The Greeks (Greek: Έλληνες, ) are a nation and ethnic group native to Greece, Cyprus and neighbouring regions. In addition, Greeks have established a plethora of vibrant expatriate communities around the world, forming a large Greek diaspora.
Greek colonies and communities have been historically established in most corners of the Mediterranean but Greeks have always been centered around the Aegean Sea, where Greek has been spoken since antiquity. Until the early 20th century, Greeks were uniformly distributed between the Greek peninsula, the western coast of Asia Minor, Pontus, Cyprus and Constantinople, regions which coincided to a large extent with the borders of the Byzantine Empire of the late 11th century and the Eastern Mediterranean areas of the ancient Greek colonization.
In the aftermath of the Greco-Turkish War (1919-1922), a large-scale population exchange between Greece and Turkey transferred and confined ethnic Greeks almost entirely into the borders of the modern Greek state and Cyprus. Other ethnic Greek populations can be found from Southern Italy to the Caucasus and in diaspora communities in a number of other countries. Today, the vast majority of Greeks are at least nominally adherents of Greek Orthodoxy.
Greek has been spoken on the Greek peninsula (i.e. the southern Balkan region) for over 3,500 years and in western Asia Minor for a little less. It has an almost unbroken literary history which makes it one of the oldest surviving branches of the Indo-European languages. From Ancient Greece the Greeks have inherited a sophisticated culture and language documented over three millennia.
Greece was the first modern state to be created in the Balkans when the Greeks liberated a part of their historic homelands from the Ottoman Empire. The large Greek Diaspora and merchant class were instrumental in transmitting the ideas of western Romantic nationalism and Philhellenism. These, together with the conception of Hellenism formulated during the last centuries of the Eastern Roman Empire, formed the basis of the Greek Enlightenment.
The proto-Greeks arrived in the area now referred to as "Greece" (the southern tip of the Balkan peninsula) at the end of the third millennium BCE. There they mingled with the native pre-Hellenic populations and by the 16th century BCE this fusion had created the civilization we call Mycenaean today. The Mycenaeans were the first Greek speaking people, as attested by the Iliad and Odyssey and later the deciphering of their Linear B script. The language behind the script was found to be an early form of Greek.|
The Mycenaeans quickly penetrated the Aegean and by the 15th century BCE had reached Rhodes, Crete, Cyprus and the shores of Asia Minor. From 1,200 BCE the Dorians, another Greek speaking people, followed from Epirus. The Dorian Migration was followed by a poorly attested period of migrations, appropriately called the Greek Dark Ages, but by 800 BCE the landscape of Classical Greece was discernible.
There are some elements of cultural continuity between the Greek Dark Ages or Early Iron Age (1100 BCE - 750 BCE), and the Archaic and Classical Greece (750 BCE onwards) of the Polis. In the Odyssey and the Iliad, the Greeks of Prehistory are viewed as the forefathers of the early classical civilization of Homer's own time. Achilles and Odysseus were viewed by Greeks as examples of the ideal citizen of a Polis.
The Mycenaean pantheon included many of the divinities attested in later Greek religion including Zeus, Poseidon, Athena, Artemis, Ares-"Enyalios", Hermes, Dionysus and Eilithyia. It was also influenced by the Minoan pantheon. There was some continuity of religion and cult from the Late Bronze Age into later Greek times.
The classical period of Greek civilization covers a time span from the early fifth century BCE to the death of Alexander the Great, in 323 BCE. It is so named because it set the standards by which Greek civilization would be judged in later eras. In that time Greeks contributed to the future development of arts and sciences by creating a legacy of influence upon Western civilization. The ethnogenesis of the Greek nation is marked by the first Olympic Games in 776 BCE when the idea of a common Hellenism amongst the Greek speaking tribes was first translated into a shared cultural experience. Hellenism was supremely a matter of common culture.
Herodotus writes that the Athenians declared, before the battle of Plataea, that they would not go over to Mardonius, because in the first place, they were bound to avenge the burning of the Acropolis; and, secondly, they would not betray their fellow Greeks, to whom they were bound by:
As Thucydides observes the name of Hellas spread from a valley in Thessaly to the Greek-speaking populations sometime after the compositions of Homer (the Panellenes of Iliad 2.530 are the troops of Thessaly, contrasting with the Achaeans) and not long before his own time. Hellen, combined into one group the smaller tribes that participated in the Delphic Amphictyon, such as the Aeolians, the Achaeans, and the Dorians.
