How Did Ancient Greece Track Time?

The ancient Greeks had a fascinating way of tracking time, which was quite different from what we use today. In this article, we will explore how the ancient Greeks measured time and the tools they used for this purpose.

The Sundial

One of the earliest methods used by the ancient Greeks to track time was the sundial. This device utilized the movement of the sun’s shadow to determine the time of day.

The sundial consisted of a flat surface with a raised pointer called a gnomon. As the sun moved across the sky, the gnomon would cast a shadow on the surface, indicating different hours of the day.

The Water Clock

Another method employed by the ancient Greeks was the water clock, also known as a clepsydra. This device used water to measure time.

It consisted of a container with small holes in its base and markings on its sides to indicate different intervals. As water trickled out through these holes, it provided an estimate of elapsed time.

Astronomical Observations

The ancient Greeks were also keen observers of celestial bodies like stars and planets. They noticed that certain constellations appeared at different times during the year and used them as markers for tracking seasons and lunar months.

Olympic Games

The Olympic Games played a significant role in measuring time in ancient Greece. The games were held every four years and served as a way to mark intervals between major events. The concept of Olympiads, which referred to four-year periods between Olympic Games, eventually became a standard unit for measuring long durations.


In conclusion, the ancient Greeks had various methods for tracking time such as sundials, water clocks, astronomical observations, and even significant events like Olympic Games. It is fascinating to see how they used these tools and concepts to keep track of time in their daily lives.