Greece

Hellenic Republic
Ελληνική Δημοκρατία (Greek)
Ellinikí Dimokratía
Motto: Ελευθερία ή Θάνατος
Elefthería í Thánatos
(English: "Freedom or Death")
Anthem: Ύμνος εις την Ελευθερίαν
Ímnos is tin Eleftherían
(English: "Hymn to Liberty")
Location of Greece (dark green)

– in Europe (light green & dark grey)
– in the European Union (light green)

Capital
and largest city
Athens
37°58′N 23°43′E / 37.967°N 23.717°E / 37.967; 23.717
Official language
and national language
Greek
Religion
(2017)
Demonym(s)
GovernmentUnitary parliamentary republic
• President
Katerina Sakellaropoulou
Kyriakos Mitsotakis
Konstantinos Tasoulas
LegislatureHellenic Parliament
Establishment history
25 March 1821 (traditional starting date of the Greek War of Independence), 15 January 1822 (official declaration)
3 February 1830
24 July 1974
11 June 1975
Area
• Total
131,957 km2 (50,949 sq mi) (95th)
• Water (%)
1.51 (2015)
Population
• 2023 estimate
Decrease 10,413,982 (1 January 2023) (90th)
• 2021 census
Decrease 10,432,481
• Density
78.9/km2 (204.4/sq mi) (105th)
GDP (PPP)2024 estimate
• Total
Increase $430.125 billion (55th)
• Per capita
Increase $41,188 (52nd)
GDP (nominal)2024 estimate
• Total
Increase $250.276 billion (54th)
• Per capita
Increase $23,966 (45th)
Gini (2023)Negative increase 31.8
medium
HDI (2022)Increase 0.893
very high (33rd)
CurrencyEuro () (EUR)
Time zoneUTC+02:00 (EET)
• Summer (DST)
UTC+03:00 (EEST)
Date formatdd.mm.yyyy (AD)b
Driving sideright
Calling code+30
ISO 3166 codeGR
Internet TLD
  1. The Church of Greece is recognized by the Greek Constitution as the prevailing religion in Greece, and is the only country in the world where Eastern Orthodoxy is clearly recognized as a state religion.
  2. Other short formats: dd-mm-yyyy, dd/mm/yyyy
  3. The .eu domain is also used, as in other European Union member states.

Greece, officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country in Southeast Europe. Located on the southern tip of the Balkan peninsula, Greece shares land borders with Albania to the northwest, North Macedonia and Bulgaria to the north, and Turkey to the east. The Aegean Sea lies to the east of the mainland, the Ionian Sea to the west, and the Sea of Crete and the Mediterranean Sea to the south. Greece has the longest coastline on the Mediterranean Basin, featuring thousands of islands. The country comprises nine traditional geographic regions, and has a population of nearly 10.4 million. Athens is the nation's capital and largest city, followed by Thessaloniki and Patras.

Greece is considered the cradle of Western civilization, being the birthplace of democracy, Western philosophy, Western literature, historiography, political science, major scientific and mathematical principles, theatre, and the Olympic Games. From the eighth century BC, the Greeks were organised into various independent city-states known as poleis (singular polis) that spanned the Mediterranean and Black seas. Philip II of Macedon united most of present-day Greece in the fourth century BC, with his son Alexander the Great rapidly conquering much of the known ancient world from the eastern Mediterranean to northwestern India. The subsequent Hellenistic period saw the height of Greek culture and influence in antiquity. Greece was annexed by Rome in the second century BC, becoming an integral part of the Roman Empire and its continuation, the Byzantine Empire, which was predominately Greek in culture and language. The Greek Orthodox Church, which emerged in the first century AD, helped shape modern Greek identity and transmitted Greek traditions to the wider Orthodox world. After the Fourth Crusade in 1204, Latin possessions were established in parts of the Greek peninsula, but most of the area fell under Ottoman rule by the mid-15th century.

Following a protracted war of independence, which started in 1821, Greece emerged as a modern nation state in 1830. Over the first hundred years, the Kingdom of Greece sought territorial expansion, which was mainly realized in the early 20th century during the Balkan Wars and up until the catastrophic defeat of its Asia Minor Campaign in 1922. The short-lived republic that was established in 1924 was beset by the ramifications of civil strife and the challenge of resettling refugees from Turkey. In 1936 a royalist dictatorship inaugurated a long period of authoritarian rule, marked by military occupation, civil war and military dictatorship. Democracy was restored in 1974-5, leading to the current parliamentary republic.

Greece is a democratic and, having achieved record economic growth from 1950 through the 1970s, a developed country with an advanced high-income economy, the second largest in the Balkans ranked 54th by nominal GDP, where it is an important regional investor. A founding member of the United Nations, Greece was the tenth member to join what is today European Union and has been part of the eurozone since 2001. It is also a member of numerous other international institutions, including the Council of Europe, NATO, the OECD, the WTO, and the OSCE. Greece has a unique cultural heritage, large tourism industry, and prominent shipping sector. The country's rich historical legacy is reflected in part by its 19 UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Greece was the ninth most-visited country in the world in 2022 .

Name

The native name of the country in Modern Greek is Ελλάδα (Elláda, pronounced [eˈlaða]). The corresponding form in Ancient Greek and conservative formal Modern Greek (Katharevousa) is Ἑλλάς (Hellas, classical: [hel.lás], modern: [eˈlas]). This is the source of the English alternative name Hellas, which is mostly found in archaic or poetic contexts today. The Greek adjectival form ελληνικός (ellinikos, [eliniˈkos]) is sometimes also translated as Hellenic and is often rendered in this way in the formal names of Greek institutions, as in the official name of the Greek state, the Hellenic Republic (Ελληνική Δημοκρατία, [eliniˈci ðimokraˈti.a]).

The English names Greece and Greek are derived, via the Latin Graecia and Graecus, from the name of the Graeci (Γραικοί, Graikoí; singular Γραικός, Graikós), who were among the first ancient Greek tribes to settle Magna Graecia in southern Italy. The term is possibly derived from the Proto-Indo-European root *ǵerh₂-, "to grow old", more specifically from Graea (ancient city), said by Aristotle to be the oldest in Greece, and the source of colonists for the Naples area.

History

Prehistory and Aegean civilizations

The entrance of the Treasury of Atreus (13th century BC) in Mycenae

The Apidima Cave in Mani, in southern Greece, has been suggested to contain the oldest remains of early modern humans outside of Africa, dated to 200,000 years ago. However others suggest the remains represent archaic humans. All three stages of the Stone Age are represented in Greece, for example in the Franchthi Cave. Neolithic settlements in Greece, dating from the 7th millennium BC, are the oldest in Europe, as Greece lies on the route by which farming spread from the Near East to Europe.

Greece is home to the first advanced civilizations in Europe and considered the birthplace of Western civilisation, beginning with the Cycladic culture on the islands of the Aegean Sea around 3200 BC, the Minoan civilization in Crete (2700–1500 BC), and then the Mycenaean civilization on the mainland (1600–1100 BC). These civilizations possessed writing, the Minoans using an undeciphered script known as Linear A, and the Mycenaeans writing the earliest attested form of Greek in Linear B. Contemporary Hittite and Egyptian records suggest the presence of a single state under a "Great King" based in mainland Greece.

Ancient Greece

The collapse of the Mycenean civilization ushered in the Greek Dark Ages, from which written records are absent. The end of the Dark Ages is traditionally dated to 776 BC, the year of the first Olympic Games. The Iliad and the Odyssey, the foundational texts of Western literature, are believed to have been composed by Homer in the 7th or 8th centuries BC. Poetry shaped beliefs to the Olympian gods, but ancient Greek religion had no priestly class or systematic dogmas and encompassed other currents, such as popular cults, like that of Dionysus, mysteries and magic. There emerged kingdoms and city-states across the Greek peninsula, which spread to the shores of the Black Sea, Magna Graecia in southern Italy and Asia Minor. These reached great prosperity that resulted in an unprecedented cultural boom, that of classical Greece, expressed in architecture, drama, science, mathematics and philosophy. In 508 BC, Cleisthenes instituted the world's first democratic system of government in Athens.

The Parthenon on the Acropolis of Athens, icon of classical Greece

By 500 BC, the Persian Empire controlled the Greek city states in Asia Minor and Macedonia. Attempts by Greek city-states of Asia Minor to overthrow Persian rule failed, and Persia invaded the states of mainland Greece in 492 BC, but was forced to withdraw after defeat at the Battle of Marathon in 490 BC. In response, the Greek city-states formed the Hellenic League in 481 BC, led by Sparta, which was the first recorded union of Greek states since the mythical union of the Trojan War. The second Persian invasion of Greece was decisively defeated in 480-79 BC, at Salamis and Plataea, marking the eventual withdrawal of the Persians from all their European territories. The Greek victories in the Greco-Persian Wars are a pivotal moment in history, as the 50 years of peace afterwards are known as the Golden Age of Athens, a seminal period that laid many foundations of Western civilization.

Lack of political unity resulted in frequent conflict between Greek states. The most devastating intra-Greek war was the Peloponnesian War (431–404 BC), which marked the demise of the Athenian Empire and the emergence of Spartan and later Theban hegemony. Weakened by constant wars among them during the 4th century BC, the Greek poleis were subjugated to the rising power of the kingdom of Macedon under king Philip II.

Alexander the Great, whose conquests led to the Hellenistic Age

After Philip's assassination in 336 BC, his son and king of Macedon, Alexander, set himself leader of a Panhellenic campaign against the Persian Empire and abolished it. Undefeated in battle, he marched, until his untimely death in 323 BC, to the banks of the Indus. Alexander's empire fragmented, inaugurating the Hellenistic period. After fierce conflict amongst themselves, the generals that succeeded Alexander and their successors founded large personal kingdoms in the areas he had conquered, such as that of the Ptolemies in Egypt and of the Seleucids in Syria, Mesopotamia and Iran. As a result of the settlement of Greeks in newly founded poleis of these kingdoms, such as Alexandria and Antioch, as members of a ruling minority, during the centuries that followed a vernacular form of Greek, known as koine, and Greek culture was spread, while the Greeks adopted Eastern deities and cults. Greek science, technology, and mathematics reached their peak during the Hellenistic period. Aspiring to maintain their autonomy and independence from the Antigonid kings of the Macedonians, many poleis of Greece united in koina or sympoliteiai i.e. federations, while after the establishment of economic relations with the East, a stratum of wealthy euergetai dominated their internal life.

Roman province (146 BC – 4th century AD)

The Antikythera mechanism (c. 100 BC) is considered to be the first known mechanical analog computer (National Archaeological Museum, Athens).

From about 200 BC the Roman Republic became increasingly involved in Greek affairs and engaged in a series of wars with Macedon. Macedon's defeat at the Battle of Pydna in 168 BC signalled the end of Antigonid power. In 146 BC, Macedonia was annexed as a province by Rome, and the rest of Greece became a Roman protectorate.

The process was completed in 27 BC when emperor Augustus annexed the rest of Greece and constituted it as the senatorial province of Achaea. Despite their military superiority, the Romans admired and became heavily influenced by Greek culture, hence Horace's famous statement: "Greece, although captured, took its wild conqueror captive". The epics of Homer inspired the Aeneid of Virgil, and authors such as Seneca the Younger wrote using Greek styles. Roman heroes such as Scipio Africanus, studied philosophy and regarded Greek culture and science as an example to be followed. Similarly, most Roman emperors admired things Greek in nature. Emperor Nero visited Greece in AD 66, and performed at the Ancient Olympic Games, while Hadrian served as an eponymous archon of Athens, before becoming emperor.

