It's All Greek to Me

- Lyrics and notes by Mr. White/Black
- Music Hey there, Delilah by the White T's
- Youtube recording
- Teachertube recording

First Verse:
Hello, Hellenes
Your history is rather mystic
So I'll sing this little song
About just what the Hellenistic heroes said
'Bout all the battles where you bled
Beautiful dead.
  • Hellenes refers to the name that the Greeks called themselves. It means "bright" or "shiny". It's the name of the first Greek man, Hellen, the son of Deucalion (the Greek version of Noah). They called Greece Hellas.
  • Mystic comes from the Greek word mystikós which means "someone who knows the secret."
  • All Greeks tried to live according to the principle of Arete, or the excellent life. For some, especially for Spartans, the excellent life was to die honorably in battle, called Kalos Thanatos or the beautiful death.
Verse on Geography:
In the Aegean
Spread admid the archipelago
Peloponnese peninsula
You Greeks began there long ago, and lived
Our culture to create and give,
And grow olives.
  • The Agean Sea is connected to the Eastern part of the Mediterranean Sea. It is named for Ageus, the father of Theseus.
  • An archipelago is a chain of islands close together, like Hawaii.
  • A peninsula is a land formation which is surrounded by water on three sides. The one in Greece is called Peloponnese (pel - o - poe - nees).
  • The largest Greek export, other than their culture, was olives. Olives are, in the Mediterranean cultures, what butter is to us.
Chorus:
Oh, it's all Greek to me.
Oh, it's all Greek to me.
Oh, it's all Greek to me.
Oh, it's all Greek to me.
  • "It's all Greek to me," comes the Medieval Latin phrase Graecum est; non potest legi (It is Greek; it cannot be read). Medieval scribes, who weren't familiar with Greek, apparently wrote this phrase next to any text they came across in that language.
  • Είναι όλα τα ελληνικά σε με. (Eeneh ola ta ellinika seh meh)
Verse on Minoans (2700 - 1400)
Hello, Minoan men
Your Minotaur could not be beat
Located in the labyrinth
At Knossos there in ancient Crete, until
Theseus knew he had the will
That beast to kill.
  • The Minoan culture is the oldest Greek culture of which we know.
  • It was mostly centered on the island of Crete (part of the archipelago).
  • One of its most important cities was Knossos.
  • One of the most famous Greek myths is Theseus and the Minotaur.
Verse on Myceneans (1600 - 1100)
Hello, Myceneans
Who conquered the Minoan men
But, later, you were conquered too
By Sea People or Dorians, whose rage
Crushed you and started the Dark Age,
So turn the page.
  • The Myceneans are the Greeks from the movie Troy and the poem the Iliad.
  • It was once believed that the Dorians conquered the Myceneans. Now, historians aren't sure. They think that another group, called the Sea People (kind of like Mediterranean pirates) may have done it instead.
  • When the Myceneans were conquered, all their learning and history was lost. This loss of culture is known as a "Dark Age."
Iliad:
Hello, Homer,
Who wrote heroic, epic poetry
About the Golden Age of Greece
Though you were blind, you still could be the source
About a face that launched a naval force
And a Trojan horse
  • Homer is a blind poet who wrote several epic (really long) poems
    • Iliad (about the Trojan War during Mycenean times),
      • The book Black Ships Before Troy is a good version of this.
    • Odyssey (about Odysseus, who founght with the Greeks in the Trojan War, and his journey back home)
      • The movie O Brother, Where Art Thou is a good version of this.
    • Batrachomyomachia (the Iliad, except with frogs against mice)
      • This one is really fun to read!
  • His purpose was to recall the "old times" and give an example of heroic arete (excellence) for Greeks to follow.
  • World map according to Homer
  • Helen of Troy is said to have been so beautiful, she had a "face that launched a thousand ships."
Gods:
Hello, Athena,
You are wise and you are mighty
Your bro, Ares, is the god of war
Your sister, Aphrodite, is a dove
Goddess of beauty and of love
Rules from above.
  • Greek's practiced polytheism. Poly is the Greek word for "many" and theism is the Greek word for "gods". They had many gods.
  • Athena was the goddess of wisdom and heroes. Athens was named for her. She had an owl. And, for those of you who like shoes, she was often accompanied by Nike, the goddess of victory.
  • Athena's half-brother was Ares, god of war. Specifically, he is the god of savage war, bloodlust and slaughter. Mars is the Roman name for Ares, and Mars the planet is named for him.
  • Athena's half-sister is Aphrodite, goddess of love and beauty. Doves are sacred to her. The Romans renamed her Venus, and the planet Venus is named for her.
