Updated: Mar 15
ANCIENT GREEKS AND THE MOON
Join us as we discover the planets, stars and satellites of our Solar System known to the ancient Greeks. This month we will discover what the Greeks thought about the Moon.
Read on to meet the Greek Moon goddess and hear one of the first ancient sci-fi tales about a journey to the Moon in a spaceship. Then write your own story about a legendary expedition to the Moon!
Today we know that the Moon is not a planet or a star – it is a satellite of planet Earth
The Moon is 385,000 km away from Earth
The Moon is the second brightest object in the sky after the Sun
The Moon is the only place beyond Earth where humans have landed
From Earth we only ever see about 60% of the Moon's surface. The part we can see is called the ‘near side’ of the Moon. The other side is called the ‘far side’ or the ‘dark side’ of the Moon – we can’t see it from Earth.
DISCOVERING THE MOON
Many ancient civilisations have been fascinated by the moon. The ancient Greeks were one of the first people to begin to understand it.
The Greek philosopher Anaxagoras was the first person in history to realise that the Moon shines so bright because it reflects the Sun. He correctly proposed that the Moon does not shine with its own light, but instead gets illuminated by the Sun – just like the Earth does.
DISTANCES AND SIZE
Aristarchus, another Greek philosopher, made very important discoveries about the distances between the Moon, Sun and Earth by using geometrical and trigonometric mathematical calculations. He realised that the Sun was much further away from Earth than the Moon was.
Aristarchus even tried to estimate the size of the Moon in comparison to the Earth. He thought that the Moon was half the size of the Earth, while today we know it is one quarter the size of the Earth.
MASTER OF THE TIDES
The ancient Greek astronomer Seleucus of Seleucia (say that five times fast!) was the first to discover that Earth’s ocean tides are controlled by the gravity of the Moon pulling the tides towards it. He also correctly theorised that the height of the tides was influenced by the position of the Moon in relation to the Earth and Sun.
The ancient Greeks believed that the planets, stars and other celestial bodies were gods and goddesses. Artemis was the name the Greeks gave to the goddess of the Moon, forests and hunting. The Geek philosopher Anaxagoras was the first to say that the Moon was not a faraway goddess, but instead a rocky body like planet Earth. For this he was exiled from the city of Athens.
ANCIENT JOURNEY TO THE MOON – WRITE YOUR OWN!
One of the first ancient sci-fi tales about a journey to the moon in a ship was written by the Greek author Lucian of Samosata in the second century CE.
The story begins with a ship getting blasted into space by a waterspout in the middle of the ocean! The ship’s crew then land on the Moon, and battle the King of the Moon and the King of the Sun to colonise Venus!
Hear the full story in this animated video and then invent your own story with the starter sentence below. Make sure to illustrate your story.
YOUR STORY: JOURNEY TO THE MOON
It was a fine summer's day as we were gliding across the Mediterranean sea…