Located in the Balkan Peninsula in southeast Europe, Greece is considered to be the cradle of Western Civilisation. Often called the origin of Western philosophy and literature, important scientific and mathematical principles, to name a few, the impact of it this country’s thought-leaders still influences the world as we know it today.
Greece is also a country abundant with historical architecture – in fact, one of its famous landmarks, the Acropolis of Athens, was a runner-up to be included in the new 7 wonders of the world!
Here are some more interesting facts about Greece.
1. The country’s official local name is the Hellenic Republic
Historically also called Hellas, Greece is known as the Hellenic Republic. This name refers to the Hellenistic Greek era which ranged from the death of Alexander the Great to the Battle of Corinth. The English use of Greece comes from the Latin word ‘Graecia’. Latin was spoken by the ancient Romans who conquered Hellas and the word ‘Graecia’ translates to ‘land of the Greeks’.
2. Democracy has its origin in Greece
An interesting fact about Greece is that the first known democracy took shape in Athens in 507 B.C. when the Athenian leader Cleisthenes presented a system of political reforms. This was called ‘demokratia’(meaning ‘rule by the people’) and is derived from the words ‘demos’ (‘common people’) and ‘kratos’ (‘power’). Despite only lasting two centuries, the Athenian democracy nevertheless had a significant impact on governments for generations to come and have enabled citizens in several countries to vote for the countries’ leadership representatives.
3. The first international Olympic Games were held in the country’s capital, Athens
The 1896 Summer Olympics took place from 6 to 15 April 1896 in the Panathenaic Stadium in Athens. The event featured 14 nations and 241 athletes who participated in 43 events. Presented by the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the first Summer Olympics proved successful and drew large crowds of supporters. Despite strong support for Athens to become the host for the following Games, Paris was chosen as the next city after Athens to host the next Olympic Games. However, Athens was appointed to host the Intercalated Games of 1906, and would again host the Summer Olympics in 2004.
4. The Parthenon is one of the most famous buildings in the world
This well-known marble temple was built between 447 and 432 B.C. in honour of the goddess Athena, who was considered the patron of the city. The Parthenon was a religious hub during its early years and symbolised power, wealth and elevated culture. Today, it is regarded as one of the most important surviving buildings in Classical Greece. Restoration of the Parthenon has been underway since 1975, with the most recent development being the Acropolis Restoration Project, a fun Greece fact.
5. There are about 6,000 Greek islands and islets
Between 166 and 227 of the many Greek islands in the Aegean and Ionian Seas are inhabited. Crete is the largest Greek island, followed by Euboea that is the second largest. The Greek islands are grouped into the Argo-Saronic Islands, the Cyclades, the North Aegean islands, the Dodecanese, the Sporades and the Ionian Islands. One island in particular from the Sporades group has enjoyed Hollywood fame: Skopelos was the location where several scenes of the movie Mamma Mia were filmed.
6. The country’s ancient sanctuary of Delphi is a UNESCO World Heritage Site
Located on the south-western slope of Mount Parnassus in Phocis, Delphi was once the ancient home for the Oracle of Delphi and the priestess Pythia, who was known in the ancient world for predicting the future and was consulted for guidance on major endeavours. Today, the sanctuary is a wide-ranging archaeological site with the modern small town of Delphi located nearby. It is recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its influence in the ancient world, an interesting Greece fact.
7. Greece is one of the leading marble exporters across the globe
Greece is known for its exquisite marble that can be found in various statues, temples and even homes. The country is one of the world’s top marble exporters. An example of a marble export product is Naxian Marble (also known as Alexander Marble), a large crystal white marble from the Cycladic island Naxos which is used for decoration and sculptures. Around 5,000 m³ Naxian marble is exported per year.
8. Mount Olympus is the country’s highest mountain
Mount Olympus’ highest peak, Mytikas, is 2,917 metres (9,570 ft.) high and is considered to be one of the highest peaks in Europe. Situated in the Olympus Range on the border between Macedonia and Thessaly, Mount Olympus is known in Greek mythology as the home of the Greek gods. Rich in fauna and flora, it was the first national park in Greece. Today, it is also a World Biosphere Reserve geared towards conserving biodiversity.
9. Its national animal is the dolphin
This well-known aquatic mammal is closely linked to several fabled and ancient Greek beliefs. One of these is the story of Poseidon who took pity on sailors who were forced to jump from their boat by Dionysus. According to legend, Poseidon turned the sailors into dolphins and instructed them to help seamen when they were in danger, a fun fact about Greece.
10. Football is the most popular sport in Greece
Association football is the country’s favourite team sport. The Hellenic Football Federation, based in Athens, is the governing body for this sport in Greece and organises football events such as the Greek Cup and Superleague Greece. On the international field, the Greece National Football team scored a significant victory by winning the 2004 UEFA European Football Championship
With a cultural heritage spanning thousands of years, as well as a proven spirit of excellence in progressing the thoughts and mechanisms of its people, the country of Greece is a historical treasure. Its thriving tourism industry is a testament to its popularity and influence on a worldwide scale and will without a doubt continue to be a key driver in this country’s popularity.
I hope that this article on Greece facts was helpful! If you are interested, visit the Country Facts Page!