  • The gods ruled from Mount Olympus, the highest point in Greece.
  • On this website, you can click on pictures of the gods and see who they were and what they did, or click here for a complete theogeny of the Greek Gods.
Bridge I:
Most of our astrology
Is based on your mythology
Stories that we study still today
There's Pandora's curiosity
Medusa's great monstrosity
And Icarus who flew to far astray.
Dont forget Hermes the liar
Or Prometheus who stole fire
And the man who hugged Antaeus to his knees,
Brave Heracles.
  • Astrology comes from the Greek words astro, or star, and ology, or study. Astrology is the study of stars. Today, it usually refers to people who use the stars to try to tell their future.
  • Mythology comes from the Greek words myth, or story, and ology, or study. Mythology is the study of stories.
  • You can read some Greek myths here.
  • Pandora is the girl whose curiosity accidentally released all the evils into the world.
  • Medusa was so ugly, if you looked directly at her you would turn to stone.
  • Icarus and his father Daedalus (who designed the labyrinth that the Minotaur lived in) tried to escape Crete with wings made of feathers and wax. Icarus didn't listen to his father, though, and drowned in the Aegean sea.
  • Hermes was the god of many things, including liars. Homer wrote a hymn to him which called him, "blandly cunning, a robber, a cattle driver, a bringer of dreams, a watcher by night, a thief at the gates." The Romans renamed him Mercury, the god for whom the planet is named.
  • Prometheus stole fire from the gods to give to humans. He was punished by being chained to a rock and having his liver eaten out every morning by an eagle. Then, it would grow back so it could happen again and again.
  • Heracles (or Hercules) fought a giant named Antaeus. Antaeus was the son of Hera (the earth) and every time he touched the earth he got stronger. So Heracles held him up and squeezed him to death.
Verse on Athens:
Hello, Athenians
Inventors of democracy
With awesome architecture
You were masters of philosophy and math
You even had a public bath
But no paved path.
  • Athens was one of the two most important Greek city-states.
  • Democracy comes from two Greek words: demos, which means people, and cracy, which means rule. Thus, democracy means "people rule!" This means all citizens have the power of government and make decisions, not just one king or one small group of people.
    • You couldn't be a citizen if you were female, younger than 18, a slave, a foreigner or if you were in trouble with the law.
  • Architect comes from two Greek words: archos, or master/leader, and tecton, or builder. An architect is a "master builder" and architecture is what an architect makes. The Greeks were known for their well planned, beautiful buildings. The Temple of Artemis, one of the 7 wonders of the ancient world, was made by Greeks.
  • Philosophy comes from two Greek words: philo, or love, and sophia, or wisdom. Philosophers are "lovers of wisdom.
  • Mathematics comes from the Greek word mathema, which means "learning" or "study."
  • Athenians had several public baths, but were not known for their excellent system of roads.
Verse on Sparta:
Hello there, Spartans,
Who fought battles without guns or tanks
Made hoplites out of soldier boys
And marched them in a great phalanx of men.
Only the strongest lived, so then
You'd always win.
  • Where Athenians were thinkers and builders, Spartans were warriors.
  • Hoplites were Greek (especially Spartan) soldiers.
  • All males were raised to be soldiers and to serve the Spartan city-state.
  • Phalanx comes from the Greek word phalangos, which means finger. It was a military formation of rows and rows of soldiers which formed a kind of wall.
  • Weak Spartan males were allowed to die so only the strongest survived.
  • You can find a brief outline of Spartan society here.
  • If you ever go to ancient Sparta, you're likely to be killed. Here's how to say, "Oh my God! There's an axe in my head!" in Greek:
    • O Theos mou! Echo ten labrida en te mou kephale!
Battle of Marathon (490):
Hello, Phidippides.
The herald boy who liked to run,
And made it clear to Athens
From the battlefield of Marathon to say
Athenians had won the day
So shout hooray!
  • Phidippides is a modern day shoe store.
  • In the Battle of Marathon, the Athenians defeated the invading Medes and Persians before the Spartans could arrive. Phidippides, a herald boy (news runner) ran all the way from the battlefield to Athens (a distance of about 25 miles), said, "Masters, victory is ours!" and died.
  • Today, we still run a race called a Marathon which is about the same distance that Phidippides ran. But we usually don't die.
  • Robert Browning wrote a poem called Pheidippides in 1876 about this event. Here is a short portion of it:
    • So, when Persia was dust, all cried, "To Acropolis!
      Run, Pheidippides, one race more! the meed is thy due!
