Greece Facts

Greece Facts and History


Greece – cradle of democracy and philosophy

Greece, the cradle of western culture, the cradle of democracy and the land of thinkers and philosophers, the cradle of the Olympic Games and the marathon. This tradition is reflected in numerous cultural monuments, churches and museums.

But Greece is also a country of beautiful islands in the middle of the warm blue Mediterranean. There simply cannot be anyone who has not visited this country at least once in their life.

Relaxing holidays with sun, flirting and swimming can be wonderfully combined with enjoying the numerous cultural monuments.

Many people associate the Sirtaki dance with today’s Greece, but without knowing that it was specially conceived in 1964 for the main actor Anthony Quinn, based on the music by Mikis Theodorakis in the film “Alexis Sorbas”.

And football fans will still remember the Greeks’ 2-1 victory against Portugal at the European Championship in Portugal in 2004.

Greece was sensational with its German coach Otto Rehhagel European soccer champions.

Name of the country Greek (Hellenic) Republic/Elleniki Dimokratia
Form of government Parliamentary republic
Geographical location Southeast Europe
National anthem “Imnos pros tin Eleftherian (Ode to Freedom)
Population approx. 11.3 million (Credit: Countryaah: Greece Population)
Ethnicities 97.5% Greeks, 0.5% Turks, 0.4% Macedonians and other small minorities
Religions 97.5% Greek Orthodox Christians (state religion)Islam (Sunnis)
Languages Greek (Modern Greek)
Capital Athens
Surface 131,957 km²
Highest mountain Olymp with a height of 2,917 m
Longest river Vardar with a length of 382 km
Largest lake Trichonis with an area of 96 km²
International license plate GR
National currency Euro (1 € = 100 cents)
Time difference to CET + 1h
International phone code 0030
Mains voltage, frequency 230 volts, 50 hertz
Internet Top Level Domain (TLD) .gr

Greece: history

Until around the year 1000

Today’s Greece was already in the 4th and 3rd millennium BC. (Stone Age) settled. In the Bronze Age, pre-Indo-European Mediterranean peoples developed the Helladic culture with simple peasant life forms in the northern Aegean.

According to Abbreviationfinder website, on Crete, at the beginning of the 2nd millennium BC, The independent, oriental influenced pre-Greek high culture of the Minoans, which already had extensive trade relations. Around the same time, the Indo-European tribes of the Achaeans and Ionians immigrated to the southern Balkans. Under Cretan influence, the first advanced civilization developed on the soil of today’s Greece, which is called the Mycenaean culture after one of its centers. City-states and monumental domed tombs such as the Treasury of Atreus and the Lion Gate of Mycenae emerged. Agriculture and animal husbandry served as the basis of the economy, and long-distance trade relations extended to the Middle East and Egypt. The Mycenaean culture gained around 1450 BC. BC also dominated Crete. From around 1200 BC Chr. the great Aegean migration, also known as the “sea peoples storm”, took place in the eastern Mediterranean. A large part of the centers of the Mycenaean culture was destroyed by wars, but also by earthquakes.

Presumably migrated around 1050 BC. The tribe of the Dorians and finally gained dominance over the Peloponnese peninsula. At the same time, today’s north-west Greece was populated by Aeolians and Ionians. The destruction of Troy, described by Homer, probably also took place during this period. It was followed by the conquest and colonization of the west coast of Asia Minor. Greek cities like Miletus, Ephesus and Smyrna were founded. From the period between approx. 1200 and 800 BC There are no written records and only relatively few archaeological finds. The geometric phase (around 1050 to 700 BC) was named after the ornaments of the ceramic finds.

In the middle of the 8th century BC BC began, not least due to trade relations and the resulting oriental influences, a steep upswing in all of Greece. Around 750 BC Homer wrote the epics “Iliad” and “Odyssey”. The Greeks had adopted the alphabet from the Phoenicians, and the written language they had newly developed spread relatively quickly.

As a result, the development of Ionic philosophy began.

It followed from about 700 to 500 BC. The archaic phase.

The polis (city-state) had already developed into the dominant form of government in a large part of Greece in the previous centuries. It was partly ruled by a class of aristocracy (oligarchy), but increasingly also the common citizen.

Between about 750 and 550 BC Large parts of the Black Sea region and other areas of the Mediterranean region such as southern Italy and Sicily were conquered by the Greeks. One of the causes of the expansion was the internal political conflicts in the city-states. In the following period there were also armed conflicts between the Poleis. In the Peloponnese, Sparta developed into the leading military power and consolidated its claim to power around 550 BC. By the Peloponnesian League.