The Odeon of Herodes Atticus in Athens, built in 161 AD

Greek-speaking communities of the Hellenised East were instrumental in the spread of Christianity in the 2nd and 3rd centuries, and Christianity's early leaders and writers were mostly Greek-speaking, though not from Greece itself. The New Testament was written in Greek, and some sections attest to the importance of churches in Greece in early Christianity. Nevertheless, much of Greece clung to paganism, and ancient Greek religious practices were still in vogue in the late 4th century AD, when they were outlawed by the Roman emperor Theodosius I in 391–392. The last recorded Olympic games were held in 393, and many temples were destroyed or damaged in the century that followed. The closure of the Neoplatonic Academy of Athens by Emperor Justinian in 529 is considered the end of antiquity, although there is evidence that the academy continued.

Medieval period (4th–15th century)

Dome of Hagia Sophia, Thessaloniki (8th century), one of the 15 UNESCO's Paleochristian and Byzantine monuments of the city

The Roman Empire in the east, following the fall of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century, is known as the Byzantine Empire (but called "Kingdom of the Romans" in its own time) and lasted until 1453. With its capital in Constantinople, its language and culture were Greek and its religion was predominantly Eastern Orthodox Christian.

The Empire's Balkan territories, including Greece, suffered from the dislocation of barbarian invasions; raids by Goths and Huns in the 4th and 5th centuries and the Slavic invasion in the 7th century resulted in a collapse in imperial authority in the Greek peninsula. The imperial government retained control of only the islands and coastal areas, particularly the populated walled cities such as Athens, Corinth and Thessalonica. However, the view that Greece underwent decline, fragmentation and depopulation is considered outdated, as cities show institutional continuity and prosperity between the 4th and 6th centuries. In the early 6th century, Greece had approximately 80 cities according to the Synecdemus chronicle, and the 4th to the 7th century is considered one of high prosperity.

The Byzantine (Eastern Roman) Empire after the death of Basil II in 1025

Until the 8th century almost all of modern Greece was under the jurisdiction of the Holy See of Rome. Byzantine Emperor Leo III moved the border of the Patriarchate of Constantinople westward and northward in the 8th century. The Byzantine recovery of lost provinces during the Arab–Byzantine wars began in the 8th century and most of the Greek peninsula came under imperial control again. This process was facilitated by a large influx of Greeks from Sicily and Asia Minor to the Greek peninsula, while many Slavs were captured and re-settled in Asia Minor. During the 11th and 12th centuries the return of stability resulted in the Greek peninsula benefiting from economic growth. The Greek Orthodox Church was instrumental in the spread of Greek ideas to the wider Orthodox world.[full citation needed]

View of the medieval fortress city of Monemvasia

Following the Fourth Crusade and fall of Constantinople to the "Latins" in 1204, mainland Greece was split between the Greek Despotate of Epirus and French rule (the Frankokratia). The re-establishment of the imperial capital in Constantinople in 1261 was accompanied by the empire's recovery of much of the Greek peninsula, while the islands remained under Genoese and Venetian control. During the Paleologi dynasty (1261–1453) a new era of Greek patriotism emerged accompanied by a turning back to ancient Greece.

In the 14th century much of the Greek peninsula was lost by the Byzantine Empire to the Serbs and then the Ottomans. Constantinople fell to the Ottomans in 1453 and by 1460, Ottoman conquest of mainland Greece was complete. Byzantine Greek scholars, who up until then were largely responsible for preserving Classical Greek knowledge, fled to the West, taking with them literature and significantly contributing to the Renaissance.

Venetian possessions and Ottoman rule (15th century – 1821)

The Byzantine castle of Angelokastro successfully repulsed the Ottomans during the first great siege of Corfu in 1537, the siege of 1571, and the second great siege of Corfu in 1716, causing them to abandon their plans to conquer Corfu.

While most of mainland Greece and the Aegean islands was under Ottoman control by the end of the 15th century, Cyprus and Crete remained Venetian and did not fall to the Ottomans until 1571 and 1670 respectively. While some Greeks in the Ionian Islands and Constantinople lived in prosperity, and Greeks of Constantinople (Phanariots) achieved power within the Ottoman administration, much of Greece suffered the economic consequences of Ottoman conquest. Heavy taxes were enforced, and in later years the Ottoman Empire enacted a policy of creation of hereditary estates, effectively turning the rural Greek populations into serfs.

The Greek Orthodox Church and the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople were considered by the Ottoman governments as the ruling authorities of the entire Orthodox Christian population of the Ottoman Empire, whether ethnically Greek or not. Although the Ottoman state did not force non-Muslims to convert to Islam, Christians faced discrimination intended to highlight their inferior status. Discrimination, particularly when combined with harsh treatment by local Ottoman authorities, led to conversions to Islam, if only superficially. In the 19th century, many "crypto-Christians" returned to their old religious allegiance.

The White Tower of Thessaloniki, one of the best-known Ottoman structures remaining in Greece

The nature of Ottoman administration of Greece varied, though it was invariably arbitrary and often harsh. Some cities had governors appointed by the Sultan, while others, like Athens, were self-governed municipalities. Mountainous regions in the interior and many islands remained effectively autonomous from the central Ottoman state for centuries.[page needed] Prior to the Greek Revolution of 1821, there had been wars which saw Greeks fight against the Ottomans, such as the Greek participation in the Battle of Lepanto in 1571, the Morean War of 1684–1699, and the Russian-instigated Orlov Revolt in 1770.[page needed] These uprisings were put down by the Ottomans with great bloodshed. Many Greeks were conscripted as Ottoman citizens to serve in the Ottoman army and especially the navy, while the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, responsible for the Orthodox, remained in general loyal to the Empire.

The 16th and 17th centuries are regarded as a "dark age" in Greek history, with the prospect of overthrowing Ottoman rule appearing remote, with only the Ionian islands remaining free. However, in the 18th century, due to mastery of shipping and commerce, a wealthy and dispersed Greek merchant class arose. These merchants came to dominate trade within the Ottoman Empire, establishing communities throughout the Mediterranean, the Balkans, and Western Europe. Though the Ottoman conquest had cut Greece off from significant European intellectual movements such as the Reformation and the Enlightenment, these ideas together with the ideals of the French Revolution and romantic nationalism began to penetrate the Greek world via the mercantile diaspora. In the late 18th century, Rigas Feraios, the first revolutionary to envision an independent Greek state, published documents on Greek independence, in Vienna.

Modern nation-state

Greek War of Independence (1821–1832)

The sortie (exodus) of Messolonghi, depicting the third siege of Missolonghi, painted by Theodoros Vryzakis

In the 18th century, an increase in learning during the Modern Greek Enlightenment led to the emergence among Westernized Greek-speaking elites of the notion of a Greek nation. A secret organization formed in this milieu was the Filiki Eteria, in 1814. They engaged traditional strata of the Greek Orthodox world in their liberal nationalist cause.

The first revolt began on 6 March 1821 in the Danubian Principalities, but was put down by the Ottomans. This spurred the Greeks of the Peloponnese and on 17 March the Maniots declared war on the Ottomans. By October 1821 the Greeks had captured Tripolitsa. There were revolts in Crete, Macedonia and Central Greece, which were suppressed. In 1822 and 1824 the Turks and Egyptians ravaged the islands, committing massacres. This galvanized opinion in western Europe in favour of the Greeks. The Ottoman Sultan Mahmud II negotiated with Mehmet Ali of Egypt, who agreed to send his son Ibrahim Pasha with an army, in return for territorial gain. By the end of 1825, most of the Peloponnese was under Egyptian control. Three great powers, France, Russian Empire, and the UK, each sent a navy. The allied fleet destroyed the Ottoman–Egyptian fleet at the Battle of Navarino, and the Greeks captured Central Greece by 1828. The nascent Greek state was recognised under the London Protocol in 1830.

Kingdom of Greece

The Entry of King Otto in Athens, painted by Peter von Hess in 1839

In 1827, Ioannis Kapodistrias, was chosen by the Third National Assembly at Troezen as the first governor of the First Hellenic Republic. Kapodistrias established state, economic and military institutions. Tensions appeared between him and local interests and, following his assassination in 1831 and the London Conference of 1832, Britain, France and Russia installed Bavarian Prince Otto von Wittelsbach as monarch. Otto's reign was despotic, and in its first 11 years of independence Greece was ruled by a Bavarian oligarchy led by Josef Ludwig von Armansperg and, later, by Otto himself, as King and Premier. Greece remained under the influence of its three protecting great powers. In 1843 an uprising forced Otto to grant a constitution and representative assembly.

Despite the absolutism of Otto's reign, it proved instrumental in developing institutions which are still the bedrock of Greek administration and education. Reforms were taken in education, maritime and postal communications, effective civil administration and the legal code. Historical revisionism took the form of de-Byzantinification and de-Ottomanisation, in favour of promoting Ancient Greek heritage. The capital was moved from Nafplio, where it had been since 1829, to Athens, then a smaller town. The Church of Greece was established as Greece's national church and 25 March, the day of Annunciation, was chosen as the anniversary of the Greek War of Independence to reinforce the link between Greek identity and Orthodoxy. Pavlos Karolidis called the Bavarian efforts to create a modern state in Greece as "not only appropriate for the peoples' needs, but also based on excellent administrative principles of the era".

Otto was deposed in 1862 because of the Bavarian-dominated government, heavy taxation, and a failed attempt to annex Crete from the Ottomans. He was replaced by Prince Wilhelm of Denmark, who took the name George I and brought with him the Ionian Islands as a coronation gift from Britain. A new Constitution in 1864 changed Greece's form of government from constitutional monarchy to the more democratic crowned republic. In 1875 parliamentary majority as a requirement for government was introduced, curbing the power of the monarchy to appoint minority governments. Corruption, coupled with increased spending to fund infrastructure like the Corinth Canal, overtaxed the weak economy and forced the declaration of public insolvency in 1893.

The territorial evolution of the Kingdom of Greece from 1832 to 1947

Greeks were united, however, in their determination to liberate the Hellenic lands under Ottoman rule; the Cretan Revolt (1866–1869) had raised nationalist fervour. When war broke out between Russia and the Ottomans in 1877, Greek sentiment rallied to Russia, but Greece was too poor and concerned about British intervention, to enter the war. Greeks in Crete continued to stage revolts, and in 1897, the Greek government, bowing to popular pressure, declared war on the Ottomans. In the ensuing Greco-Turkish War of 1897, the badly trained and equipped Greek army was defeated. Through the intervention of the Great Powers, however, Greece lost little territory, while Crete was established as an autonomous state under Prince George of Greece. With state coffers empty, fiscal policy came under International Financial Control. The government, aiming to quell Komitadjis and detach the Slavophone peasants of the region from Bulgarian influence, sponsored a guerrilla campaign in Ottoman-ruled Macedonia, known as the Macedonian Struggle, which ended with the Young Turk Revolution in 1908.

Expansion, disaster, and reconstruction

Amidst dissatisfaction with the seeming inertia and unattainability of national aspirations, military officers organised a coup in 1909 and called on Cretan politician Eleftherios Venizelos, who conveyed a vision of national regeneration. After winning two elections and becoming prime minister in 1910, Venizelos initiated fiscal, social, and constitutional reforms, reorganised the military, made Greece a member of the Balkan League, and led it through the Balkan Wars. By 1913, Greece's territory and population had doubled, annexing Crete, Epirus, and Macedonia. The struggle between King Constantine I and charismatic Venizelos over foreign policy on the eve of First World War dominated politics and divided the country into two opposing groups. During parts of the war, Greece had two governments: A royalist pro-German one in Athens and a Venizelist pro-Entente one in Thessaloniki. They united in 1917, when Greece entered the war on the side of the Entente.

Hellenic Army formation in the World War I Victory Parade in Arc de Triomphe, Paris, July 1919

After the war, Greece attempted expansion into Asia Minor, a region with a large native Greek population, but was defeated in the Greco-Turkish War (1919–1922), contributing to a flight of Asia Minor Greeks. These events overlapped, happening during the Greek genocide (1914–22), when Ottoman and Turkish officials contributed to the death of several hundred thousand Asia Minor Greeks, along with similar numbers of Assyrians and a larger number of Armenians. The resultant Greek exodus from Asia Minor was made permanent, and expanded, in an official population exchange between Greece and Turkey, as part of the Treaty of Lausanne which ended the war. The following era was marked by instability, as over 1.5 million propertyless Greek refugees from Turkey had to be integrated into Greek society. Some refugees could not speak the language and were from unfamiliar environments to mainland Greeks. The refugees made a dramatic population boost, as they were more than a quarter of Greece's prior population.

