Windmills on the Island of Myconos, Greece. Image provided by Classroom Clip Art (
Windmills on the Island of Myconos, Greece. Image provided by Classroom Clip Art (
Greece, is a country in the southeast of Europe on the southern tip of the Balkan peninsula. It has land boundaries with Bulgaria, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, and Albania to the north; and with Turkey to the east. The waters of the Aegean Sea border Greece to the east, and those of the Ionian and Mediterranean Sea to the west and south. Regarded by many as the cradle of Western civilization and the birthplace of democracy, Greece has a long and rich history during which its culture has proven especially influential in Europe, Asia and Africa.
Flag of Greece Missing image
Coat of Arms

(National Flag)
(Greek: Freedom or Death)
Missing image

Official language Greek
Capital Athens
Largest city Athens
President KᲯlos Papo?
Prime Minister [[Costas Caramanlis|K󳴡s Karamanl�]
 - Total
 - % water
Ranked 94th
131,940 km²
 - Total (2004)
 - Density
Ranked 70th
 - Declared
 - Recognised
From the Ottoman Empire
25 March 1821
 - Total
 - GDP per capita
(IMF 2005 est.)
$230.684 billion (28th)
$21,017 (28th)
UN HDI rank 24 (2004)
Currency Euro (€)1
Time zone
 - in summer
National anthem Hymn to Freedom
Internet TLD .gr
Calling Code +30
1 Prior to 2001: Greek Drachma.

Greece, (Template:Lang-el, Template:Lang (IPA: []), or Template:Lang, Template:Lang (IPA: [])), officially the Hellenic Republic (Template:Lang, Template:Lang) is a country in southern Europe, situated on the southern end of the Balkan peninsula. It is bordered by Bulgaria, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and Albania to the north and by Turkey to the east. The Aegean Sea lies to the east of mainland Greece while the Ionian Sea lies to the west. Both, parts of the eastern Mediterranean basin, feature a vast number of islands.

Regarded as the cradle of western civilization and being the birthplace of democracy, philosophy, the Olympic Games and of the arts and drama including both tragedy and comedy, Greece has a very long and remarkably rich history during which its culture has proven to be especially influential in Europe, Northern Africa and the Middle East. Today, Greece is a developed nation, member of the European Union since 1981 and a member of the Eurozone since 2001.



Main article: Names of the Greeks

The historical name of Greece in Greek is Template:Polytonic Template:Lang . This name is also written as Hellas in English, following the ancient Greek pronunciation . In Modern Greek, it is more commonly called Template:Lang Template:Lang .

In most European languages, however, the name of Greece comes from the ancient root Template:Polytonic Template:Lang (via Latin Template:Lang): English Greece, French Template:Lang, German Template:Lang, Portuguese Template:Lang, Spanish Template:Lang, etc. In most Middle Eastern and Eastern languages, it comes from the root Template:Polytonic Template:Lang: Turkish Template:Lang, Arabic Template:Lang (Template:Lang), Hebrew Template:Lang (Template:Lang). In only a few languages is the "Hellas" root the basis of the local name: Norwegian Template:Lang, Chinese Template:Lang (Mandarin: Xīlà, Cantonese: Hei-laap).


Main article: History of Greece

Prehistory and Antiquity

The shores of Greece's Aegean Sea saw the emergence of the first civilizations in Europe, namely the Minoan and the Mycenaen. After this, a Dark Age followed until around 800 BC, when a new era of Greek city-states emerged, establishing colonies along the Mediterranean, and a new alphabet was introduced.[1] ( Plato described how the Greeks live round the Aegean Archipelago "like frogs around a pond"; their name has always been associated with the sea. After the internal struggle between Spartans and Athenians, all parts of Greece were united under the rule of Alexander the Great and aimed at the defeat of the 'eastern threat' of the Persians. Alexander led the Greeks to a victorious campaign which established a Greek Empire and introduced a new era in world history, the Hellenistic.

Byzantine period

Militarily, Greece itself declined to the point that the Romans conquered the land (168 BC onwards), though, in many ways, Greek culture would in turn conquer Roman life. Greece became a province of the Roman Empire, but Greek culture continued to dominate the eastern Mediterranean. When the Roman Empire finally split in two, the Eastern Roman Empire, known as the Byzantine Empire, centered around Constantinople (known in ancient times as Byzantium), remained Greek in nature, encompassing Greece itself.

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The most famous of the surviving Byzantine mosaics of the Hagia Sophia in Constantinople — the image of Christ on the walls of the upper southern gallery. Christ is flanked by the Virgin Mary and John the Baptist. The mosaics were made in the 12th century.