As early as the 5th century BCE, Isocrates, after speaking of common origin and religion, says: "the name Hellenes suggests no longer a race but a culture and education,... the title Hellenes is applied best to those who share our culture rather than to those who share our common blood". Following Alexander the Great's conquests, Greek became the lingua franca of the Eastern Mediterranean and was widely spoken by educated non-Greeks.
However, while the Greeks of the Classical era understood themselves to belong to a common Greek ethnicity their first loyalty was to their city and they saw nothing incongruous about warring, often brutally, with other Greek Poleis. The Peloponnesian War, a large scale Greek "civil" war between Athens and Sparta and their allies, is a notable such incident which highlights the lack of a common national (as opposed to ethnic) identity among Greeks. This local patriotism, (topikismos) remains a part of Greek culture.
The feuding Greek city-states were only united under the banner of Alexander the Great's Panhellenic ideals, though some might contend that Macedon’s overwhelming military strength might have played a role. Regardless, the combined armies of Greece were pointed at the Greek's nemesis, the Persian Empire. Following victories at the battles of Granicus, Issus and Gaugamela the Greeks toppled the world's largest empire. Greek armies advanced as far as modern day India and Tajikistan, setting up colonies and trade routes along the way. While the empire created did not survive Alexander’s death, the cultural implications of the spread of Hellenism across most of the known world were to prove long lived. Two thousand years later there are still communities like the Kalash in Pakistan and the Nuristani in Afghanistan who claim to be descended from Greek settlers.
When Alexander the Great's armies overthrew the Persian Empire and spread Greek culture from the Adriatic to the Indian Ocean they were laying the foundations for a new era. The beginning of the Hellenistic age is usually placed at Alexander's death. This Hellenistic age, so called because it witnessed the partial Hellenization of many non-Greek cultures and a combination of Greek, Middle Eastern and Indian elements, lasted until the conquest of Egypt by Rome in 30 BCE.
This age saw the Greeks move towards larger cities and a reduction in the importance of the city-state. These larger cities were parts of the still larger Kingdoms of the Diadochi. Greeks however remained aware of their past, chiefly through the study of the works of Homer and the Classical authors. An important factor in maintaining Greek identity was contact with barbarian (non-Greek) peoples which was deepened in the new cosmopolitan environment of the multi-ethnic Hellenistic Kingdoms. This led to a strong desire among Greeks to organize the transmission of Hellenic paideia to the next generation.
In the religious sphere, this was a period of profound change. The spiritual revolution that took place saw a waning of the old Greek religion, whose decline beginning in the 3rd century BCE continued with the introduction of new religious movements from the East. The cults of deities like Isis and Mithra were introduced into the Greek world. In the Indo-Greek kingdoms of the East and the Greco-Bactrian a new Hellenized form of a local religion was spreading, Greco-Buddhism and Greco-Buddhist missionaries would play an important role in propagating it to China. Further east, the Greeks of Alexandria Eschate who introduced the cultivation of grapes to the Far East, became known to the Chinese as the Dayuan.
|The 11th century Trebizond Gospel was commissioned by the Komnenoi.||Scenes of marriage and family life. Left illumination is a scene of marriage. The right illumination depicts a conversation among family members.|
The new Eastern Religions introduced into the Greek world paved the way for the expansion of Christianity among Roman era Greeks. Early Christianity was profoundly shaped by the Greek world of ideas and the Greek speaking Christians (the so called εξ ελλήνων χριστιανοί or Hellenists) formed the majority of the Early Church and provided most of the Greek Fathers. Eventually the word Hellene came to mean a Hellenic polytheist or a pagan in general and Greek speakers referred to themselves as Rhomaioi (Romans in Greek, an ethnonym still in use today). Distinctions of ethnicity still existed in the Roman empire, but became secondary to religious considerations. The renewed empire used Christianity as a tool to maintain its cohesion and promoted a robust Roman national identity.
