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Greece

Capital Athens
Continent Europe
Code +30
Currency Euro (€)
Languages Greek , Greek

Description

Greece is a country located in Southeastern Europe. Its population is approximately 10.7 million as of 2021; Athens is its largest and capital city, followed by Thessaloniki. Situated on the southern tip of the Balkans, Greece is located at the crossroads of Europe, Asia, and Africa. It shares land borders with Albania in the northwest, North Macedonia and Bulgaria to the north, and Turkey to the northeast. The Aegean Sea lies to the east of the mainland, the Ionian Sea to the west, the Cretan Sea, and the Mediterranean Sea to the south.

Greece has the longest coastline on the Mediterranean Basin and the 11th longest coastline in the world at 13,676 km (8,498 mi) in length, featuring many islands, of which 227 are inhabited. Eighty percent of Greece is mountainous, with Mount Olympus being the highest peak at 2,918 meters (9,573 ft). The country consists of nine traditional geographic regions: Macedonia, Central Greece, the Peloponnese, Thessaly, Epirus, the Aegean Islands (including the Dodecanese and Cyclades), Thrace, Crete, and the Ionian Islands.

Greece is considered the cradle of Western civilization, being the birthplace of democracy, Western philosophy, Western literature, historiography, political science, major scientific and mathematical principles, theatre, and the Olympic Games. From the eighth century BC, the Greeks were organized into various independent city-states, known as Polish (singular polio), which spanned the Mediterranean and the Black Sea. Philip II of Macedon united most of present-day Greece in the fourth century BC, with his son Alexander the Great rapidly conquering much of the ancient world, from the eastern Mediterranean to India. The subsequent Hellenistic period saw the height of Greek culture and influence in antiquity. Greece was annexed by Rome in the second century BC, becoming an integral part of the Roman Empire and its continuation, the Byzantine Empire, which was culturally and linguistically predominantly Greek. The Greek Orthodox Church, which emerged in the first century AD, helped shape the modern Greek identity and transmitted Greek traditions to the wider Orthodox world. After falling under Ottoman rule in the mid-15th century, Greece emerged as a modern nation-state in 1830 following a war of independence. The country's rich historical legacy is reflected in part by its 18 UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Greece is a unitary parliamentary republic, and a developed country, with an advanced high-income economy, and a high quality of life, ranking simultaneously very high in the Human Development Index. Its economy is the largest in the Balkans, where it is an important regional investor. A founding member of the United Nations, Greece was the tenth member to join the European Communities (precursor to the European Union) and has been part of the Eurozone since 2001. It is also a member of numerous other international institutions, including the Council of Europe, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the World Trade Organization (WTO), the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), and the Organization Internationale de la Francophonie (OIF). Greece's unique cultural heritage, large tourism industry, prominent shipping sector, and geostrategic importance classify it as a middle power.

History

From about 7,000 BC stone age farmers lived in Greece. Then about 3,000 BC bronze was introduced. About 2,500 BC a sophisticated society grew up on the island of Crete. It is known as the Minoan civilization. By about 1,950 BC the inhabitants had invented a form of writing using hieroglyphs. This writing is called linear A. The Minoans were a bronze age civilization. (They made tools and weapons from bronze). Their civilization was at its height from about 1700 BC to 1500 BC. However Minoan culture declined after 1450 BC. We are not sure why, but they may have been conquered by Mycenaeans from mainland Greece.

Most of the Minoans lived in small villages and made their living from farming. They grew wheat, barley, grapes, and olives. They raised goats, cattle, sheep, and pigs. Minoan farmers had to give part of their crops to the ruler as a tax. The Minoans were also trading people. They traded with Sicily, Cyprus, Egypt, and other parts of the Middle East. The Minoans exported wine, olive oil, timber, and pottery. (Minoan potters made very thin pottery called Kamares ware). They also exported jewelry and weapons. Merchants imported lead, copper, obsidian, and ivory.

Each Minoan palace was surrounded by a large, unfortified town. The fact that the towns were unfortified showed that life in ancient Crete was peaceful. Perhaps the fact that the Minoans had a large and powerful fleet made them secure.

About 1,600 BC civilization spread to the Greek mainland. This early Greek civilization is called the Mycenaeans after the city of Mycenae, which was founded by the great German archaeologist Schliemann. The Mycenaeans lived in city-states. Their palaces were fortified showing life was less peaceful than on Crete.