      Athens is saved, thank Pan, go shout!" He flung down his shield
      Ran like fire once more: and the space 'twixt the fennel-field
      And Athens was stubble again, a field which a fire runs through,
      Till in he broke: "Rejoice, we conquer!" Like wine through clay,
      Joy in his blood bursting his heart, - the bliss!
Battle of Thermopolyae (480):
Here come the Persians
Takin' over like Monopoly
300 Spartans stopped them
At the Battle of Thermopolyae. You stayed
And combed your hair under the shade.
'Till you were betrayed.
  • This is the battle depicted in the movie 300. The story goes that 300 Spartans defended against several million Persians. Probably, there were about 250,000 Persians. And the 300 Spartans were supported by about 6,000 other Greek allies. Still, that's formidable odds.
  • The Persian spies saw the Spartans exercising, oiling their bodies and combing their long hair before the battle. This was a sign that they were preparing to die (remember, beautiful death?)
  • The Persians told the Spartans to lay down their weapons and surrender. The Spartan leader, Leonidas, replied, "Come and get them!"
  • When the Spartans were told that the arrows from the Persians would be so thick they would "blot out the sun" one Spartan soldier said, "Then we shall fight in the shade."
  • Ephialtes, a Spartan, betrayed his fellow Spartans by showing Xerxes (the Persian king) a way to outflank the Spartans and win the battle. To this day, his name also means "nightmare" and "traitor" to Greeks.
  • Thermopolyae wasn't really that important as a battle. The Battle of Salamis, which was fought shortly after, is known as one of the most significant battles in all history. Later, Spartans, Athenians and other Greeks decisively beat the Persians at the Battle of Plataea.
  • This poem refers to a WWII battle which occurred on the same site.
Bridge II:
Your alpha bet is pretty cool
With Pi and Phi and Delta too
We use so many of your words today.
Poly and monotheistic
Paleo and neolithic
And don't forget mesopotamia.
Without you we couldn't make a poem
Or telephone our mom at home
Or study any of the ology's
Or history! .................................................................
  • Alphabet comes from the first two letters in the Greek alphabet: alpha and beta.
    • Remember, the Greeks took their letters from the Phonecians and added vowel signs.
  • Pi (Π, π) is the Greek version of our letter P, and it represents a mathematical term often used to determine the circumference of a circle in geometry.
  • Phi (Φ, φ) is the Greek version of our letter F, and it represents the golden ratio, which can be found everywhere, from the shell of a nautilus to architecture to paintings.
  • Delta (Δ, δ) is the Greek versino of our letter D, and the triangular shaped formation found at the mouth of most major rivers is called a delta because it shares the same shape.
  • Poly means many and theistic means gods. Polythestic means "many gods".
  • Mono means one and theistic means gods. Monotheistic means "one god."
  • Paleo means old and lithic means stone. Paleolithic means "old stone."
  • Neo means new and lithic means stone. Neolithic means "new stone."
  • Meso means between or middle, and potamia means river. Mesopotamia means "between the rivers."
  • Poem is from the Greek word poema which means "to make."
  • Tele means distance and phone means sound. Telephone means "distant sound" or "sound from far away."
  • Ology means "study of."
  • History is from the Greek work historia which means "learning through research."
Verse on Peloponnesian War (431-404):
There wasn't always
Happy peace among you Grecians
There were thirty years of conflict
All among Peloponnesians, who, by Zeus,
Paused only for Olympic truce
Athens would lose.
  • The Peoloponnesian War was fought between Sparta and her allies and the Athenian empire.
  • It lasted for thirty years.
  • They would cease fighting during the Olympic Games (named for Mount Olympus, where the gods lived.)
  • These games were dedicated to the chief of the gods, Zeus.
  • Athens lost the Peloponnesian War and Sparta ruled them with an iron fist until Athens was able to regain her freedom.
Verse on Philip II:
Hello there, Philip,
You were once the king of Macedon
You conquered Greece and Persia
Made an empire for your son so he could share
Hellenistic culture here and there
And everywhere.
  • Philip II was king of Macedon, an area just above Greece.
  • He conquered Persia and Greece.
  • His son was Alexander the Great, one of the most successful military leaders in all history.
  • Alexander slept with two things under his pillow: a dagger and a copy of the Iliad.
  • Alexander conquered most of the known world and spread Greek (or Hellenistic) culture (language, philosophy, math, science, literature) to all the places he conquered.
  • Because of Alexander and his father, Philip, Greek culture was eventually used by the Romans who expanded the empire all the way to Britain/England. This is why Greek culture is the primary influence which shaped our modern culture today.