During the period of the Byzantine Empire Greece experienced fluctuating fortunes. In the early years many of its works of art were looted by the emperors and taken to Constantinople. Furthermore, although the Byzantines retained control of the Aegean and its islands throughout this period, during the seventh and eighth centuries direct control did not extend far beyond the coast. From about AD 600 the old cities of Greece shrank considerably due to barbarian raids by the Avars and Slavs, and were often reduced to shadows of their former selves. As the seventh century progressed, much of Greece was overrun by Slavic peoples from the north, and a period of uncertainty and insecurity followed.

From the late 8th century, the Empire began to recover from the devastating impact of successive invasions, and the reconquest of Greece began. Greeks from Sicily and Asia Minor were brought in as settlers. The Slavs were either driven out or assimilated. By the middle of the 9th century, Greece was dominated by those of Hellenic ethnic heritage once more, and Greek cities began to recover due to improved safeguards against barbarous incursion and restored central governance.

The invasions of the Turks after the battle of Manzikert in 1071 and the ensuing civil wars largely passed the region by, and Greece continued its provincial existence unharmed. When the Byzantine Empire was rescued by the resolute leadership of the three Comnenus emperors Alexius I, John II and Manuel I Comnenus, Greece prospered. Archaeological evidence tells us that many of the medieval towns, including Athens, Thessaloniki, Thebes and Corinth, experienced a period of rapid and sustained growth, starting in the eleventh century and continuing until the end of the twelfth century. The growth of the towns attracted the Venetians, and this interest in trade appears to have further increased economic prosperity in Greece.

The 11th and 12th centuries are said to be the Golden Age of Byzantine art in Greece. Many of the most important Byzantine churches in and around Athens, for example, were built during these two centuries, and this reflects the growth of urbanisation in Greece during this period.

However, this medieval prosperity was not to last: During the Crusading epochs between 1204 to 1458, Greece was overrun by warrings Byzantines, French and Italian knights of the Holy Roman Empire.

From the 4th century to the 15th century, the Byzantine Empire had survived eleven centuries of attacks from the north, west and east until Constantinople fell on May 29 1453 to the Ottoman Empire. Its last emperor, Constantine XI, died fighting on the walls and was buried anonymously along with his troops. The empire had been for centuries the centre of Christendom, spanning the period from the ancient classical world of the Roman Empire to the dawn of the Renaissance. Throughout this medieval era it had remained a source of constancy. However, a new age was dawning: Greece was gradually conquered by the Ottomans during the 15th century.

Ottoman period

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Theodore Vryzakis, The sortie of Messologhi

While the Ottomans were completing the main conquest of the Greek Mainland, two Greek migrations occurred. The first migration saw the Greek intelligentsia migrate to Western Europe — especially to Italy — and contribute to the advent of the Renaissance. The second migration of Greeks left the plains of the Greek peninsula and resettled in the mountains, the islands and Greek regions outside Ottoman control. In the mountainous regions, the Ottomans were unable to create a permanent military and administrative presence. As a result some Greek mountain clans across the peninsula, as well as some islands, were able to maintain a status of independence. The Sphakiots of Crete, the Souliots from Souli of Epirus, and the Maniots from Mani of Peloponnesus were the most resilient mountain clans throughout the Ottoman Empire. By the end of the 16th century and until the 17th century, Greeks began to migrate back to the plains and cities, adding to the increasing urban population. The millet system contributed to the ethnic cohesion of Orthodox Greeks by segregating the various peoples within the Ottoman Empire based on religion. The Orthodox Church, a religious institution with a keen sense of its national character, contributed to the Greeks from all geographical areas of the peninsula (i.e. mountains, plains, and islands) to preserve their ethnic, cultural and linguistic heritage during the years of the Ottoman rule (although at the time it was not strictly speaking a "Greek" church — the Greek Church was instituted after the liberation). The Greeks who remained on the plains during Ottoman occupation were either Christians, who dealt with the burdens of foreign rule, or to a considerable extent Crypto-Christians (Greek Muslims who were secret practitioners of the Orthodox faith) in order to avoid heavy taxation. The Greeks who converted to Islam and were not Crypto-Christians became Turks in the eyes of Orthodox Greeks. Therefore, there was no recognition of "Greek Muslims", or of "Christian Turks". As a result, religion played an integral part in the formation of the Modern Greek and other post-Ottoman national identities.

