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Greece ( , transliterated: Elláda , historically , Hellás, ), officially the Hellenic Republic (Ελληνική Δημοκρατία, Ellīnikī́ Dīmokratía, ), is a country in southeastern Europe, situated on the southern end of the Balkan Peninsula.The country has borders with Albaniamarker, the Republic of Macedoniamarker and Bulgariamarker to the north, and Turkeymarker to the east. The Aegean Seamarker lies to the east and south of mainland Greece, while the Ionian Seamarker lies to the west. Both parts of the Eastern Mediterraneanmarker basin feature a vast number of islands, islets and rock islands.

Modern Greece traces its roots to the civilization of ancient Greece, generally considered to be the cradle of Western civilization. As such, it is the birthplace of democracy, Western philosophy, the Olympic Games, Western literature and historiography, political science, major scientific and mathematical principles, and Western drama, including both tragedy and comedy.

Greece is a developed country, a member of the European Union since 1981, a member of the Economic and Monetary Union of the European Union since 2001, NATOmarker since 1952, the OECD since 1961,, a founding member of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation and a member of ESAmarker since 2005. Athensmarker is the capital; Thessalonikimarker, Patrasmarker, Heraklionmarker, Larissamarker, Volosmarker, Ioanninamarker, Kavalamarker, Rhodesmarker, Chaniamarker and Serresmarker are some of the country's other major cities.


Greece was the first area in Europe where advanced early civilizations emerged, beginning with the Minoan civilization in Crete and then the Myceneanmarker civilization on the mainland. Later, city-states emerged across the Greek peninsula and spread to the shores of Black Seamarker, South Italy and Asia Minormarker reaching great levels of prosperity that resulted in an unprecedented cultural boom, expressed in architecturemarker, drama, science and philosophy, and nurtured in Athensmarker under a democratic environment. Athensmarker and Spartamarker led the way in repelling the Persian Empire in a series of battles. Both were later overshadowed by Thebes and eventually Macedon, with the latter under the guidance of Alexander the Great uniting and leading the Greek world to victory over the Persians, to presage the Hellenistic era, itself brought only partially to a close two centuries later with the establishment of Roman rule over Greek lands in 146 BC. Many Greeks migrated to Alexandriamarker, Antiochmarker, Seleuciamarker and the many other new Hellenistic cities in Asia and Africa founded in Alexander's wake.

The subsequent mixture of Roman and Hellenic cultures took form in the establishment of the Byzantine Empire in 330 AD around Constantinoplemarker. Byzantium remained a major cultural and military power for the next 1,123 years, until the Fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Turks in 1453. On the eve of the Ottoman conquest, much of the Greek intelligentsia migrated to Italy and other parts of Europe not under Ottoman rule, playing a significant role in the Renaissance through the transmission of ancient Greek works to Western Europe. Nevertheless, the Ottoman millet system contributed to the cohesion of the Orthodox Greeks by segregating the various peoples within the empire based on religion, as the latter played an integral role in the formation of modern Greek identity.

After the Greek War of Independence, successfully waged against the Ottoman Empire from 1821 to 1829, the nascent Greek state was finally recognized under the London Protocol. In 1827, Ioannis Kapodistrias, from Ionian Islandsmarker, was chosen as the first governor of the new Republic. However, following his assassination, the Great Powers installed a monarchy under Otto, of the Bavarian House of Wittelsbach. In 1843, an uprising forced the King to grant a constitution and a representative assembly. Due to his unimpaired authoritarian rule, he was eventually dethroned in 1863 and replaced by Prince Vilhelm (William) of Denmark, who took the name George I and brought with him the Ionian Islandsmarker as a coronation gift from Britainmarker. In 1877, Charilaos Trikoupis, who is attributed with the significant improvement of the country's infrastructure, curbed the power of the monarchy to interfere in the assembly by issuing the rule of vote of confidence to any potential prime minister.

As a result of the Balkan Wars, Greece successfully increased the extent of her territory and population, a challenging context both socially and economically. In the following years, the struggle between King Constantine I and charismatic Prime Minister Eleftherios Venizelos over the country's foreign policy on the eve of World War I dominated the country's political scene, and divided the country into two opposed groups.

In the aftermath of WWI, Greece fought against Turkish nationalists led by Mustafa Kemal, a war which resulted in a massive population exchange between the two countries under the Treaty of Lausanne. According to various sources, several hundred thousand Pontic Greeks died during this period. Instability and successive coups d'état marked the following era, which was overshadowed by the massive task of incorporating 1.5 million Greek refugees from Asia Minor into Greek society. The Greek population in Istanbulmarker had shrunk from 300,000 at the turn of the century to around 3,000 in the city today. On 28 October 1940 Fascist Italy demanded the surrender of Greece, but Greek dictator Ioannis Metaxas refused and in the following Greco-Italian War, Greece repelled Italian forces into Albaniamarker, giving the Allies their first victory over Axis forces on land. The country would eventually fall to urgently dispatched German forces during the Battle of Greece. The German occupiers nevertheless met serious challenges from the Greek Resistance. Over 100,000 civilians died from starvation during the winter of 1941–42. In 1943 virtually the entire Jewish population was deported to Nazi extermination camps.