The Mycenaeans were also great traders and their craftsmen worked in gold and silver. However, after 1200 BC Mycenaean civilization went into decline and by 1100 BC Greece had entered a dark age.

Geography

Located in Southern and Southeast Europe, Greece consists of a mountainous, peninsular mainland jutting out into the sea at the southern end of the Balkans, ending at the Peloponnese peninsula (separated from the mainland by the canal of the Isthmus of Corinth) and strategically located at the crossroads of Europe, Asia, and Africa. Due to its highly indented coastline and numerous islands, Greece has the 11th longest coastline in the world with 13,676 km (8,498 mi); its land boundary is 1,160 km (721 mi). The country lies approximately between latitudes 34° and 42° N, and longitudes 19° and 30° E, with the extreme points being:

  • North: Ormenio village
  • South: Gavdos island
  • East: Strongly (Kastelorizo, Megisti) island
  • West: Othonoi island

Eighty percent of Greece consists of mountains or hills, making the country one of the most mountainous in Europe. Mount Olympus, the mythical abode of the Greek Gods, culminates at Mytikas peak 2,918 meters (9,573 ft), the highest in the country. Western Greece contains several lakes and wetlands and is dominated by the Pindus mountain range. The Pindus, a continuation of the Dinaric Alps, reaches a maximum elevation of 2,637 m (8,652 ft) at Mt. Smolikas (the second-highest in Greece) and historically has been a significant barrier to east-west travel.

The Pindus range continues through the central Peloponnese, crosses the islands of Kythera and Antikythera, and finds its way into southwestern Aegean, in the island of Crete where it eventually ends. The islands of the Aegean are peaks of underwater mountains that once constituted an extension of the mainland. The Pindus is characterized by its high, steep peaks, often dissected by numerous canyons and a variety of other karstic landscapes. The spectacular Vikos Gorge, part of the Vikos-Aoos National Park in the Pindus range, is listed by the Guinness Book of World Records as the deepest gorge in the world. Another notable formation is the Meteora rock pillars, atop which have been built medieval Greek Orthodox monasteries.

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

Extensive plains are primarily located in the regions 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 pinned 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 Eurasian lynx, the roe deer, and the wild goat.

Politics

Since the restoration of democracy, the Greek party system was dominated by the liberal-conservative New Democracy (ND) and the social-democratic Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK). Other parties represented in the Hellenic Parliament include the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA), the Communist Party of Greece (KKE), Greek Solution, and MeRA25.PASOK and New Democracy largely alternated in power until the outbreak of the government-debt crisis in 2009. From that time, the two major parties, New Democracy and PASOK, experienced a sharp decline in popularity. In November 2011, the two major parties joined the smaller Popular Orthodox Rally in a grand coalition, pledging their parliamentary support for a government of national unity headed by former European Central Bank vice-president Lucas Papademos. Panos Kammenos voted against this government and he split off from ND forming the right-wing populist Independent Greeks.

The coalition government led the country to the parliamentary elections of May 2012. The power of the traditional Greek political parties, PASOK and New Democracy, declined from 43% to 13% and from 33% to 18%, respectively. The left-wing party of SYRIZA became the second major party, with an increase from 4% to 16%. No party could form a sustainable government, which led to the parliamentary elections of June 2012. The result of the second election was the formation of a coalition government composed of New Democracy (29%), PASOK (12%), and Democratic Left (6%) parties.

SYRIZA has since overtaken PASOK as the main party of the center-left. Alexis Tsipras led SYRIZA to victory in the general election held on 25 January 2015, falling short of an outright majority in Parliament by just two seats. The following morning, Tsipras reached an agreement with the Independent Greeks party to form a coalition, and he was sworn in as Prime Minister of Greece. Tsipras called snap elections in August 2015, resigning from his post, which led to a monthlong caretaker administration headed by judge Vassiliki Thanou-Christophilou, Greece's first female prime minister. In the September 2015 general election, Alexis Tsipras led SYRIZA to another victory, winning 145 out of 300 seats and re-forming the coalition with the Independent Greeks. However, he was defeated in the July 2019 general election by Kyriakos Mitsotakis who leads New Democracy. On 7 July 2019, Kyriakos Mitsotakis was sworn in as the new Prime Minister of Greece. He formed a center-right government after the landslide victory of his New Democracy party.

