Greece > History: ancient::hellenistic::middle::new::future

Search terms, names, placenames in GOOGLE and WIKIPEDIA.
This link has everything you need: FHW Chronos (Foundation of the Hellenic World).
Chronos means 'time'.

The history of the greeks
Studying the long-lasting history of a particular people, could be helpful for understanding the functions of historical procedures in general. The greeks are one of the few study-cases of unbroken consciousness through the ages.
But what is greekness? I would describe it as the co-existence of three elements:
to question everything - to adhere to nothing - to create something. Some of the three, characterise many peoples regardless of nationality. But most mediterranean inhabitants tend to develop all three characteristics simultaneously. Probably it has to do with the climate's and place's diverseness: it is harsh enough to toughen, but not too harsh to crush you. It is mild enough to invite hopeful experimenting, but not too mild to loosen your alertness.
So, please, let me share with you the fascinating story of how a small people tried, inquired, excelled, sometimes failed and finally survived through time.
PREHISTORY-ANCIENT-MIDDLE-NEW TIMES: Stone-Bronze-Geometrical-Archaic-Classical-Hellenistic-Roman Occupation-Byzantium-Ottoman occupation-the New Greek State-Greece today-the future
Head of Lapith woman, Temple of Zeus, Olympia.  PHOTOGRAPHER: Nelly's.  c.1930Girl from Hypate. PHOTOGRAPHER: Nelly's.  c.1930
photographer: Nelly
(Nelly's 1899-1998)

mediterranean world

PREHISTORY in the area  
When people say 'ancient Greece' they usually bring in mind the Golden century of Athens, Acropolis, Pericles, Olympics and the ideals of freedom and democracy. But these ideas were only one side of greek politics. Every civilization's contribution to human history is important. The rare thing about the ancient greeks is that they covered the whole spectrum of ideas on each particular issue: e.g. not only democracy, but everything from monarchy and aristocracy, tyranny (dictatorship), to democracy and anarchism. The pluralism of attitudes on politics, art, philosophy was almost complete. Humanity in its childhood wanted to try absolutely everything, with a great enthusiasm shared by all common people, an enthusiasm that appeared in such frenzy only once since then: in Renaissance.
The greeks stripped all ideas from covering shells, in the same way they stripped their statues from garments. Far away from inhibitions of gods and daemons, they chose a Promethean approach to life, brave, agonizing, but ultimately human.
Prehellenic MINOANS in Crete
4.000 - 3.000 a.e.v. the greek phyla arrive: Ionians, Aeolians, Dorians

neolithic seated figure
c. 6500-4500 a.e.v.
Volos Museum

'Agamemnon' mask
Mycenae (MAP) 16th cent. a.e.v.
Athens National Museum

Pericles' bust
copy of roman times
British Museum

Greek Mythology
What is greek Mythology? It was a collection of myths that did not present a 'creator of the world' as its centre. It borrowed all kinds of deities from its indoeuropean past and its contemporary neighbours. It tried to push back the dark, monstrous figures and formed a pantheon of gods that resembled humans in every way. Hesiodus (HΣIOΔOΣ) was the poet that gave us a genealogy of greek gods. Homer's (OMHPOΣ) epic poems are full of the joys, jealousies and caprices of gods and heroes. But religion has never dominated over the thought of greek philosophers of the time. Its anthropocentrism made the domination of priesthood over the Greeks impossible.
detail from west metope
of Zeus temple at Olympia (MAP)

Alexandros, son of Philippos, from Macedonia (AΛEΞANΔPOΣ ΦIΛIΠΠOY MAKEΔΩN) is no doubt one of these few people who inflicted a tremendous impact on their times, rather than their times on them. Although I am not fond of expansionism, I could not help being very curious about this man. How did he manage not to be remembered only as a military bulldozer after conquering so much of the world of his time? Because he was formed by his teacher Aristotle? Perhaps because of his witty mottos we still quote today. We find his controversial outbursts of friendship and hate, of good and of evil, charming? Perhaps because we are too romantic. Is it because he built so many Alexandrias (although Persepolis -Takht-e-Jamshid- was destroyed)? What did his conquered nations really think of him? What is Al-Iskander to them? Today, the legend of 'megalexandros' lives in greek folklore as vivid as ever.
He died in his 33rd year and his conquered territories were divided among his companions. In the following years greek language, art and science flourished all over these regions. This era is called hellenistic. Perhaps because of the quasi-hellenic mentality of so many different peoples.
During this interregnum a new power is preparing to take over: The Romans.
  • ΠΛOYTAPXOΣ (Plutarch) Alexander In MIT archives USA. Full Text translated in english.
  • APPIANOΣ (Arrianus)
Philippos II tomb at Aegae
findings at Vergina