Creation of the modern Greek state

The Ottomans ruled Greece until the early 19th century. On March 25, 1821 (also the same day as the Greek Orthodox day of the Annunciation of the Theotokos), the Greeks and their allies rebelled and declared their independence, but did not succeed until 1829. The elites of powerful European nations saw the war of Greek independence, with its accounts of Turkish atrocities, in a romantic light (see, for example, the 1824 painting the Massacre of Chios by Eugène Delacroix). Scores of non-Greeks volunteered to fight for the cause — including people like Lord Byron. At times the Ottomans seemed on the verge of entirely suppressing the Greek revolution but were eventually forced to give in by the direct military intervention of France, Great Britain and Russia. This was the prelude of the so called "Eastern Question", the gradual dismemberment of the decaying empire by the western powers. The Russian ex-minister of foreign affairs, Ioannis Kapodistrias, himself a Greek noble from the Ionian Islands, was chosen as President of the new Republic following Greek independence. However, that republic was soon dissolved by the Great Powers which then installed a "Greek" monarchy. The Great Powers did not wish the Greeks to govern themselves and also claimed that they were not capable of doing so; as such they looked elsewhere for a prospective monarch. The first king, Otto of Bavaria, was of the German House of Wittelsbach and the subsequent line was from the Germano-Danish House of Oldenburg. During the 19th and especially the early 20th centuries, in a series of wars with the Ottomans, Greece sought to enlarge its boundaries to include the ethnic Greek population of the Ottoman Empire (the Ionian Islands were donated by Britain upon the arrival of the new king from Denmark in 1863, and Thessaly was ceded by the Ottomans without a fight). Greece would slowly grow in territory and population until reaching its present configuration in 1947.

World War I and its aftermath

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Eugène Delacroix, Massacre at Chios

In World War I, Greece sided with the entente powers against the Ottoman Empire and the other Central Powers. In the war's aftermath, the Great Powers awarded a small part of Asia Minor to Greece, centered around the city of Smyrna (known as Izmir today) which had a majority of Greek population. At that time, however, the Turkish nationalists, led by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, denounced the Sultan's government in Istanbul and formed a new one in Ankara. During the Greco-Turkish War (1919–1922) the Turks eventually defeated the Greek armies and regained control of Asia Minor. Soon afterwards, the Treaty of Lausanne was signed, fixing the borders to this date. A population exchange was included in the agreement and immediately afterwards, around five hundred thousand Turks (including Muslim Greeks) then living in mainland Greek territory left for Turkey in exchange for more than 1.22 million Greek residents of Asia Minor (excluding Constantinople, Imvros and Tenedos).

In 1936, General Ioannis Metaxas established an authoritarian conservative dictatorship in Greece known as the 4th of August Regime. Greece under Metaxas is compared to Spain at the time, although it lacked the political violence associated with Francisco Franco's regime.

World War II

On 28 October 1940, the Italian dictator Mussolini called on the Greeks to allow the troops to enter the country and to surrender its arms. Though Greece was alone and most of Europe occupied by the Axis, the Greek government gave a simple negative response (see Oxi Day) — thereby immediately siding with the Allies. The Italian troops poured over from Albania. The Greek counter-attack along the Albanian front gave the Allies their first victory against the Axis forces (see Greco-Italian War). Eventually, Mussolini's armies were saved from defeat with the intervention of Italy's Axis ally, Germany, since Hitler and his generals needed to secure their strategic southern flank. German forces whose ranks included troops from Hungary, Bulgaria, and Italy successfully invaded Greece, overran and occupied Greece in April–May 1941 (Operation Marita). Germany held onto the country until 1944 when German troops withdrew.

In May 1941, to reduce the threat of a counter-offensive by Allied forces in Egypt, the Germans attempted to seize Crete in a massive attack by paratroops. Allied forces, along with Cretan civilians, however, offered fierce resistance. Although Crete eventually fell, it is pointed out by historians and even the significant figures of the war that this, and the whole Greek campaign, delayed German plans significantly, with the result that the German invasion of the Soviet Union started fatally close to winter. In addition, the extremely heavy losses of paratroop forces sustained by the Germans in Crete foiled a planned German campaign in the Middle East against British-held Iraq and its oil fields.

During the years of Nazi occupation, hundreds of thousands of Greeks died in direct combat, in concentration camps, or of starvation. The winter of 1941–1942 was especially brutal, as the occupying forces carried out a country-wide, systematic confiscation of all foodstuffs as punishment for delaying critical German war plans in Eastern Europe. By January of 1942, tens of thousands of people a week were dying of starvation in Greece.Template:Fact Ultimately, the threat of a general rebellion was used by the Archibishop Damaskinos of Athens to convince the Germans to relent and abandon the confiscation of food in the spring of 1942. Greek partisan resistance to the occupation was fierce, often with bitter retaliation from the occupiers. Perhaps the most ignominious example of this is the massacre at Kalavryta, where the entire male population (1258 men) of the city of Kalavrita were executed on a single day, 13th December 1943. The occupiers murdered the greater part of the Jewish community despite efforts by the Greek Orthodox Church and many Greeks to shelter their fellow Jewish Greek citizens. The Jewish community of Thessaloniki suffered the heaviest toll by far. During the war the Greek economy languished. After liberation, Greece experienced an equally bitter Greek Civil War between the communist-led Democratic Army and the Hellenic Army that lasted until 1949, when the communists were defeated in the battle of Grammos-Vitsi.