Following the catastrophic events in Asia Minor, the monarchy was abolished via a referendum in 1924 and the Second Hellenic Republic declared. In 1935, a royalist general-turned-politician Georgios Kondylis took power after a coup and abolished the republic, holding a rigged referendum, after which King George II was restored to the throne.

Dictatorship, World War II, and reconstruction

An agreement between Prime Minister Ioannis Metaxas and George II followed in 1936, which installed Metaxas as head of a dictatorship known as the 4th of August Regime, inaugurating authoritarian rule that would last until 1974. Although a dictatorship, Greece remained on good terms with Britain and was not allied with the Axis.

People in Athens celebrate the liberation from the Axis powers, October 1944. Postwar Greece would soon experience a civil war and political polarization.

In October 1940, Fascist Italy demanded the surrender of Greece, but it refused, and, in the Greco-Italian War, Greece repelled Italian forces into Albania.[citation not found] French general Charles de Gaulle praised the fierceness of the Greek resistance, but the country would fall to urgently dispatched German forces during the Battle of Greece. The Nazis proceeded to administer Athens and Thessaloniki, while other regions were given to Fascist Italy and Bulgaria. Over 100,000 civilians died of starvation during the winter of 1941–42, tens of thousands more died because of reprisals by Nazis and collaborators, the economy was ruined, and most Greek Jews (tens of thousands) were deported and murdered in Nazi concentration camps. The Greek Resistance, one of the most effective resistance movements, fought vehemently against the Nazis. The German occupiers committed atrocities, mass executions, and wholesale slaughter of civilians and destruction of towns and villages in reprisals. Hundreds of villages were systematically torched and almost 1 million Greeks left homeless. The Germans executed around 21,000 Greeks, the Bulgarians 40,000, and the Italians 9,000.

Following liberation, Greece annexed the Dodecanese Islands from Italy and regained Western Thrace from Bulgaria. The country descended into a bloody civil war between communist forces and the anti-communist Greek government, which lasted until 1949, with the latter's victory. The conflict, one of the earliest struggles of the Cold War, resulted in further economic devastation, population displacement and political polarisation for the next thirty years.

Although post-war was characterised by social strife and marginalisation of the left, Greece experienced rapid economic growth and recovery, propelled in part by the U.S. Marshall Plan. In 1952, Greece joined NATO, reinforcing its membership in the Western Bloc of the Cold War.

King Constantine II's dismissal of George Papandreou's centrist government in 1965 prompted political turbulence, which culminated in a coup in 1967 by the Greek junta, led by Georgios Papadopoulos. Civil rights were suspended, political repression intensified, and human rights abuses, including torture, were rampant. Economic growth remained rapid before plateauing in 1972. The brutal suppression of the Athens Polytechnic uprising in 1973 set in motion the fall of the regime, resulting in a counter-coup that established brigadier Dimitrios Ioannidis as the new junta strongman. On 20 July 1974, Turkey invaded the island of Cyprus in response to a Greek-backed Cypriot coup, triggering a crisis in Greece that led to the regime's collapse and restoration of democracy through Metapolitefsi.

Third Hellenic Republic

Signing at Zappeion by Constantine Karamanlis of the documents for the accession of Greece to the European Communities in 1979

The former prime minister Konstantinos Karamanlis was invited back from self-exile and the first multiparty elections since 1964 were held on the first anniversary of the Polytechnic uprising. A democratic and republican constitution was promulgated in 1975 following a referendum which chose not to restore the monarchy.

Meanwhile, Andreas Papandreou, George Papandreou's son, founded the Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) in response to Karamanlis's conservative New Democracy party, with the two political formations dominating government over the next four decades. Greece rejoined NATO in 1980. Greece became the tenth member of the European Communities in 1981, ushering in sustained growth. Investments in industrial enterprises and heavy infrastructure, as well as funds from the European Union and growing revenue from tourism, shipping, and a fast-growing service sector raised the standard of living. In 1981, the election of Andreas Papandreou resulted in reforms over the 1980s. He recognised the national resistance during WW2, civil marriage, the dowry was abolished, while education and foreign policy doctrines changed. However, Papandreou's tenure has been associated with corruption, high inflation, stagnation and budget deficits that later caused problems.

The country adopted the euro in 2001 and successfully hosted the 2004 Summer Olympic Games in Athens. In 2010, Greece suffered from the Great Recession and related European sovereign debt crisis. Due to the adoption of the euro, Greece could no longer devalue its currency to regain competitiveness. In the elections 2012, there was major political change, with new parties emerging from the collapse of the two main parties, PASOK and New Democracy. In 2015, Alexis Tsipras was elected as prime minister, the first outside the two main parties. The Greek government-debt crisis, and subsequent austerity policies, resulted in social strife. The crisis ended around 2018, with the end of the bailout mechanisms and return of growth. Simultaneously, Tsipras, and the leader of North Macedonia, Zoran Zaev, signed the Prespa Agreement, solving the naming dispute that had strained the relations and eased the latter's way to become a member of the EU and NATO.

In 2019, Kyriakos Mitsotakis became Greece's new prime minister, after his centre-right New Democracy won the election. In 2020, Greece's parliament elected a non-partisan candidate, Katerina Sakellaropoulou, as the first female President of Greece. In February 2024, Greece became the first Orthodox Christian country to recognise same-sex marriage and adoption by same-sex couples.

Geography

Topographic map of Greece
Navagio (shipwreck) bay, Zakynthos island

Located in Southern and Southeast Europe, Greece consists of a mountainous, peninsular mainland jutting out into the sea at the southern end of the Balkans, ending at the Peloponnese peninsula (separated from the mainland by the canal of the Isthmus of Corinth) and strategically located at the crossroads of Europe, Asia, and Africa. Due to its highly indented coastline and numerous islands, Greece has the 11th longest coastline in the world with 13,676 km (8,498 mi); its land boundary is 1,160 km (721 mi). The country lies approximately between latitudes 34° and 42° N, and longitudes 19° and 30° E, with the extreme points being:

Mount Olympus is the highest mountain in Greece and mythical abode of the Gods of Olympus.

Eighty percent of Greece consists of mountains or hills, making the country one of the most mountainous in Europe. Mount Olympus, the mythical abode of the Greek Gods, culminates at Mytikas peak 2,918 metres (9,573 ft), the highest in the country. Western Greece contains a number of lakes and wetlands and is dominated by the Pindus mountain range. The Pindus, a continuation of the Dinaric Alps, reaches a maximum elevation of 2,637 m (8,652 ft) at Mt. Smolikas (the second-highest in Greece) and historically has been a significant barrier to east–west travel.

The Pindus range continues through the central Peloponnese, crosses the islands of Kythera and Antikythera and finds its way into southwestern Aegean, in the island of Crete where it eventually ends. The islands of the Aegean are peaks of underwater mountains that once constituted an extension of the mainland. Pindus is characterised by its high, steep peaks, often dissected by numerous canyons and a variety of other karstic landscapes. The spectacular Vikos Gorge, part of the Vikos-Aoos National Park in the Pindus range, is listed by the Guinness book of World Records as the deepest gorge in the world. Another notable formation are the Meteora rock pillars, atop which have been built medieval Greek Orthodox monasteries.

Northeastern Greece features another high-altitude mountain range, the Rhodope range, spreading across the region of East Macedonia and Thrace; this area is covered with vast, thick, ancient forests, including the famous Dadia Forest in the Evros regional unit, in the far northeast of the country.

Extensive plains are primarily located in the regions of Thessaly, Central Macedonia and Thrace. They constitute key economic regions as they are among the few arable places in the country. Rare marine species such as the pinniped seals and the loggerhead sea turtle live in the seas surrounding mainland Greece, while its dense forests are home to the endangered brown bear, the Eurasian lynx, the roe deer and the wild goat.

Islands

The Greek mainland and several small islands seen from Nydri, Lefkada

Greece features a vast number of islands—between 1,200 and 6,000, depending on the definition, 227 of which are inhabited—and is considered a non-contiguous transcontinental country. Crete is the largest and most populous island; Euboea, separated from the mainland by the 60 m-wide Euripus Strait, is the second largest, followed by Lesbos and Rhodes.

The Greek islands are traditionally grouped into the following clusters: the Argo-Saronic Islands in the Saronic gulf near Athens; the Cyclades, a large but dense collection occupying the central part of the Aegean Sea; the North Aegean islands, a loose grouping off the west coast of Turkey; the Dodecanese, another loose collection in the southeast between Crete and Turkey; the Sporades, a small tight group off the coast of northeast Euboea; and the Ionian Islands, located to the west of the mainland in the Ionian Sea.

Climate

Greece's Köppen Climate Types

The climate of Greece is primarily Mediterranean (Köppen: Csa), featuring mild to cool, wet winters and hot, dry summers. This climate occurs at most of the coastal locations, including Athens, the Cyclades, the Dodecanese, Crete, the Peloponnese, the Ionian Islands and parts of mainland Greece. The Pindus mountain range strongly affects the climate of the country, as areas to the west of the range are considerably wetter on average (due to greater exposure to south-westerly systems bringing in moisture) than the areas lying to the east of the range (due to a rain shadow effect), resulting to some coastal areas in the south falling to the hot semi-arid climate (Köppen: BSh) category, such as parts of the Athens Riviera and some of the Cyclades, as well as some areas in the north featuring a cold equivalent climate (Köppen: BSk), such as the cities of Thessaloniki and Larissa.

The mountainous areas and the higher elevations of northwestern Greece (parts of Epirus, Central Greece, Thessaly, Western Macedonia) as well as in the mountainous central parts of Peloponnese – including parts of the regional units of Achaea, Arcadia and Laconia – feature an Alpine climate (Köppen: D, E) with heavy snowfalls during the winter. Most of the inland parts of northern Greece, in Central Macedonia, the lower elevations of Western Macedonia and East Macedonia and Thrace feature a humid subtropical climate (Köppen: Cfa) with cold, damp winters and hot, moderately dry summers with occasional thunderstorms. Snowfalls occur every year in the mountains and northern areas, and brief periods of snowy weather are possible even in low-lying southern areas, such as Athens.

Biodiversity

Phytogeographically, Greece belongs to the Boreal Kingdom and is shared between the East Mediterranean province of the Mediterranean Region and the Illyrian province of the Circumboreal Region. According to the World Wide Fund for Nature and the European Environment Agency, the territory of Greece can be subdivided into six ecoregions: the Illyrian deciduous forests, Pindus Mountains mixed forests, Balkan mixed forests, Rhodope montane mixed forests, Aegean and Western Turkey sclerophyllous and mixed forests, and Crete Mediterranean forests. It had a 2018 Forest Landscape Integrity Index mean score of 6.6/10, ranking it 70th globally out of 172 countries. In 2024 Greece became the first country in the European Union to ban bottom trawling in marine protected areas what should protect its marine biodiversity.

Politics

The building of the Hellenic Parliament (Old Royal Palace) in central Athens
Count Ioannis Kapodistrias, first governor, founder of the modern Greek State, and distinguished European diplomat

Greece is a unitary parliamentary republic. The current Constitution was drawn up and adopted by the Fifth Revisionary Parliament of the Hellenes and entered into force in 1975 after the fall of the military junta of 1967–1974. It has been revised four times since: in 1986, 2001, 2008 and 2019. The Constitution, which consists of 120 articles, provides for a separation of powers into executive, legislative, and judicial branches, and grants extensive specific guarantees (further reinforced in 2001) of civil liberties and social rights. Women's suffrage was guaranteed with an amendment to the 1952 Constitution.

