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WHERE WE COME FROM



Greece consists of a large mainland at the southern end of the Balkans; the Peloponnesus peninsula (separated from the mainland by the canal of the Isthmus of Corinth); and numerous islands (around 3,000), including Crete, Rhodes, Kos, Euboea and the Dodecanese and Cycladic groups of the Aegean Sea as well as the Ionian sea islands. Greece has more than 15,000 kilometres of coastline and a land boundary of 1,160 kilometres.
About 80% of Greece consists of mountains or hills, thus making Greece one of the most montainous countries of Europe. Western Greece contains lakes and wetlands. Pindus, the central mountain range, has a maximum elevation of 2,636 m. The Pindus can be considered as a prolongation of the Dinaric Alps. The range continues by means of the Peloponnese, the islands of Kythera and Antikythera to find its final point in the island of Crete. (Actually the islands of the Aegean are peaks of underwater mountains that once consisted an extension of the mainland).
The Central and Western Greece area contains high, steep peaks dissected by many canyons and other karstic landscapes, including the Meteora and the Vikos gorge the later being the second largest one on earth after the Grand Canyon in the US.
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Athens is the symbol of freedom, art, and democracy in the conscience of the civilized world. The capital of Greece took its name from the goddess Athena, the goddess of wisdom and knowledge.

Ancient Greece - important cities and states
Ancient Greece - important cities and states
Sparta a beautiful town near the river Evrotas, located in the centre of the Peloponnese in southern Greece, is the capital of the prefecture of Lakonia. SPARTA ( known in Greek as Sparti) has a history which dates back to the Neolithic period, at least 3,000 years before Christ.
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Olympia ancient sanctuary and site of the ancient Olympic Games, located in the western Peloponnese, 10 miles (16 kilometres) inland from the Ionian Sea, near a point where the Alpheus (Alfios) and Cladeus (Kladios) rivers meet.
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HISTORY


The history of Greece can be traced back to Stone Age hunters. Later came early farmers and thecivilizations of the Minoan and Mycenaean kings. This was followed by a period of wars and invasions, known as the Dark Ages. In about 1100 BC, a people called the Dorians invaded from the north and spread down the west coast. In the period from 500-336 BC Greece was divided into small city states, each of which consisted of a city and its surrounding countryside.
There were only a few historians in the time of Ancient Greece. Three major ancient historians, were able to record their time of Ancient Greek history, that include Herodotus, known as the 'Father of History' who travelled to many ancient historic sites at the time, Thucydides and Xenophon.
Most other forms of History knowledge and accountability of the ancient Greeks we know is because of temples, sculpture, pottery, artefacts and other archaeological findings

Greek history is broken down into time periods


Periods:
Neolithic
Early Bronze
Minoan
Mycenaean
The Dark Ages
Archaic
Classical
Hellenistic
BC:
6000-2900
2900-2000
2000-1400
1600-1100
1100-750
750-500
500-336
336-146


MYTHOLOGY/RELIGION

Principal Gods click for main characteristics
Mythical Characters
Titans

Ancient Greek Gods
Ancient Greek Gods


How did they practice religion?

The ancient Greeks were polytheistic, they believed in many different gods and goddesses. The Greeks believed that these gods and goddesses controlled everything, from the waves in the ocean to the winner of a race. Each god or goddess controlled one or two major aspects of life. Greeks built temples in every town for one god or goddess. Temples were large and beautiful buildings where Greeks went to pray or sacrifice animals. The sacrificed animals were considered gifts to the gods. Greeks were especially likely to sacrifice animals at festivals in honor of the gods. The festivals included plays, music, dancing, and then a parade to the temple where they made their sacrifices and had a feast. One temple still standing today is the Parthenon, built in honor of Athena, who was the goddess of wisdom and war.

Modern Religion
Greece Religion: The Greek population is composed of a 97% of Christian Orthodox. The rest of the population is Muslim, Roman Catholic and Jewish. Greece (and the Greek Islands) and Russia are the only countries to have such a great proportion of people that belong to the Orthodox Church.

The Orthodox Church forms the third largest branch of Christianity after the Roman Catholics and the Protestants

Architecture and the arts in ancient Greece:

Greek life was dominated by religion and so it is not surprising that the temples of ancient Greece were the biggest and most beautiful.They also had a political purpose as they were often built to celebrate civic power and pride, or offer thanksgiving to the patron deity of a city for success in war.
The Greeks developed three architectural systems, called orders, each with their own distinctive proportions and detailing. The Greek orders are: Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian.

Doric
Doric Style
Doric Style

The Doric style is rather sturdy and its top (the capital), is plain. This style was used in mainland Greece and the colonies in southern Italy and Sicily.
Ionic
Ionic Style
Ionic Style

The Ionic style is thinner and more elegant. Its capital is decorated with a scroll-like design (a volute). This style was found in eastern Greece and the islands.
Corinthian
Corinthian Style
Corinthian Style

The Corinthian style is seldom used in the Greek world, but often seen on Roman temples. Its capital is very elaborate and decorated with acanthus leaves.

