Tours in Greece


Greek Glossary

Dear viewers, this page involves some of the most common ancient Greek words and their explanation.


ABACUS  Ancient counting frame made up of small beads threaded on wires for mathematical calculations. It had beads which counted as 1, others had the value of 10 others, 100. By moving the beads around complicated multiplication and division could be achieved.

ACANTHUS  Plant with thick scalloped leaves that often adorn Greek art and architecture. The capital on a Corinthian column is covered with acanthus leaves, a favourite motif of Greek artists. (see also, CAPITAL, CORINTHIAN)
   Ancient Corinth


Open market or a public space in ancient Greece. The word Agora drives from the word ageiro meaning I gather. In the beginning somebody spoke in an open space and people gathered around. Our modern term agoraphobia, meaning fear of public places, comes from this word.
  Athens Agora


Two - handled jar with a narrow neck and sometimes a tapered base, designed for transporting or storing, olive oil or other liquid, special wine.

ANDRON  Small, domestic dinning room where men would entertain their male/ friends.

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ASKLEPION  Religious sanctuary and Healing center dedicated to Asklepios, the god of medicine.   Epidavros


ARYBALLOS  Perfume pot, usually made of pottery. These vessels were often in the shape of a fantasy creature or a real animal, such as a monkey or a hedgehog.


ATLANTES Carved male figure used as a column in classical architecture.

BREAST PLATE/CUIRASS Body armor, usually made of bronze, worn by Greek soldiers to protect their back and chest. It was the main piece of body armor protecting all upper organs. Cuirasses were made to measure each man being specially fitted. The more expensive cuirasses would have ridges, roughly aligned to the body muscles, which were meant to deflect blows Co to Top

Carved female figure used as a supporting column in classical architecture.
COLUMN A slender, upright structure used in architecture to support an arch, a roof, an upper story or the top part of a wall. Most columns consist of a base, shaft (the main part) and capital (the decorative section at the top) CAPITAL The top section of an architectural column (see  COLUMN CORINTHIAN, DORIC, IONIC...)

ASSEMBLY Gathering of people and officials that controlled public life in ancient Athens. There had to be at least 6,000 present to make an Assembly, which decided on important matters of law and state. DORIC  One of three principal styles (or orders) in classical architecture. Doric columns are solid with wide fluting and a plain round capital. They symbolized the male strength. 


COUNCIL  Five hundred strong legislative body that arranged the business of the Assembly. It met in a round building called the tholos.

DEMOS A term variously used in ancient Greece to describe the citizens, their assemblies, or the lower classes.

DEMOCRACY  A system of government in which the people being governed have a voice, usually through elected representatives. It was invented in Athens. Meetings took place on a hill called the Pnyx near the Acropolis. Ordinary citizens, rich or poor, could make a speech and vote at the Assembly

IONIC One of three principal styles (or orders) in classical architecture. Ionic columns are slender with narrow fluting and a scrolled capital. They symbolize the female shape, as opposed the Doric which symbolizes the male shape

EMBLEM  The Athens 2004 Olympic Games' emblem is an olive wreath - the "kotinos" with which the Olympic winner was crowned in classical times. It is a symbol linked with the Olympic ideals, peace and the city of Athens, whose sacred tree was the olive tree. Its circular shape projects universal meanings of the unity of the world, the circle of life and the link between time past and present.

EKECHERIA  Every four years Greeks from all over the Greek world gathered in this sanctuary to participate in the Olympiada.

A sacred truce was kept during the period of the games and attempts were made to settle wars and conflicts between the (poleis -cities) based on reasoning inspired by Zeus.

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GYMNASIUM  A derivative of the word gymnos - nude. It was a place comprising sports grounds and buildings (including baths) where athletes exercised naked.


PALAISTRA  Purpose designed building, smaller than a gymnasium, with dressing rooms and a sand covered courtyard where Greek boys were taught athletics and wrestling.

  Olympic Games

HOPLITE  Fully armed Greek foot soldier, from HOPLON, meaning shield. The hoplites should afford their own armour and weapons. Helmets protected the head. They varied in shape and some had crests made of horse hair to make the wearer appear more impressive and frightening.

