The Ancient Greek History of the Handshake from 5th Century B.C.

The handshake dates back as far as possible. Archaeological relics indicate that in 5th century B.C., handshakes were practiced in Ancient Greece. It was a sign of peace that showed you weren’t carrying a weapon. A funeral relic from the 5th century in Berlin’s Pergamon Museum, the most visited in Germany, depicts two soldiers shaking hands. A 5th-century stone slab depicts Hera and Athena shaking hands.

In the epic literature classics: The Odyssey and The Iliad, the Greek poet Homer mentions handshaking many times as demonstrations of trust. The handshake developed into more of an arm grab during the Roman period. The shaking of hands up and down may have been added by knights in Medieval Europe as a clever way of dislodging any concealed weapons.

According to, some scholars suggest that modern-day handshaking was popularized by Quakers in the 17th century, who considered the gesture to be more egalitarian than a hat tip or a bow. The husband and wife are shown shaking hands as a sign of their legally binding engagement in some 17th century marriage portraits.

Etiquette manuals later taught in the Victorian era that the handshake should be firm. Although most English-first and Scandinavian nations prefer a firm handshake, a grip that is too firm is considered rude and violent in some countries. A gentler touch is favoured by some Asian nations. While, in East Asia, the Japanese never shake hands and bow to show respect.

The origins of the high five date back only to the last century, in comparison with the ancient practise of handshaking. And actually slapping five began not up high but down low. Since the Jazz Era, the low five has been a fixture of African American culture, as a response to’ slap me some skin.’ Al Jolson slaps low fives in the 1927 film The Jazz Singer to celebrate a Broadway audition.

Today, as the world is fighting the Coronavirus pandemic, it seems we have forgotten the handshake. For over 11 months most people are giving fist pumps, elbow pumps, and even foot pumps. It is amazing that the handshake originates all the way back to 5th century B.C. Ancient Greece another era of BC (before Coronavirus).

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