The Parthenon

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Other important art forms in Greece are their stone sculpters, and pottery
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Theatre of Ancient Greece


external image thetcult11.jpgThe Dionysos Theater in Athens built into the Akropolis,3rd century BC
Source:Wikipedia

The Greek theatre or Greek drama is a theatrical tradition that flourished in ancient Greece between c. 550 and c. 220 BC. Athens, the political and military power in Greece during this period, was the center of ancient Greek theatre. Tragedy (late 6th century BC), comedy (486 BC), and satyr plays were some of the theatrical forms to emerge in the world. Greek theatre and plays have had a lasting impact on Western drama and culture.
It is in ancient Greece that the origin of western theatre is to be found. It developed from a state festival in Athens, honoring the god Dionysus. The Athenian city-state exported the festival to its numerous allies in order to promote a common identity.
The Tragedy
The origins of Greek drama are obscure. Early tradition holds that drama and comedy evolved from the dithyramb, the songs, folk tales and dances offered to Dionysus, the Greek god of fertility and wine. Our oldest source for this tradition is Aristotle's Poetics, in which Aristotle states:
"In any case, tragedy did grow out of an improvisational beginning, both it and comedy, the former from those who led off the dithyramb, the other from those who led off the phallic performances."
The word tragoidia, from where our word tragedy comes from, is a portmanteau of two Greek words: tragos meaning goat and odia meaning song. It is interpreted with much latitude as "songs sung by goat-men" and "he-goat sacrifice song". At the least, it indicates a link with the practices of the ancient Dionysian cults. It is impossible, however, to know with certainty how these fertility rituals became the basis for tragedy and comedy. Also, until the Hellenistic period, all tragedies were unique pieces written in honor of Dionysus, so that today we only have the pieces that were still remembered well enough to have been repeated when repetition of old tragedies became fashion. It was considered a decline of the original, one-time-played tragedy.
According to legend, Greek tragedy as we know it was created in Athens, ca. 530 BCE by a man known as Thespis. He was the exarchon, or leader, of the dithyrambs performed in and around Attica, especially at the rural Dionysia

WHAT THE GREEKS EAT


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Greece is a nation of small farmers who produce an incredible array of mainly organically produced cheeses, oils, fruits, nuts, grains, legumes, and vegetables.
These are the foods that form the base of the traditional Greek regimen, to which they add both variety and nutrition. Greece's climate is perfect growing for olive and lemon trees, producing two of the most important elements of Greek cooking. Spices, garlic and other herbs such as oregano, basil, mint, and thyme are widely used, as are vegetables such as eggplant and zucchini, and legumes of all types.
With 20 percent of Greece made up of islands - and no part of the Greek mainland more than 90 miles from the sea - fish and seafood are a popular and common part of the Greek diet. Lamb and goat are the traditional meats of holidays and festivals, and poultry, beef, and pork are also in plentiful supply.
Vineyards cover much of Greece's hilly terrain and the country has become known for its array of fine wines and spirits, most notably ouzo, an anise-flavoured liqueur that is the national spirit.
History
Over the centuries, Greek cooking has been influenced by many other cultures.
* In c.350 B.C., when Alexander the Great extended the Greek Empire's reach from Europe to India, certain northern and eastern influences were absorbed into the Greek cuisine.
* In 146 B.C., Greece fell to the Romans which resulted in a blending of a Roman influence into Greek cooking.
* In 330 A.D., Emperor Constantine moved the capital of the Roman Empire to Constantinople, founding the Byzantine Empire which, in turn, fell to the Turks in 1453 and remained part of the Ottoman Empire for nearly 400 years.
With each successive invasion and settlement came culinary influences - from the Romans, Venetians, Balkans, Turks, and Slavs - and many Greek foods have names with origins in those cultures, most notably the Ottoman Empire. Dishes with names like hummus (the Arabic word for chickpea) and dolmades (from the Turkish "dolma"), that can be found in kitchens from Armenia to Egypt, have also found a home in Greek cooking, and been adapted over hundreds of years to local tastes and traditions.
While Greek cooking has been influenced by other cultures, as have the cuisines of most countries, of all of those countries, Greece must be foremost in the ranks of having a "fusion" cuisine which is easily traced back to 350 B.C.
* The first cookbook was written by the Greek food gourmet, Archestratos, in 330 B.C., which suggests that cooking has always been of importance and significance in Greek society.
* Modern chefs owe the tradition of their tall, white chef's hat to the Greeks. In the middle ages, monastic brothers who prepared food in the Greek Orthodox monasteries wore tall white hats to distinguish them in their work from the regular monks, who wore large black hats.
* Many ingredients used in modern Greek cooking were unknown in the country until the middle ages. These include the potato, tomato, spinach, bananas, and others which came to Greece after the discovery of the Americas - their origin.
Famous Greek dishes
* Moussaka. There are other variations besides aubergine/eggplant, such as zucchini or rice, but the aubergine version ("melitzanes moussaka") is most popular, so "moussaka" alone is assumed to mean "with aubergine/eggplant".
* Kleftiko: lamb slow-baked on the bone, first marinated in garlic and lemon juice.
* Stifado: beef-onion stew with red wine and cinnamon. Rabbit or game (e.g. hare) are also cooked stifado-style
* Souvlaki, lamb and vegetables grilled on skewers, or in general, anything grilled on a skewer (chicken, pork, swordfish, shrimps).
* Gyros, meat roasted on a vertically turning spit and served with sauce (often tzatziki) and garnishes (tomato, onions) on pita bread; a popular fast food. Sometimes confused with souvlaki served in a similar way. The same dish is called döner kebab in Turkish.
* Boureki, similar to kreatopita, from Turkish börek.
* Pastitsio, a macaroni, meat, and Bechamel sauce casserole