The nominal head of state is the President of the Republic, who is elected by the Parliament for a five-year term. According to the Constitution, executive power is exercised by the President and the Government. However, the Constitutional amendment of 1986 curtailed the President's duties and powers to a significant extent, rendering the position largely ceremonial; most political power is thus vested in the Prime Minister, Greece's head of government. The position is filled by the current leader of the political party that can obtain a vote of confidence by the Parliament. The president of the republic formally appoints the prime minister and, on their recommendation, appoints and dismisses the other members of the Cabinet.

Legislative powers are exercised by a 300-member elective unicameral Parliament. Statutes passed by the Parliament are promulgated by the President of the Republic. Parliamentary elections are held every four years, but the President of the Republic is obliged to dissolve the Parliament earlier on the proposal of the Cabinet, in view of dealing with a national issue of exceptional importance. The President is also obliged to dissolve the Parliament earlier if the opposition manages to pass a motion of no confidence. The voting age is 17.

According to a 2016 report by the OECD, Greeks display a moderate level of civic participation compared to most other developed countries; voter turnout was 64 percent during recent elections, lower than the OECD average of 69 percent.

Political parties

Since the restoration of democracy in 1974-5, the Greek party system was dominated by the liberal-conservative New Democracy (ND) and the social-democratic Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK). PASOK and New Democracy largely alternated in power until the outbreak of the government-debt crisis in 2009, whenceforth they experienced a sharp decline in popularity.

In the parliamentary elections of May 2012 the power of the traditional Greek political parties, PASOK and New Democracy, declined from 43% to 13% and from 33% to 18%, respectively, while the left-wing SYRIZA became the second major party with an increase from 4% to 16% and, after new elections in June 2012, New Democracy and PASOK participated in a coalition government.

SYRIZA has since overtaken PASOK as the main party of the centre-left. Alexis Tsipras led SYRIZA to victory in the general election held in January 2015, but, falling short of an outright majority in Parliament, he reached an agreement to form a coalition government with Independent Greeks, a right-wing populist split off party from ND led by Panos Kammenos, with whom SYRIZA formed a coalition for a second time after winning a relative parliamentary majority in the September 2015 general election. However, the July 2019 general election was a landslide for New Democracy and its leader Kyriakos Mitsotakis was sworn as the new Prime Minister of a centre-right government. Other parties represented in the Hellenic Parliament are the Communist Party of Greece (KKE), Greek Solution, New Left, Spartans, Victory and Course of Freedom.

Foreign relations

Representation through:
embassy
embassy in another country
general consulate
no representation
Greece

Greece's foreign policy is conducted through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and its head, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, currently Nikos Dendias. Officially, the main aims of the Ministry are to represent Greece before other states and international organizations; safeguard the interests of the Greek state and of its citizens abroad; promote Greek culture; foster closer relations with the Greek diaspora; and encourage international cooperation. Greece is described as having a special relationship with Cyprus, Italy, France, Armenia, Australia, the State of Israel, the United States and the United Kingdom.

Following the resolution of the Macedonia naming dispute with the Prespa agreement in 2018, the Ministry identifies two remaining issues of particular importance to the Greek state: Turkish challenges to Greek sovereignty rights in the Aegean Sea and corresponding airspace and the Cyprus dispute involving the Turkish occupation of Northern Cyprus.

There is a long-standing conflict between Turkey and Greece over natural resources in the eastern Mediterranean. Turkey does not recognize a legal continental shelf and exclusive economic zone around the Greek islands.

Additionally, due to its political and geographical proximity to Europe, Asia, the Middle East and Africa, Greece is a country of significant geostrategic importance, which it has leveraged to develop a regional policy to help promote peace and stability in the Balkans, the Mediterranean, and the Middle East. This has accorded the country middle power status in global affairs.

Greece is a member of numerous international organizations, including the Council of Europe, the European Union, the Union for the Mediterranean, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the Organisation internationale de la francophonie and the United Nations, of which it is a founding member.

Military

An F-16 Fighting Falcon, the main combat aircraft of the Hellenic Air Force, during an airshow
A Leopard 2A6 HEL of the Hellenic Army on parade in Athens

The Hellenic Armed Forces are overseen by the Hellenic National Defense General Staff (Greek: Γενικό Επιτελείο Εθνικής Άμυνας – ΓΕΕΘΑ), with civilian authority vested in the Ministry of National Defence. It consists of three branches:

Moreover, Greece maintains the Hellenic Coast Guard for law enforcement at sea, search and rescue, and port operations. Though it can support the navy during wartime, it resides under the authority of the Ministry of Shipping.

Greek military personnel total 364,050, of whom 142,700 are active and 221,350 are reserve. Greece ranks 28th in the world in the number of citizens serving in the armed forces. Mandatory military service is generally one year for 19 to 45 year olds. Additionally, Greek males between the ages of 18 and 60 who live in strategically sensitive areas may be required to serve part-time in the National Guard.

As a member of NATO, the Greek military participates in exercises and deployments under the auspices of the alliance, although its involvement in NATO missions is minimal. Greece spends over US$7 billion annually on its military, or 2.3 percent of GDP, the 24th-highest in the world in absolute terms, the seventh-highest on a per capita basis, and the second-highest in NATO after the United States. Moreover, Greece is one of only five NATO countries to meet or surpass the minimum defence spending target of 2 percent of GDP.

Law and justice

The judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislature and comprises three Supreme Courts: the Supreme Civil and Criminal Court of Greece, the Council of State and the Court of Audit. The judicial system is also composed of civil courts, which judge civil and penal cases and administrative courts, which judge disputes between citizens and the Greek administrative authorities.

The Hellenic Police is the national police force. It is a large agency with its responsibilities ranging from road traffic control to counter-terrorism. It was established in 1984 as the result of the fusion of the Hellenic Gendarmerie and the Cities Police forces.

Administrative divisions

Since the Kallikratis Programme reform entered into effect in January 2011, Greece has consisted of 13 regions subdivided into a total of 325, from 2019 332 (Kleisthenis I Programme), municipalities. The 54 old prefectures and prefecture-level administrations have been largely retained as sub-units of the regions. Seven decentralised administrations group one to three regions for administrative purposes on a regional basis. There is one autonomous area, Mount Athos (Greek: Agio Oros, "Holy Mountain"), which borders the region of Central Macedonia.

Map No. Region Capital Area (km2) Area (sq mi) Population GDP (bn)
1 Attica Athens 3,808 1,470 3,814,064 €84
2 Central Greece Lamia 15,549 6,004 508,254 €8
3 Central Macedonia Thessaloniki 18,811 7,263 1,795,669 €24
4 Crete Heraklion 8,259 3,189 624,408 €9
5 East Macedonia and Thrace Komotini 14,158 5,466 562,201 €7
6 Epirus Ioannina 9,203 3,553 319,991 €4
7 Ionian Islands Corfu 2,307 891 204,532 €3
8 North Aegean Mytilene 3,835.91 1,481 194,943 €2
9 Peloponnese Tripoli 15,490 5,981 539,535 €8
10 South Aegean Ermoupoli 5,286 2,041 327,820 €6
11 Thessaly Larissa 14,034 5,420 688,255 €9
12 West Greece Patras 11,350 4,382 648,220 €8
13 West Macedonia Kozani 9,451 3,649 254,595 €4
(14) Mount Athos Karyes 390 151 1,746

Economy

GDP per capita development
Graphical depiction of Greece's product exports in percent for 2019.
A proportional representation of Greek exports, 2019

As of 2023, the economy was the 54th largest by purchasing power parity (PPP) at $417 billion. Greece is the 15th largest economy in the 27-member European Union. In per person income, Greece is 51st in the world at $40,000. The economy is advanced and high-income.

Greece is a developed country with a high standard of living and high ranking in the Human Development Index. Its economy mainly comprises the service sector (85%) and industry (12%), while agriculture makes up 3%. Important Greek industries include tourism (with 28 million international tourists in 2022, it is the 9th most visited country in the world) and merchant shipping (at 18% of the world's total capacity, the Greek merchant marine is the largest in the world), while the country is a considerable agricultural producer (including fisheries) within the union. In 2021 unemployment stood at 13% and youth unemployment at 33%, compared with respectively 7% and 16% in the EU and eurozone.

Greece has the largest economy in the Balkans, and an important regional investor. It has been the number-two foreign investor of capital in Albania and most important trading partner and largest foreign investor of North Macedonia. The Greek telecommunications company OTE has become a strong investor in other Balkan countries.

Greece was a founding member of the OECD and the Organization of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC). In 1979 its accession to the European Communities and the single market was signed, and completed in 1982. Greece was accepted into the Economic and Monetary Union of the European Union in June 2000, and in January 2001 adopted the euro as its currency, replacing the Greek drachma. Greece is a member of the International Monetary Fund and the World Trade Organization.

Debt crisis (2010–2018)

Greece's debt percentage since 1977, compared to the average of the eurozone

Leading up to the 2007–2008 financial crisis, Greece had high structural deficits. In 2009, it was revealed deficits had been considerably higher than official figures. Banks had supplied cash in exchange for future payments by various governments; in turn the liabilities of the countries were "kept off the books", hiding borrowing levels. This enabled Greece to spend beyond its means, while technically meeting the deficit target in the Maastricht Treaty.

The crisis was triggered by the Great Recession, which caused Greece's GDP to contract 2.5% in 2009. Simultaneously, deficits were revealed to have been allowed to reach 10% and 15% in 2008 and 2009. This caused Greece's debt-to-GDP ratio to increase to 127%. As a eurozone member, Greece had no autonomous monetary policy flexibility, it could not change interest rates or let its exchange rate absorb the shock. Greece's borrowing rates increased, causing a crisis of confidence in Greece's ability to pay back loans in early 2010.

To avert a sovereign default, Greece, other eurozone members, and the International Monetary Fund agreed on a €110 billion rescue package in May 2010. Greece was required to adopt harsh austerity measures to bring its deficit down. A second bail-out of €130 billion was agreed in 2012, subject to financial reforms and further austerity. A debt haircut was agreed. Greece achieved a budget surplus in 2013 and returned to growth in 2014.

Partly due to the imposed austerity, Greece experienced a 25% drop in GDP between 2009-15. The debt ratio, jumped from 127% to about 170%, due to the shrinking economy. In 2013, the IMF admitted it had underestimated the effects of tax hikes and budget cuts and issued an informal apology. The policies have been blamed for worsening the crisis, while others stressed the creditors' share in responsibility. The bailouts ended in 2018.

In 2024, the Greek economy is forecast to grow nearly 3%, meaning it approaches its pre-crisis size of 2009 and far outpacing the euro zone average economic growth of 0.8%.

Agriculture

Sun-drying of Zante currant on Zakynthos

Greece is the European Union's largest producer of cotton and pistachios (7,200 tons in 2021), second in olives (3m tons in 2021), third in figs (8,400 tons in 2022) and watermelons (440,000 tons in 2022) and fourth in almonds (40,000 tons in 2022). Agriculture contributes 3.8% of GDP and employs 12% of the labor force.

Greece is a major beneficiary of the EU's Common Agricultural Policy. As a result of entry to the European Community, much of its agricultural infrastructure has been upgraded and output increased.

Energy

Solar-power generation potential in Greece

Electricity production is dominated by the state-owned Public Power Corporation (known by its acronym ΔΕΗ, transliterated as DEI), which supplied 75% of electricity in 2021. Some of DEI's output is generated using lignite. Renewable energy in Greece accounted for 46% of Greece's electricity in 2022, a rise from the 11% in 2011. 22% comes from wind power, 14% solar power, 9% hydropower and 38% natural gas. Independent companies' energy production has increased. Greece does not have any nuclear power plants.

Maritime

Greek companies control 21% of the world's total merchant fleet making it the largest in the world. They are ranked in the top 5 for all kinds of ships, including first for tankers and bulk carriers.

The shipping industry has been a key element of economic activity since ancient times. Shipping remains one of the country's most important industries, accounting for 5% of GDP and employing about 160,000 people (4% of the workforce).