The Eastern Roman Empire (which was later misnamed by Western historians as the Byzantine Empire, a name that would have meant nothing to Greek speakers of the era), although continuing Roman cultural traditions for first centuries of the Empire's existence and being largely undifferentiated from the Western Roman Empire in this issue, the Empire became largely influenced by Greek culture following 7th century when Emperor Heraclius (575 CE-641 CE) decided to make Greek the Roman Empire's official language. From then on, the Roman and Greek cultures were virtually fused in the East into a single Greco-Roman world. Although the Latin West recognized the Empire's Roman legacy for several centuries despite religious differences, after Pope Leo III crowned King of Franks Charlemagne as the "Roman Emperor" on 25 December 800, (an act which eventually led to the formation of the Holy Roman Empire) the Latin West started to favor the Catholic Franks and also began to refer the Eastern Roman Empire largely as the Empire of the Greeks (Imperium Graecorum). Greek speakers at the time however referred to themselves as Rhomaioi (Romans) and were conscious and proud of their Roman Imperial and Christian religious heritages.
|"At least three quarters of the ancient Greek classics that survived did so through Byzantine manuscripts."|
|Michael H. Harris|
|"Much of what we know about antiquity – especially Hellenic and Roman literature and Roman law — would have been lost forever, if it weren’t for the scholars and the scribes of Constantinople."|
To the Slavic world, Roman Greeks contributed by the dissemination of literacy and Christianity. The most notable example of the later was the work of the two brothers Saints Cyril and Methodius from Thessalonica, who are credited today with inventing the first Slavic alphabet.
A distinct Greek nationalism re-emerged in the 11th century within specific circles and became more forceful after the fall of Constantinople to the Crusaders of the Fourth Crusade in 1204, and the establishment of a number of Greek kingdoms (such as the Empire of Nicaea and the Despotate of Epirus). When the empire was revived in 1261, it became in many ways a Greek national state. Adherence to Greek Orthodox rites and the Greek language, became the defining characteristic of its people. That new notion of nationhood engendered a deep interest in the classical past. There was a powerful secularist tradition in this, culminating in the ideas of the Neo-Platonist Byzantine philosopher George Gemistus Plethon who wished to revive the ancient Greek religion. However it was the combination of Orthodoxy with a specifically Greek identity that shaped the Byzantine Greeks notions of themselves in the empire's twilight years.
Under the Ottoman Empire's millet system, religion was the defining characteristic of "national" groups (milletler), so the exonym "Greeks" (Rumlar from the name Rhomaioi) was applied by the Ottomans to all members of the Orthodox Church, regardless of their language or ethnic origin. Conversely, those who adopted Islam during that period were considered part of the same Muslim millet, regardless of their language or origin. The Greek speakers were the only ethnic group to actually call themselves Rhomaioi, (as opposed to being so named by others) and some even considered their ethnicity (genos) to be Hellenic. For most Greek speakers, however, the Hellenes were an ancient, semi-mythical race of giants to whom they were inferior in strength and achievement.
The roots of Greek success in the Ottoman Empire can be traced to the Greek tradition of education and the need of the Ottomans for skilled and educated negotiators as the power of their empire declined and they were compelled to rely on treaties more than force of arms. However it was the wealth of the extensive Greek merchant class that provided the material basis for the intellectual revival that was the prominent feature of Greek life in the half century and more leading to the outbreak of the Greek War of Independence in 1821. Impelled by the brand of local patriotism that has always been of feature of the Greek world they endowed libraries and schools. Not coincidentally, on the eve of 1821 the three most important centres of Greek learning, schools-cum-universities, were situated in Chios, Smyrna and Aivali, all three major centres of Greek commerce. Starting in the 15th century, many Greeks sought better employment and education opportunities by leaving for the West, particularly Italy but also Central Europe and Germany as well as Russia.
This relationship between ethnic Greek identity and Greek Orthodox religion continued after the creation of the modern Greek state in 1830. According to the second article of the first Greek constitution of 1822, a Greek was defined as any Christian resident of the Kingdom of Greece, a clause removed by 1840. A century later, when the Treaty of Lausanne was signed between Greece and Turkey in 1923, the two countries agreed to use religion as the determinant for ethnic identity for the purposes of population exchange.
While the majority of Greeks today are descended from Greek-speaking Rhomioi there are sizeable groups of ethnic Greeks who trace their descent to Aromanian-speaking Vlachs, Albanian-speaking Arvanites and Slavic-speaking Greeks. None of the latter groups were ever considered less Greek than the Rhomioi and their contribution to the liberation and foundation of the modern Greek state was decisive.
In many important respects, the Greek state adhered from its founding to remarkably secular principles. For instance, Jews were granted full citizens rights in 1830, the year Greece's independence was formally recognized, thus making Greece one of the first states in Europe with an emancipated Jewish community.
