Greece, Ancient, was the birthplace of Western civilization about 2,500 years
ago. The magnificent achievements of the ancient Greeks in government, science,
philosophy, and the arts continue to influence our lives today.
A Short Background
Greece achieved its independence from the Ottoman Empire in 1829. During the
second half of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century, it
gradually added neighboring islands and territories with Greek-speaking
Following the defeat of communist rebels in 1949, Greece joined NATO in 1952. A
military dictatorship, which in 1967 suspended many political liberties and
forced the king to flee the country, lasted seven years.
Democratic elections in 1974 and a referendum created a parliamentary republic
and abolished the monarchy; Greece joined the European Community or EC in 1981 (which
became the EU in 1992).
Greece was the birthplace of European civilization. The
period from 700BC saw the rise of the great city states of Athens, Corinth and
Sparta, frequently engaged in long struggles for supremacy, and uniting only
when faced with the common threat of invasion by the Persian Empire.
The zenith was reached in the 5th century BC when Athens became the cultural and
artistic centre of the Mediterranean, producing magnificent works of
architecture, sculpture, drama and literature. Athens lost her empire through a
mutually suicidal struggle with her arch rival Sparta.
The nation was then forcibly united under Alexander the Great. After defeating
the sagging military might of Persia in a number of major battles, the expansion
of the empire spread Greek influence through the East as far as India and
through Egypt. The empire fragmented after Alexander's death in 323BC, and the
fall of Greek hegemony was completed when the country came under the sway of
Under Constantine the empire gained a new capital in Constantinople, and
Greece continued under the sway of the Eastern Empire when the empire divided.
The Byzantines were, however, unable to effectively defend all of their empire
from invaders and only occasionally did Greece enjoy the security of effective
The major beneficiaries of this were the Venetians, who increased their
influence in Greece and other parts of the empire. Byzantium finally fell to the
Turks in 1453, although the process of conquest was already well underway by the
end of the 14th century. For the next 350 years, Greece was part of the Ottoman
Many attempts were made to shake off the yoke of the Ottomans, such as the
rising of 1770 which was supported by Catherine the Great. After a bitter War of
Independence from 1821, a free state was declared in 1829
||10,665,989 (July 2003 est.)
||Greek Orthodox 98%, Muslim
1.3%, other 0.7%
||Greek 99% (official), English,
1 EURO to US Dollar : 1,1962 (April 2004)
||Southern Europe, bordering the
Aegean Sea, Ionian Sea, and the Mediterranean Sea, between Albania and
||Anatoliki Makedonia & Thraki, Ditiki Makedonia,
Kentriki Makedonia, Ipiros, Thessalia, Sterea Ellada, Attiki, Peloponnissos,
Kriti, Vorio Aigaio, Ionia Nisia, Ditiki Ellada
||39 00 N, 22 00 E
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