GREECE

Date of establishment: February 3, 1830

Brief history:

Ancient Greece (8th to 6th centuries BCE): Formation of the first city-states (poleis) and the development of Greek culture, philosophy, science, and democracy, with notable contributions from Athens and Sparta.

Mycenaean Civilization (1600–1100 BCE): Emergence of a major Greek civilization known for its palaces, Linear B script, and extensive trade networks. The collapse of this period is associated with a combination of factors, including natural disasters and invasions.

Greek Dark Ages (12th to 8th centuries BCE): A period of decline following the collapse of the Mycenaean civilization, marked by reduced population and loss of writing. Gradual cultural and societal recovery began towards the end of this period.

Greek Archaic Period (8th to 5th centuries BCE): Flourishing of city-states, emergence of ancient Greek literature (e.g., Homer), art, and science. Beginning of the Persian Wars, during which Greece successfully defends against Persian expansion (e.g., Battles of Marathon and Salamis).

Classical Greece (5th to 4th centuries BCE): Period of peak artistic, cultural, and intellectual development. Notable philosophers include Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. The Peloponnesian War between Athens and Sparta occurs during this time.

Macedonian Expansion (4th century BCE): Alexander the Great of Macedonia conquers much of the known world, spreading Greek culture across the Persian Empire and beyond, creating the Hellenistic period.

Roman Rule (2nd century BCE to 4th century CE): Greece becomes part of the Roman Republic and later the Roman Empire, significantly influencing Roman culture and administration.

Byzantine Empire (4th to 15th centuries CE): Greece is part of the Byzantine Empire, with Constantinople (modern-day Istanbul) as the capital. Greek culture and Orthodox Christianity continue to flourish during this period.

Ottoman Rule (15th to 19th centuries): Greece falls under Ottoman control after the fall of Constantinople in 1453. The Greek War of Independence in the early 19th century is fueled by nationalist and Enlightenment ideas.

Greek War of Independence (1821–1829): Greece fights for and gains independence from the Ottoman Empire with significant support from European powers, particularly the United Kingdom, France, and Russia.

1830: Greece officially gains independence and is recognized as a sovereign state.

1832: The Treaty of Constantinople establishes the Kingdom of Greece with Otto of Bavaria as the first king.

1864: The Ionian Islands are ceded to Greece by Britain.

1881: Thessaly and parts of Epirus are annexed to Greece.

1912-1913: The Balkan Wars lead to significant territorial expansion, including Macedonia, Epirus, and the Aegean Islands.

1923: The Treaty of Lausanne results in population exchanges between Greece and Turkey, solidifying the modern borders.

1940-1944: Greece is occupied by Axis powers during World War II, followed by a civil war between communist and anti-communist forces.

1949: The Greek Civil War ends with a victory for the government forces, leading to Greece joining NATO in 1952.

1967-1974: A military junta rules Greece, followed by the restoration of democracy and the abolition of the monarchy in 1974.

1981: Greece joins the European Economic Community, the precursor to the European Union.

2001: Greece adopts the Euro as its currency.

2010-2018: Greece experiences a severe financial crisis, leading to austerity measures and economic reforms.

 

International abbreviation: GR

 

Currency: Euro (EUR)

The euro is the official currency of the eurozone, a group of European Union countries that have adopted the euro as their common currency. Prior to adopting the euro, Greece had its own currency called the drachma.

 

Internet domain: .gr

 

Dialing code: +30

 

Time zone: GMT +2

 

Geography:

Greece is located in southeastern Europe and includes the mainland on the southern part of the Balkan Peninsula, along with numerous islands in the Aegean, Ionian, and Mediterranean Seas. It is known for its beautiful islands, with the largest and most famous ones being Crete, Euboea, Lesbos, Rhodes, Corfu, and many others.

Greece has many rivers, lakes, and streams that create diverse landscapes. The major rivers include the Aliakmon, Achelous, Peneios, and Evros.

It shares borders with Albania to the northwest, North Macedonia to the north, Bulgaria to the north, and Turkey to the northeast.

 

Highest peak: Mount Olympus, 2 917 meters (9 570 feet) above sea level

Mount Olympus is located in the Olympus Range in the northern part of the country, near the city of Thessaloniki. In ancient Greek mythology, Mount Olympus was considered the home of the gods and one of the most important sites in ancient religion.