The Greek Merchant Navy is the largest in the world at 18% of global capacity. The merchant fleet ranks first in tonnage (384 million dwt), 2nd in number of ships (at 4,870), first in tankers and dry bulk carriers, fourth in the number of containers, and fifth in other ships. The number of ships flying a Greek flag (includes non-Greek fleets) is 1,517, or 5% of the world's tonnage (ranked fifth globally). Today's fleet is smaller than an all-time high of 5,000 ships in the late 1970s. During the 1960s, the Greek fleet nearly doubled, through the investment undertaken by the shipping magnates, Aristotle Onassis and Stavros Niarchos. The modern Greek maritime industry was formed after World War II when Greek shipping businessmen were able to amass surplus ships sold by the U.S. government through the Ship Sales Act of the 1940s.

Greece has a significant shipbuilding and ship maintenance industry. The six shipyards around the port of Piraeus are among the largest in Europe. Greece has become a leader in the construction and maintenance of luxury yachts.

Tourism

Santorini, a popular tourist destination, is ranked as the world's top island in many travel magazines and sites.

Tourism has been a key element of the economy and one of the most important sectors, contributing 21% of gross domestic product in 2018. Greece was the 9th most visited country in the world in 2022, hosting 28 million visitors, an increase from 18 million tourists in 2007.

Most visitors come from the European continent, while the most from a single nationality are from the United Kingdom, followed by Germany. The most visited region of Greece is Central Macedonia.

In 2011, Santorini was voted as "The World's Best Island" in Travel + Leisure. Its neighboring island Mykonos, came in fifth in the European category. There are 19 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Greece, and Greece is ranked 17th in the world in total sites. Thirteen further sites are on the tentative list, awaiting nomination.

Panoramic view of the old Corfu City, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as seen from the Old Fortress. The Bay of Garitsa is to the left and the port of Corfu is just visible on the top right. Spianada Square is in the foreground.

Transport

The Rio–Antirrio bridge connects mainland Greece to the Peloponnese
Map of Greece's motorway network as of 2022. Black=Completed routes, Blue=Under Construction, Grey=Planned routes

Since the 1980s, the road and rail network has been modernised. With a total length of about 2320 km as of 2020, Greece's motorway network is the most extensive in Southeastern Europe and one of the most advanced in Europe. Important works include the A2 (Egnatia Odos) east-west motorway, that connects northwestern Greece (Igoumenitsa) with northern Greece (Thessaloniki) and northeastern Greece (Kipoi); the Rio–Antirrio bridge, the longest suspension cable bridge in Europe (2,250 m (7,382 ft) long), connecting the Peloponnese (Rio, 7 km (4 mi) from Patras) with Aetolia-Akarnania (Antirrio) in western Greece; and the Aktio-Preveza Undersea Tunnel that passes under the mouth of Ambracian Gulf.

Also completed are the A5 (Ionia Odos) motorway that connects northwestern Greece (Ioannina) with western Greece (Antirrio); the last sections of the A1 motorway, connecting Athens to Thessaloniki and Evzonoi in northern Greece; the A8 motorway (part of the Olympia Odos) in the Peloponnese, connecting Athens to Patras; and the A7 motorway connecting Corinth to Kalamata and Sparta. The remaining section of Olympia Odos, connecting Patras with Pyrgos, is under planning. Other important projects underway include the construction of the Thessaloniki Metro, and the Northern Crete Motorway.

The Athens Metropolitan Area in particular is served by some of the most modern and efficient transport infrastructure in Europe, such as the Athens International Airport, the privately run A6 (Attiki Odos) motorway network and the expanded Athens Metro system. Most Greek islands and main cities are connected by air, by the two major airlines, Olympic Air and Aegean Airlines.

Railway connections play a lesser role than in many other European countries, but have been expanded, with new suburban/commuter rail connections, serviced by Proastiakos around Athens, towards its airport, Kiato and Chalkida; around Thessaloniki, towards the cities of Larissa and Edessa; and around Patras. A modern intercity rail connection between Athens and Thessaloniki has been established, while an upgrade to double lines in many parts of the 2,500 km (1,600 mi) network is underway; along with a new double track, standard gauge railway between Athens and Patras (replacing the old metre-gauge Piraeus–Patras railway) which is under construction and opening in stages. International railway lines connect Greek cities with the rest of Europe, the Balkans and Turkey.

Given Greece's long coastline and number of islands, maritime transport is particularly important. All major islands are served by ferries to the mainland. Piraeus, the port of Athens, was the third busiest passenger port in Europe as of 2021. 37 million passengers traveled by boat in Greece in 2019, the second-highest in Europe. Maritime connections have been improved with modern high-speed craft, including hydrofoils and catamarans.

Greece has 39 active airports, 15 of which serve international destinations. Athens International Airport served over 28 million passengers in 2023. Most major islands are served by airports, with direct connections to other airports in Europe.

Telecommunications

Modern digital information and communication networks reach all areas. There are over 35,000 km (21,748 mi) of fiber optics and an extensive open-wire network. Broadband internet availability is widespread in Greece: there were a total of 2,252,653 broadband connections as of early 2011, translating to 20% broadband penetration. In 2017 around 82% of the population used the internet regularly.

Internet cafés that provide net access, office applications and multiplayer gaming are a common sight, while mobile internet on 3G and 4G- LTE cellphone networks and Wi-Fi connections can be found almost everywhere. As of July 2022, 5G service is accessible in most of major cities. The UN ranks Greece among the top 30 countries with a highly developed information and communications infrastructure.

Science and technology

Thessaloniki Science Center and Technology Museum
Georgios Papanikolaou, a pioneer in cytopathology and early cancer detection

The General Secretariat for Research and Technology of the Ministry of Development and Competitiveness is responsible for designing, implementing and supervising national research and technological policy. In 2017, spending on research and development (R&D) reached an all-time high of €2 billion, equal to 1.1% of GDP.

Greece was ranked 42nd in the Global Innovation Index in 2023.

Greece has major technology parks with incubator facilities and been a member of the European Space Agency (ESA) since 2005. Cooperation between ESA and the Hellenic National Space Committee began in 1994 with the signing of the first cooperation agreement. After applying for full membership in 2003, Greece became the ESA's sixteenth member in 2005. The country participates in the ESA's telecommunication and technology activities and the Global Monitoring for Environment and Security Initiative. The National Centre of Scientific Research "Demokritos" was founded in 1959 and is the largest multidisciplinary research center in Greece. Its activities cover several fields of science and engineering.

Greece has one of the highest rates of tertiary enrollment in the world, while Greeks are well represented in academia worldwide; leading Western universities employ a disproportionately high number of Greek faculty. Greek scientific publications have grown significantly in terms of research impact, surpassing both the EU and global average from 2012 to 2016.

Notable Greek scientists of modern times include Georgios Papanikolaou (inventor of the Pap test), mathematician Constantin Carathéodory (known for the Carathéodory theorems and Carathéodory conjecture), astronomer E. M. Antoniadi, archaeologists Ioannis Svoronos, Valerios Stais, Spyridon Marinatos, Manolis Andronikos (discovered the tomb of Philip II of Macedon in Vergina), Indologist Dimitrios Galanos, botanist Theodoros G. Orphanides, and scientists such as Michael Dertouzos, Nicholas Negroponte, John Argyris, John Iliopoulos (2007 Dirac Prize for his contributions on the physics of the charm quark), Joseph Sifakis (2007 Turing Award, the "Nobel Prize" of Computer Science), Christos Papadimitriou (2002 Knuth Prize, 2012 Gödel Prize), Mihalis Yannakakis (2005 Knuth Prize) and physicist Dimitri Nanopoulos.

Demographics

Eurostat estimated the population at 10.6 million in 2022.

Greece population density, 2000

Greek society has changed over recent decades, coinciding with the wider European trend of declining fertility and aging. The birth rate in 2016 was 8.5 per 1,000, significantly lower than the rate of 14.5 in 1981. The mortality rate increased from 8.9 per 1,000 inhabitants in 1981 to 11.2 in 2016.

The fertility rate of 1.4 children per woman is well below the replacement rate of 2.1, and one of the lowest in the world, considerably below the high of 5.5 children in 1900. Subsequently, Greece's median age is 44.2 years, the seventh-highest in the world. In 2001, 17% of the population were 65 years old and older, 68% between the ages of 15 and 64 years old, and 15% were 14 years old and younger. By 2016, the proportion of the population age 65 and older had risen to 21%, while the proportion of those aged 14 and younger declined to slightly below 14%. Marriage rates began declining from almost 71 per 1,000 inhabitants in 1981 to 51 in 2004. Divorce rates have seen an increase from 191 per 1,000 marriages in 1991 to 240 per 1,000 marriages in 2004.

As a result of these trends, the average household is smaller and older than in previous generations. The economic crisis exacerbated this development, with 350,000–450,000 Greeks, predominantly young adults, emigrating since 2010.

Cities

Almost two-thirds of the Greek people live in urban areas. Greece's largest and most influential metropolitan centres are Athens (population 3,744,059 according to 2021 census) and Thessaloniki (population 1,092,919 in 2021) that latter commonly referred to as the symprotévousa (συμπρωτεύουσα, lit.'co-capital'). Other prominent cities with populations above 100,000 inhabitants include Patras, Heraklion, Larissa, Volos, Rhodes, Ioannina, Agrinio, Chania, and Chalcis.

 
Largest cities or towns in Greece
Rank Name Region Pop. Rank Name Region Pop.
Athens
Athens
Thessaloniki
Thessaloniki
1 Athens Attica 3,090,508 11 Serres Central Macedonia 58,287 Patras
Patras
Piraeus
Piraeus
2 Thessaloniki Central Macedonia 824,676 12 Alexandroupoli Eastern Macedonia and Thrace 57,812
3 Patras Western Greece 173,600 13 Xanthi Eastern Macedonia and Thrace 56,122
4 Piraeus Attica 168,151 14 Katerini Central Macedonia 55,997
5 Heraklion Crete 156,842 15 Kalamata Peloponnese 54,100
6 Larisa Thessaly 148,562 16 Kavala Eastern Macedonia and Thrace 54,027
7 Volos Thessaly 85,803 17 Chania Crete 53,910
8 Ioannina Epirus 65,574 18 Lamia Central Greece 52,006
9 Trikala Thessaly 61,653 19 Komotini Eastern Macedonia and Thrace 50,990
10 Chalcis Central Greece 59,125 20 Rhodes South Aegean 49,541

Religion

Religiosity in Greece (2017):

 Other Christians (exc.Catholics) (3%)
 Irreligion (4%)
 Islam (2%)
 Other religions (inc.Catholics) (1%)

The Greek Constitution recognises Eastern Orthodoxy as the 'prevailing' faith of the country, while guaranteeing freedom of religious belief for all. The government does not keep statistics on religious groups and censuses do not ask for religious affiliation. According to the U.S. State Department, an estimated 97% of Greek citizens identify themselves as Eastern Orthodox, belonging to the Greek Orthodox Church, which uses the Byzantine rite and the Greek language, the original language of the New Testament. The administration of the Greek territory is shared between the Church of Greece and the Patriarchate of Constantinople.

In a 2010 EurostatEurobarometer poll, 79% of Greek citizens responded that they "believe there is a God". According to other sources, 16% of Greeks describe themselves as "very religious", which is the highest among all European countries. The survey found just 3.5% never attend a church, compared to 5% in Poland and 59% in the Czech Republic.

Meteora, complex of giant rock pillars with Eastern Orthodox monasteries made on the picks of the sandstone cliffs.

Estimates of the recognised Muslim minority of Greece, mostly located in Thrace, range around 100,000, about 1% of the population. Some of the Albanian immigrants to Greece come from a nominally Muslim background, though most are secular. Following the 1919–1922 Greco-Turkish War and the 1923 Treaty of Lausanne, Greece and Turkey agreed to a population transfer based on cultural and religious identity. About 500,000 Muslims from Greece, predominantly those defined as Turks, but also Greek Muslims, were exchanged with approximately 1.5 million Greeks from Turkey. However, many refugees who settled in former Ottoman Muslim villages in Central Macedonia, and were defined as Christian Orthodox Caucasus Greeks, arrived from the former Russian Transcaucasus province of Kars Oblast, after it had been retroceded to Turkey prior to the population exchange.