After liberation, Greece experienced a bitter civil war between communist and anticommunist forces, which led to economic devastation and severe social tensions between rightists and largely communist leftists for the next 30 years. The next 20 years were characterized by marginalisation of the left in the political and social spheres but also by rapid economic growth, propelled in part by the Marshall Plan.

King Constantine's dismissal of George Papandreou's centrist government in July 1965 prompted a prolonged period of political turbulence which culminated in a coup d'état on 21 April 1967 by the United Statesmarker-backed Regime of the Colonels. The brutal suppression of the Athens Polytechnic uprising on 17 November 1973 sent shockwaves through the regime, and a counter-coup established Brigadier Dimitrios Ioannidis as dictator. On 20 July 1974, as Turkeymarker invaded the island of Cyprusmarker, the regime collapsed.

Former premier Konstantinos Karamanlis was invited back from Parismarker where he had lived in self-exile since 1963, marking the beginning of the Metapolitefsi era. On the 14 August 1974 Greek forces withdrew from the integrated military structure of NATOmarker in protest at the Turkish occupation of northern Cyprus. The first multiparty elections since 1964 were held on the first anniversary of the Polytechnic uprising. A democratic and republican constitution was promulgated on 11 June 1975 following a referendum which abolished the monarchy. Meanwhile, Andreas Papandreou founded the Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) in response to Karamanlis's conservative New Democracy party, with the two political formations alternating in government ever since. Greece rejoined NATO in 1980. Traditionally strained relations with neighbouring Turkey improved when successive earthquakes hit both nations in 1999, leading to the lifting of the Greek veto against Turkey's bid for EU membership.

Greece became the tenth member of the European Communities (subsequently subsumed by the European Union) on 1 January 1981, ushering in a period of remarkable and sustained economic growth. Widespread investments in industrial enterprises and heavy infrastructure, as well as funds from the European Union and growing revenues from tourism, shipping and a fast-growing service sector have raised the country's standard of living to unprecedented levels. The country adopted the Euro in 2001 and successfully hosted the 2004 Olympic Games in Athensmarker.

Government and politics

Greece is a parliamentary republic. The nominal head of state is the President of the Republic, who is elected by the Parliament for a five-year term. 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 twice since, in 1986 and in 2001. 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 a 1952 Constitutional amendment.

According to the Constitution, executive power is exercised by the President of the Republic and the Government. From the Constitutional amendment of 1986 the President's duties were curtailed to a significant extent, and they are now largely ceremonial; most political power thus lies in the hands of the Prime Minister. The position of Prime Minister, Greece's head of government, belongs to 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 his recommendation, appoints and dismisses the other members of the Cabinet.

Legislative power is 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 Judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislature and comprises three Supreme Courts: the Court of Cassation (Άρειος Πάγος), the Council of State (Συμβούλιο της Επικρατείας) and the Court of Auditors (Ελεγκτικό Συνέδριο). The Judiciary system is also composed of civil courts, which judge civil and penal cases and administrative courts, which judge disputes between the citizens and the Greek administrative authorities.

Political parties

Since the restoration of democracy, the Greek two-party system is dominated by the liberal-conservative New Democracy (ND) and the social-democratic Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK). Other significant parties include the Communist Party of Greece (KKE), the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA) and the Popular Orthodox Rally (LAOS). The current prime minister is George Papandreou, president of the PASOK, who on October 4, 2009, won with a majority in the Parliament of 160 out of 300 seats.

Peripheries and prefectures

Administratively, Greece consists of thirteen peripheries subdivided into a total of fifty-one prefectures ( , singular ). There is also one autonomous area, Mount Athos ( , "Holy Mountain"), which borders the periphery of Central Macedonia.
Map Number Periphery Capital Area (km²) Area (sq mi) Population
1 Atticamarker Athensmarker 3,808 1,470 3,761,810
2 Central Greece Lamiamarker 15,549 6,004 605,329
3 Central Macedonia Thessalonikimarker 18,811 7,263 1,871,952
4 Cretemarker Heraklionmarker 8,259 3,189 601,131
5 East Macedonia and Thrace Komotinimarker 14,157 5,466 611,067
6 Epirus Ioanninamarker 9,203 3,553 353,820
7 Ionian Islandsmarker Corfumarker 2,307 891 212,984
8 North Aegean Mytilenemarker 3,836 1,481 206,121
9 Peloponnesemarker Kalamatamarker 15,490 5,981 638,942
10 South Aegean Ermoupolimarker 5,286 2,041 302,686
11 Thessaly Larissamarker 14,037 5,420 753,888
12 West Greece Patrasmarker 11,350 4,382 740,506
13 West Macedonia Kozanimarker 9,451 3,649 301,522
- Mount Athos (Autonomous) Karyes 390 151 2,262

Foreign relations

Greece is a member of the European Union since 1981, a member of the Economic and Monetary Union of the European Union since 2001, NATOmarker since 1952, the OECD since 1961, the WEU since 1995, a founding member of Black Sea Economic Cooperation and a member of ESAmarker since 2005.

