Greece (Greek: Ελλάδα, Elláda,), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeast Europe.
Its population is approximately 10.7 million as of 2018. Athens is its largest city, followed by Thessaloniki.
Situated on the southern tip of the Balkans, Greece is located at the crossroads of Europe, Asia, and Africa.
The country is bordered to the northwest by Albania, to the north by North Macedonia and Bulgaria, and to the northeast by Turkey.
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).
Greece has nine traditional geopolitical regions: Macedonia, Central Greece, the Peloponnese, Thessaly, Epirus, the Aegean Islands (including the Dodecanese and Cyclades), Thrace, and Crete.
Greece is considered the cradle of Western civilization, democracy, Western philosophy, Western literature, historiography, political science, major scientific and mathematical principles, theatre, and the Olympic Games.
The Greeks were organized into various independent city-states from the eighth century BC, known as poleis (singular polis), which spanned the Mediterranean and the Black Sea.
Philip II of Macedon united most of present-day Greece in the fourth century BC. 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.
In the second century BC, Greece was annexed by Rome, 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 modern Greek identity and transmitted Greek traditions to the wider Orthodox world.
After falling under Ottoman dominion 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 Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the World Trade Organization (WTO), the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), and the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie (OIF).
Greece’s unique cultural heritage, large tourism industry, major shipping sector, and geostrategic importance classify it as a middle power.
Name of Greece
The native name of the country in Modern Greek is Ελλάδα (Elláda, pronounced ).
The corresponding form in Ancient Greek and conservative formal Modern Greek (Katharevousa) is Ἑλλάς (Hellas, classical: modern: ).
This is the source of the English alternate name Hellas, mostly found in archaic or poetic contexts today.
The Greek adjectival form ελληνικός (ellinikos, ) is sometimes also translated as Hellenic and is often rendered in this way in the formal names of Greek institutions, as in the official name of the Greek state, the Hellenic Republic (Ελληνική Δημοκρατία, ).
The English names Greece and Greek are derived, via the Latin Graecia and Graecus, from the name of the Graeci (Γραικοί, Graikoí; singular Γραικός, Graikós), who were among the first ancient Greek tribes to settle Magna Graecia in southern Italy.
The term is ultimately derived from the Proto-Indo-European root *ǵerh₂-, “to grow old”.
Geography and climate
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 globally 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: Strongyli (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 have 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.
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 pinniped 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.
Greece features many islands – between 1,200 and 6,000, depending on the definition, 227 of which are inhabited – and is considered a non-contiguous transcontinental country.
Crete is the largest and most populous island; Euboea, separated from the mainland by the 60 m-wide Euripus Strait, is the second-largest, followed by Lesbos and Rhodes.
The Greek islands are traditionally grouped into the following clusters: the Argo-Saronic Islands in the Saronic gulf near Athens, the Cyclades, a large but dense collection occupying the central part of the Aegean Sea, the North Aegean islands, a loose grouping off the west coast of Turkey, the Dodecanese, another loose collection in the southeast between Crete and Turkey, the Sporades, a small tight group off the coast of northeast Euboea, and the Ionian Islands, located to the west of the mainland in the Ionian Sea.
The climate of Greece is primarily the Mediterranean, featuring mild, wet winters and hot, dry summers.
This climate occurs at all coastal locations, including Athens, the Cyclades, the Dodecanese, Crete, the Peloponnese, the Ionian Islands, and parts of the Central Continental Greece region.
The Pindus mountain range strongly affects the climate of the country, as areas to the west of the range are considerably wetter on average (due to greater exposure to south-westerly systems bringing in moisture) than the areas lying to the east of the range (due to a rain shadow effect).
The mountainous areas of Northwestern Greece (parts of Epirus, Central Greece, Thessaly, Western Macedonia) and the mountainous central parts of Peloponnese – including parts of the regional units of Achaea, Arcadia, and Laconia – feature an Alpine climate with heavy snowfalls.
The inland parts of northern Greece, in Central Macedonia and East Macedonia and Thrace feature a temperate climate with cold, damp winters and hot, dry summers with frequent thunderstorms.
Snow falls in the mountains and northern areas every year, and even in low-lying southern areas such as Athens brief snowfalls are not uncommon.
The World Wide Fund for Nature and the European Environment Agency classify the territory of Greece into six ecoregions: the Illyrian deciduous forests, Pindus Mountains mixed forests, Balkan mixed forests, Rhodope montane mixed forests, Aegean and Western Turkey sclerophyllous and mixed forests, and Crete Mediterranean forests.
It had a 2018 Forest Landscape Integrity Index mean score of 6.6/10, ranking it 70th globally out of 172 countries.
- (obsolete) plural of gree
- Alternative form of grece (“step, steps”)