A Brief History of Greece
Greece has often been called “the cradle of Western civilization” and not without cause. The Ancient Greeks were the first to embrace democracy, while their philosophy, arts, and architecture have set an example to the western world that has endured for millennia. Though time has taken its toll on the relics of past ages, the Parthenon at the Acropolis in Athens, ancient Corinth, and other ruins abound throughout Greece and continue to draw people from all over the world. The first stages of the climb from primitive cultures to the heights of civilization began in the Aegean area about 2800 B.C. The Aegean was the key position for all trade during the 2nd and 3rd milleniums B.C.. The whole of Aegean Civilization was based on sea power and commerce and Greek colonists had an eye for picking the best places with commercial possibilities. Greek colonies sprung up from the western Mediterranean to the shores of the Black Sea, and the seeds that were to transform the whole outlook of western man had been firmly rooted by the 6th century B.C.. About the time of Homer, Greece burst forth into a new era of rapid progress known as the Classical Age (500-323 B.C.). Though this was the “golden age”, it was not without internal strife and outside attack. In 490 B.C., Greece was invaded by Persia but because of the efficiency and skill of the Greek armies, the Persians were defeated after the Greeks won a decisive victory at Marathon. It was during this time that Pericles initiated the great building schemes such as the Parthenon and the Propylea on the Athenian Acropolis. The empire of Athens flourished as allies were forced into submission. Internally the radical democracy was based on a popular assembly open to all. The Peloponnesian War ((431-404 B.C.) between Sparta and Athens marked the beginning of the decline of Athens. The war weakened Greece while neighboring Macedonia rose to power and unified the empire. A single, though elementary, nation emerged under Philip of Macedonia and his son Alexander the Great. When Alexander died in 323 B.C., quarrels and dissension weakened the empire until Greece fell under Roman rule. The Roman period (146 B.C. to 138 A.D.) saw the advent of Christianity in Greece. Paul preached on Mars Hill in Athens (Acts 17) and in other cities such as Corinth. A generation later, John wrote the book of Revelation on the island of Patmos. When the Roman Empire was divided into Eastern and Western Empires, Greece remained part of the Byzantine Empire, which lasted 1000 years until 1453 A.D. It was so influenced by Greek thought and culture that Greek became the official language, replacing Latin. The Ottoman Turks conquered Byzantium in 1453 with the fall of Constantinople and most of Greece fell under the rule of the Turks. Greece remained under Ottoman rule until 1821, when separate revolts merged to become the Greek War of Independence (1821-1834). This small country with a long history is once again struggling to break free from socio-economic problems that has plagued her in recent years.
From the beginning, when Greece was first inhabited over 5000 years ago, her people have been intent on proving that that they are a special breed, always more than one expects. Greeks are cheerful, hospitable, fun-loving, often unpredictable, but always full of contagious enthusiasm. History has moulded them into a single nation embracing countless generations. The spirit that made this incredible land what it was 25 centuries ago, a very small corner of the earth that exercised an influence out of proportion with its size, still persists.
Facts and Figures
Area: 131,957 sq. km. (51,146 sq. mi.; roughly the size of Alabama).
Major cities: Capital–Athens. Greater Athens (pop. 3,566,060), municipality of Athens (772,072), Greater Thessaloniki (pop. 1,057,825), municipality of Thessaloniki (363,987), Piraeus (175,697), Greater Piraeus (466,065), Patras (171,616), Iraklion (137,711), Larissa (126,076).
Terrain: Mountainous interior with coastal plains; 1,400-plus islands.
Climate: Mediterranean; mild, wet winter and hot, dry summer.
Population (2010 est.): 11,295,002
Population growth rate (2010 estimated): 0.1%.
Languages: Greek 99% (official), Turkish, others. Albanian is spoken by approximately 700,000 Albanian immigrants. English is the predominant second language.
Type: Parliamentary republic.
Independence: 1830. National Day: March 25 (1821).
Constitution: June 11, 1975, amended March 1986, April 2001, May 2008.
Eastern Orthodox Christianity is the dominant religion in Greece and receives state funding. During centuries of Ottoman domination, the Greek Orthodox Church preserved the Greek language and cultural identity. To be Greek is to be Greek Orthodox. To the Orthodox, their church is more than just local bodies. The word ‘orthodoxy’ has the double meaning of ‘right belief’ and ‘right glory’ (or right worship). The Orthodox regard their church as the Church, the Church of Christ on earth, which guards and teaches the true belief about God and glorifies Him through ‘right worship’. Tradition is vital to the Orthodox. One commentator noted the following regrading tradition to the Orthodox Church, “It means the books of the Bible; it means the Creed; it means the decrees of the Ecumenical Councils and the writings of the Fathers; it means the Canons, the service, the books, the Holy Icons- in fact, the whole system of doctrine, Church government, worship, spirituality and art which Orthodoxy has articulated over the ages.” He then adds this, “Note that the Bible forms a part (emphasis ours) of tradition. Sometimes Tradition is defined as the oral teaching of Christ, not recorded in writing by His immediate disciples.”
Our goal is to shine the light of the glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ brightly in the spiritually dark land of Greece. Despite a knowledge of the Lord and centuries of religious tradition, Greeks need to hear the truth of God’s Word and develop a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.