Little Venice, Mykonos Town, Greece

Greece - Cradle of Western Civilisation, in a Nutshell

Author: Sue
Date: 14th June 2005

Facts and Factoids

  • The official name of Greece is the Hellenic Republic or Hellas. Its people are the Hellenes. Our word 'Greece' derives from the Roman word for that area - Graecia.
  • The total population of Greece is around 11 million.
  • Greece is probably best known for its mythology. The myths were originally told by the Ancient Greeks to explain the origin and nature of the world. These fascinating tales tell of the lives and activities of deities, heroes, and mythological creatures, and explain the origins and significance of the ancient Greeks' own cult and ritual practices. The Greek myths were initially told orally as poetry, most likely by Minoan and Mycenaean singers, as far back as the eighteenth century BC. Most famously, the myths of the heroes of the Trojan War and its aftermath were recounted in Homer's epic poems, the Iliad and the Odyssey.
  • Only the wealthy could afford to use live animals for sacrifices during ancient times, The poor left pastry versions — much kinder too.
  • The word tragedy is actually Greek for “goat-song.” It doesn’t mean that tragedies were about goats in Ancient Greece. They were simply named as such, so as to honour the Greek god Dionysus. Goatskins were worn by the participants.
  • All Greek citizens over the age of 18 are required to vote in every election
  • Greece has no navigable rivers - because of all the mountains
  • Greece is the leading producer of sponges (from the sea)
  • Greece is one of the sunniest places in the world. …

What is the History of Greece?

  • Greece is often described as the cradle of western civilisation and considered to be the world's first democracy.
  • By the fifth century BC Classical Greeks had organised themselves into independent citizen states (known as polis, from which comes our word "political"), such as Athens, Sparta, and Ephesus,
  • In the fourth century BC, Macedon in the north, under its king Philip II and his son Alexander the Great, took control and Alexander built a great empire. Alexander the introduced Greek polis style culture, administration and urban living, as far as Afghanistan. But his rule was only brief and on his death in 323 BC, the mainland split into a series of leagues under Macedonian governors.
  • The land-mass of Hellas and subsequently areas of the Macedonian conquests became part of the Roman Empire in the second century BC. The Greek language, however, spread throughout the Mediterranean as the Romans adopted and perpetuated Greek culture – literature, history, philosophy and architecture.
  • The Roman Empire became too large to be centrally controlled and in 324 the Roman emperor Constantine in effect split the empire into two. The eastern half was centred on Greek Byzantium, renamed Constantinople (now Istanbul). When the Western Roman empire collapsed in the fifth century, Constantinople became the new centre of the Roman empire, known as the Byzantine empire. Greece was absorbed into the Byzantine Empire, until the Franks split up Greece in the thirteenth century.
  • In 1453 Constantinople fell to the Ottomans, and for nearly 400 years Greece was under Ottoman control.
  • By the 19th century, the Ottoman Empire was economically on its last legs. On 25 March 1821, Greece declared its independence, with the support of France, Britain and Russia. It reached its present land configuration in 1947, but tensions with Turkey remain.
  • German occupation of Greece in the Second World War ended in 1944. However, a violent and complicated civil war at once broke out between (broadly) communists and western-backed government forces (1944-49). This resulted in a Greek government inclined to the west, but with significant anti-western sentiment still prevalent.
  • In 1967 a military junta overthrew the government and ended the monarchy. In 1974, the regime imploded, and since 1975 Greece has been a democratic republic.

Is Greece in the EU?

Greece joined the EU in 1981 and adopted the Euro in 2001.

What is There to See and Do in Greece?

Greece is renowned for its history and beauty. It's also a surprisingly diverse country - with varying scenery and sites to visit - ancient ruins - 18 UNESCO World Heritage Sites -(Ancient Athens - Greece in the Time of Covid Part 7), Orthodox monasteries (Meteora - Greece in the Time of Covid - Part 3 and Mysterious Mount Athos - Greece in the Time of Covid - Part 2), beautiful beaches (about 16,000 kilometres of coastline), stunning landscapes (80% of Greece is mountains) and lots of islands.

The Greek Islands comprise more than 6,000 islands and islets covering much of the eastern Mediterranean. Four of the islands are volcanic. Only about 230 of the islands are inhabited. Just 80 or so have more than 100 permanent inhabitants. They are traditionally grouped into six major clusters:

Ionian: Off the north-west coast of mainland Greece in the Ionian Sea Crete and the Ionian Islands
Saronic: In the Saronic Gulf near Athens
Cyclades: A large, dense group of islands in the central Aegean Sea Cyclades - Marvellous Milos - Greece in the Time of Covid Part 5, Cyclades - The Mills of Mykonos
North Aegean: A loose island group to the north-east Northern Aegean - Super Samos - Greece in the Time of Covid Part 6
Sporades: A small, tightly-knit island group just off the east coast
Dodecanese: A long and loose string of islands that roughly follow the Turkish coast Dodecanese - Kos, Rhodes, Symi and Nisyros

Join the discussion, leave a comment

Been there? Something to add? Want some advice? Just want to say Hello? Get in touch…

hello world!

Newsletter Subscription

Stay in touch. Get travel tips, updates on my latest adventures and posts on out of the way places, straight to your Inbox.

I keep your data private and only share your data with third parties that make this service possible. Privacy Policy. No spam I promise. Unsubscribe any time.