 

Climate:

Greece experiences a Mediterranean climate characterized by warm to hot, dry summers and mild, wetter winters. Summers are typically hot and dry, with temperatures often exceeding 30-35°C (86-95°F), particularly in inland and southern areas. Coastal regions and islands benefit from sea breezes, which can moderate the heat.

Winter months are generally mild, with average temperatures ranging from 5-15°C (41-59°F), depending on the region. Northern Greece, including areas like Macedonia and Thrace, can experience colder winters with occasional snowfall and temperatures that can drop below 0°C (32°F). In contrast, the southern regions and islands, such as Crete and the Dodecanese, enjoy milder winter temperatures.

Precipitation varies widely across the country. Winters are relatively wetter, with most rainfall occurring between November and March. The western parts of Greece, such as the Ionian Islands and Epirus, receive more rainfall compared to the eastern regions. Summers are typically dry, especially in the Cyclades and other southern islands.

 

Flora and fauna:

Greece hosts a diverse range of wildlife. In terms of birds, rare species such as the white-tailed eagle, golden eagle, and Egyptian vulture can be found. Wetland areas and bird sanctuaries, such as the Prespa Lakes and the Dadia Forest Reserve, are particularly important for birdlife. Along the Aegean and Ionian coasts, various fish species thrive, including tuna, sardines, and anchovies, as well as numerous species of seabream and mullet.

Greece is also home to various reptile species, including snakes like the Balkan whip snake, lizards such as the Greek rock lizard, and turtles, including the endangered loggerhead sea turtle (Caretta caretta) which nests on several Greek beaches.

In terms of mammals, wild boar, roe deer, foxes, and various rodent species inhabit the mainland and islands. Larger mammals, such as the brown bear and the Eurasian lynx, can be found in northern mountainous regions like Pindus and Rhodope.

Greece’s flora is equally diverse, with a wide variety of trees and plants. Forested areas feature coniferous trees such as Aleppo pine, Mediterranean cypress, and fir, while deciduous trees include oaks and plane trees. Olive trees and grapevines are cultivated extensively, contributing to Greece’s rich agricultural heritage. Native shrubs and plants, such as oleander, thyme, and oregano, are commonly found in the Mediterranean maquis and phrygana scrubland.

 

Agriculture:

Olive trees are among the most famous agricultural products in Greece, holding both economic and cultural significance. Olives are a staple in Greek cuisine, and olive oil production has a long history, dating back to ancient times. Greece is one of the world’s leading producers of high-quality olive oil.

Grapes are another significant crop, cultivated for both fresh consumption and high-quality wine production. Greek wines offer a wide range of flavors and characteristics due to the diverse regional conditions and indigenous grape varieties such as Assyrtiko, Xinomavro, and Agiorgitiko.

The Mediterranean climate allows for the year-round cultivation of a variety of vegetables and fruits. Commonly grown crops include tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, cucumbers, zucchinis, and a wide range of leafy greens. Citrus fruits like oranges, lemons, and mandarins, along with figs, pomegranates, and apricots, are also widely cultivated.

In rural areas, beyond cities and tourist resorts, sheep and goats are commonly raised. These animals provide milk, meat, and ingredients for the production of cheeses such as feta, graviera, and kefalotyri, which are characteristic of Greek cuisine.

Additionally, Greece produces cereals like wheat and barley, and other important crops include potatoes, cotton, and tobacco. Beekeeping is also a significant agricultural activity, with Greek honey being renowned for its quality.

 

Natural resource extraction:

Bauxite is one of Greece’s important minerals, with significant reserves used as a raw material for aluminum production. Notable bauxite mining regions include Mount Parnassus and Mount Ghiona in the central part of the country. Greece is one of Europe’s leading bauxite producers.

Marble has historically been crucial to Greece and continues to be an important natural resource. Greek marble is renowned for its quality and has been exported for the production of statues, columns, and architectural elements since ancient times. The island of Paros was famous for its high-quality Parian marble, heavily utilized in ancient architecture and sculpture. Other notable marble-producing regions include the islands of Thassos and Naxos, and the mainland areas of Penteli and Drama.