Prominent issues in Greek foreign policy include the enduring dispute over Cyprus, differences with Turkey over the Aegean sea, as well as the naming dispute with the Republic of Macedoniamarker, which Greece refers to internationally by the provisional reference "the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia".



Topographical map of Greece

Greece consists of a mountainous, peninsular mainland jutting out into the sea at the southern end of the Balkans, the Peloponnesusmarker peninsula (separated from the mainland by the canalmarker of the Isthmus of Corinthmarker), and numerous islands (1400, 227 of which are inhabited), including Cretemarker, Euboeamarker, Lesbosmarker, Chiosmarker, the Dodecanese and the Cycladicmarker groups of the Aegean Seamarker as well as the Ionian Seamarker islands. Greece has the tenth longest coastline in the world with ; its land boundary is .

Eighty percent of Greece consists of mountains or hills, making the country one of the most mountainous in Europe. Mount Olympusmarker, a focal point of Greek culture throughout history culminates at Mytikas peak , the highest in the country. Once considered the throne of the Gods, it is today extremely popular among hikers and climbers. Western Greece contains a number of lakes and wetlands and is dominated by the Pindusmarker mountain range. The Pindus reaches a maximum elevation of at Mt. Smolikas and is essentially a prolongation of the Dinaric Alps. The Vikos-Aoos Gorge is yet another spectacular formation and a popular hotspot for those fond of extreme sports.

The range continues through the central Peloponnesemarker, crosses the islands of Kytheramarker and Antikythera and find its way into southwestern Aegean, in the island of Cretemarker where it eventually ends. The islands of the Aegean are peaks of underwater mountains that once constituted an extension of the mainland. Pindus is characterized by its high, steep peaks, often dissected by numerous canyons and a variety of other karstic landscapes. Most notably, the impressive Meteoramarker formation consisting of high, steep boulders provides a breathtaking experience for the hundreds of thousands of tourists who visit the area each year.

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

Expansive plains are primarily located in the prefectures 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 lynx, the Roe Deer and the Wild Goat.

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, Rodope montane mixed forests, Aegean and Western Turkey sclerophyllous and mixed forests and Crete Mediterranean forests.


The climate of Greece can be categorised into three types (the Mediterranean, the Alpine and the Temperate) that influence well-defined regions of its territory. The Pindus mountain range strongly affects the climate of the country by making the western side of it (areas prone to the south-westerlies) wetter on average than the areas lying to the east of it (lee side of the mountains). The Mediterranean type of climate features mild, wet winters and hot, dry summers. The Cyclades, the Dodecanese, Cretemarker, Eastern Peloponessus and parts of the Sterea Ellada region are mostly affected by this particular type of climate. Temperatures rarely reach extreme values along the coasts, although, with Greece being a highly mountainous country, snowfalls occur frequently in winter. It sometimes snows even in the Cycladesmarker or the Dodecanese.

The Alpine type is dominant mainly in the mountainous areas of Northwestern Greece (Epirus, Central Greece, Thessaly, Western Macedonia) as well as in the central parts of Peloponnesemarker, including the prefectures of Achaiamarker, Arcadiamarker and parts of Laconiamarker, where extensions of the Pindus mountain range pass by. Finally, the Temperate type affects Central Macedonia and East Macedonia and Thrace; it features cold, damp winters and hot, dry summers. Athens is located in a transitional area featuring both the Mediterranean and the Temperate types. The city's northern suburbs are dominated by the temperate type while the downtown area and the southern suburbs enjoy a typical Mediterranean type.


Annual growth of Greek GDP has surpassed the respective levels of most of its EU partners. The tourism industry is a major source of foreign exchange earnings and revenue accounting for 15% of Greece’s total GDP and employing, directly or indirectly, 16.5% of the total workforce.

The Greek labor force totals 4.9 million, and it is the second most industrious between OECD countries, after South Koreamarker. The Groningen Growth & Development Centre has published a poll revealing that between 1995 and 2005, Greece was the country with the largest work/hour ratio among European nations; Greeks worked an average of 1,900 hours per year, followed by the Spanish (average of 1,800 hours/year). In 2007, the average worker made around 20 dollars, similar to Spain and slightly more than half of average U.S. hourly income. Immigrants make up nearly one-fifth of the work force, occupied mainly in agricultural and construction work.