Post-war development and turmoil

During the 1950s and 1960s, Greece experienced gradual and consistent economic growth, aided by significant grants and loans by the United States through the Marshall Plan. However, starting in 1965, a series of turbulent political events unfolded that led to severe political uncertainty. The crisis eventually got out hand for both the elected government and King Constantine II and ended dramatically in the early hours of April 21, 1967. That morning, a coordinated effort by a number of Colonels and other military officials succeeded in a coup d'etat and they soon managed to establish a fierce military junta. General elections planned by the conservative government to be held on May 28 never took place. In the following years, a number of supporters of the left wing as well as a number of politicians and communists were arrested and brutally tortured by the regime. Other politicians, however, evaded capture and found political refuge in such European countries as France and Sweden. Nevertheless, the then head of state, former King Constantine officially acknowleged the new regime and it was duly recognized by the international community. Diplomatic relations continued unabated. In 1973, however, the junta abolished the Greek monarchy. Later that same year, in October of 1973, the head of the junta, colonel George Papadopoulos appointed politician Spiros Markezinis as the Prime Minister. A few weeks later, on November 14, law students that opposed the regime realized that the obvious parody of this "government" would not end unless they took some serious form of action. Therefore they decided to take control of the Athens Law School and in so doing they inspired the students of the Athens Polytechnic School, who imitated them.

It should be noted that institutions of higher education in Greece are considered to provide political asylum. By November 16, however, the streets around the Polytechnic School resembled a battlefield, leaving no choice for the junta than to respond with military tactics. In the early hours of November 17, a tank smashed the gate of the historical building of the Athens Polytechnic School causing bloodshed. Twenty students were killed. However, the now-famous Athens Polytechnic Uprising marked the beginning of a series of events that would eventually result to the end of Papadopoulos' rule. One week later, on November 25 both Papadopoulos and Markezinis were overthrown by a countercoup headed by junta hardliner Brigadier Ioannides. A new head, Phaedon Gizikis, and a new Prime Minister, Adamantios Androutsopoulos, were appointed by the regime. Ioannides, however, had even more in his mind. The following July, he backed a planned coup d'etat to overthrow the Cypriot President, Archibishop Makarios. This gave a pretext for neighbouring Turkey to intervene militarily, alledgedly to protect the Turkish minority that resided on the island. Turkey invaded Cyprus on July 20, 1974 and managed to occupy the northern part or a third of its territory. The colonels did not succeed in either predicting the Turkish action or in effectively mobilizing their armed forces in order to prevent it. This signaled the end for the regime that collapsed within a matter of days.

Newfound stability

In the evening of July 23, 1974, ex Premier Constantine Karamanlis was invited back from Paris where he had found a political refuge. In the morning hours of the following day, the plane carrying him landed in Athens amidst massive celebrations by cheering crowds that could not believe that the ordeal they had to endure for seven years was over. Karamanlis was immediately appointed as the interim prime minister under President Gizikis. Karamanlis founded the conservative Template:Lang party and he then won the elections. Democracy had finally been restored and a democratic republican constitution came into force in 1975. In addition, a referendum held that same year, confirmed the will of the overwhelming majority of the Greek people to abolish the monarchy — this time democratically. Therefore former King Constantine II and his family remained in Britain and were not allowed free access to the country until 2004. Meanwhile, yet another prominent figure of the past, charismatic politician Andreas Papandreou had also returned from the United States and he had already founded the Panhellenic Socialist Party or PASOK. Karamanlis won the 1977 parliamentary elections as well but he resigned in 1980, giving his way to George Rallis. However, Papandreou won the elections held on October 18, 1981 by landslide and he formed the first socialist government in the history of the nation. Papandreou dominated the Greek political course for almost 15 years, up until his death in June 23, 1996.

Greece as a member of the European Union

The country became the tenth member of the European Union on January 1, 1981. Over the course of the last 25 years, and particularly during this past decade, Greece has experienced a remarkable economic growth. Massive, widespread investments in industrial enterprises and heavy infrastructure as well as funds from the European Union and impressively growing revenues from tourism, shipping and services have greatly raised the standard of living to unprecedented levels. The country adopted the Euro in 2001. With a GDP per capita now standing at $22,800 and a growth rate well above European Union's average, Greece is a prosperous nation. Nevertheless, everyone agrees that the government still has to deal with certain economic issues so as to enable the country to use its full potentials and reach the standard of living of the richest nations in Europe.