The terms used to define Greekness have varied throughout history. By Western standards, the term Greeks has traditionally referred to any native speakers of the Greek language, whether Mycenaean, Byzantine or modern Greek. While Byzantine Greeks called themselves Rhomioi, they valued the classical tradition, considered themselves the political heirs of Rome, and deemed themselves the ethnic, cultural, and literary heirs of ancient Greece. The use of the older self-descriptive ethnic term Hellenes begun to be revived during the era following the Greco-Latin clashes between the Greeks and the Western Crusaders in the 12th century. It regained some popularity through its use by late Byzantine Emperors and scholars such as Gemistus Pletho and Ciriaco de' Pizzicolli. It became fairly common with the emergence, in the late 18th century, of the nation-state and its gradual consolidation, but it was not until the early 19th century that its popular use was firmly re-established.
The Greeks today are a nation in the meaning of an ethnos, defined by possessing Greek culture and having a Greek mother tongue, rather than by citizenship, race, religion or by being subjects of any particular state. However, Greeks are also identified as a genos in the sense of sharing a common ancestry. The term Greek also referred to the Eastern Orthodox Christian inhabitants of the Rum Millet of the Ottoman Empire.
Throughout the centuries, the Greeks have been known by a number of names, including:
Modern scholars and scientists have supported the notion that there is a racial connection to the ancient Greeks. Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza, Paolo Menozzi, and Alberto Piazza, have found evidence of a genetic connection between the ancient and modern Greeks. Recent genetic analyses of Greek populations have provided evidence of statistically significant continuity between ancient and modern Greeks (low admixture attributed to genetic isolation due to physical barriers).
Some authors have posited that the Greeks of today are not culturally or demographically related to the Greeks of classical antiquity. Notable among them was the 19th century Austrian historian Jakob Philipp Fallmerayer. Fallmerayer, in his work Geschichte der Halbinsel Morea während des Mittelalters, averred that demographic continuity in Greece was interrupted brutally by successive waves of invasion and migration between the 6th and 8th century by Slavs, and later, in the second half of the 14th century by Albanians who occupied and settled mainly in the Peloponnese. According to this narrative, the centre of gravity of the ancient Greek ethnos was shifted outside the boundaries of modern Greece, and so the "demographic evidence is at best tenuous, at worst non-existent". The traditional view is that the Fallmerayer thesis, rooted in 19th century racialism, provoked an "outraged" Greek response, of which Constantine Paparrigopoulos was the spearhead; however, modern scholarly opinion tends to see both Fallmerayer and Paparrigopoulos as taking positions influenced by and intelligible only within the political and intellectual decline of Western philhellenism.
Fallmerayer's controversial (some say racist) views were later incorporated in Nazi theoretician Alfred Rosenberg's Der Mythus des 20es Jahrhunderts and found adherents in the Third Reich who echoed them in their writings. They were also actively promoted by the Axis occupation authorities in Greece who hoped to extinguish any sympathy their troops might feel for the Greeks. Other Western authors say that it is Westerners who are the "true heirs" of Greece, since Greeks today, whom they label "modern Greeks", are the product of "genetic dissonance" and "mingling with slaves". While the point of demographic continuity has been contested by several authors in the West and Greece, ideas of race were never dominant features of thought in the Greek world, either ancient, or later. Case in point, the medieval Greek mythological hero Digenis Acritas was so named because of his dual, Greek and Syrian, parentage. However, ideas of descent based on ancestral lineages were often a common aspect of Greek identity even during the Hellenistic period.
Today, Greeks are the majority ethnic group in the Hellenic Republic where they constitute 93% of that country's population and the Republic of Cyprus where they comprise 78% of the island's population (excluding Turkish settlers in the occupied part of the country). Greek populations have not traditionally exhibited high rates of growth; nonetheless the population of Greece has shown regular increase since the country's first census in 1828. Most of the population growth since the state's foundation has resulted from annexation of new territories and the influx of 1.5 million Greek refugees following the 1923 population exchange between Greece and Turkey. About 80% of the population of Greece is urban with 28% concentrated in the city of Athens.
Greeks from Cyprus have a history of emigration, usually to the English speaking world as a result of the island's colonization by the British Empire. Waves of emigration followed the Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974, while the population decreased between mid-1974 and 1977 as a result of emigration, war losses and a temporary decline in fertility. After the ethnic cleansing of a third of the Greek population of the island in 1974 there was also an increase in the number of Greek Cypriots leaving, especially for the Middle East. This contributed to a decrease in population which tapered off in the 1990s. More than two thirds of the Greek population in Cyprus is urban.