 HIMATION Outer cloak worn by ancient Greeks. This garment was traditionally pulled under the right arm and draped over the left shoulder.

CHITON  Basic item of clothing for both man and women in ancient Greece. Chitons were made from two rectangles of fabric fastened at the shoulders and down the sides and tied at the waist.

HEROON  A temple or funerary monument dedicated to a hero, the offspring of a god and a human.

HETAERAE Group of witty, beautiful women whose main function was to play music, dance and entertain men at dinner parties.

ORACLE Sacred place where ancient Greeks could ask their gods, through a priestess, to give them advise or to foretell the future. The most famous oracle was that of Apollo at Delphi.

ORCHESTRA Flat circular area where the actors and chorus performed in a Greek theatre. The first stone theatre ever built, and the birthplace of Greek tragedy, was the theatre of Dionysus, which was cut into the southern cliff face of the Acropolis.  Epidavros

   Delphi Oracle

Ostracism was first introduced by Cleisthenes in the 5th century, as a guard against tyranny. It was intended to serve as a safeguard against one individual gaining a disproportionate amount of power and influence in Athens; the punishment for one who was ostracized was 10 years of exile from Attica. The name ostracism is derived from the broken sherds of pottery that were used to cast votes. These sherds, called ostraka (or ostrakon, singular), were inscribed with the name of who one wished to exile and then deposited in urns to be counted. Ostraka have been found of vastly different materials--there are examples of sherds from figured, black-glazed, or plain pottery, as well as fragments from rooftiles and well heads. Approximately 11,000 ostraka have been found in the ancient Agora as well as the Athenian Karameikos, or potters quarter.

It is important to note that Ostracism was not designed as a criminal punishment; the individuals who were ostracized, although forced to live away from Attica for a decade, were free to return after that period without any stigma. In addition, the wealth, property, and status of the exiled were protected; when an ostracized individual returned to Attica, they would be restored to their previous position in society.  Co to Top

FRESCO  Wall painting applied to plaster when it is wet. Frescoes were popular in may warm countries until the Middle Ages.

FRIEZE A deep band of decorative sculpture running along the upper part of a wall.

PANATHENAEA: Ancient Greek festival held in honor of the goddess Athena, which culminated in a procession along the Panathenaic Way from Ceramicus up to the Parthenon, where the statue of Athena was presented with a new peplos.

PEDIMENT  Triangular gable end on a building, decorative architectural motif, also triangular, positioned above a door. It was usually decorated with sculptural compositions.

PERIPTERAL  A term describing a monument surrounded by a single row of columns. Co to Top

STOA Long colonnaded structure with a wall on one side, where people traditionally met to talk and conduct business

SYMPOSIA  All male drinking parties. Small, private symposia were held in private homes, when numbers increased, public buildings would be used.

PEDAGOGIES  Domestic slaves with particular responsibility for accompanying Greek boys to school.

STRATEGOI  One of ten elected military leaders responsible for making decisions about the defense of ancient Athens or concerning its involvement in a war.

TYRANT Absolute ruler of a Greek city - state who had usually seized power by force. Ancient Greece was made up of a number of independent city-states. There were very few rich people and a great number of poor. In early times, the rich landowners and leaders called tyrants controlled the poor. In Athens and some other city-states the tyrants were driven out by the people, who acquired power and freedom. This new form of government was called democracy.

TRIREME Fast warship powered by up to 170 oarsmen positioned over three levels on either side of the hull. The trireme was the most widely used warship in ancient Greece. Alight hull ballasted with blocks of stone in the hold, had three decks which housed the banks of oarsmen, while the bridge accommodated the troops to be landed or, more often, ready to board enemy ships after they have been rammed. At the prow was a pointed ram strengthened with metal, which could sink enemy ships.

Photo: There were often eyes painted on the prow. This photo shows two sails, but warships may have had only one, probably made of linen and lowered when the ship was engaged in battle.

   Salamis Battle


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