Greco-Turkish relations

Main article: Greco-Turkish relations

Relations between Greece and neighboring Turkey have improved substantially over the course of the past 6 years, after successive earthquakes hit both countries in the summer of 1999. The so called "earthquake diplomacy" came after an unprecedented outpouring of sympathy and generous assistance provided by ordinary Greeks and Turks in each of those cases. Greece was the first one to take the initiative to provide valuable help after a monstrous, magnitude 7.4 earthquake leveled much of the Turkish northwest on August 17, 1999, killing more than 17,000 people. Turks also responded immediately after a magnitude 5.9 quake jolted Athens on September 7 of that same year, killing 143 people. These generous, brave acts took many foreigners by surprise and led to a considerable breakthrough in bilateral relations, marred by decades of hostility over territorial disputes and the situation in the divided island of Cyprus. In January 1996, the countries reached the brink of war over the tiny, uninhabited islets of Imia/Kardak, situated in the southeastern Aegean Sea. While Greece insisted that according to all treaties and conventions the islets belong to Greece, Turks claimed that the relevant articles were rather unclear. The crisis escalated within only a few days and it was only after the personal intervention of U.S President Bill Clinton that it came to an end. Ten years later, Greece has become one of the chief advocates of Turkey's struggle to enter the European Union while Greek prime minister, Kostas Karamanlis was one of the best men at the wedding of the daughter of Turkey's prime minister.

XXVIII Olympic
XXVIII Olympic

The 2004 Olympic Games

Main article: 2004 Olympic Games

On September 5, 1997, the International Olympic Committee awarded the 2004 Olympic Games to Athens. Some concerns were raised by certain foreign media over Greece's ability to meet specific construction deadlines as well as its ability to handle a potential terrorist attack. However, by the end of the games Greece was judged by the international media to have decisively proven wrong those who questioned its ability to stage the event, and immediately after the closing ceremonies many editorials in the international press actually offered apologies, admitting an overreaction. The 2004 Olympic Games were widely hailed as a spectacular success.[2] (


Main article: Politics of Greece

The 1975 constitution includes extensive specific guarantees of civil liberties. The President of the Republic, elected by an increased majority of the Parliament for a term of five years, is nominally the Head of State.

However, it is the Prime Minister and cabinet, as well as the Vouli (parliament) that play the central role in the political process, while the president performs limited governmental functions, in addition to ceremonial duties.

Greeks elect the 300 members of the country's unicameral parliament (the Template:Lang) by secret ballot for a maximum of four years, but elections can occur at more frequent intervals. Greece uses a complex reinforced proportional representation electoral system which discourages splinter parties and ensures that the party which leads in the national vote will win a majority of seats. A party must receive 3% minimum of the total national vote to gain representation. Typically, a 41%+ is sufficient to guarantee the rule by a single party.

Greek parliamentary politics hinge upon the principle of the "Template:Lang", the "declared confidence" of Parliament to the Prime Minister and his/her administration. This means that the President of the Republic is bound to appoint as Prime Minister a person who will be approved by a majority of the Parilament's members (i.e. 151 votes). With the current electoral system, it is the leader of the party gaining a plurality of the votes in the Parliamentary elections who gets appointed Prime Minister. An administration may, at any time, seek a "vote of confidence"; conversely, a number of Members of Parilament may ask that a "vote of reproach" be taken. Both are rare occurrences with usually predictable outcomes as voting outside the party line happens very seldom.

On March 7, 2004, Kostas Karamanlis, president of the New Democracy party and nephew of the late Constantine Karamanlis, was elected as the new Prime Minister of Greece, thus marking his party's first electoral victory in nearly 11 years. Karamanlis took over Government from Kostas Simitis, who was in office since January 1996. Template:See

Peripheries and prefectures

Template:Main articles

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Greece consists of 13 administrative regions known as peripheries, which subdivide further into the 51 prefectures (Template:Lang, singular — Template:Lang). For more detailed maps of the peripheries and/or prefectures, see the Peripheries of Greece or Prefectures of Greece articles.

Autonomous region

Beyond these one autonomous region exists: Mount Athos (Template:Lang — Holy Mountain) in Macedonia, a monastic state under Greek sovereignty.


The 51 Template:Lang subdivide into 147 Template:Lang (singular Template:Lang), which contain 1,033 municipalities and communities: 900 urban municipalities (Template:Lang) and 133 rural communities (Template:Lang). Before 1999, Greece's local government structure featured 5,775 local authorities: 457 Template:Lang and 5,318 Template:Lang, subdivided into 12,817 localities (Template:Lang).