In addition to bauxite and marble, Greece has other significant mineral resources. These include lignite, used primarily for energy production; nickel; magnesite; and various industrial minerals such as bentonite, perlite, and pumice. The country also has minor reserves of oil and natural gas, primarily located in the northern Aegean Sea and the Ionian Sea, though these are not as extensively developed.

 

Industry:

Given its agricultural tradition, Greece produces a wide range of food products, including olive oil, wine, fruits, vegetables, dairy products, and seafood. The food processing industry is a significant part of the manufacturing sector, adding value to these primary agricultural products.

The textile and garment industry, although not as dominant as in the past, still holds a place in Greek manufacturing. Clothing, shoes, and textile products are produced, with a focus on both domestic consumption and exports.

Construction is a historically significant industry in Greece and continues to be important. The sector includes residential, commercial, and infrastructure construction. Major projects often receive support from European Union funds. The construction industry is also bolstered by the tourism sector, which drives demand for hotels, resorts, and other tourism-related infrastructure.

Tourism is one of Greece’s main economic drivers and indirectly supports various industries, including food production, construction, and services. Greece is a top global tourist destination, known for its rich history, archaeological sites, beautiful landscapes, and islands.

Additionally, Greece has a substantial shipping industry, with one of the largest merchant fleets in the world. This sector is vital to the economy, providing employment and contributing significantly to the country’s GDP.

Other notable industries include the production of chemicals, pharmaceuticals, and metal products, as well as mining and quarrying. Greece also has a small but growing renewable energy sector, focusing on solar and wind power.

 

Services and other sectors of the economy: services, banking, telecommunications, road, rail, and maritime transportation, tourism, and shipping

 

Natural and historical attractions:

Monumental structures like the Acropolis in Athens, ancient Olympia, and the sacred site of Delphi feature on travelers’ dream lists for history enthusiasts. These iconic sites provide not only a glimpse into the past but also engage visitors in the story of Greek civilization, showcasing the architectural and cultural achievements of ancient Greece.

Islands and beaches are another major draw for tourists. Picturesque islands like Mykonos, Santorini, Crete, and Rhodes offer stunning beaches, vibrant nightlife, and a taste of the Greek way of life. These places are ideal for relaxation, leisure, and enjoying the sunny Mediterranean climate.

Marine tourism is significant in Greece as well. Activities such as diving, snorkeling, and sailing are popular, with the clear waters of the Aegean and Ionian Seas offering excellent opportunities for underwater exploration. The favorable winds and numerous islands make Greece a prime destination for sailing enthusiasts.

Greek cuisine is another major attraction for tourists. Traditional dishes such as gyros, souvlaki, moussaka, and spanakopita, along with staple ingredients like olive oil and feta cheese, are beloved by locals and international visitors alike. The vibrant culinary scene reflects Greece’s rich agricultural heritage and Mediterranean flavors.

 

 

Form of government:

Greece is a parliamentary republic with a democratic system of government. The head of state is the president, elected by the parliament for a five-year term. The legislative branch consists of a unicameral parliament known as the Hellenic Parliament, which has 300 members elected for a four-year term. The president appoints the prime minister, who is usually the leader of the party that holds the majority in the parliament, to form a government.

Greece’s administrative structure is decentralized, with local governments operating at the regional and municipal levels. Judicial power is independent and separate from the executive and legislative branches, ensuring the rule of law. The highest courts include the Council of State, the Court of Cassation, and the Hellenic Court of Auditors.

Greece respects human rights and civil liberties as enshrined in its constitution and adheres to international agreements. The country is a member of the European Union and the United Nations, which further influences its commitment to democratic principles and human rights.

 

Capital city: Athens

Athens, an ancient city, boasts the famous Acropolis, home to the iconic Parthenon. It is renowned for its museums, such as the National Archaeological Museum and the Acropolis Museum, which house significant artifacts from Greece’s rich history. Athens also serves as a hub for significant artistic and cultural events, including theater, music festivals, and exhibitions.

The legacy of ancient philosophy and education continues in modern Athens, which houses several prominent universities, including the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens and the National Technical University of Athens. The city is a bustling metropolis with vibrant nightlife, diverse business districts, and a dynamic culinary scene.