The time of day when the Greeks gather around a table to enjoy a meal, or some appetizers (mezedes) with ouzo, is a time held in reverence by all the inhabitants of this country. For the Greeks, sharing a meal with friends, either at home, at a restaurant or a taverna, is a deeply rooted social affair. The Greek word symposium, a word as ancient as the country itself, if translated literally, means drinking with company. The atmosphere in typically Greek restaurants and tavernas is very relaxed, informal and unpretentious. Food preparation, on the other hand, has its own sacred rules. Good amateur cooks are held in great esteem in their social circles. A good housewife, in Greece, means a good cook. And a good cook can spend days preparing a meal for his or her friends.

Greek wines

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Greek Alphabet
The Greeks were the first Europeans to learn to write with an alphabet, and from them writing was brought to the rest of Europe, eventually leading down to all modern European alphabets. The Greek alphabet has been in continuous use for the past 2,750 years!
The Greeks of the eighth century BC were entirely unaware that five centuries earlier, their ancestors in the Mycenaean civilisation had written the Greek language in a script now known as Linear B. This script, finally deciphered in 1952, consisted of symbols representing whole syllables at once.
Greeks adopted the alphabet the Phoenician script, mostly like during the late 9th century BCE. In fact, Greek historian Herotodus (5th century BCE) called the Greek letters "phoinikeia grammata" (φοινικήια γράμματα), which means Phoenician letters. Unlike Greek, the Phoenician alphabet only had letters for consonants. When the Greeks adopted the alphabet, they found letters representing sounds not found in Greek. Instead of throwing them away, they modified the extraneous letters to represent vowels. For example, the Phoenician letter 'aleph (which stood for a glottal stop) became the Greek letter alpha (which stands for [a] sound).
There were many variants of the early Greek alphabet, each suited to a local dialect. Eventually the Ionian alphabet was adopted in all Greek-speaking states, but before that happened, the Euboean variant was carried to the Italic peninsula and adopted by Etruscan and eventually the Romans. The following chart presents the modern alphabet, and pronunciations.

Greek Letter Capital/small
Transcription (pronunciation)
Modern pronunciation
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Alpha (alfa)
/a/, as in "father"
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Beta (vita)
/v/, as in "vet"
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Gamma (gama)
/g/ as in go, but before vowels such as iota and epsilon, y as in yet, and before gamma, kappa, xi, or chi, n as in sing
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Delta (delta)
/th/ as in then (but not thin); contrast theta below
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Epsilon (epsilon)
/e/ as in set
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Zeta (zita)
/z/ as in zoo
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Eta (ita)
ee (/i/) as in meet
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Theta (thita)
th as in thin (but not then); contrast delta above
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Iota (jota)
ee (/i/) as in meet or y as in yet
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Kappa (kapa)
ck as in sack
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Lambda (lamda)
/l/ as in light
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Mu (mi)
/m/ as in mouse
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Nu (ni)
/n/ as in nose
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Xi (ksi)
/ks/ as in kicks or x as in ax
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Omicron (omikron)
/o/ as in tote or boat
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Pi (pi)
/p/ as in pan
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Rho (ro)
/r/ more like the Spanish trilled r than English r.
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Sigma (sigma)
/s/ as in sister
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Tau (taf)
/t/, as in "pot"
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Upsilon (ipsilon)
ee (/i/) as in meet
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Phi (fi)
/f/ as in fan or phone
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Chi (ci)
[ch], a sound that does not exist in English (but exists in Scottish, as in "loch"; German: "Bach").
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Psi (psi)
/ps/ as in lips
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Omega (omega)
/o/ as in tote

Government


GREECE OF TODAY

Greece today, like almost everywhere in the world, has a big difference between the city life and provincial life. The most Greek cities you will find that they have become more impersonal. The sense of neighbourhood that existed before the 1970s has been destroyed due to the construction and preference for families to exchange their small plot with one storey family home to several architects or building companies for a floor with 2 or 3 small apartments in a "Polikatikia" (apartment block), therefore in its place have mushroomed street after street of apartment blocks. Although, many members of the same family may occupy one block the closeness and neighbourliness that was prevalent before has all but vanished. That fashion of exchange the old house with the small garden the well and the jasmines ,for one or two apartments in a block, has been immortalized in many old Greek movies that makes the older ones to retrieve nostalgic memories of a life that is gone for ever .
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