We have a tendency to pat ourselves on the back in modern society. Sure the ancient Egyptians created marvels like the pyramids but they weren’t as great as us. Of course, the Greeks were an amazing civilization but did they have the genius and innovation that we do today? Yes, the Mayan people could build amazing structures and understood the world but were they kind and caring to those who are less fortunate, as we claim to be? The truth is that we have lost so much knowledge about ancient civilizations that we often assume they were poorly developed. While they didn’t have the internet they had some incredible inventions and in terms of society had incredible systems in place. One study now seeks to examine how caring the Greeks were to those with disabilities.
It has been proven that by the fourth century BC the Greeks already had a social welfare system in place. There was a speech found where one man referred to two crutches that he needed for support. The man was being accused of social welfare fraud thereby revealing that there was a system in place. This is in line with a lot of studies of the Greek civilization. While they held beauty and strength in high esteem they also saw weaknesses as virtues and looked after the old and injured very well.
A new study has now shone a light on a feature to Greek architecture that was previously ignored. The study has examined numerous Greek buildings and found that many had installed ramp access. Depending on the type of buildings it appeared that it had an impact on the number of ramps. One expert believes that these ramps were designed for people with disabilities and shows how caring the Greek people were.
Debby Sneed was the author of the study and visited many of the sites across Greece to examine the presence of ramps. Her findings suggested that not only did many sites have ramps but that the sites that had more ramps were designed for those who had disabilities. As an example there is one sanctuary that had 11 ramps leading into the building, this building was built to honor the God of medicine and healing and would have been visited by many people with disabilities. It appears logical that the ramps would have been to assist entry.
While that does seem straight forward, others are arguing against the hypothesis. Another expert has said the study lacks evidence to draw any conclusions. The ramps found were located in one main region of Greece and were not widespread. This may mean that they were simply an architectural feature of the area. Another expert argues that it has long been believed that these ramps were used to carry statues and other offerings to the temples for the gods and that while it would have been used by people disabilities, it was not their purchase.
There are hundreds of other healing temples across Greece and the study does not analyze any of them to examine whether they have ramps and whether they have more ramps than other temples to cater to those with disabilities. Both theories make sense. Greek temples often have large bronze or gold statues inside and it would have been incredibly heavy to pull them up the steps. Using a ramp makes a lot of sense and is a likely explanation for their presence.
While Debby Sneed’s work was interesting it requires a lot more evidence before it can be taken as fact. Sneed will need to return to Greece and examine the majority of temples to make a conclusive finding. To be fair that doesn’t sound like a terrible task to have to embark on.