Greece's purchasing power-adjusted GDP per capita is the world's 26th highest. According to the International Monetary Fundmarker it has an estimated average per capita income of $30,661 for the year 2008, a figure comparable to that of Germany, France or Italy. According to Eurostat data, Greek PPS GDP per capita stood at 95 per cent of the EU average in 2008. Greece ranks 18th in the 2006 HDI, 22nd on The Economist's 2005 worldwide quality-of-life index. According to a survey by the Economist, the cost of living in Athens is close to 90% of the costs in New York; in rural regions it is lower.

However, the Greek economy also faces significant problems, including rising unemployment levels, an inefficient government bureaucracy and widespread corruption.

In 2009, Greece had the EU's second lowest Index of Economic Freedom (after Polandmarker), ranking 81st in the world. The country suffers from high levels of political and economic corruption and low global competitiveness relative to its EU partners.

Although remaining above the euro area average, economic growth will turn negative in 2009 for the first time since 1993. An indication of the trend of over-lending in recent years is the fact that the ratio of loans to savings exceeded 100% during the first half of the year.

Maritime industry

The shipping industry is a key element of Greek economic activity dating back to ancient times. Today, shipping is one of the country's most important industries. It accounts for 4.5% of GDP, employs about 160,000 people (4% of the workforce), and represents 1/3 of the country's trade deficit.

During the 1960s, the size of the Greek fleet nearly doubled, primarily through the investment undertaken by the shipping magnates Onassis and Niarchos. The basis of the modern Greek maritime industry was formed after World War II when Greek shipping businessmen were able to amass surplus ships sold to them by the United States Government through the Ship Sales Act of the 1940s. According to the BTS, the Greek-owned maritime fleet is today the largest in the world, with 3,079 vessels accounting for 18% of the world's fleet capacity (making it the largest of any other country) with a total dwt of 141,931 thousand (142 million dwt). In terms of ship categories, Greece ranks first in both tankers and dry bulk carriers, fourth in the number of containers, and fourth in other ships. However, today's fleet roster is smaller than an all-time high of 5,000 ships in the late 70's.


Elias Beach on the Greek island of Mykonos.

An important percentage of Greece's income comes from tourism. In 2004 Greece welcomed 16.5 million tourists. According to a survey conducted in Chinamarker in 2005, Greece was voted as the Chinese people's number one choice as a tourist destination, and 6,088,287 tourists visited only the city of Athensmarker, the capital city. In November 2006, Austria, like China, announced that Greece was the favourite destination.


In Greece, the euro was introduced in 2002. As a preparation for this date, the minting of the new euro coins started as early as 2001, however all Greek euro coins introduced in 2002 have this year on it; unlike other countries of the Eurozone where mint year is minted in the coin. Eight different designs, one per face value, was selected for the Greek coins. In 2007, in order to adopt the new common map like the rest of the Eurozone countries, Greece changed the common side of their coins. Before adopting the Euro in 2002 Greece had maintained use of the Greek drachma from 1832.

Greece has one of the richest collections of collectors' coins in the Eurozone, with face value ranging from 10 to 200 euro, mainly issued to commemorate the 2004 Summer Olympics. These coins are a legacy of an old national practice of minting of silver and gold commemorative coins. Unlike normal issues, these coins are not legal tender in all the eurozone. For instance, a €10 Greek commemorative coin cannot be used in any other country.


Since the 1980s, the roads and rail network of Greece has been significantly modernised. Important works include the Egnatia highway that connects north west Greece (Igoumenitsamarker) with northern and north west Greece. The Rio-Antirio bridgemarker (the longest suspension cable bridge in Europe) (2250 m or 7382 ft long) connects the western Peloponnesusmarker from Riomarker (7 km or 4 mi from Patrasmarker) with Antirionmarker on the central Greek mainland. An expansion of the Patras-Athens national motorway towards Pyrgosmarker in the western Peloponnese is scheduled to be completed by 2014. Most of the highway connection of Athens to Thessaloniki has also been upgraded.

The metropolitan area of the capital Athens had a new international airportmarker (opened in 2001), a new privately run suburban motorway Attiki Odos (opened 2001), and an expanded metro system (since 2000).

Most of the Greek islands and many main cities of Greece are connecting by air mainly from the two major airlines of Greece, Olympic and Aegean air. Maritime connections have been improved with modern high-speed craft, including hydrofoils and catamarans. Railway connections play a somewhat lesser role than in many other European countries, but railways too have been expanded, with new suburban connections around Athens, a modern intercity connection between Athens and Thessaloniki, and upgrading to double lines in many parts of the 2500 km (1550 mi) network. International railway lines connect Greek cities with the rest of Europe, the Balkans and Turkeymarker.