Economy

The economy of Greece is the 51st largest in the world, with a nominal gross domestic product (GDP) of $189.410 billion per annum. In terms of purchasing power parity, Greece is the world's 54th largest economy, at $305.005 billion per annum. As of 2020, Greece is the sixteenth-largest economy in the 27-member European Union. According to the International Monetary Fund's figures for 2021, Greece's GDP per capita is $19,827 at nominal value and $31,821 at purchasing power parity.

Greece is a developed country with an economy based on the service (80%) and industrial sectors (16%), with the agricultural sector contributing an estimated 4% of national economic output in 2017. Important Greek industries include tourism and shipping. With 18 million international tourists in 2013, Greece was the 7th most visited country in the European Union and 16th in the world. The Greek Merchant Navy is the largest in the world, with Greek-owned vessels accounting for 15% of global deadweight tonnage as of 2013. The increased demand for international maritime transportation between Greece and Asia has resulted in unprecedented investment in the shipping industry.

The country is a significant agricultural producer within the EU. Greece has the largest economy in the Balkans and is an important regional investor. Greece was the largest foreign investor in Albania in 2013, the third in Bulgaria, in the top-three in Romania and Serbia, and the most important trading partner and largest foreign investor in North Macedonia. The Greek telecommunications company OTE has become a strong investor in certain former Yugoslav and other Balkan countries.

Greece is classified as an advanced, high-income economy, and was a founding member of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the Organization of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC). The country joined what is now the European Union in 1981. In 2001 Greece adopted the euro as its currency, replacing the Greek drachma at an exchange rate of 340.75 drachmae per euro. Greece is a member of the International Monetary Fund and the World Trade Organization, and ranked 34th on Ernst & Young's Globalization Index 2011.

World War II (1939–1945) devastated the country's economy, but the high levels of economic growth that followed from 1950 to 1980 have been called the Greek economic miracle. From 2000 Greece saw high levels of GDP growth above the Eurozone average, peaking at 5.8% in 2003 and 5.7% in 2006. The subsequent Great Recession and Greek government-debt crisis, a central focus of the wider European debt crisis, plunged the economy into a sharp downturn, with real GDP growth rates of −0.3% in 2008, −4.3% in 2009, −5.5% in 2010, −10.1% in 2011, −7.1% in 2012 and −2.5% in 2013. In 2011, the country's public debt reached €356 billion (172% of nominal GDP). After negotiating the biggest debt restructuring in history with the private sector, a loss of 100 billion for bonds, private investors, Greece reduced its sovereign debt burden to €280 billion (137% of GDP) in the first quarter of 2012. Greece achieved a real GDP growth rate of 0.5% in 2014—after 6 years of economic decline—but contracted by 0.2% in 2015 and by 0.5% in 2016. The country returned to modest growth rates of 1.1% in 2017, 1.7% in 2018, and 1.8% in 2019. GDP contracted by 9% in 2020 during the global recession caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the economy posted strong growth rates of 16.6% in the second quarter and 13.4% in the third quarter of 2021 on a year-on-year basis, indicating a strong recovery.

Culture

The culture of Greece has evolved over thousands of years, beginning in Mycenaean Greece and continuing most notably into Classical Greece, through the influence of the Roman Empire and its Greek Eastern continuation, the Eastern Roman or Byzantine Empire. Other cultures and nations, such as the Latin and Frankish states, the Ottoman Empire, the Venetian Republic, the Genoese Republic, and the British Empire have also left their influence on modern Greek culture, although historians credit the Greek War of Independence with revitalizing Greece and giving birth to a single, cohesive entity of its multi-faceted culture.

In ancient times, Greece was the birthplace of Western culture. Modern democracies owe a debt to Greek beliefs in government by the people, trial by jury, and equality under the law. The ancient Greeks pioneered in many fields that rely on systematic thought, including logic, biology, geometry, geography, medicine, history, philosophy, physics, and mathematics. They introduced such important literary forms as epic and lyric poetry, history, tragedy, comedy, and drama. In their pursuit of order and proportion, the Greeks created an ideal of beauty that strongly influenced Western art.

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