We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What are the Greek Classical Elements?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 23, 2024
Our promise to you
CulturalWorld.org is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At CulturalWorld.org, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

The Greeks, along with many other cultures, used an elemental system to explain the nature of life, attributing life events to various fluctuations in “elemental” forces like wind or fire. Many people refer to the elements in Greek tradition as the “classical elements,” to differentiate them from the elements on the periodic table. The Greek classical elements date back thousands of years, to a time well before famous philosophers like Plato, and the concept endured until the Renaissance, when people began to develop a deeper understanding of the natural world.

A version of the classical elements shows up in many human societies, and, in some sense, elemental systems also live on in modern culture. Tarot and astrology, for example, both integrate the elements, and traditional Chinese medicine also places a lot of importance onto the elements. Pagan religions such as Wicca also integrate a version of the Greek classical elements into their framework.

According to the Greeks, there were four major elements, earth, air, water, and fire, accompanied by a fifth element, aether. The first four Greek classical elements were very temporal in nature, while aether was less connected to the Earth, and was viewed as more spiritual in nature. The stars, for example, were believed to be composed of aether, since the Greeks believed that aether did not change or fluctuate with time, unlike the other elements.

Each element was associated with specific traits, such as cold and wet for water and hot and dry for fire. The system of Greek classical elements linked in with the four humors idea of health, with each “humor” being assigned to a specific element. The four humors were integrated into medical practice well into the 19th century, and, like the Greek classical elements, they live on in modern society. Words like “bilious” and “phlegmatic,” for example, are used to describe people with specific temperaments, in reference to bile and phlegm, two of the four humors.

Using the Greek classical elements, people tried to explain the nature of the world around them. Many people believed that the elements worked in a way which promoted balance, and that disturbances in this balance were the root cause of things like earthquakes and health problems. Correcting an imbalance of elements was considered critical for well-being, and the elements were so intertwined with everything from the seasons to fortunetelling that many people were very familiar with the elements and their traits.

CulturalWorld.org is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a CulturalWorld.org researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By goldensky — On Jun 25, 2011

@bfree - Astrology has been around since the dawn of time. Humans have always looked to the stars for direction. I think science and religion have been at war over the power of the constellations for years. One believes without seeing but the other must have some physical proof that it exists.

The movement of the planets and our moon and sun have a profound effect on our lives. We are each born under a certain sign of the zodiac which are represented by a great planet.

Each planet possesses it's own source of energy which is what I think gives each of us our own unique characteristics. Of course no two people are the same, but if you study people born under the same element such as fire, earth, air or water you will see that they do tend to have the same temperaments.

By aviva — On Jun 22, 2011

@bfree - Just as Earth, water, fire and air existed long before Greek Mythology, so too did the Zodiac. The ancients from many cultures, not just Greek, used the constellations to navigate their lives.

I think the ancient Romans developed myths or stories behind each movement to help them understand and remember them. In my opinion, most all ancient cultures used religion as a back-drop for anything they couldn't explain.

I personally do not believe there's more than one God ruling over our Universe nor do I believe the future can be predicted through astrology. I do believe in the movement of the constellations though and how it effects our Earth, wind, fire and water.

By bfree — On Jun 20, 2011

I would like to know what your thoughts and opinions are on astrology. I specifically want to know if you think the twelve signs of the zodiac comes from Greek mythology.

Do you believe there is truth behind the myth that there are many Gods ruling over the elements of nature and our Universe? If these Gods do exist, do they really have the power to influence our lives through the movement of the planets, the moon and the sun?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

Learn more
CulturalWorld.org, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

CulturalWorld.org, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.