The official Statistical body of Greece is the National Statistical Service of Greece (NSSG). According to the NSSG, Greece's total population in 2001 was 10,964,020. That figure is divided into 5,427,682 males and 5,536,338 females. As statistics from 1971, 1981, and 2001 show, the Greek population has been aging the past several decades. The birth rate in 2003 stood 9.5 per 1,000 inhabitants (14.5 per 1,000 in 1981). At the same time the mortality rate increased slightly from 8.9 per 1,000 inhabitants in 1981 to 9.6 per 1,000 inhabitants in 2003. In 2001, 16.71% of the population were 65 years old and older, 68.12% between the ages of 15 and 64 years old, and 15.18% were 14 years old and younger. Greek society has also rapidly changed with the passage of time. Marriage rates kept falling from almost 71 per 1,000 inhabitants in 1981 until 2002, only to increase slightly in 2003 to 61 per 1,000 and then fall again to 51 in 2004. Divorce rates on the other hand, have seen an increase – from 191.2 per 1,000 marriages in 1991 to 239.5 per 1,000 marriages in 2004. Almost two-thirds of the Greek people live in urban areas. Greece's largest municipalities in 2001 were: Athensmarker, Thessalonikimarker, Piraeusmarker, Patrasmarker, Irakliomarker, Larissamarker, and Volosmarker.

Throughout the 20th century, millions of Greeks migrated to the US, Australia, Canada, UK and Germany, creating a thriving Greek diaspora The migration trend however has now been reversed after the important improvements of the Greek economy since the 80's.


Due to the complexity of Greek immigration policy, practices and data collection, truly reliable data on immigrant populations in Greece is difficult to gather and therefore subject to much speculation. In 1986, legal and unauthorized immigrants totaled approximately 90,000. A study from the Mediterranean Migration Observatory maintains that the 2001 Census from the NSSG recorded 762,191 persons residing in Greece without Greek citizenship, constituting around 7% of total population and that, of these, 48,560 were EU or EFTA nationals and 17,426 Cypriots with privileged status. People from the Balkan countries of Albania, Bulgaria, and Romania make up almost two-thirds of the total foreign population. Migrants from the former Soviet Union (Georgia, Russia, Ukraine, Moldava, etc.) comprise 10% of the total.

The greatest cluster of non-EU immigrant population is in the Municipality of Athens –some 132,000 immigrants, at 17% of local population. Thessaloniki is the second largest cluster, with 27,000, reaching 7% of local population. After this, the predominant areas of location are the big cities environs and the agricultural areas. At the same time, Albanians constituted some 56% of total immigrants, followed by Bulgarians (5%), Georgians (3%) and Romanians (3%). Americans, Cypriots, British and Germans appeared as sizeable foreign communities at around 2% each of total foreign population. The rest were around 690,000 persons of non-EU or non-homogeneis (of non-Greek heritage) status.

According to the same study, the foreign population (documented and undocumented) residing in Greece may in reality figure upwards to 8.5% or 10.3%, that is approximately meaning 1.15 million – if immigrants with homogeneis cards are accounted for.


The constitution of Greece recognizes the Greek Orthodox faith as the "prevailing" religion of the country, while guaranteeing freedom of religious belief for all. The Greek Government does not keep statistics on religious groups and censuses do not ask for religious affiliation. According to the State Department, an estimated 97% of Greek citizens identify themselves as Greek Orthodox. However, in the EurostatEurobarometer poll of 2005, 81% of Greek citizens responded that they believe there is a God, which was the third highest percentage among EU members behind only Maltamarker and Cyprusmarker.

Estimates of the recognized Muslim minority, which is mostly located in Thrace, range from 98,000 to 140,000, (between 0.9% and 1.2%) while the immigrant Muslim community numbers between 200,000 and 300,000. Albanian immigrants to Greece (approximately 700,000) are usually associated with the Muslim faith, although most are secular in orientation. In the Treaty of Lausanne Greece and Turkey agreed to exchange minorities. About 500,000 people were expelled from Greece, predominantly Turks, but including other Muslim. Judaism has existed in Greece for more than 2,000 years. Sephardi Jews used to have a large presence in the city of Thessalonikimarker (by 1900, some 80,000, or more than half of the population, were Jews), but nowadays the Greek-Jewish community who survived the Holocaust is estimated to number around 5,500 people.

Greek members of Roman Catholic faith are estimated at 50,000 with the Roman Catholic immigrant community approximating 200,000. Old Calendarists account for 500,000 followers. Protestants, including Greek Evangelical Church and Free Evangelical Churches, stand at about 30,000. Assemblies of God, International Church of the Foursquare Gospel and other Pentecostal churches of the Greek Synod of Apostolic Church has 12,000 members. Independent Free Apostolic Church of Pentecost is the biggest Protestant denomination in Greece with 120 churches. There are not official statistics about Free Apostolic Church of Pentecost, but the Orthodox Church estimates the followers in 20,000. The Jehovah's Witnesses report having 28,243 active members. There are also 653 Mormons, 501 Seventh-day Adventists, and 30 Free Methodists.

The ancient Greek religion has also reappeared as Hellenic Neopaganism, with estimates of approximately 2,000 adherents (comprising 0.02% of the general population).


