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Introduction to the Ancient Greeks

Arts and Entertainment in Ancient Greece

Tragedy and Comedy: Greek Theatre

Theatres were invented by the Greeks. They could hold up to 14,000 people and audiences would come from all over Greece. Early Greek theatres were usually built into hillsides and were circular, so that all members of the audience could hear what the actors were saying. There were never more than three actors on stage at one time and they were almost always men or boys. 


The mask shows a bearded face with the mouth open  and holes for eyes
Ancient Greek Antefix in the shape of a Theatrical Mask

The plays were either comedies or tragedies. The actors wore masks ( like the one pictured on the right) so that the audience members sitting far away could easily spot different characters. But the masks muffled the actors' voices, so they had to speak very loudly to be heard by the audience. 

To help the actors, in front of the stage was the chorus. They would chant songs or explain the background to the story being acted out.


2,700 years of the Olympic Games! 

The Olympic Games began around 776 BCE. They were held at Olympia every four years, in honour of Zeus, who was the father and most powerful of all the gods (Zeus is shown on the coin pictured below). 


Zeus is shown well muscled and holding a staff in one hand and with a bird standing on his other hand.
Ancient Greek Silver Coloured Coin showing Zeus

Over 40,000 spectators would come to watch the events. The games started off with just one event: a sprint across the stadium. Gradually more events were added, including javelin, discus, chariot racing, boxing and the long jump. 

People still compete in many of these events, but today they are usually very different and much safer. In the Ancient Greek long jump, instead of taking a running jump athletes took a short run up carrying a heavy weight in each hand, which they swung forward as they jumped from a standing position. The heavy weights pulled the athlete forward in order to give them a longer jump.  

Lozenge shaped stone weights with holes drilled through the middle for attachment
Replica Ancient Greek Long Jump Weights



Chorus - a group of people who sing together

Comedy - showing the funny side of a story

Compete - to try to win or do something better than another person

Spectators - people who watch an event, like a sport or a play

Tragedy - a serious story, or a lesson about right and wrong