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    Slovakia: Tatra Mountains. Go Now!

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    Bulgaria: An old Turkish bridge. Go Now!

    The isolated mountains of Bulgaria hide cultural gems around every corner, including this old Turkish bridge in the Rhodopi Mountains. Explore Bulgaria!

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    Italy: Rome' historic buildings. Go Now!

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    Portugal: Palace of Pena. Go Now!

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    Armenia: Noravank Monastery. Go Now!

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History of Greece

The ancestors of today's Greeks have been in the area of modern-day Greece for thousands of years as they have one of the world's longest recorded histories. Some of the Greeks' precursor civilizations include the Minoans (on Crete) and the Mycenaeans (on the mainland), but these two, along with countless others slowly developed into other civilizations, eventually leading to the Greeks of today. Included in those that came after the Minoans and Mycenaeans were the Athenians, Spartans, Thebians, and the Macedonians (not related to the people of Macedonia today).

After these ancient rules and Greek expansion throughout the Mediterranean Sea and into the Middle East, the Greek state was slowly overtaken as they claimed no true unified front. It was, rather, the Greek settlements that prospered over Greece as Rome, Alexandria, and other locations grew in importance as mainland Greece fell.

The Greeks again rose to power in the 300s when the Roman Empire split into two kingdoms leaving Rome to rule in the west and Constantinople (modern day Istanbul) to rule in the east. Constantinople was the capital of the Byzantium Empire, which was primarily ruled by ancestors of modern-day Greece. However, this empire began to fall in the 1000s with the invasion of the Turks from the east. Although they held Constantinople for much of this time, their power slowly declined from the 1000s to the 1400s, when the empire finally collapsed.

As a very divided country and being under Byzantium rule, the history of Greece during the 1000-1400s is complex. At times the empire was suffering, but Greek settlements flourish, while at other times just the opposite happened. In general, the 1100s and 1200s were prosperous, while in the 1300s many parts of northern Greece fell under Serbian rule. It was also in the 1300s that the Ottomans began to enter many regions that are today part of Greece, vastly altering the individual regions, but not always changing the region as a whole.

As the Byzantine Empire eventually fell to the Turkish Ottoman Empire in the 1400s, many of the cultural leaders from Constantinople fled to Italy, while many of the Greeks who remained became a Christian people in a Muslim-ruled land. The Byzantine Empire's fall helped begin the Renaissance in Italy via the Greek migrations, while also creating a strong contributing factor of modern-day Greek identity.

As a primarily Christian people living under Muslim rule, the Greeks were given freedoms under the Ottomans, but also had disadvantages. This religious difference however was advantageous in that the Greeks united together and created a stronger identity based partly on religion.

In the early 1800s the Greeks, or perhaps more accurately, the Christians living in the Ottoman Empire, began rebelling against the Muslim government as protests began throughout the region. Within a couple decades these revolts had been suppressed with the assistance of the Egyptians. This didn't end the conflicts though and soon the British and French were involved, ending with partial independence for Greece in the early 1800s.

Despite having nominal independence, the Greeks were not a united people as they argued over direction and policies. Throughout the 1800s the political situation was uncertain as numerous local and foreign rulers were brought in to quell the country, none of which had any substantial luck.

The political divisions continued into the 1900s as Greece fought internally, while trying to gain additional lands in any direction they could. In 1912 and 1913 the Balkan Wars broke out to finally end Ottoman Turkish domination over the Balkan Peninsula. The first of these wars united Serbia, Montenegro, Bulgaria, and Greece against the Turks, which ended with a Turkish defeat. War however broke out the following year with the new Turkish government, and again the Balkan countries won this war to finally end Turkish dominance in the region. Following this, World War I (WWI) broke out and embattled the Greeks against the Turks once again.

At the conclusion of WWI battles continued with the new state of Turkey until a settlement had been reached which shifted borders and created mass population exchanges as many ethnic Greeks went west and many ethnic Turks moved east.

During World War II, the Greeks sided with the Allied Forces, but upon the war's conclusion Greece broke out in civil war. This war and political arguments continued until the 1970s, when yet another government collapsed and the monarchy was finally abolished.

Since the 1970s Greece has primarily had positive changes as they re-joined NATO, relations with Turkey have been substantially improved (despite the continuing stalemate in Cyprus), and they joined the European Union (EU). Despite these positive shifts, the Greek economy is still struggling and tends to be stagnant more often than not.

This page was last updated: March, 2013