Greece is today relatively homogeneous in linguistic terms, with a large majority of the native population using Greek as their first or only language. The Muslim minority in Thrace, which amounts to approximately 0.95% of the total population, consists of speakers of Turkish, Bulgarian (Pomak) and Romani. Romani is also spoken by Christian Roma in other parts of the country.

Further minority languages have traditionally been spoken by regional population groups in various parts of the country. Their use has decreased radically in the course of the 20th century through assimilation with the Greek-speaking majority. This goes for the Arvanites, an Albanian-speaking group mostly located in the rural areas around the capital Athens, and for the Aromanians and Moglenites, also known as Vlachs, whose language is closely related to Romanian and who used to live scattered across several areas of mountaneous central Greece. Members of these groups ethnically identify as Greeks and are today all at least bilingual in Greek. In many areas their traditional languages are today only maintained by the older generations and are on the verge of extinction.

Near the northern Greek borders there are also some Slavic-speaking groups, whose members identify ethnically as Greeks in their majority. Their dialects can be linguistically classified as forms of either Macedonian (locally called Slavomacedonian or simply Slavic), or Bulgarian (distinguished as Pomak in the case of the Bulgarophone Muslims of Thrace.

The Jewish community in Greece traditionally spoke Ladino (Judeo-Spanish), today maintained only by a small group of a few thousand speakers.

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.


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 now compulsory for any child above 4 years of age. Children start primary school aged 6 and remain there for six years. Attendance at gymnasia starts at age 12 and last for three years. Greece's post-compulsory secondary education consists of two school types: unified upper secondary schools (Ενιαίο Λύκειο, Eniaia Lykeia) 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.

Public higher education is divided into universities, "Highest Educational Institutions" (Ανώτατα Εκπαιδευτικά Ιδρύματα, Anótata Ekpaideytiká Idrýmata, "ΑΕΙ") and "Highest Technological Educational Institutions" (Ανώτατα Τεχνολογικά Εκπαιδευτικά Ιδρύματα, Anótata Technologiká Ekpaideytiká Idrýmata, "ATEI"). Students are admitted to these Institutes according to their performance at national level examinations taking place after completion of the third grade of Lykeio. Additionally, students over twenty-two years old may be admitted to the Hellenic Open University through a form of lottery. The Capodistrian university of Athens is the oldest university in the eastern Mediterranean.

The Greek education system also provides special kindergartens, primary and secondary schools for people with special needs or difficulties in learning. Specialist gymnasia and high schools offering musical, theological and physical education also exist.

Some of the main universities in Greece include:

National and Capodistrian University of Athens National Technical University of Athensmarker University of Piraeusmarker Agricultural University of Athensmarker University of Macedonia (in Thessaloniki) University of Crete Technical University of Crete Athens University of Economics and Businessmarker Aristotle University of Thessalonikimarker University of the Aegean (across the Aegean Islands) Democritus University of Thrace University of Ioannina University of Thessaly University of Western Macedonia Panteion University of Social and Political Sciences University of Patras Charokopeio University of Athens Ionian University (across the Ionian Islandsmarker)


The culture of Greece has evolved over thousands of years, with its beginnings in the Mycenaean and Minoan Civilizations, continuing most notably into Classical Greece, the Hellenistic Period, through the influence of the Roman Empire and its Greek Eastern successor the Byzantine Empire. The Ottoman Empire too had a significant influence on Greek culture, but the Greek War of Independence is credited with revitalizing Greece and giving birth to a single entity of its multi-faceted culture throughout the ages.


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. The Presocratics were from the western or the eastern regions of the Greece and only fragments of the original writings of the presocratics survive, in some cases merely a single sentence. A new period of philosophy started with Socrates the Athenianmarker, like the Sophists, he rejected entirely the physical speculations in which his predecessors had indulged, 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 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

Science and technology

Thessaloniki Science Center & Technology Museum.

Broadband internet availability is widespread in Greece; approximately 15.6% of the general population have broadband connections to the internet, mainly ADSL2. Internet cafes that provide net access, office applications and multiplayer gaming are also a common sight in the country, while mobile internet on 3G cellphone networks and public wi-fi hotspots are existent, but not as extensive.

Because of its strategic location, qualified workforce and political and economic stability, many multinational companies such as Ericsson, Siemens, SAP, Motorola and Coca-Cola have their regional R&D Headquarters in Greece.

The General Secretariat for Research and Technology of the Hellenic Ministry of Development is responsible for designing, implementing and supervising national research and technological policy.

In 2003, public spending on R&D was 456.37 million euros (12.6% increase from 2002). Total research and development (R&D) spending (both public and private) as a percentage of GDP has increased considerably since the beginning of the past decade, from 0.38% in 1989, to 0.65% in 2001. R&D spending in Greece remains lower than the EU average of 1.93%, but, according to Research DC, based on OECD and Eurostat data, between 1990 and 1998, total R&D expenditure in Greece enjoyed the third highest increase in Europe, after Finland and Ireland.