There is a sizeable Greek minority of about 60,000 people, in Albania. The Greek minority of Turkey which numbered upwards of 200,000 people after the 1923 exchange has now dwindled to a few thousand, following the 1955 Istanbul Pogrom and other state sponsored violence and discrimination. There are also smaller Greek minorities in the rest of the Balkan countries, the Levant and the Black Sea states, remnants of the Old Greek Diaspora (pre-19th century).
The New Greek Diaspora (post-19th century) has mainly been towards the Western, in particular the English-speaking, World. The Greek population outside Greece and Cyprus is around 5 million, though estimates vary. The trend towards migration to the (modern) West began in the 15th century and continues to this day as Greeks are attracted to the educational and professional opportunities available in the Western World. After Greece the second largest concentration of Greeks in one country is in the United States, while New York City and Melbourne are among the largest "Greek" cities.
In ancient times, the trading and colonising activities of the Greek tribes and city states spread people of Greek culture, religion and language around the Mediterranean and Black Sea basins, especially in Sicily, southern Italy, Spain, the South of France and the Black sea coasts. Under Alexander the Great's Empire Greek ruling classes were established in the Middle East, India and in Egypt. The Hellenistic period is characterized by a new wave of Greek colonization which established Greek cities and Kingdoms in Asia and Africa. Under the Roman Empire movement of people spread Greeks across the Empire and in the eastern territories Greek became the lingua franca rather than Latin. The Roman Empire became Christianized in the fourth century AD, and in the Byzantine period practice of the Greek Orthodox form of Christianity became a defining hallmark of Greek identity.
During and after the Greek War of Independence, Greeks of the Diaspora were important in establishing the fledgling state, raising funds and awareness abroad. Greek merchant families already had contacts in other countries and during the disturbances many set up home around the Mediterranean (notably Marseilles in France, Livorno in Italy, Alexandria in Egypt), Russia (Odessa and Saint Petersburg), and Britain (London and Liverpool) from where they traded, typically in textiles and grain. Businesses frequently comprised the whole extended family, and with them they brought schools teaching Greek and the Greek Orthodox church. As markets changed and they became more established, some families grew their operations to become shippers, financed through the local Greek community, notably with the aid of the Ralli or Vagliano Brothers. With economic success the Diaspora expanded further across the Levant, North Africa, India and the USA.
In the twentieth century, many Greeks left their traditional homelands for economic reasons resulting in large migrations from Greece and Cyprus to the United States, Great Britain, Australia, Canada, Germany, and South Africa, especially after the Second World War (1939-45), the Greek Civil War (1946-49), and the Turkish Invasion of Cyprus in 1974.
The Greeks speak the Greek language, an Indo-European language which forms a branch itself, with its closest relations being Armenian (see Graeco-Armenian) and the Indo-Iranian languages (see Graeco-Aryan). It has the longest documented history of any language in the branch. Greek literature has a continuous history of nearly 3,000 years, and has been written in the Greek alphabet since the 9th century BC. Several notable works have been originally written in Greek, including the Odyssey, the Iliad and the New Testament among others.
Greek demonstrates several linguistic features that are shared with other Balkan languages, such as Albanian, Bulgarian and Romanian (see Balkan sprachbund), and has absorbed numerous foreign words, primarily of Western European and Turkish origin. Due to the movements of Philhellenism and the Diafotismos in the 19th century, which emphasized the modern Greeks' ancient heritage, these foreign influences were excluded from official use via the creation of Katharevousa, a somewhat artificial form of Greek purged of all foreign influence and words, as the official language of the Greek state. In 1976, however, the Hellenic Parliament voted to make Dimotiki (based on the dialect of the Peloponnese) the official language, making Katharevousa obsolete.
Modern Greek has, along with Standard Modern Greek or Dimotiki, a wide variety of dialects of varying levels of mutual intelligibility, including Cypriot, Pontic, Cappadocian, Griko and Tsakonian (the only surviving representative of ancient Doric Greek). Yevanic is the language of the Romaniotes, and survives in small communities in Greece, New York and Israel.
In addition to Greek, many Greeks in Greece are bilingual in other languages or dialects such as Arvanitika, Aromanian, Slavika, Russian and Turkish. In the Greek diaspora, Greeks also speak the languages of the areas in which they live. Some members of the diaspora cannot speak Greek, but are still considered Greeks by ethnic origin or descent.