Judaism has been present in Greece for more than 2,000 years. The ancient community of Greek Jews is called Romaniotes, while the Sephardi Jews were once a prominent community in Thessaloniki, numbering some 80,000, or more than half of the population, by 1900. However, after the German occupation of Greece and the Holocaust, it is estimated to number around 5,500 people.

The Roman Catholic community is estimated to be around 250,000 of which 50,000 are Greek citizens. Their community is nominally separate from the smaller Greek Byzantine Catholic Church, which recognises the primacy of the Pope but maintains the liturgy of the Byzantine Rite. Old Calendarists account for 500,000 followers. Protestants, including the Greek Evangelical Church and Free Evangelical Churches, stand at about 30,000. Other Christian minorities, such as Assemblies of God, International Church of the Foursquare Gospel and various Pentecostal churches of the Greek Synod of Apostolic Church total about 12,000 members. The independent Free Apostolic Church of Pentecost is the biggest Protestant denomination in Greece with 120 churches. There are no official statistics about the Free Apostolic Church of Pentecost, but the Orthodox Church estimates the followers as 20,000. The Jehovah's Witnesses report having 28,874 active members.

Since 2017, Hellenic Polytheism, or Hellenism has been legally recognised as an actively practised religion, with estimates of 2,000 active practitioners and an additional 100,000 "sympathisers". Hellenism refers to religious movements that continue, revive, or reconstruct ancient Greek religious practices.

Languages

Regions with a traditional presence of languages other than Greek. Today, Greek is the dominant language throughout the country.

Greece is relatively homogeneous in linguistic terms, with a large majority of the native population using Greek as their first or only language. Among the Greek-speaking population, speakers of the distinctive Pontic dialect came to Greece from Asia Minor after the Greek genocide and constitute a sizable group. The Cappadocian dialect came due to the genocide as well, but is endangered and barely spoken. Indigenous Greek dialects include the archaic Greek spoken by the Sarakatsani, traditionally transhument mountain shepherds of Greek Macedonia and other parts of Northern Greece. The Tsakonian language, a distinct Greek language deriving from Doric Greek instead of Koine Greek, is still spoken in villages in the southeastern Peloponnese.

The Muslim minority in Thrace, approximately 0.95% of the population, consists of speakers of Turkish, Bulgarian (Pomaks) and Romani. Romani is spoken by Christian Roma in other parts of the country. Further minority languages have traditionally been spoken by regional population groups in various areas. Their use decreased radically in the course of the 20th century through assimilation with the Greek-speaking majority. They are only maintained by the older generations and almost extinct. The same is true for the Arvanites, an Albanian-speaking group mostly located in rural areas around Athens, and for the Aromanians and Megleno-Romanians whose language is closely related to Romanian and who used to live scattered across areas of mountainous central Greece. Members of these groups usually identify ethnically as Greek and are bilingual in Greek.

Near the northern Greek borders there are some Slavic–speaking groups, most of whom identify ethnically as Greeks. It is estimated that after the population exchanges of 1923, Macedonia had 200,000 to 400,000 Slavic speakers. The Jewish community traditionally spoke Ladino (Judeo-Spanish), today maintained by a few thousand speakers. Other notable minority languages include Armenian, Georgian, and the Greco-Turkic dialect spoken by the Urums, a community of Caucasus Greeks from the Tsalka region of central Georgia and ethnic Greeks from southeastern Ukraine who arrived in Northern Greece as economic migrants in the 1990s.

Migration

A map of the fifty countries with the largest Greek diaspora communities

Throughout the 20th century, millions of Greeks migrated to the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, and Germany, creating a large Greek diaspora. Net migration started to show positive numbers from the 1970s, but until the beginning of the 1990s, the main influx was returning Greek migrants or of Pontic Greeks and others from Russia, Georgia, Turkey the Czech Republic, and elsewhere in the former Soviet Bloc.

A study from the Mediterranean Migration Observatory maintains that the 2001 census recorded 762,191 persons residing in Greece without Greek citizenship, constituting around 7% of the population. Of the non-citizen residents, 48,560 were EU or European Free Trade Association nationals and 17,426 were Cypriots with privileged status. The majority come from Eastern European countries: Albania (56%), Bulgaria (5%) and Romania (3%), while migrants from the former Soviet Union (Georgia, Russia, Ukraine, Moldova, etc.) comprise 10% of the total. Some immigrants from Albania are from the Greek minority in Albania centred on the region of Northern Epirus. The total Albanian national population which includes temporary migrants and undocumented persons is around 600,000.

The 2011 census recorded 9,903,268 Greek citizens (92%), 480,824 Albanian citizens (4.4%), 75,915 Bulgarian citizens (0.7%), 46,523 Romanian citizenship (0.4%), 34,177 Pakistani citizens (0.3%), 27,400 Georgian citizens (0.25%) and 247,090 people had other or unidentified citizenship (2%). 189,000 people of the total population of Albanian citizens were reported in 2008 as ethnic Greeks from Southern Albania, in the historical region of Northern Epirus.

The greatest cluster of non-EU immigrant population are in the larger urban centers, especially Athens, with 132,000 immigrants comprising 17% of the local population, and then Thessaloniki, with 27,000 immigrants reaching 7% of the local population. There is a considerable number of co-ethnics that came from the Greek communities of Albania and former Soviet Union.

Greece, together with Italy and Spain, is a major entry point for illegal immigrants trying to enter the EU. Illegal immigrants entering mostly do so from the border with Turkey at the Evros River and the islands of the eastern Aegean across from Turkey. In 2012, most illegal immigrants came from Afghanistan, followed by Pakistanis and Bangladeshis. In 2015, arrivals of refugees by sea had increased dramatically due to the Syrian civil war. There were 856,723 arrivals by sea in Greece, an almost fivefold increase to the same period of 2014, of which the Syrians represented almost 45%. Most refugees and migrants use Greece as a transit country, while their intended destinations are northern European Nations such as Austria, Germany and Sweden.

Education

The Academy of Athens is Greece's national academy and the highest research establishment in the country.
The Ionian Academy in Corfu, the first academic institution of modern Greece
The new National Library of Greece at the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Centre

Greeks have a long tradition of valuing and investing in paideia (education), which was upheld as one of the highest societal values in the Greek and Hellenistic world. The first European institution described as a university was founded in fifth-century Constantinople and continued operating in various incarnations until the city's fall to the Ottomans in 1453. The University of Constantinople was Christian Europe's first secular institution of higher learning, and by some measures was the world's first university.

Compulsory education in Greece comprises primary schools (Δημοτικό Σχολείο, Dimotikó Scholeio) and gymnasium (Γυμνάσιο). Nursery schools (Παιδικός σταθμός, Paidikós Stathmós) are popular but not compulsory. Kindergartens (Νηπιαγωγείο, Nipiagogeío) are compulsory for any child above four. Children start primary school aged six and remain there for six years. Attendance at gymnasia starts aged 12 and lasts for three years.

Greece's post-compulsory secondary education consists of two school types: unified upper secondary schools (Γενικό Λύκειο, Genikό Lykeiό) and technicalvocational educational schools (Τεχνικά και Επαγγελματικά Εκπαιδευτήρια, "TEE"). Post-compulsory secondary education also includes vocational training institutes (Ινστιτούτα Επαγγελματικής Κατάρτισης, "IEK") which provide a formal but unclassified level of education. As they can accept both Gymnasio (lower secondary school) and Lykeio (upper secondary school) graduates, these institutes are not classified as offering a particular level of education.

According to the Framework Law (3549/2007), Public higher education "Highest Educational Institutions" (Ανώτατα Εκπαιδευτικά Ιδρύματα, Anótata Ekpaideytiká Idrýmata, "ΑΕΙ") consists of two parallel sectors:the university sector (Universities, Polytechnics, Fine Arts Schools, the Open University) and the Technological sector (Technological Education Institutions (TEI) and the School of Pedagogic and Technological Education). There are State Non-University Tertiary Institutes offering vocationally oriented courses of shorter duration (2-3 years) which operate under the authority of other Ministries. Students are admitted to these Institutes according to their performance at national level examinations taking place after completion of the third grade of Lykeio. Students over 22 may be admitted to the Hellenic Open University through a lottery.

The education system provides special kindergartens, primary, and secondary schools for people with special needs or difficulties in learning. There are specialist gymnasia and high schools offering musical, theological, and physical education.

72% of adults aged 25–64 have completed upper secondary education, which is slightly less than the OECD average of 74%. The average Greek pupil scored 458 in reading literacy, maths and science in the OECD's 2015 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). This is lower than the OECD average of 486. Girls outperformed boys by 15 points, much more than the average OECD gap of 2.

Healthcare system

Greece has universal health care. The system is mixed, combining a national health service with social health insurance (SHI). Per a 2000 World Health Organization report, its health system ranked 14th in overall performance of 191 countries surveyed. In a 2013 Save the Children report, Greece was ranked the 19th out of 176 countries for the state of mothers and newborn babies. As of 2014, there were 124 public hospitals, of which 106 were general hospitals and 18 specialised hospitals, with a total capacity of about 30,000 beds.

Greece's healthcare expenditures was 9.6% of GDP in 2007. By 2015, it declined to 8.4%, compared with the EU average of 9.5%. Nevertheless, the country maintains the highest doctor-to-population ratio of any OECD country and the highest doctor-to-patient ratio in the EU.

Life expectancy is among the highest in the world; life expectancy in 2015 was 81.1 years, slightly above the EU average of 80.6. The island of Icaria has the highest percentage of nonagenarians in the world; 33% of islanders are 90 or older. Icaria is subsequently classified as a "Blue Zone", a region where people allegedly live longer than average and have lower rates of cancer, heart disease, or other chronic illnesses.

A 2011 OECD report showed Greece had the largest percentage of adult daily smokers of any of the 34 OECD members. The obesity rate is 18%, above the OECD average of 15%. In 2008, infant mortality, with a rate of 3.6 deaths per 1,000 live births, was below the 2007 OECD average of 4.9.

Culture

The Ancient Theatre of Epidaurus, still used for theatrical plays

The culture of Greece has evolved, beginning in Mycenaean Greece and continuing into Classical Greece, through the influence of the Roman Empire and its Greek Eastern continuation, the Byzantine Empire. Other cultures and nations, such as the Latin and Frankish states, the Ottoman Empire, the Venetian Republic, the Genoese Republic, and the British Empire have left their influence on modern Greek culture, though historians credit the Greek War of Independence with revitalising Greece and giving birth to a single, cohesive entity of its multi-faceted culture.

In ancient times, Greece was the birthplace of Western culture. Modern democracies owe a debt to Greek beliefs in government by the people, trial by jury, and equality under the law. The ancient Greeks pioneered in many fields that rely on systematic thought, including logic, biology, geometry, government, geography, medicine, history, philosophy, physics, and mathematics. They introduced important literary forms as epic and lyrical poetry, history, tragedy, comedy and drama. In their pursuit of order and proportion, the Greeks created an ideal of beauty that strongly influenced Western art.

Visual arts

Close-up of the Charioteer of Delphi, a celebrated statue from the 5th century BC

Artistic production in Greece began in the prehistoric pre-Greek Cycladic and the Minoan civilizations, both of which were influenced by local traditions and the art of ancient Egypt.

There were interconnected traditions of painting in ancient Greece. Due to technical differences, they underwent differentiated developments. Not all painting techniques are equally well represented in the archaeological record. The most respected form of art, according to Pliny or Pausanias, were individual, mobile paintings on wooden boards, described as panel paintings. Wall painting in Greece goes back at least to the Minoan and Mycenaean Bronze Age, with the lavish fresco decoration of sites like Knossos, Tiryns and Mycenae. Much figural or architectural sculpture of ancient Greece was painted colourfully. This aspect of Greek stonework is described as polychrome.