During the 6th and 7th centuries, a number of city-states, such as Corinth, Samos and later Athens, were ruled by sole rulers (tyranny). The Spartans, however, opposed this form of government. In Athens, tyranny was established in 510 BC. Abolished again. The first temples were built in the Archaic phase. Not least because of the spread of Homeric epics, all of Greece had a uniform canon of gods. In addition to the oracle of Delphi, the Olympic Games also had a Panhellenic significance. They found between 776 and 393 BC. Every four years as part of the Panhellenic Games in Olympia on the Peloponnese peninsula.

Between around 500 and 336 BC BC Greece was in the Classical Period. During this cultural heyday, the cornerstones of Western philosophy and science were laid. The reforms of Kleisthenes in the years 509 to 507 BC BC played a crucial role in the enforcement of ancient democracy.

In the years 500 to 494 BC The Greeks in Asia Minor and Cyprus rose against the Persian king Dareios I, which led to the outbreak of the Persian Wars. The notes Herodotus wrote about this are considered the beginning of western historiography.

480 defeated the Greeks, who in the meantime had founded the Hellenic League, the Persian fleet and the following year the Persian army destroyed. In 478/477 Athens founded the Attic League and became the dominant Greek naval power. As a result, the development of the Attic Empire began under Athenian rule. During this time the Parthenon was built on the Acropolis, and Greek philosophy and tragedy poetry also reached a high point. The philosophers Socrates, Plato and Aristotle worked in Athens, which was considered the “school of Greece”.

From 461 BC. BC, democratic reforms were carried out in Athens under Pericles. The city was to become impregnable through the erection of the so-called Long Walls (460 to 457 BC).

431 BC The Peloponnesian War broke out between Athens and Sparta, which lasted until 404 BC. Stopped.

After the Athenian army tried to conquer Syracuse (Sicily) in 413 BC. The Spartan fleet, built with Persian support, was able to defeat the weakened Attic League in 404 BC. To force surrender.

This was followed by a war between the Persians and Sparta (400 to 394 BC), as a result of which Greece lost Cyprus and Asia Minor. In the Corinthian War that followed (395 to 387 BC) Sparta was warred by Argos, Athens, Corinth and Thebes. The idea of general peace (Koine Eirene) that was widespread at the time could not be implemented in practice. In 371 BC Then the Spartan army was defeated by the Thebans, who until 362 BC. BC held their supremacy.

In the middle of the 4th century BC Macedonia developed into the leading military power in northern Greece under Philip II. 337 BC After the founding of the Corinthian Covenant, he was appointed hegemon. His son Alexander the Great led in 334 BC. The Persian campaign. He extended the Greek Empire to India, Egypt and the Black Sea. Under his rule the Classical Period of Ancient Greece ended and the Age of Hellenism began. In the newly founded great empires, the pole ice only played a subordinate role. They were later replaced by the Greek federal states, the most important of which were the Aetolian and Achaean leagues.

After Alexander’s death, his generals fought for power. The so-called Diadoch fights ended in 281 BC. With the division of Greece into three great empires: Macedonia went to Antigonus, Syria, Mesopotamia and Persia to Seleucus I and Egypt to Ptolemy. A renewed cultural heyday followed, in which mathematics, philosophy and art in particular developed. Alexandria became the most important cultural center. At that time, Greek was considered a world language.

In 146 Greece was incorporated into the Roman Empire as the province of Macedonia. The Seleucid Empire and Egypt were also subsequently conquered by the Romans. Nevertheless, Greek culture continued for centuries and shaped both the Roman Empire and the later Byzantium.

In 395 the Roman Empire split up into western and eastern currents. In the period that followed, Neoplatonism developed as the last important philosophical current of antiquity.

From around 580 Slavic peoples penetrated into the Balkan regions, so that by 600 Greece to the Peloponnese was predominantly Slavic.

From 636 onwards, Islamic Arabs conquered the Roman eastern provinces and sealed the final fall of antiquity when Greek was replaced by Arabic as the official language in 698.

From the year 1000 to the 18th century

In the Byzantine Empire, which developed from the Eastern Roman Empire, today’s Greece only played a subordinate role. At the end of the 10th century, while Byzantium was at its cultural height, the gradual adoption of the Orthodox faith began under Emperor Basil II, who had married a Russian woman.

In 1204 the Crusaders conquered and plundered Constantinople and founded the Latin Empire, which however only lasted for a short time.

From the middle of the 14th century the Ottomans began to penetrate Europe and conquered Byzantine Thrace and Macedonia. Other parts of the Byzantine Empire were forced to pay tribute.

In 1453 Sultan Mehmed II took Constantinople, which he then plundered. This sealed the fall of the Byzantine Empire. It was not least thanks to the Greek Orthodox Church that the Greeks were able to retain their national identity and language in the almost 400 years of Turkish rule that followed.

