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Greece History, Language and Culture

History of Greece

Greece is often referred to as the birthplace of European civilisation. 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 fifth century BC when Athens became the cultural and artistic centre of the Mediterranean, producing magnificent works of architecture, sculpture, drama and literature – 2500 years later, you can still see the splendid Parthenon crowning the Acropolis rock in the city centre, the classical marble sculptures on display in the National Archaeological Museum, and even the ancient tragedies written by Euridipes and performed in the Odeon of Herodes Atticus during the Athens Summer Festival.

Athens lost her empire through a mutually destructive struggle with Sparta. The nation was then forcibly united under Alexander the Great and 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 Egypt. The empire fragmented after Alexander's death in 323 BC, and the fall of Greek hegemony was completed when the country came under the sway of Rome. Long periods under the yoke of the Byzantine and then the Ottoman empires followed until a bitter war of independence lead to a free state being declared in 1829. In 1833, the unpopular Bavarian-born King Otto was installed and Greece became a monarchy, ruled by a predominantly Danish royal family, until 1973.

After liberation from the Germans at end of World War 2, Greece descended into civil war, with pro-Communists fighting right-wing monarchists, until in 1949, Communism was outlawed. From 1967 to 1974, Greece endured the rule of an oppressive right-wing junta before a new constitution was enacted and returned the country to parliamentary rule.

Since 2009 Greek politics have been dominated by the debt crisis, which has seen off a succession of coalition governments until the left-wing Syriza party swept to victory in January 2015 and was returned again with a diminished majority in a second election later in the year. It continues to govern in coalition with independent parties.

Did you know?

• Greece is the birthplace of the Olympics Games, first recorded in 776BC at Olympia. It also hosted the inaugural modern Summer Olympics in 1896 and again in 2004.

• The principal gods of Ancient Greek mythology were the 12 Dodekatheon who lived on Mount Olympus ruled over by Zeus.

• The Greek merchant navy is the largest in the world.

Greece Culture

Religion in Greece

98% Greek Orthodox, with Muslim, Roman Catholic and Jewish minorities.

Social Conventions in Greece

Greeks are very aware of their strong historical and cultural heritage. Traditions and customs differ throughout Greece, but overall a strong sense of unity prevails. The Greek Orthodox Church has a strong traditional influence on the Greek way of life, especially in more rural areas. The throwing back of the head is a negative gesture. Dress is generally casual. Smoking is prohibited on public transport and in public buildings.

Language in Greece

Greek (Ellenika) is the official language. Most people connected with tourism, and younger generations generally speak some English, French, German or Italian.


  • Beer = Bira

  • Cheers! = Giamas

  • Closed = Klistó

  • Do you speak English? = Miláte anglika?

  • Doctor = Iatrós

  • Eight = Okhtó

  • Eighty = Ogdhónda

  • Entrance = Issodos

  • Exit = Exodos

  • Fifty = Penínda

  • Five = Pénde

  • Forty = Saránda

  • Four = Téseres /tésera

  • Friday = Paraskebí

  • Goodbye = Andío sas

  • Hello = Giásou

  • Hotel = Ksenodhohío

  • How are you? = Ti kánis / ti kánete?

  • How much does it cost? = Póso káni?

  • I'm very well = Kalá ímeh

  • I don't understand = Dhen katalavéno

  • I feel ill = Ímeh arostos

  • Menu = Kataloghos

  • Monday = Deftéra

  • My name is … = Meh léne …

  • Nine = Enyá

  • Ninety = Enenínda

  • No = Óhi

  • One = Éna

  • One Hundred = Ekató

  • One Thousand = Hílies

  • Open = Aniktó

  • Please = Parakaló

  • Restaurant = Estiatorio/ taverna

  • Saturday = Sábato

  • Seven = Eftá

  • Seventy = Evdhomínda

  • Six = Éksi

  • Sixty = Eksínda

  • Sunday = Kiriakí

  • Ten = Dhéka

  • Thank you = Efharistó

  • Thirty = Triánda

  • Three = Trís/tria

  • Thursday = Pémpti

  • Today = Símera

  • Toilets = Toualétes

  • Tomorrow = Ávrio

  • Tuesday = Tríti

  • Twenty = Íkosi

  • Two = Dhío

  • Wednesday = Tetárti

  • Where is …? = Pou ine …?

  • Wine = Krasi

  • Yes = Néh

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