Ancient Greek sculpture was composed almost entirely of marble or bronze; with cast bronze becoming the favoured medium for major works by the early 5th century. Marble and bronze are easy to form and durable. Chryselephantine sculptures, used for temple cult images and luxury works, used gold, most often in leaf form and ivory for all or parts of the figure, and probably gems and other materials, but were much less common, and only fragments survive. By the early 19th century, the systematic excavation of ancient Greek sites had brought forth sculptures with traces of notably multicolored surfaces. It was not until findings by German archaeologist Vinzenz Brinkmann in the late 20th century, that the painting of ancient Greek sculptures became an established fact.

Art production continued during the Byzantine era. The most salient feature of this new aesthetic was its "abstract", or anti-naturalistic character. Classical art was marked by attempts to create representations that mimicked reality, Byzantine art favoured a more symbolic approach. Byzantine painting concentrated mainly on icons and hagiographies. The Macedonian art (Byzantine) was the artistic expression of Macedonian Renaissance, a label used to describe the Macedonian dynasty of the Byzantine Empire (867–1056), which scholars have seen as a time of increased interest in classical scholarship and the assimilation of classical motifs into Christian artwork.

Post Byzantine art schools include the Cretan School and Heptanese School. The first artistic movement in the Greek Kingdom can be considered the Greek academic art of the 19th century (Munich School). Modern Greek painters include Nikolaos Gyzis, Georgios Jakobides, Theodoros Vryzakis, Nikiforos Lytras, Konstantinos Volanakis, Nikos Engonopoulos and Yannis Tsarouchis, while notable sculptors are Pavlos Prosalentis, Ioannis Kossos, Leonidas Drosis, Georgios Bonanos and Yannoulis Chalepas.

Architecture

Harbor of Ermoupolis, on the island Syros, first capital of independent Greece.

The architecture of ancient Greece was produced by the ancient Greeks (Hellenes), whose culture flourished on the Greek mainland, the Aegean Islands and their colonies, from about 900 BC until the 1st century AD, with the earliest remaining architectural works dating from around 600 BC. The formal vocabulary of ancient Greek architecture, in particular the division of architectural style into three defined orders: the Doric Order, the Ionic Order and the Corinthian Order, was to have profound effect on Western architecture.

Byzantine architecture was dominant in the Greek speaking world and significantly influenced Medieval architecture throughout Europe and the Near East, becoming the primary progenitor of the Renaissance and Ottoman architectural traditions that followed the Byzantine Empire's collapse..

After Greek Independence, modern Greek architects combined traditional Greek and Byzantine elements and motives with the western European movements and styles. Patras was the first city of the modern Greek state to develop a city plan. In 1829, Stamatis Voulgaris, a Greek engineer of the French army, presented the plan of the new city to the Governor Kapodistrias, who approved it. Voulgaris applied the orthogonal rule in the urban complex of Patras.

Two special genres can be considered the Cycladic architecture, featuring white-coloured houses, in the Cyclades and the Epirotic architecture in the region of Epirus. Important is also the influence of the Venetian style in the Ionian islands and the "Mediterranean style" of Florestano Di Fausto (during the fascist regime) in the Dodecanese islands.

After the establishment of the Greek Kingdom, the architecture of Athens and other cities was mostly influenced by the Neoclassical architecture. For Athens, the first King of Greece, Otto of Greece, commissioned the architects Stamatios Kleanthis and Eduard Schaubert to design a modern city plan fit for a capital. After the Great Thessaloniki Fire of 1917, the government ordered for a new city plan under the supervision of Ernest Hébrard. Other modern Greek architects include Anastasios Metaxas, Lysandros Kaftanzoglou, Panagis Kalkos, Ernst Ziller, Xenophon Paionidis, Dimitris Pikionis and Georges Candilis.

There is an emerging need to secure the long-term preservation of the archaeological sites and monuments against the growing threats of climate change.

Theatre

Nobile Teatro di San Giacomo di Corfù, the first theatre and opera house of modern Greece

Theatre in its western form was born in Greece. The city-state of Classical Athens, which became a significant cultural, political, and military power during this period, was its centre, where it was institutionalised as part of a festival called the Dionysia, which honoured the god Dionysus. Tragedy (late 6th century BC), comedy (486 BC), and the satyr play were the three dramatic genres to emerge there.

During the Byzantine period, theatrical art declined, the only form that survived was folk theatre (Mimos and Pantomimos), despite the hostility of the state. During the Ottoman period, the main theatrical folk art was the Karagiozis. The renaissance which led to the modern Greek theatre, took place in the Venetian Crete. Significal dramatists of the era include Vitsentzos Kornaros and Georgios Chortatzis.

Modern Greek theatre was born after independence, in the early 19th century, and initially was influenced by Heptanesean theatre and melodrama, such as the Italian opera. The Nobile Teatro di San Giacomo di Corfù was the first theatre and opera house of modern Greece and the place where the first Greek opera, Spyridon Xyndas' The Parliamentary Candidate was performed. During the late 19th and early 20th century, the Athenian theatre scene was dominated by revues, musical comedies, operettas and nocturnes and notable playwrights included Spyridon Samaras, Dionysios Lavrangas, Theophrastos Sakellaridis and others.

The National Theatre of Greece was opened in 1900 as Royal Theatre. Notable playwrights of the modern Greek theatre include Gregorios Xenopoulos, Nikos Kazantzakis, Pantelis Horn, Alekos Sakellarios and Iakovos Kambanelis, while notable actors include Cybele Andrianou, Marika Kotopouli, Aimilios Veakis, Orestis Makris, Katina Paxinou, Manos Katrakis and Dimitris Horn. Significant directors include Dimitris Rontiris, Alexis Minotis and Karolos Koun.

Literature

Parnassos Literary Society, painted by Georgios Roilos (Kostis Palamas is at the center)

Greek literature can be divided into three main categories: Ancient, Byzantine and modern Greek. Athens is considered the birthplace of Western literature. At the beginning of Greek literature stand the monumental works of Homer: the Iliad and the Odyssey. Though dates of composition vary, these works were fixed around 800 BC or after. In the classical period many of the genres of western literature became more prominent. Lyrical poetry, odes, pastorals, elegies, epigrams; dramatic presentations of comedy and tragedy; historiography, rhetorical treatises, philosophical dialectics, and philosophical treatises all arose in this period. The two major lyrical poets were Sappho and Pindar. The Classical era also saw the dawn of drama.

Of the hundreds of tragedies written and performed during the classical age, only a limited number of plays by three authors have survived: Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides. The surviving plays by Aristophanes are a treasure trove of comic presentation, while Herodotus and Thucydides are two of the most influential historians in this period. The greatest prose achievement of the 4th century was in philosophy with the works of the three great philosophers.

Byzantine literature written in Atticizing, Medieval and early Modern Greek, is the expression of the intellectual life of the Byzantine Greeks during the Christian Middle Ages. Although popular Byzantine literature and early Modern Greek literature both began in the 11th century, the two are indistinguishable.

Constantine P. Cavafy, whose work was inspired mainly by the Hellenistic past, while Odysseas Elytis (centre) and Giorgos Seferis (right) were representatives of the Generation of the '30s and Nobel laureates in Literature.

Modern Greek literature refers to literature written in common Modern Greek, emerging from late Byzantine times in the 11th century. The Cretan Renaissance poem Erotokritos is considered the masterpiece of this period. It is a verse romance written around 1600 by Vitsentzos Kornaros (1553–1613). Later, during the period of Greek enlightenment (Diafotismos), writers such as Adamantios Korais and Rigas Feraios prepared with their works the Greek Revolution.

Leading figures of modern Greek literature include Dionysios Solomos, Andreas Kalvos, Angelos Sikelianos, Emmanuel Rhoides, Demetrius Vikelas, Kostis Palamas, Penelope Delta, Yannis Ritsos, Alexandros Papadiamantis, Nikos Kazantzakis, Andreas Embeirikos, Kostas Karyotakis, Gregorios Xenopoulos, Constantine P. Cavafy, Nikos Kavvadias, Kostas Varnalis and Kiki Dimoula. Two Greek authors have been awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature: George Seferis in 1963 and Odysseas Elytis in 1979.

Philosophy

A statue of Plato in Athens

Most western philosophical traditions began in Ancient Greece in the 6th century BC. The first philosophers are called "Presocratics", which designates that they came before Socrates, whose contributions mark a turning point in western thought. The Presocratics were from the western or the eastern colonies of Greece and only fragments of their writings survive.

A new period of philosophy started with Socrates. Like the Sophists, he rejected the physical speculations of his predecessors, and made the thoughts and opinions of people his starting-point. Aspects of Socrates were first united from Plato, who also combined with them many of the principles established by earlier philosophers, and developed the whole of this material into the unity of a comprehensive system.

Aristotle of Stagira, the most important disciple of Plato, shared with his teacher the title of the greatest philosopher of antiquity. But while Plato had sought to elucidate and explain things from the supra-sensual standpoint of the forms, his pupil preferred to start from the facts given to us by experience. Except from these three most significant Greek philosophers other known schools of Greek philosophy from other founders during ancient times were Stoicism, Epicureanism, Skepticism and Neoplatonism.

Byzantine philosophy was characterised by a Christian world-view, but one which could draw ideas directly from the Greek texts of Plato, Aristotle, and the Neoplatonists. On the eve of the Fall of Constantinople, Gemistus Pletho tried to restore the use of the term "Hellene" and advocated the return to the Olympian Gods of the ancient world. After 1453 Greek Byzantine scholars who fled to western Europe contributed to the Renaissance.

In the modern period, Diafotismos (Greek: Διαφωτισμός, "enlightenment", "illumination") was the Greek expression of the Age of Enlightenment and its philosophical and political ideas. Notable representatives were Adamantios Korais, Rigas Feraios and Theophilos Kairis. Other modern era Greek philosophers or political scientists include Cornelius Castoriadis, Nicos Poulantzas and Christos Yannaras.

Music and dances

Cretan dancers of traditional folk music
Rebetes in Karaiskaki, Piraeus (1933). Left Markos Vamvakaris with bouzouki.

Greek vocal music extends far back into ancient times where mixed-gender choruses performed for entertainment, celebration and spiritual reasons. Instruments included the double-reed aulos and the plucked string instrument, the lyre, especially the special kind called a kithara. Music played an important role in education during ancient times. Boys were taught music from the age of six. Later influences from the Roman Empire, Middle East, and the Byzantine Empire affected Greek music.

While the new technique of polyphony was developing in the West, the Eastern Orthodox Church resisted change. Therefore, Byzantine music remained monophonic and without any form of instrumental accompaniment. As a result, and despite certain attempts by certain Greek chanters, Byzantine music was deprived of elements of which in the West encouraged an unimpeded development of art. However, this method which kept music away from polyphony, along with centuries of continuous culture, enabled monophonic music to develop. Byzantium presented the monophonic Byzantine chant; a melodic music, with rhythmical variety and expressive power.

Along with Byzantine chant and music, the Greeks cultivated the Greek folk song (Demotiko) which is divided into two cycles, the akritic and klephtic. The akritic was created between the 9th and 10th centuries and expressed the life and struggles of the akrites (frontier guards) of the Byzantine empire, the most well known associated with Digenes Akritas. The klephtic cycle came into being between the late Byzantine period and start of the Greek War of Independence. The klephtic cycle, together with historical songs, paraloghes (narrative song or ballad), love songs, mantinades, wedding songs, songs of exile and dirges express the life of the Greeks. There is a unity between the Greek people's struggles for freedom, their joys and sorrow and attitudes towards love and death.

Mikis Theodorakis was one of the most popular and significant Greek composers.