The majority of Greeks are Eastern Orthodox Christians, belonging to the Greek Orthodox Church. During the first centuries after Jesus Christ, the New Testament was originally written in Koine Greek, which is mutually intelligible with modern Greek to a great extent, as most of the early Christians and Church Fathers were Greek-speaking. While the Orthodox Church was always intensely hostile to the ancient Greek religion, it did help Greeks retain their sense of identity during the Ottoman rule through its use of Greek in the liturgy and its modest educational efforts. There are also small groups of ethnic Greeks adhering to other Christian denominations like Greek Catholics, Greek Evangelicals and Jehovah's Witnesses, and groups adhering to other religions including Romaniotes and Greek Muslims. About 2,000 people are members of Hellenic Polytheistic Reconstructionism congregations.
Greek art has a long and varied history. Greeks have made several contributions to the visual, literary and performing arts. In the West ancient Greek art was influential in shaping the Roman and later the modern Western artistic heritage. Following the Renaissance in Europe, the humanist aesthetic and the high technical standards of Greek art inspired generations of European artists. Well into the 19th century, the classical tradition derived from Greece played an important part the art of the Western World. In the East, Alexander the Great's conquests initiated several centuries of exchange between Greek, Central Asian and Indian cultures, resulting in Greco-Buddhist art, whose influence reached as far as Japan.
Byzantine Greek art, which grew from classical art, provided a stimulus to the art of many nations. Its influences can be traced from Venice in the West to Kazakhstan in the East and Byzantine art is one of the most striking features of that civilization.
In turn, Greek art was influenced by eastern civilizations in Classical Antiquity and the new religion of Orthodox Christianity during Byzantine times while modern Greek art is heavily influenced by Western art. Notable Greek artists include Renaissance painter El Greco, soprano Maria Callas, and composers Iannis Xenakis and Vangelis. Greek Alexandrian Constantine P. Cavafy and Nobel laureates George Seferis and Odysseas Elitis are among the most important poets of the twentieth century.
The Greeks of the Classical era made several notable contributions to science and helped lay the foundations of modern scientific principles. The scholarly tradition of the Greek academies was maintained during Roman times with several academic institutions in Constantinople, Antioch, Alexandria and other centres of Greek learning. Byzantine science was essentially classical science.
The Greek world has a long tradition of valuing and investing in paideia (education). Paideia was one of the highest societal values in the Greek and Hellenistic world while the first European institution described as a university was founded in 9th century Constantinople and operated in various incarnations until the city's fall to the Ottomans in 1453. The University of Constantinople was also Christian Europe's first secular institution of higher learning since no theological subjects were taught.
As of 2007, Greece had the eighth highest percentage of tertiary enrollment in the world (with the percentages for female students being higher than for male) while Greeks of the Diaspora are equally active in the field of education. Hundreds of thousands of Greek students attend Western universities every year while the faculty lists of leading Western universities contain a striking number of Greek names. Notable Greek scientists of modern times include Georgios Papanikolaou (inventor of the Pap test), Nicholas Negroponte, Constantin Carathéodory, Michael Dertouzos, John Argyris and Dimitri Nanopoulos.
flag of the
Greek Orthodox Church.
flag of Greece.
The pre-1978 (and first) flag of Greece, which features a Greek cross (crux immissa quadrata) on a blue background, is widely used as an alternative to the official flag, and they are often flown together. The national emblem of Greece features a blue escutcheon with a white cross totally surrounded by two laurel branches. A common design involves the current flag of Greece and the pre-1978 flag of Greece with crossed flagpoles and the national emblem placed in front.
Another highly recognizable and popular Greek symbol is the double-headed eagle, the imperial emblem of the Byzantine Empire and a common symbol in Eastern Europe. It is not currently part of the modern Greek flag or coat of arms, although it is officially the insignia of the Greek Army and the flag of the Church of Greece. It had been incorporated in the Greek coat of arms between 1925 and 1926.
Greek surnames are most commonly patronymics. Occupation, characteristic or ethnic background and location/origin-based surnames names also occur; they are sometimes supplemented by nicknames. Commonly, Greek male surnames end in -s, which is the common ending for Greek masculine proper nouns in the nominative case. Exceptionally, some end in -ou, indicating the genitive case of this proper noun for patronymic reasons. Although surnames are static today, dynamic and changing patronym usage survives in middle names in Greece where the genitive of father's first name is commonly the middle name.
