scrapper. It was erased during the kiln process, but after the contours remained and were filled with a glossy clay slip.

The Greek methods for creating pottery resulted in Greek vases whose designs endure even today and left the world with a path to the past told in the distinct and varying images etched and painted on their sides.

The propensity in slave societies to equalize free citizens appeared in ancient Sparta. Sparta’s dominance of the helots, who outnumbered Spartans several times over, lasted in part by Sparta’s pervasive enforcement of equality among Spartans. Sparta for centuries declared war annually upon the helots, so that unruly helots could be killed with impunity. Amongst themselves, the Spartans shunned any display of wealth that might set them apart from their fellow Spartans. Spartans tended to own equal portions of land. Equality among the Spartans was perhaps greater than in any comparable elite class in history.

The Greek city-states generally strove for equality largely because of their infantry organization into phalanxes, which required cohesiveness and uniformity. Democracy or equality helped them kill and enslave other Greeks better. The Athenians during the Peloponnesian War sold the women and children of rebellious or resistant Greeks into slavery after killing most or all of their menfolk. Athenians told one unlucky island that right and wrong had nothing to do with it, that Athens had the power and would use it. Humans live in a violent and competitive world, which is easy to forget when one lives in a great country. As someone said in 1862, the great questions of the day are decided by iron and blood.

Absolute monarchs and tyrants often treated slaves more kindly than their lower-ranking subjects. Absolute rulers equated slaves with their slaveholding subjects, because all were subject to the will of the ruler.

Great Britain, the mother country, with whom the United States shares its laws, language, religions and culture, advanced freedom with English common law. Common law is “judge-made law,” and however much we dislike judges making law today, they sometimes have to, because the law is often unclear and the process of clarifying it makes new law. In 1772, in the case of James Somerset, a Negro, on Habeas Corpus, a civil action also known as Somerset v. Stewart, William Murray, Lord Mansfield, Chief Judge of the Court of King’s Bench held that, “The state of slavery is of such a nature, that it is incapable of being introduced on any reasons, moral or political; but only by positive law, which preserves its force long after the reasons, occasion, and time itself from whence it was created, is erased from memory; it’s so odious, that nothing can be suffered to support it but positive law… and therefore the black must be discharged.”

Planters in the West Indies and America did not appreciate this court ruling. Lord Mansfield’s ruling had the practical effect of outlawing slavery in Britain itself because bondage was not enforceable in England after his ruling; his decision prohibited the use of force to restrain runaway slaves. A few years after the Somerset Case, at the start of the American Revolution, Northern states started abolishing slavery. Great Britain would not outlaw slavery in British Colonies until 1833, to become fully effective on August 1, 1838. But 20 years after the Somerset Case, Great Britain had its biggest slave-trading year. In 1792, Great Britain sent out 204 slave trading vessels to transport Africans to the Americas. The British slave trade would continue until 1807.

The American colonies, particularly the Southern colonies, were very concerned about the Somerset Case. The Articles of Confederation protected slavery from the Somerset decision. In highly ironic conditions, slavery and the accompanying racism contributed to the cause of American freedom. An historian found that by essentially creating two classes, one composed of whites, and the other of blacks, mulatto and Indians, Virginians paved the way for the equality of all white citizens, a concept not accepted by class encumbered Britain. White Virginians banded together on equal terms, just as they equated blacks, mulattos and Indians in the other, lower class. This did not eliminate the class system, but it reduced the number of classes to two. Aristocrats gave poor whites a “racial bribe” to keep them loyal to the white class.

The majority merged into one master class to oppose and balance the non-white class, but in so doing, gave new impetus for the doctrine of equality among citizens. Virginia supplied many important leaders of the American Revolution, in part because it was the most populous colony. John Adams of Massachusetts supported slavery in the interests of the Revolution. Thus, slavery contributed to the equality of white people, the resultant American Revolution, and therefore the U.S. Constitution. The U.S. Constitution did not initially outlaw slavery, but suggested its demise. The U.S. Constitution, the greatest secular document ever created by humans, would free American slaves 76 years later, living up to revolutionary ideals.