Main article: Geography of Greece

Map of Greece
Map of Greece
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Greece from orbit

Greece consists of a large mainland at the southern end of the Balkans; the Peloponnesus peninsula (separated from the mainland by the canal of the Isthmus of Corinth); and numerous islands (around 3,000), including Crete, Rhodes, Kos, Euboea, the Dodecanese and the Cycladic groups of the Aegean Sea as well as the Ionian Sea islands. Greece has more than 15,000 kilometres (9,300 mi) of coastline and a land boundary of 1,160 kilometres (721 mi). Approximately 27.9% of the nation's territory is covered by forests.[3] (

Four fifths of Greece consist of mountains or hills, making the country one of the most montainous in Europe. Western Greece contains a number of lakes and wetlands and it is dominated by the Pindus mountain range. Pindus has a maximum elevation of 2,636 metres (8,648 ft) and it is essentially a prolongation of the Dinaric Alps. The range continues through western Peloponnese, crosses the islands of Kythera and Antikythera and find its way into southwestern Aegean, in the island of Crete where it eventually ends. (Actually the islands of the Aegean are peaks of underwater mountains that once consisted 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 Meteora formation consisting of high, steep boulders provides a breathtaking experience for the hundrends of thousands of tourists who visit the area each year. Special lifts transfer visitors to the scenic monasteries that lye on top of those rocks. Meteora are situated in the Trikala prefecture. The Vikos-Aoos Gorge is yet another spectacular formation. The Vicos-Aoos Gorge is a popular hotspot for those in fond of extreme sports.

Mount Olympus is the tallest mountain in the country, located in the northern Pieria prefecture, near Thessaloniki. Mytikas in Olympus range has a height of 2,919 metres (9,570 ft) at its tallest peak. Once considered the throne of the Gods, it is today extremely popular among hikers and climbers who deem its height as a challenge. Moreover, northeastern Greece features yet another high altitude mountain range, the Rhodope range, spreading across the prefectures of Eastern Macedonia and Thrace; this area is covered with vast, thick, ancient forests including the famous Dadia.

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. Volos and Larissa are the two largest cities of Thessaly.

Greece's climate consists of three types that influence well defined regions of its territory. Those are the Mediterranean, the Alpine and the Temperate types. The first one features mild, wet winters and hot, dry summers. The Cyclades, the Dodecanese, Crete, Eastern Peloponessus and parts of the Sterea Ellada refion are mostly affected by this particular type. Temperatures rarely reach extreme values although snowfalls do occur occasionally even in the Cyclades or Crete during the winter months. The Alpine type is dominant mainly in Western Greece (Epirus, Central Greece, Thessaly, Western Macedonia as well as in the western and central parts of Peloponessus, including the prefectures of Achaea, Arkadia and parts of Lakonia, where the Pindus range passes by). Finally the Temperate type affects both Central and Eastern Macedonia as well as Thrace, mainly affecting the cities of Komotini, Xanthi and the towns of northern Evros; it features cold, damp winters and hot, dry summers. Athens is located in a transitional area featuring both the Mediterranean and the Alpine types. The city's northern suburbs are dominated by the Alpine type while the downtown area and the southern suburbs enjoy a typical Meditteranean type.

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.


Main article: Economy of Greece

Greece has a mixed capitalist economy with the public sector accounting for about 40% of the GDP. The Greek tourism industry remains thriving and its contribution in the GDP growth is considered important for foreign exchange earnings. Greece is a global leader in shipping (ranking first in terms of ownership of vessels and third by tonnage and flag registration) [4] ( Exports of manufactured goods including telecommunications hardware and software, agricultural products and other foodstuff and fuels account for a significant part of Greek income.

The country is the largest investor in southeastern Europe as far as the previous sectors are concerned. After the end of the Greek Civil War in 1949 and for more than two decades Greece achieved the second highest economic growth rate in the world after Japan, resulting in a dramatic improvement of living standards (the "Greek economic miracle"). Since Greece became a full member of the European Union, on January 1, 1981, it has benefited from cohesion funds, along with Portugal, Spain and Ireland. Those funds have proven particularly helpful to the nation's economic development since the 1980s. Starting in 1989, Greece joined the ranks of (22 at that time) "developed countries".