Because of their codification in the Modern Greek state, surnames have Katharevousa forms even though Katharevousa is no longer the official standard. Thus, the Ancient Greek name Eleutherios forms the Modern Greek proper name Lefteris, and former vernacular practice (prefixing the surname to the proper name) was to call John Eleutherios as Leftero-giannis. Modern practice is to call the same person Giannis Eleftheriou: the proper name is vernacular (and not Ioannis), but the surname is an archaic genitive.
Female surnames, are most often in the Katharevousa genitive case of a male name. This is an innovation of the Modern Greek state; Byzantine practice was to form a feminine counterpart of the male surname (e.g. masculine Palaiologos, Byzantine feminine Palaiologina, Modern feminine Palaiologou)".
In the past, women would change their surname when married, to that of their husband (again in genitive case) signifying the transfer of "dependence" from the father to the husband. In earlier Modern Greek society, women were named with -aina as a feminine suffix on the husband's first name: "Giorgaina", "Mrs. George", "Wife of George". Nowadays, a woman's surname does not change upon marriage, though she can use the husband's surname socially. Children usually receive the paternal surname, though in rare cases, if the bride and groom have agreed before the marriage, the children can receive the maternal surname.
Some surnames are prefixed with Papa-, indicating ancestry from a priest, i.e. ."Papadopoulos", the "son of the priest (papas)". Others, like Archi- and Mastro- signify "boss" and "tradesman" respectively.
Prefixes such as Konto-, Makro-, and Chondro-, describe body characteristics, such as "short", "tall/long" and "fat". "Gero-" and "Palaio-" signify "old" or "wise".
Other prefixes include Hadji- which was an honorific deriving from the Arabic Hadj or pilgrimage, and indicate that the person had made a pilgrimage (in the case of Christians to Jerusalem) and Kara- which is attributed to the Turkish word for "black" deriving from the Ottoman Empire era.
Arvanitic surnames are also common. For example, the word in Arvanitika for "brave" or "pallikari" (in Greek) being "çanavar" or its shortened form "çavar" was pronounced "tzanavar" or "tzavar" giving birth to traditional Arvanitic family names like "Tzanavaras" and/or "Tzavaras".
Most Greek patronymic suffixes are diminutives, which vary by region. The most common Hellenic patronymic suffixes are:
Others, less common are:
The traditional Greek homelands have been the Greek peninsula and the Aegean, the Black Sea and Ionian coasts of Asia Minor, the islands of Cyprus and Sicily and the south of the Italian peninsula. In Plato's Phaidon Socrates remarks that "we (Greeks) live like ants or frogs around a pond". This image is attested by the map of the Old Greek Diaspora, which corresponded to the Greek world until the creation of the Greek state in 1832. The sea and trade were natural outlets for Greeks since the Greek peninsula is rocky and does not offer good prospects for agriculture.
The sea has always been a defining feature of Greek culture, with numerous songs and poems about the sea and seascapes attested in Greek art. In war among the many battles that the Greek Nation was called to fight the most decisive one was the sea battle at Salamis which has been described as one of the most important battles in history. A notable Greek explorer was the 6th century merchant and later monk Cosmas Indicopleustes ("Cosmas who sailed to India"). In later times, the Rhomioi plied the sea-lanes of the Mediterranean and controlled trade until an embargo imposed by the Roman Emperor on trade with the Muslims opened the door for the later Italian pre-eminence in trade.
The Greek shipping tradition recovered during Ottoman rule when a substantial merchant middle class developed, aided in part by the Treaty of Küçük Kaynarca (21 July 1774) between the Ottoman Empire and the Russian Empire. It granted Russia some economic and political rights in the Ottoman Empire, such as allowing Ottoman Eastern Orthodox Christians to sail under the Russian flag. This was in effect a Russian guarantee on all Greek ships that flew the Russian flag, spurring the creation of a merchant marine on the three nautical islands of Hydra, Spetses and Psara. These sailors also played an important part in the Greek War of Independence.
Today, Greek shipping continues to prosper to the extent that Greece has the largest merchant fleet in the world, and many more ships under Greek ownership fly flags of convenience. The most notable shipping magnate of the 20th century was Aristotle Onassis, others being Yiannis Latsis, George Livanos, and Stavros Niarchos. A famous Greek poet of the 20th century was the Chinese-born seaman Nikos Kavvadias who expressed the spirit of Greek cosmopolitanism and effortless and unpretentious multiculturalism.