probably Alexander and Philippos
ivory heads, Vergina

Greece was looted (all roman villas owned greek statues) and taxed (with some exceptions). Greek slaves were brought to Rome, where they mostly taught and worked in wealthy households as servi literatti. Lots of romans fell in love with their greek province, came to Athens to study, and built theatres, baths and roads all over Greece (such as the famous 'Egnatia'). The roman occupation was so long, and the transition to the eastern roman empire so gradual, that we still call ourselves 'romios' today.
Odeon built by Herodes Atticus


BYZANTIUM 330 e.v. - 1453 (middle times)
From the collapse of the Roman Empire, its Eastern part immerged as a new empire: it survived, flourished but it gradually became totally different from the Roman:
a) It was the first christian state. It retained and cultivated Roman law system, but its christianocentrism added new characteristics. Byzantine imperial, religious and military representatives were distinct. (although they 'interacted' on each other).
b) Although it was a multiethnic empire, it was gradually hellenized. (turning point: 6th cent.) When all the new peoples at Europe used the latin language (or latina vulgaris), the inhabitants of Byzantium used again the common greek of the time.
The heritage of ancient Greece was perhaps overwhelmingly heavy on the shoulders of the byzantines. Their literature and art, philosophy and political thinking never came close to the ancient output: it was devoted to, and, dominated by the young christian religion, which loathed and envied in the same time the ancient achievements. The study of ancient greek texts was cultivated at the time by the Arabs. Only during the period of maturity (oddly this was its decline era, 1204-1453) did byzantium show signs of change and flourishing in art and philosophy. In 1204 Constantinople fell to the hands of Crusaders and in 1453 to the Ottomans becoming the capital of the Ottoman empire.
The word Byzantium was used by the german H. Wolf in 1562 instead of Eastern Roman Empire or Romania which was the term used by the byzantines. Modern historians took up the term for referring to this historical era. We still call ourselves romios today and our language romaeika. Most of our everyday customs, proverbs, habits have their roots in this period, as well as the following Ottoman occupation period.
The byzantine era is generally unknown to the average western european.
SOURCES from the byzantine times BYZANTINE LITERATURE about
  • ΠPOKOΠIOΣ (Procopius), KAΣΣIANH, MIXAHΛ ΨEΛΛOΣ (Michael Psellos), ANNA KOMNHNH (Anna Comnena)
RESEARCH research-byzantine studies
Iustinianus I emperor 527-565
detail from mosaic (c.547)
in San Vitale basilica, Ravenna, Italy

and his wife, Theodora

detail from Anastasis (resurrection) mosaic (~1315-21)
Chora church (or Kariye), Istanbul