In the 19th century

In 1821, with the Great Popular Uprising, the Greek liberation struggle against the Ottoman occupiers began. In 1830, the independent Greek kingdom was internationally recognized by the London Protocol, at that time it comprised around a third of today’s national territory. The first head of state was Ioannis Kapodistrias. From 1832 to 1862, King Otto of the Wittelsbach family ruled the country. In 1864 Greece got the Ionian Islands back, and Thessaly followed in 1881.

The first modern Olympic Games were held in Athens in 1896.

20th century until today

From 1910 Eleftherios Venizelos ruled as prime minister for 20 years and enabled a steep increase in development in the Greek economy through his modernization policy.

In the Balkan Wars of 1912/12 Greece was able to recapture Epirus, Macedonia, Crete and the East Aegean Islands with Serbian and at times Bulgarian help. In 1922, however, Greece’s attempt to win large parts of Asia Minor from Turkey in order to restore the Byzantine Empire within its old borders (“Megali Idea”) led to a military defeat. As a result, almost all Greeks living in Turkey (over 1.5 million) had to leave the country; in return, around 500,000 mostly Turkish Muslims were expelled from Greece.

During the Second World War, Prime Minister Ioannis Metaxas, who had ruled the country dictatorially since 1936, rejected an Italian ultimatum to surrender in 1940. Greece was initially able to repel the subsequent attack by Italy. In 1941 the German Wehrmacht occupied the country. The resistance of the Greek partisan movement was suppressed by the German, Italian and Bulgarian occupiers in a war-criminal manner, in some cases entire villages were exterminated.

After 1945, the Greek Civil War followed until 1949, in which the communist former partisans fought for power with the government that had returned from exile. The latter received generous help from Great Britain and the USA. The communists, who were supposed to be supported by the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia, were pushed back. The reason for this was a secret agreement concluded between Churchill and Stalin on the sidelines of the Yalta conference in 1945.

In order to suppress the communist movement in the country, the Greek government severely restricted the freedoms of its citizens until the 1960s. In 1952 Greece joined NATO. A liberalization movement followed in the 1960s.

From March 6, 1964, King Constantine II (born 1940) succeeded Paul I as King of Greece.

When G. Papandreou won the election for the second time in 1967, there was a coup led by Georgios Papadopoulos, who established a brutal military regime. At the beginning, the king abstained from any comment on the coup. But on December 13, 1967, he attempted a counter-coup, which was carried out so amateurishly that it failed thoroughly. Then he went into exile in London – but without having formally refueled. He was succeeded by Georgios Zoitakis as the ruling viceroy, who was replaced on December 13, 1972 by the coup leader Georgios Papadopoulos. On June 1, 1974, the junta abolished the monarchy entirely.

After the Greek junta supported the 1974 coup in Cyprus, the subsequent Turkish invasion led to its collapse. Subsequently, under Konstantin Karamanlis, democracy was restored in Greece. The monarchy was finally abolished by a referendum on December 8, 1974 with a majority of around 70%. In 1981 Greece joined the European Community (now the European Union). In the same year A. Papandreou was elected Prime Minister (PASOK, socialist). From 1990 to 1993 a government of NEA DIMOKRATIA followed.

From 1993 PASOK ruled again under A. Papandreou, from 1996 under K. Simitis. In March 2004 Kostas Karamanlis (NEA DIMOKRATIA) won the election.

In August/September 2004 the Olympic and Paralympic Games took place in Athens.

In the election on October 4, 2009, the PASOk under its chairman Giorgos Papandreou won the absolute majority of the MPs with 44% of the votes cast. Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis’ party suffered a severe defeat with 34%. As a result of the financial crisis, the socialist Papandreou ordered the country a one-off austerity course.

After the parliamentary elections in October 2009, Tsipras became a member of the Greek parliament, where he became chairman of the party alliance SYRIZA, which was converted into a party with chairman Tsipras in May 2012. Synaspismos then dissolved. In the 2012 election, SYRIZA was the second strongest party with 26.9 percent and in the early parliamentary election on January 25, 2015, SYRIZA received 36.3% of the vote.

Then Tsipras became prime minister of the country

On August 20, 2015, he resigned from the office of Prime Minister due to massive difficulties within his party.

But after the new election on September 20, 2015, he was re-elected Prime Minister and his party SYRIZA re-formed a coalition with ANEL. On July 8, 2019, Kyriakos Mitsotakis (born 1968) became the new Prime Minister of the country from the Nea Dimokratia. His party won the early elections on July 7th.

Greece Facts