Athens has a well-developed public transportation system, including a metro, buses, and trams, ensuring the city is well-connected. Eleftherios Venizelos International Airport serves as a gateway to this historical and modern city, facilitating travel to and from Greece.

The extended city has a population of about 3 155 000.

 

Area: 131 957 km2 (50 949 square miles)

 

Population: Approximately 10 385 000 (2022 estimate)

The majority of the population is ethnically Greek, with small minorities of Albanians, Macedonians, Bulgarians, Armenians, and others. The official language is Greek, and the predominant religion is Greek Orthodox Christianity, which plays a significant role in the country’s cultural and social life.

The population is predominantly urban, with a high concentration of people living in cities and towns. Greece also has a significant expatriate population, with Greeks living in countries such as the United States, Australia, Canada, and Germany.

Greece’s demographic profile is characterized by an aging population and low birth rates, posing challenges for its social and economic systems. Efforts are ongoing to address these issues and support population growth and sustainability.

 

UNESCO World Heritage Sites: 18

 

  1. The Temple of Apollo Epicurius at Bassae (1986) – A famous ancient temple dating back to the 5th century BCE.
  2. The Archaeological Site of the Acropolis in Athens (1987) – One of the most significant and well-known historical and cultural landmarks in the world, situated on a hilltop overlooking the city.
  3. The Archaeological Site of Delphi (1987) – Located at the foot of Mount Parnassus, it was a center of the ancient world, known for its importance in religion, art, and science.
  4. The Sanctuary of Asklepios at Epidaurus (1988) – Renowned for its ancient healing complex and theater.
  5. Mount Athos (1988) – Located on the northeastern coast of the Chalkidiki peninsula, known for its significance to Orthodox Christianity and its monasteries.
  6. The Medieval City of Rhodes (1988) – A medieval city offering a blend of history, architectural treasures, and culture.
  7. Meteora (1988) – Famous for its impressive rock formations and monasteries perched on top of these rocks in central Greece, specifically in the Thessaly region.
  8. The Paleochristian and Byzantine Monuments of Thessalonika (1988) – Monuments that bear witness to the historical development and cultural wealth of this area, including the significant Rotunda.
  9. The Archaeological Site of Mystras (1989) – Known for its preserved medieval buildings, walls, and other monuments, representing a crucial moment in Byzantine history.
  10. The Archaeological Site of Olympia (1989) – Located in the western part of the Peloponnese, considered the birthplace of the ancient Olympic Games.
  11. The Archaeological Site of Delos (1990) – One of the most important archaeological sites in Greece, with rich historical and religious significance.
  12. The Monasteries of Daphni, Hosios Loukas, and Nea Moni of Chios (1990) – Daphni Monastery (near Athens), Hosios Loukas (near Delphi), and Nea Moni (on the island of Chios).
  13. The Archaeological Site of Heraion on the Island of Samos (1992) – Linked to the worship of the goddess Hera, providing insight into ancient Greek religion and culture.
  14. The Archaeological Site of Aigai (Vergina) (1996) – Linked to the royal family of Macedonia, offering a glimpse into the ancient kingdom and its culture.
  15. The Archaeological Sites of Mycenae and Tiryns (1999) – Providing a window into the ancient world and demonstrating the significant role these locations played in ancient history.
  16. The Historic Centre (Chorá) with the Monastery of Saint John “the Theologian” and the Cave of the Apocalypse on the Island of Patmos (1999) – Locations of significant religious and historical importance, attracting pilgrims and visitors.
  17. The Old Town of Corfu (2007) – A beautiful ancient city offering a view into rich local history and architecture.
  18. The Archaeological Site of Philippi (2016) – Linked to the ancient city of Philippi, which played a significant role in the history of Macedonia and the Roman Empire.

 

National parks: 14

 

  1. Ainos National Park (Cephalonia)
  2. Alonnisos Marine Park
  3. Chelmos-Vouraikos National Park
  4. Dadias-Lefkimi-Soufli Forest National Park
  5. Delta Evros National Park
  6. Delta Axios-Loudias-Aliakmonas National Park
  7. Olympus National Park
  8. Parnassos National Park
  9. Parnitha National Park
  10. Prespa National Park
  11. Samaria National Park
  12. Sounion National Park
  13. Vikos–Aoös National Park
  14. Ziria National Park