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Academic Insights for the Thinking World

Innovations from the ancient world

Beginning over two thousand years ago, the ancient Greeks and Romans innovated a surprising array of concepts that we take for granted today. It’s hard to imagine where we’d be without the Greek alphabet, Euclid’s geometric concepts, Roman concrete, and more. Many of the letters of the Greek alphabet originally came from Phoenician (called “Canaanite” in the Bible) sources early in the eighth century BCE. Through the centuries, regional letters came in and out of use, but by 370 BCE the whole Greek world had adopted the alphabet we know today.

While we know nothing about the actual life of Euclid, the Greek mathematician, his thirteen-volume Elements about mathematical theory and solid geometry was the standard “textbook” through the Medieval Age into the twentieth century. Known as opus caementicium, Roman concrete is one of the great achievements of ancient building materials. Its not-so-secret ingredient was volcanic deposits mixed in with the water and rock. Both cheap and flexible, concrete was used for monuments, homes, and architectural marvels like the Roman Pantheon. It is not without irony that the buried cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum were built with the ash and rock of Mount Vesuvius.

Check out the infographic below to learn some interesting facts about the influential civilization of the Greco-Roman world. Each fact has been taken from an article in the new, online Oxford Classical Dictionary. It was the Greek scientist Archimedes, while sitting in a tub, who cried, “Eureka! I’ve found it!” Find your own “eureka” moments in the online Oxford Classical Dictionary. But maybe wait until you’re out of the tub before you do.

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Download the infographic as a PDF or JPG.

Featured image credit: View from Philopappos Hill in Athens, by A. Savin. CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

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