Greece's technology parks with incubator facilities include the Science and Technology Park of Crete (Heraklion), the Thessaloniki Technology Park, the Lavrio Technology Park and the Patras Science Park.Greece has been a member of the European Space Agencymarker (ESA) since 2005. Cooperation between ESA and the Hellenic National Space Committee began in the early 1990s. In 1994, Greece and ESA signed their first cooperation agreement. Having formally applied for full membership in 2003, Greece became ESA's sixteenth member on 16 March 2005. As member of the ESA, Greece participates in the agency's telecommunication and technology activities, and the Global Monitoring for Environment and Security Initiative.


Greek cuisine is often cited as an example of the healthy Mediterranean diet. Greek cuisine incorporates fresh ingredients into a variety of local dishes such as moussaka, stifado, Greek Salad, spanakopita and the world famous Souvlaki. Some dishes can be traced back to ancient Greece like skordalia (a thick purée of potatoes, 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). Throughout Greece people often enjoy eating from small dishes such as meze with various 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 added to almost every dish. Sweet desserts such as galaktoboureko, and drinks such as ouzo, metaxa and a variety of wines including retsina. Greek cuisine differs widely from different parts of the mainland and from island to island also uses some flavorings more often than other Mediterranean cuisines do: oregano, mint, garlic, onion, dill and bay laurel leaves. Other common herbs and spices include basil, thyme and fennel seed. Many Greek recipes, especially in the northern parts of the country, use "sweet" spices in combination with meat, for example cinnamon and cloves in stews.


Greek music extends far back into Ancient times were mixed-gender choruses performed for entertainment, celebration and spiritual reasons, instruments during that time period 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 the education system during ancient times were boys taught music from the age of six. Later it was influences from the Roman Empire, Eastern Europe and the Byzantine Empire that changed Greek music. While the new technique of polyphony was developing in the West, the Eastern Orthodox Church resisted any type of change. Therefore, Byzantine music remained monophonic and without any form of instrumental accompaniment. As a result, Byzantine music was deprived of polyphony and instrumental accompaniment, elements of which in the West encouraged an unimpeded development of art. However, the isolation of Byzantium, which kept music away from polyphony, along with centuries of continuous culture, enabled monophonic music to develop to the greatest heights of perfection. Byzantium presented with a melodic treasury of inestimable value for its rhythmical variety and expressive power the monophonic Byzantine chant.

Along with the Byzantine chant, a form of artistic musical creation, the Greek people also cultivated the Greek folk song which is divided into two cycles, the akritic and klephtic. The akritic was created between the 9th and 10th centuries A.D. and expressed the life and struggles of the akrites (frontier guards) of the Byzantine empire, the most well known being the stories associated with Digenes Akritas. The klephtic cycle came into being between the late Byzantine period and the start of the Greek War of Independence struggle in 1821. The klephtic cycle, together with historical songs, paraloghes (narrative song or ballad), love songs, 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.

The Second World War, German occupation of Greece and the Greek Civil War decisively influenced the Greek folk song. After the first World War and the 1922 debacle, the trend towards urban living focused on Athens where popular musicians congregated and, in 1928, founded their own professional society: the Athens and Piraeus Musicians Society. Until the early years of this century, musical tradition was preserved in the villages where there was little contact with the outside world.The events and social changes of the 20th century changed the fate of the folk song in Greece. Once the seat of folk song was the village, now the reverse applies. The commercialized folk song spreads in all directions to the remotest villages. The authentic songs and dances have been replaced by the stylized modern "folk songs" written by contemporary musicians which they write new lyrics to authentic folk tunes, changing them enough to ensure copyright protection.


Greece, home to the first modern Olympics, holds a long tradition in sports. The Greek national football team, currently ranked 12th in the world, won the UEFA Euro 2004 in one of the biggest surprises in the history of the sport. The Greek Super League is the highest professional football league in the country comprising of 16 teams. The most successful of them are Olympiacos, Panathinaikos and AEK Athens. The Greek national basketball team has a decades-long tradition of excellence in the sport. As of August 2008 it is ranked 4th in the world. They have won the European Championship twice in 1987 and 2005, and have reached the final four in three of the last four FIBA World Championships, taking the second place in 2006. The domestic top basketball league, A1 Ethniki, is composed of fourteen teams. The most successful Greek teams are Panathinaikos, Olympiacos, Aris, AEK Athens and PAOK. Water polo and volleyball are also practiced widely in Greece while cricket, handball are relatively popular in Corfumarker and Veroiamarker respectively. As the birth place of the Olympic Games, Greece was most recently host of 2004 Summer Olympics and the first modern Olympics in 1896.

In 2009, Greece beat Francemarker in the under-20 European Basketball championship.


