Asceticism means to do things that are against our desires. Its practices are as early as humanity. I am not gonna discuss the etymology or semantics regarding this word, because the practices are universal, not just a greek invention.
Yes, asceticism is a universal practice, in all cultures, in all religions. The most common ascetic practices are: fasting, sleep deprivation, chanting, meditation, sexual abstinance, flagellation, silence, etc… basically things which we do not want and give us pain or suffering. The practices are also shared by greek philosophers, hindus, muslims, christians, jains, native americans, africans, etc..
There is something that makes asceticism survive, in evolutionary sense. Although pain is evolved so that we do not do certain things, asceticism is the exact opposite that survived with it too, therefore somehow creating a conflict. Many great individuals were ascetics, many great philosophers and also artists. Asceticism enhances cognitive powers together with creativity, as we all know that suffering creates art.
The austerities makes people tough, ready for daily life’s battles. Students of asceticism will lough at the small concerns of ordinary people. Ascetics are going to deal with the most important questions of life, they are going to lead people by example, and create a healthy society to live in.
Asceticism creates a beautiful personality. The ascetic have very little ego, anger, greed, jealousy, fear, anxiety, etc. The practices will make him/her a much better version of himself/herself, leading almost to perfection.
You may also get a glimpse of what it feels like to be an ascetic, although very difficult, by some benign forms of those practices. Try fasting and sleep deprivation for a certain period of time. Try chanting, the easiest and one of the best ways to reach enlightenment. Just repeat a mantra, you may create your own mantra or use existing ones. And repeat that sentence or word continuously. Chanting alone, can give you most of what other practices can give, therefore it is very important. You can whip yourself, you may run a marathon or meditate. Try to be silent for some time, do not talk. Do not have sex for some time. These are all hard practices, but slowly you can get better at them, you will become tougher. Suffering will elevate your soul. And the best works will be created by extreme forms of asceticism.