It is estimated that more than 6 million Greeks are living abroad, of which more than 2 million in America.
The population ratio: Women 50,51% – Men 49,49%.
Population by region: Cities: 58,8% – Partly rural areas: 12,8% – Rural: 28,4%.
Population density: 82,9 inhabitants per km² (2001).
Birth rate: 9,6 pr. 1000 inhabitants (1999).
Average Life Expectancy: Women 81,16 år – Men 75,89 år (2000).
Capital: Athens (aprox. 4,5 mil. inhabitants).
Religious affiliation: 97.6% of all citizens in Greece are Greek Orthodox – 1.3% are Muslims – 0.4% are Roman Catholic – 0.1% are Protestants and 0.6% belong to other groups including Jews. The Greek Orthodox Church is autonomous in its own right, but is inextricably linked with the Orthodox headquarters – Patriarchy in Constantinople (Istanbul). On the Athos peninsula of Halkidiki in southeastern Macedonia, lies the famous mount Athos (Holy Mountain) which is home to 20 Orthodox monasteries and for centuries has been an autonomous monastic community since 886 AD.
Hellas, as the Greeks call their country, is the cradle of democracy and the homeland of politics. The democratic ideals that were initiated and developed in the classical period around Athens in the 5th-3rd century BC, has since inspired most Western democracies. The current Greek constitution, adopted in 1975 and improved in 1986, defines the country’s political system as a parliamentary democracy headed by a president.
The legislative power is represented by a parliamentary body called, Vouli and the execution is entrusted to the government and the president. The judiciary body or the courts are independent, and civil, political and human rights are constitutionally guaranteed.
Elections take place every four years for the 300 seats in parliament. The President of the Republic is elected by the parliament for a five-year term, renewable once. The President of Greece is a highly respected and appreciated personality in the country. The president has no constitutional power. Greece is headed politically by the Prime Minister, who is chairman of the party SYRIZA.
Greece and the world
Greece is a member of the UN, IMF, CSCE and other major Western and European institutions such as the OECD, NATO, WEU, Council of Europe and since 1981 also the EU. The country’s membership of the EU has overwhelming popular and political support.
The Greek language with a documented history of 3½ thousand years has historically been a decisive factor in the country’s national identity. Modern Greek derives from the same language that Homer used when he wrote the Odyssey and Iliad. Greek is also the language of the Gospels, and the first Bible was written in Greek. The Greek alphabet and the Greek language have contributed to all western languages. There are common words that we use today like geography, psychology or idiot that derive directly from the Greek language. There are thousands of words like these used on a daily basis. For example, the word catastrophic derives from the Greek Kata, which means down or against and Strofi that means turning or rotation. Thus, a catastrophic event is a ‘ downward turning ‘ of a situation.
The Greek flag
The flag of Greece consists of four white and five blue alternating horizontal stripes with the white cross on the upper inner corner. The nine stripes symbolize the syllables in the battle cry of the revolution against the Turks in 1821: El-eu-the-ri-a-i-tha-na-tos! –meaning Freedom or death! The white cross symbolizes Christianity. Blue and white are Greece’s national colors.
Greece’s history – in brief
Greece in the ancient times
Greece has a history stretching more than 4,000 years. The population on the mainland – called Hellenes – made great naval and military expeditions, and explored the Mediterranean and the Black Sea, as far as the Atlantic Ocean and the Caucasus Mountains. One of these expeditions – the siege of Troy – described in the first major literary work – Homer’s Iliad. Numerous Greek settlements were founded throughout the Mediterranean, Asia Minor and the coast of North Africa as a result of the search for new markets, trading partners and conquests.
The Classical period
During the Classical period (around the 5th century BC), Greece was composed of city-states with the largest being Athens, followed by Sparta and Thebes. A fierce spirit of independence and love of freedom enabled the military outnumbered Greeks able to defeat the Persians in the famous Battle of Marathon, Thermopylae, Salamina and Plataees.
Alexander the Great
On the second half of the 4th century BC, an army comprising by almost all the Greeks – led by Alexander the Great – conquered most of the then known world and sought to Hellinise it, thus staring the Hellenistic period.
In 146 BC Greece fell into the hands of the Romans. In 330 AD Emperor Constantine moved part of the Roman Empire to Constantinople (Istanbul), founding the Eastern Roman Empire which was renamed Byzantine Empire or Byzantium for short. Byzantium transformed the linguistic heritage of Ancient into a vehicle for the – at the time – new Christian civilization.
The Ottoman Empire
The Byzantine Empire fell to the Turks in 1453 and the Greeks remained suppressed under Ottoman rule for nearly 400 years. During this time their language, religion and nationality remained strong. On March 25, 1821, the Greeks revolted against the Turks, and in 1828 they had regained their freedom. The new state comprised only of a small part of the country, but the revolution for freedom continued.
The current Greece
In 1864, the Ionian Islands returned back to Greece, followed in 1881 by parts of Epirus in Northern Greece and Thessaly in central Greece. Crete, the East Aegean islands and Macedonia were added in 1913 and west Thrace in 1919. After the Second World War the Dodecanese returned finally to the Greece we know today.