Armed forces

Armed forces
File:Greek AH-64A+ Apache (2).JPG|AH-64A+ Apache of the Hellenic Army Air Branch.File:HS Psara F454.jpg|Frigate Psara, MEKO-200 HN type of the Hellenic Navy branch.
The Hellenic Armed Forces are overseen by the Hellenic National Defense General Staff (Γενικό Επιτελείο Εθνικής Άμυνας – ΓΕΕΘΑ) and consists of three branches:

The civilian authority for the Greek military is the Ministry of National Defence. Furthermore, Greece maintains the Hellenic Coast Guard for law enforcement in the sea and search and rescue.

Greece currently has universal compulsory military service for males while females (who may serve in the military) are exempted from conscription. As of 2006, Greece has mandatory military service of 12 months for male citizens between the ages of 19 and 45. However, as the Armed forces had been gearing towards a complete professional army system, the government had promised that the mandatory military service would be cut or even abolished completely. Greek males between the age of 18 and 60 who live in strategically sensitive areas may be required to serve part-time in the National Guard, service in the Guard is paid. As a member of NATOmarker, the Greek military participates in exercises and deployments under the auspices of the alliance.

International rankings

Organization Survey Ranking
United Nations Development Programme Human Development Index 2006

Human Development Index 2004

Human Development Index 2000
18 out of 177

24 out of 177

24 out of 177
International Monetary Fundmarker GDP per capita (PPP) 18 out of 180
The Economist Worldwide Quality-of-life Index, 2005 22 out of 111
Heritage Foundation/Wall Street Journal Index of Economic Freedom 57 out of 157
Reporters Without Borders Worldwide Press Freedom Index 2006

Worldwide Press Freedom Index 2005

Worldwide Press Freedom Index 2004
32 out of 168

18(tied) out of 168

33 out of 167
Transparency International Corruption Perceptions Index 2006

Corruption Perceptions Index 2005

Corruption Perceptions Index 2004
54 out of 163

47 out of 158

49 out of 145
World Economic Forum Global Competitiveness Report 47 out of 125
Yale Universitymarker/Columbia University Environmental Sustainability Index 2005 67 out of 146
Nationmaster Labor strikes 13 out of 27
A.T. Kearney / Foreign Policy Globalization Index 2006

Globalization Index 2005

Globalization Index 2004
32 out of 62

29 out of 62

28 out of 62

See also


  1. Finley, M. I. Democracy Ancient and Modern. 2d ed., 1985. London: Hogarth.
  2. History of Philosophy, Volume 1 by Frederick Copleston
  3. Brockett, Oscar G. History of the Theatre. sixth ed., 1991. Boston; London: Allyn and Bacon.
  4. On the 14 August 1974 Greek forces withdrew from the integrated military structure of NATO in protest at the Turkish occupation of northern Cyprus. Greece rejoined NATO in 1980.
  5. Alexander's Gulf outpost uncovered. BBC News. August 7, 2007.
  6. The Diaspora Welcomes the Pope. Spiegel Online. November 28, 2006.
  7. R. J. Rummel, The Holocaust in Comparative and Historical Perspective, 1998, Idea Journal of Social Issues, Vol.3 no.2
  8. Chris Hedges. A Few Words in Greek Tell of a Homeland Lost. The New York Times. September 17, 2000.
  9. Whitney Pickels on Religious Plurality in Turkey. Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, & World Affairs. Georgetown University.
  10. Greece. Britannica Online Encyclopedia.
  11. Mazower, Mark. After the War was Over
  12. History, Editorial Consultant: Adam Hart-Davis, Dorling Kindersley Limited publisher, ISBN 978 1 8561 3062 2
  13. P.D. Dagtoglou, Individual Rights, I, 21 & E. Venizelos, The "Acquis" of the Constitutional Revision, 131–132, 165–172
  14. K. Mavrias, Constitutional Law, 477–478, 486–487
  15. For a diachronic analysis of the Greek party system see T. Pappas, Transformation of the Greek Party System Since 1951, 90-114, who distinguishes three distinct types of party system which developed in consecutive order, namely, a predominant-party system (from 1952 to 1963), a system of polarised pluralism (between 1963 and 1981), and a two-party system (since 1981).
  17. European Commission, Economic Forecast – Spring 2009, 65
  18. Greece: A History of Migration Charalambos Kasimis and Chryssa Kassimi, Migration Information Source. June 2004.
  19. Turkey - Population. Source: U.S. Library of Congress.
  20. Greece. Jewish Virtual Library.
  21. CNN,
  22. US Department of State,
  23. Greek Helsinki Monitor, Minority Rights Group, Greece, Report about Compliance with the Principles of the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities (along guidelines for state reports according to Article 25.1 of the Convention) 8 September 1999
  24. P. Trudgill, "Greece and European Turkey: From Religious to Linguistic Identity", in S Barbour, C Carmichael (eds.), Language and nationalism in Europe, Oxford University Press 2000.


Further reading

  • Richard Clogg, A Concise History of Greece, Second Edition, Cambridge University Press 2002.
  • Minorities in Greece - historical issues and new perspectives. History and Culture of South Eastern Europe. An Annual Journal. München (Slavica) 2003.

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