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Greek euro coins with Athena's symbol, the Owl

The country enjoys a high standard of living, ranking 24th on the 2005 Human Development Index and 22nd on The Economist's 2005 world-wide quality-of-life index[5] ( Average per capita income in 2005 was estimated at $22,800 [6] ( or 85% of the EU average in PPS (Purchasing Power Standards). Greek Economy has seen uninterrupted strong growth since 1992 and above the EU average continuously since 1994. Part of the Greek economy's impressive growth is attributed to the fact that the previous government tightened fiscal policy regulations in the run-up to the country's entry into the Eurozone, set on January 1, 2001(Greek euro coins). Also liberalisation of domestic markets, a modernised banking system, as well as massive investment ahead of the 2004 Olympic Games, have fueled the economy even further. With the collapse of communism in the early 1990s, Greece has seen a huge influx of foreign labour force, mainly from neighbouring Albania, but also from Pakistan and Eastern Europe.

Today the country is dealing with various challenges, including the reduction of unemployment which currently stands at 9.6%, the reform of the social security system, the partial privatization of the public sector, the overhauling of the tax system and the further reduction of bureaucratic inefficiencies. Forecasts predict that 2006 will be yet another year of substantial economic growth, estimated to reach 2.9%, which is above the European Union's average. The reduction of the fiscal deficit to the Eurozone target of 3% of GDP has also become a key issue. Shortly after its election, the new conservative New Democracy government revealed to the Eurostat agency that the previous figures supplied to it by the PASOK government as the basis of the Greek entry into the Eurozone were not correct (although even according to the "corrected" numbers, when calculated with the methodology still in force at the time of the Greek application for entry, the country had actually met the criteria for entry into the Eurozone). Under a negotiated agreement, the EU gave Greece a two year deadline (budgets of 2005 and 2006) in order to bring the deficit in line with the criteria of the European stability pact. In 2005, the new government managed to reduce the fiscal deficit by almost two percentage points and the goal of reaching the 3% target by the end of 2006 seems realistic.

The Bank of Greece, now a subsidiary of the European Central Bank, functions as the nation's central bank. This bank is not the same as the "National Bank of Greece", the country's largest commercial bank.

The 2006 Economic Agenda of the Greek government includes the privatization of several state owned companies as well as the creation of a new national airline that will replace Olympic Airlines.


Main article: Tourism in Greece

Greece has traditionally been one of the most popular tourist destinations on a global basis and each year, particularly in the summer months, the nation's numerous cosmopolitan islands get crammed by millions of international visitors. Unparalleled natural beauties, golden beaches, idyllic sunsets, a legendary nightlife and the world famous Greek cuisine combined with a unique hospitality and an impressively developing tourism infrastracture make Greece an irresistible hotspot for many. The spectacular success of the 2004 Olympic Games boosted the country's international prestige even further and reaffirmed its status as one of the safest places to be. In 2004, Greece ranked 12th in terms of international tourist arrivals when more than 14.2 million visitors came to the country, many of which combining both vacations and attendance of Olympic athletic events. In 2005, however, those numbers increased by 14%, surpassing 16.1 million arrivals. In 2006, those figures are only expected to grow bigger.

The New Democracy government, that took power in March 2004, established a brand new Ministry of Tourism headed by Mr. Dimitris Avramopoulos. Mr. Avramopoulos proved to be a particularly competent man, determined to massively promote the nation to new, emerging markets in addition to the traditional ones, through various means of communication. For instance and among other initiatives, Helena Paparizou, the winner of the 2005 Eurovision Song Contest was designated as the official ambassador of the Hellenic Tourism Organization ( An interesting fact that is attributed to all those efforts is that according to a survey conducted in China in 2005, Greece was voted as Chinese' people number one choice. On February 14, 2006, Ms Fani Palli- Petralia was appointed as the new minister of Tourism as a result of an extensive cabinet reshufle. Mr. Avramopoulos was appointed as the new Health Minister.

Overall, this year the Greek Ministry of Tourism plans to invest more than 30 billion euros in the tourism industry, one of the most essential sectors of the Greek economy. That is 4 times more than the amount spent in 2002 by the previous government. What is more, the government intends to promote winter tourism in Greece, something that could potentially double international arrivals.

Apart from Athens, other top ranking tourist destinations include the islands of Mykonos, Santorini, Rhodes, Crete, Corfu, Paros, Ios, Kos, Kefallonia, Zakynthos and Hydra as well as the northern Halkidiki peninsula.


Main article: Demographics of Greece

The population of Greece is (officially) 98% Greek[7] ( note: the Greek Government states there are no ethnic divisions in Greece[8] (, although Greece has various linguistic and cultural minorities. A non-comprehensive list of these would include Turks, Macedonian Slavs, Pomaks, and various Roma groups. A number of religious minorities exist, including the Muslim minority in western Thrace, which makes up about a third of that region's population.