NEW TIMES 1453 - today
The greeks lived under the Ottoman occupation of the Balkans for centuries (1453-1821). (also, some Venetian and Frankish occupation). During these times, all european nations of the Ottoman empire (which was religiously tolerant, but utterly different from them) fought, revolted, some times collaborated with the occupying power, assimilated in some cases (a few groups were islamized), lived side by side and interacted on each other. In the meantime, Europe was experiencing its triumphant Renaissance. The greek diaspora, communities of merchants and scholars in Italy, Austria, Russia, France, were the links of the greeks to the outside world.
The European Enlightenment, the American and French Revolutions, the formation of nation-states were ideas that finally have made their way into the greek population's psyche by the turn of the century. The revolution (1821) released the surfacing of a tremendous number of gifted persons. Peasants that excelled in military and political life, merchants, scholars, the great number of european philhellenes, made the acceptance of a new greek state tolerable to the european powers.
The new greek state starts its life in a chaos of political and social turmoil. The axis of its life: foreign powers, alien monarchs, internal rivalries and civil wars, the agonizing strife of many portions of the population for genuine independence, the Balkan and World Wars.
Today, Greece is finally reaching an equilibrium, maturing towards the future with its triple european-balkan-mediterranean character.
MODERN TIMES: 1453-1821
FRANCOCRACY and ENETOCRACY continued from previous period.
Regas Velestinlis (Feraeos)
Regas Feraeos Velestinlis was a revolutionary mind that envisioned a united balkans including the Turks, wrote its Constitution, poems etc. He was one of the purest revolutionary souls in Europe. Was finally exterminated. You can see him at the 10cent greekversionEURO coin.
...were not greek by birth, but by choice. Citizens of foreign countries, they fell in love with greek ideals (mainly ancient) or revolutionary ideals in general. The societies of Paris, London etc. were donating large amounts of money for the greek populations. A great number of philhellenes fought and died on greek soil. Today, they are referred to, as greeks par excellence. The long line of foreigners that fought for democratic causes on greek soil, spans till the last dictatorship of 1967-74.
1821 the revolutions starts, the greek stated is official in 1832.
Greece in modern times by the Foundation of Hellenic World GREECE: history, art, politics
  • 1821-1897 Liberation and the New Greek State.
  • 1897-1922 Expansion, Balkan wars and World war I. Farewell Anatolia: the exchange of populations with Turkey (1924-6).
  • 1923-1940 The mid-War era.
  • 1940-1945 World War II, German occupation, the People's Resistance and Free Greece at the Mountain areas.
  • 1945-2000 Last civil war, Last dictatorship and the decades till today (2000).
More links:
POLITICS TODAY (2004 e.v.)
Parliament of GREECE Parties, Elections, Results DATABASE
Conservative and progressive forces have been rivalling each other in Greece since ancient times. The greeks are deeply involved in politics at all times. We had three major civil wars in the last 150 years with immense human loss.
Parties need 3% at least to get in Parliament. But of course there are many smaller parties functioning.
Main two parties: New Democracy and PASOK. The spectrum from right to left could be described as follows: Tiny ultra-right parties do exist but never had a real impact on society. Greece never had a fascist movement. Right wing is represented by New Democracy. Centre used to be represented by a large party but now is spread to right, left or small parties. Left has a long history and a long list of sub-parties, from mild-socialist, euro-communist, to communist and tiny other left variations. Mainly: Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) (which is also voted by non-left, centrish voters), the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) (strict communist-line). Communists that left the KKE formed SYNASPISMOS (euro-oriented).
Ecological concern penetrates all parties' programmes. At the moment there are ecological non-political organizations rather than one ecological party that attracts voters.
Key-figures: politicians from 1821 to today, chronologically:
Capodistrias, Ioannis (1776-assassinated 1831)
Venizelos, Eleftherios (or just: Lefteris. Not to be confused with other politicians with the same surname).
Trikoupis, Harilaos (1832-1896)
Karamanlis, Konstantinos (not to be confused with other members of his family -also politicians-)
Papandreou, Andreas (or just: Andreas). Not to be confused with his father or his son -also politicians-)
greek contemporary flag

P.S. EYPΩΠH: Europe, our Europe
She was a young Phoenician princess, Zeus fell in love with. He abducted her, brought her to Crete and she gave her name to a continent where so much has happened!
European Union? and what is that? Of course, every inhabitant of Europe has a different concept of what Europe is. So, what is the interlinking basis of so many peoples? The common future, and some common experiences of the past. In my mind, they are:
1• a greek-concept based education.
2• the roman empire impact (directly or indirectly).
3• the christianization of the european peoples, and islamization of the eastern and south Mediterranean.
4• the western renaissance and enlightenment influence, as opposed to religion-centrism.
All, or some of the above, are shared by all of us, thus linking Europe to a vast palette of mentalities, a series of apollonian circles of nations and civilizations, in time and space.
And what is this future like?
!... this is the next chapter, to be written by someone else, when these webpages will be lost in cyberspace, mere ancient personal documents of the people that lived in 2000! So, you, reader of future times, please write the next chapters! I hope they are the best, in this story. Good luck!
In the final analysis we all owe something to both our cousin Lucy and our forefathers. This is the strongest, deepest interlinking common experience, that we often forget.
Fall of Constantinople. manuscript 9087,folio207v. Bibliothéque Nationale, France

He who thinks free, thinks well.

The Sortie (exodus) of Messolongi
painter: Theodoros Vryzakis
Athens National Gallery

Greek parliament 19th century
Detail of painting by N.Orlof

photograph of
Eleftherios Venizelos (1864-1936)

World War II
the Parthenon
during nazi occupation

World War II
freedom figthers of E.L.A.S.
women partizans
on the greek mountains

Polytechnic School of Athens
uprising of 1973
against the junta

dramatic night of
17th November 1973
the tank enters the Polytechneio

greek parliament in session

links checked NOV 2007.