The ancient Greeks created great works of art and architecture, many of which can still be seen today. The Greek concept of beauty was based on balance and harmony of form. Their architecture, painting and sculpture have influenced artists and designers throughout the world. Many beautiful buildings, such as the Parthenon in Athens, were built during the Golden Age of Pericles in the 5th century B.C. Religious art and architecture also flourished during the Byzantine period.

The Golden Age of Greek literature began with Homer and Hesiod, who wrote epic poetry and lived in about the 8th century B.C. Greek theatre reached great heights in the 5th century B.C. with the tragic plays of Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euripides, and the comedies of Aristophanes. Today these plays are performed in their original settings, the open-air theatres found all over Greece.

The ancient Greeks were among the earliest peoples to separate religion from the study of ideas and knowledge, a discipline that became known as philosophy. Great thinkers, such as Socrates and Plato, both of whom were born in the 5th century B.C., devoted their lives to the pursuit of truth and knowledge. Aristotle, Plato's student, made important contributions to natural science as well as philosophy. .

Modern Greece has also produced important dramatists, poets and novelists. Two Greek poets have won the Nobel Prize for literature: George Seferis in 1963 and Odysseus Elytis in 1979. Other well-known poets include C.P. Cavafy and Yannis Ritsos. The novels of Nikos Kazantzakis, including Zorba the Greek and The Last Temptation, have been translated into many languages and enjoyed by readers around the world.

Mikis Theodorakis is a well known Greek composer. He has set the poems of Odysseus Elytis to music and composed music for the film version of Zorba the Greek. Greece has also given the world the opera singer Maria Callas and the popular singer Nana Mouskouri, as well as the actresses Melina Mercouri and Irene Papas. Vasilis Tsitsanis is a famous Greek songwriter and a master of the traditional Greek stringed instrument called the bouzouki.

Embroidery and pottery are popular forms of folk art in Greece. Greek silversmiths are also known for the beautiful jewellery they create.

Did you know?

The blind Homer, perhaps the greatest Greek poet, composed the Iliad and the Odyssey around 800 B.C. The Iliad told the story of the Trojan War and the Odyssey was about the travels of Odysseus, a hero of the Trojan War