Some key historical events have also been included for context, but this timeline is not intended to cover history not related to migrations. There is more information on the historical context of these migrations in History of Greece.
|3rd millennium BCE||Proto-Greek tribes migrate into the Balkans|
|20th century BCE||Greek settlements established on the Balkans|
|17th century BCE||Decline of Minoan civilization, possibly due to the eruption of Thera. Settlement of Achaeans and Ionians, Mycenaean civilization|
|13th century BCE||First colonies established in Asia Minor|
|11th century BCE||Doric tribes move into peninsular Greece|
|9th century BCE||Major colonization of Asia Minor|
|8th century BCE||First major colonies established in Sicily and Southern Italy|
|6th century BCE||Colonies established across the Mediterranean and the Black Sea|
|4th century BCE||Campaign of Alexander the Great; Greek colonies established in newly founded cities of Ptolemaic Egypt and Asia|
|2nd century BCE||Conquest of Greece by the Roman Empire. Migrations of Greeks to Rome.|
|4th century||Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire, Migrations of Greeks throughout the Empire, mainly towards Constantinople|
|7th century||Slavic conquest of several parts of Greece, Greek migrations to Southern Italy, Byzantine Emperors capture main Slavic bodies and transfer them to Cappadocia, Bosphorus re-populated by Macedonian and Cypriot Greeks|
|8th century||Byzantine dissolution of surviving Slavic settlements in Greece and full recovery of the Greek peninsula|
|9th century||Retro-migrations of Greeks from all parts of the Empire (mainly from Southern Italy and Sicily) into parts of Greece that were depopulated by the Slavic Invasions (mainly western Peloponnesus and Thessaly)|
|13th century||Byzantine Empire dissolves, Constantinople taken by the Fourth Crusade; becoming the capital of the Latin Empire. Liberated after a long struggle by the Empire of Nicaea, but fragments remain separated. Migrations between Asia Minor, Constantinople and mainland Greece take place|
| 15th century|
|Conquest of Constantinople by the Ottoman Empire. Greek diaspora into Europe begins. Ottoman settlements in Greece. Phanariot Greeks occupy high posts in Eastern European millets.|
|1830s||Creation of the Modern Greek State. Immigration to the New World begins. Large-scale migrations from Constantinople and Asia Minor to Greece take place|
|1913||European Ottoman lands partitioned; Unorganized migrations of Greeks, Bulgarians and Turks towards their respective states|
|1914-1923||Pontic Greek Genocide, approximately 353,000 Pontian Greeks killed|
|1919||Treaty of Neuilly; Greece and Bulgaria exchange populations, with some exceptions.|
|1922||The Destruction of Smyrna (nowadays Izmir) more than 40 thousand Greeks killed, End of significant Greek presence in Asia Minor|
|1923||Treaty of Lausanne; Greece and Turkey agree to exchange populations with limited exceptions of the Greeks in Constantinople, Imbros, Tenedos and the Muslim minority (mainly Greeks, Pomaks, Roms and Turks) of Western Thrace. 1,5 million of Asia Minor and Pontic Greeks settle in Greece, and some 450 thousands of Muslims settle in Turkey|
|1940s||Hundred of thousands Greeks died from starvation during the Axis Occupation of Greece|
|1947||Communist regime in Romania begins evictions of the Greek community, approx. 75,000 migrate.|
|1948||Greek Civil War. Tens of thousands of Greek communists and their families flee into Eastern Bloc nations. Thousands settle in Tashkent|
|1950s||Massive emigration of Greeks to West Germany, the United States, Australia, Canada, and other countries.|
|1955||Istanbul Pogrom against Greeks. Exodus of Greeks from the city accelerates; less than 2,000 remain today.|
|1958||Large Greek community in Alexandria flees Nasser's regime in Egypt.|
|1960s||Republic of Cyprus created, as an independent state, under Greek, Turkish and British protection. Economic emigration continues|
|1974||Turkish invasion of Cyprus. Almost all Greeks living in Northern Cyprus flee to the south and the United Kingdom|
|1980s||Many civil war refugees were allowed to re-emigrate to Greece. Retro-migration of Greeks from Germany begins|
|1990s||Collapse of Soviet Union. Approx. 100,000 ethnic Greeks migrate from Georgia, Armenia, southern Russia and Albania to Greece|
|2000s||Some statistics indicate the beginning of a trend of reverse migration of Greeks from the United States and Australia|