The Heptanesean kantádhes (καντάδες 'serenades'; sing.: καντάδα) became the forerunners of the Greek modern urban popular song, influencing its development. For the first part of the next century, Greek composers continued to borrow elements from the Heptanesean style. The most successful songs during 1870–1930 were the so-called Athenian serenades, and the songs performed on stage (επιθεωρησιακά τραγούδια 'theatrical revue songs') in revues, operettas and nocturnes that were dominating Athens' theater scene.

Rebetiko, initially a music associated with the lower classes, later (and especially after the population exchange between Greece and Turkey) reached greater general acceptance as the rough edges of its overt subcultural character were softened and polished, sometimes to the point of unrecognizability. It was the base of the later laïkó (song of the people). The leading performers of the genre include Vassilis Tsitsanis, Grigoris Bithikotsis, Stelios Kazantzidis, George Dalaras, Haris Alexiou and Glykeria.

It was through the Ionian islands (which were under western rule and influence) that all major advances of the western European classical music were introduced to mainland Greeks. The region is notable for the birth of the first school of modern Greek classical music (Heptanesean or Ionian School, Greek: Επτανησιακή Σχολή), established in 1815. Prominent representatives of this genre include Nikolaos Mantzaros, Spyridon Xyndas, Spyridon Samaras and Pavlos Carrer. Manolis Kalomiris is considered the founder of the Greek National School of Music.

In the 20th century, Greek composers had significant impact on the development of avant garde and modern classical music, with figures such as Iannis Xenakis, Nikos Skalkottas, and Dimitri Mitropoulos achieving international prominence. Composers and musicians such as Mikis Theodorakis, Manos Hatzidakis, Eleni Karaindrou, Vangelis and Demis Roussos garnered an international following, which include famous film scores such as Zorba the Greek, Serpico, Never on Sunday, America America, Eternity and a Day, Chariots of Fire, Blade Runner, among others. Greek American composers known for their film scores include Yanni and Basil Poledouris. Greek opera singers and classical musicians of the 20th and 21st century include Maria Callas, Nana Mouskouri, Mario Frangoulis, Leonidas Kavakos, Dimitris Sgouros and others.

During the Greek junta of 1967–74, the music of Mikis Theodorakis was banned by and the composer jailed, internally exiled, and put in a concentration camp, before finally being allowed to leave Greece due to international reaction. Released during the junta years, Anthrope Agapa, ti Fotia Stamata (Make Love, Stop the Gunfire), by the pop group Poll is considered the first anti-war protest song in the history of Greek rock. The song was echoing the hippie slogan "make love, not war" and was inspired directly by the Vietnam War, becoming a "smash hit" in Greece.

Greece participated in the Eurovision Song Contest 35 times after its debut at the 1974 Contest. In 2005, Greece won with the song "My Number One", performed by Greek-Swedish singer Elena Paparizou, which became a smash hit in different countries and especially in Greece, and the 51st Eurovision Song Contest of 2006 was held in Athens.

Cuisine

A Greek salad, with feta and olives

Greek cuisine is characteristic of the Mediterranean diet, which is epitomised by dishes of Crete. Greek cuisine incorporates fresh ingredients into local dishes such as moussaka, pastitsio, classic Greek salad, fasolada, spanakopita and souvlaki. Some dishes can be traced back to ancient Greece like skordalia (a thick purée of walnuts, almonds, crushed garlic and olive oil), lentil soup, retsina (white or rosé wine sealed with pine resin) and pasteli (candy bar with sesame seeds baked with honey). People often enjoy eating from small dishes such as meze with dips such as tzatziki, grilled octopus and small fish, feta cheese, dolmades (rice, currants and pine kernels wrapped in vine leaves), various pulses, olives and cheese. Olive oil is a widespread addition.

Sweet desserts include melomakarona, diples and galaktoboureko, and drinks such as ouzo, metaxa and wines including retsina. Greek cuisine differs from different parts of the mainland and island to island. It uses some flavorings more often than other Mediterranean cuisines: oregano, mint, garlic, onion, dill and bay laurel leaves. Other common herbs and spices include basil, thyme and fennel seed. Many recipes, especially in the northern parts of the country, use "sweet" spices in combination with meat, for example cinnamon and cloves in stews. Koutoukia are an underground restaurant common in Greece.

Cinema

Theodoros Angelopoulos, winner of the Palme d'Or in 1998, notable director in the history of the European cinema

Cinema first appeared in Greece in 1896, but the first cine-theatre was opened in 1907 in Athens. In 1914, the Asty Films Company was founded and the production of long films began. Golfo, a well known traditional love story, is considered the first Greek feature film, although there were minor productions such as newscasts before. In 1931, Orestis Laskos directed Daphnis and Chloe, containing one of the first nude scene in European cinema; it was the first Greek movie played abroad. In 1944, Katina Paxinou was honoured with the Best Supporting Actress Academy Award for For Whom the Bell Tolls.

The 1950s and early 1960s are considered to be a "golden age" of Greek cinema. Directors and actors of this era were recognised as important figures in Greece and some gained international acclaim: George Tzavellas, Irene Papas, Melina Mercouri, Michael Cacoyannis, Alekos Sakellarios, Nikos Tsiforos, Iakovos Kambanelis, Katina Paxinou, Nikos Koundouros, Ellie Lambeti and others. More than sixty films per year were made, with most having film noir elements. Notable films include The Drunkard (1950, directed by George Tzavellas), The Counterfeit Coin (1955, by Giorgos Tzavellas), Πικρό Ψωμί (1951, by Grigoris Grigoriou), O Drakos (1956, by Nikos Koundouros), Stella (1955, directed by Cacoyannis and written by Kampanellis), Woe to the Young (1961, by Alekos Sakellarios), Glory Sky (1962, by Takis Kanellopoulos) and The Red Lanterns (1963, by Vasilis Georgiadis)

Cacoyannis directed Zorba the Greek with Anthony Quinn which received Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Film nominations. Finos Film contributed in this period with movies such as Λατέρνα, Φτώχεια και Φιλότιμο, Madalena, I theia ap' to Chicago, Το ξύλο βγήκε από τον Παράδεισο and many more.

During the 1970s and 1980s, Theo Angelopoulos directed notable movies. His film Eternity and a Day won the Palme d'Or and the Prize of the Ecumenical Jury at the 1998 Cannes Film Festival.

There are internationally renowned filmmakers in the Greek diaspora, such as the Greek-French Costa-Gavras and the Greek-Americans Elia Kazan, John Cassavetes and Alexander Payne. Yorgos Lanthimos has received four Academy Award nominations for his work, including Best Foreign Language Film for Dogtooth (2009), Best Original Screenplay for The Lobster (2015), and Best Picture and Best Director for The Favourite (2018).

Sports

Spyridon Louis entering the Panathenaic Stadium at the end of the marathon; 1896 Summer Olympics
Angelos Charisteas scoring Greece's winning goal in the UEFA Euro 2004 Final

Greece is the birthplace of the ancient Olympic Games, first recorded in 776 BC in Olympia, and hosted the modern Olympic Games twice, the inaugural 1896 Summer Olympics and the 2004 Summer Olympics. During the parade of nations, Greece is always called first, as the founding nation of the ancient precursor of modern Olympics. The nation has competed at every Summer Olympic Games, one of only four countries to have done so. Having won a total of 110 medals (30 gold, 42 silver and 38 bronze), Greece is ranked 32nd by gold medals in the all-time Summer Olympic medal count. Their best ever performance was in the 1896 Summer Olympics, when Greece finished second in the medal table with 10 gold medals.

The Greece national football team, ranked 12th in the world in 2014 (and having reached a high of 8th in 2008 and 2011), were crowned European Champions in Euro 2004 in one of the biggest upsets in the history of the sport. The Greek Super League is the highest professional football league, comprising fourteen teams. The most successful are Olympiacos, Panathinaikos, and AEK Athens.

The Greek national basketball team has a decades-long tradition of excellence, being considered among the world's top basketball powers. As of 2012, it ranked 4th in the world and 2nd in Europe. They have won the European Championship twice in 1987 and 2005, and have reached the final four in two of the last four FIBA World Championships, taking the second place in the world in 2006 FIBA World Championship. The domestic top basketball league, A1 Ethniki, is composed of fourteen teams. The most successful Greek teams are Panathinaikos, Olympiacos, Aris Thessaloniki, AEK Athens and P.A.O.K. Greek basketball teams are the most successful in European basketball the last 25 years, having won 9 Euroleagues since the establishment of the modern era Euroleague Final Four format in 1988, while no other nation has won more than 4 Euroleague championships in this period. Besides the 9 Euroleagues, Greek basketball teams (Panathinaikos, Olympiacos, Aris Thessaloniki, AEK Athens, P.A.O.K, Maroussi) have won 3 Triple Crowns, 5 Saporta Cups, 2 Korać Cups and 1 FIBA Europe Champions Cup. After the 2005 European Championship triumph of the Greek national basketball team, Greece became the reigning European Champion in both football and basketball.

The Greek national basketball team in 2008. Twice European champions (1987 and 2005) and second in the world in 2006.

The Greece women's national water polo team have emerged as one of the leading powers in the world, becoming World Champions after their gold medal win against the hosts China at the 2011 World Championship. They won gold at the 2005 World League and silver at the 2010 and 2012 European Championships. The Greece men's national water polo team became the third best water polo team in the world in 2005, after their win against Croatia in the bronze medal game at the 2005 World Aquatics Championships. The domestic top water polo leagues, Greek Men's Water Polo League and Greek Women's Water Polo League are considered amongst the top national leagues in European water polo, as its clubs have made significant success in European competitions. In men's European competitions, Olympiacos has won the Champions League, the European Super Cup and the Triple Crown in 2002 becoming the first club in water polo history to win every title in which it has competed within a single year (National championship, National cup, Champions League and European Super Cup), while NC Vouliagmeni has won the LEN Cup Winners' Cup in 1997. In women's European competitions, Greek water polo teams (NC Vouliagmeni, Glyfada NSC, Olympiacos, Ethnikos Piraeus) are amongst the most successful in European water polο, having won 4 LEN Champions Cups, 3 LEN Trophies and 2 European Supercups.

The Greek men's national volleyball team has won two bronze medals, one in the European Volleyball Championship and another one in the Men's European Volleyball League and a 5th place in the Olympic Games. The Greek league, the A1 Ethniki, is considered one of the top volleyball leagues in Europe and Greek clubs have had significant success in European competitions. Olympiacos is the most successful volleyball club in the country having won the most domestic titles and the only Greek club to have won European titles; they have won two CEV Cups, they have been CEV Champions League runners-up twice and they have played in 12 Final Fours in the European competitions. Iraklis have also seen significant success in European competitions, having been three times runners-up of the CEV Champions League. In handball, AC Diomidis Argous is the only Greek club to have won a European Cup.

Public holidays and festivals

Procession in honor of the Assumption of Virgin Mary (15 August), a major holiday

According to Greek law, every Sunday of the year is a public holiday. Since the late '70s, Saturday also is a non-school and not working day. In addition, there are four mandatory official public holidays: 25 March (Greek Independence Day), Easter Monday, 15 August (Assumption or Dormition of the Holy Virgin), and 25 December (Christmas). 1 May (Labour Day) and 28 October (Ohi Day) are regulated by law as being optional but it is customary for employees to be given the day off. There are, however, more public holidays celebrated in Greece than announced by the Ministry of Labour each year as either obligatory or optional. The list of these non-fixed national holidays rarely changes and has not changed in recent decades, giving a total of eleven national holidays each year. In addition to the national holidays, there are public holidays that are not celebrated nationwide, but only by a specific professional group or a local community. For example, many municipalities have a "Patron Saint" parallel to "Name Days", or a "Liberation Day". On such days it is customary for schools to take the day off.

Notable festivals, beyond the religious fests, include Patras Carnival, Athens Festival and local wine festivals. The city of Thessaloniki is also home of a number of festivals and events. The Thessaloniki International Film Festival is one of the most important film festivals in Southern Europe.

See also

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This page was last updated at 2024-04-23 09:14 UTC. Update now. View original page.

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