About 60–65% of Greek immigrants have come from Albania (following the fall of communism) although some 200.000 have been documented as ethnic Greeks or Template:Lang. The other principal nationalities are, according to residence permit data, Bulgarians, Armenians, Romanians, Ukrainians, Pakistanis and Georgians; overall, over 180 different nationalities have been recorded. The legal status of immigrants has been very tenuous since the 1990s (as throughout the European Union), with high levels of illegality. Since 1997 three legalization programmes were enacted by the Greek state [a fourth went through in 2005].

Several prominent Greek sportsmen migrated to Greece as ethnic Greeks from Albania and Georgia in the 1990s, including legendary weightlifters Pyrros Dimas and Kakhi Kakhiashvili.


The majority of Greek citizens (95–98%) have at least nominal membership in the Greek Orthodox Church. Greek Muslims make up about 1.3% of the population, and live primarily in Thrace. Greece also has some Roman Catholics, mainly in the city of Patras, Corfu, and the Cyclades islands of Syros, Paros, Tinos, and Naxos; some Protestants and some Jews, mainly in Thessaloniki (which had a major Jewish population until the Holocaust). Some groups in Greece have started an attempt to reconstruct Hellenic polytheism, the ancient Greek pagan religion. See also: Greek Orthodox Church.

Prior to Ottoman rule, Greece was part of the Byzantine Empire. The civil and religious capital of the Empire was moved to Constantinople (modern day Istanbul) by Constantine I. Since Constantine’s time the Orthodox Christian faith has flourished and spread throughout Eastern Europe. Even under Turkish rule and repeated attempts at prosyletization — firstly by the Jesuits and then by the Protestants — Orthodox Christianity survived and flourished.

The Greek Constitution reflects this relationship by guaranteeing absolute freedom of religion while still defining the "prevailing religion" of Greece as the Eastern Orthodox Church of Christ. In practice, the Orthodox Church and the secular state are intimately involved with one another in certain areas. Joint approval is needed for the building of churches and the Church has even blocked the building of places of worship for other religions in Athens. Priests receive state salaries. The President of the Republic takes an oath on the Bible and Orthodox Christianity is given privileged place in religious studies in primary education. Non Greek Orthodox members of parliament are sworn in accordance to their own faith. The Church has also been allowed to keep its large portfolio of financial assets exempt from taxation and fiscal auditing. The Church has been using its influence into strongarming the Greek state from allowing non-Christian orthodox subjects, such as muslims, from opening their own places of worship within any major metropolitan area.

Starting in January 2005, a series of highly publicised corruption scandals involving high rank church officials have led to many calls by secular Greeks for the complete separation of Church and State and greater control of Church assets.

One small part of Greece, Mount Athos, is recognised by the Greek constitution as an autonomous monastic republic, although foreign relations remain the prerogative of the Greek state.

Spiritually, Mount Athos is under the Patriarchate of Constantinople and is therefore in communion with all the monasteries on Mount Athos and with the Orthodox Church based in various countries. One monastery has recently broken away and has formed a completely independent schism on the Holy Mountain — Esphygmenou Monastery. Esphygmenou is composed of 117 Zealot monks who stubbornly oppose the head of the Church and do not commemorate him any more. They believe that they are the last remaining true Christians in the world and that Orthodoxy has been corrupted by having dialogue with other faiths. They also object to the lifting of the anathemas against the Roman Catholic Church in the 1960s by Patriarch Athenagoras.

Jews have been present in Greece for the last 2,000 years. The earliest reference to a Greek Jew is in an inscription, dated circa 300–250 BC found in Oropos, a small coastal town between Athens and Boeotia, and refers to him as "Moschos, son of Moschion the Jew" who was in all likelihood, a slave. The first Greek Jewish population became known as the Romaniotes and their language became known as Yevanic (from the Hebrew word for Greece: Template:Lang/Template:Lang). From the 16th century onwards, Salonica, a city in northern Greece, had one of the largest (mostly Sephardic by then) Jewish communities in the world and a solid rabbinical tradition. On the island of Crete, the Jews played an important part in the transport trade. During World War II, when Greece was occupied by Nazi Germany, 86% of the Greek Jews were murdered by the invading Axis and only a minority survived and most of them have emigrated to Israel. Greece's Jewish community today is estimated at 4,500.

According to the most recent Eurostat "Eurobarometer" poll, in 2005 <ref name="Eurostat poll on the social and religious beliefs of Europeans"> Eurobarometer,</ref>, 81% of Greek citizens responded that "they believe there is a God", whereas 16% answered that "they believe there is some sort of spirit or life force" and only 3% that "they do not believe there is a God, spirit, nor life force". This would make Greece one of the most religious countries in the European Union of 25 members, after Malta and Cyprus.


Main article: Culture of Greece

Greece has a particularly rich culture and it has produced a vast number of contributions to philosophy, astronomy, science, and the arts. Template:See

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