35 Fun Facts About Greece, Past And Present

Fun facts about Greece

Explore the enchanting charm of Greece with these captivating, fun facts about Greece. Greece is celebrated for its profound historical legacy, breathtaking landscapes, and rich cultural heritage.

From the legendary ancient ruins to its idyllic islands scattered across the Mediterranean and Aegean Seas, Greece offers a unique blend of historical depth and scenic beauty. So, what exactly do you know about Greece? Let’s dive into the facts.

Facts About Greece At-a-Glance

Location: Southeastern Europe, bordering Albania, Bulgaria, Turkey, and North Macedonia
Population: Approximately 10.3 million (as of 2023)
Capital City: Athens
Area: 131,957 square kilometers
Official Languages: Greek
Predominant Religion: Greek Orthodox (majority)
Climate: Predominantly Mediterranean; features mild, wet winters and hot, dry summers
(Source: CIA World Factbook – Greece)

General Facts About Greece

Map and flag of Greece
Map and official flag of Greece

1. Greece is located in southeastern Europe. The mainland peninsula is bordered by Albania, Bulgaria, the Republic of Macedonia, and Turkey, and thousands of islands are in the Mediterranean and Aegean Seas.

2. Greek is the official language of Greece. More than 11 million people in Greece can speak one of the world’s oldest languages. The earliest written evidence of the Greek language dates back to 1350 and 1450 BC.

3. The main religion in Greece is Christianity. Almost 90% of the population declare themselves Orthodox Christians. The rest of the population either isn’t religious or is Jewish, Muslim, or Catholic.

4. While most of Greece consists of the mainland, the nation is better known for its tropical islands. There are approximately 6,000 islands in Greece, and almost 230 of them are inhabited. 

5. Greece’s history spans over 4,000 years, making it one of the oldest civilizations in the world. It is generally believed that the ancient Greek period and civilization started around 1600 BC. That makes Greek civilization older than the Romans.

6. Greece is famous for its iconic ancient monuments. The most famous include the Acropolis of Athens and the Medieval city of Rhodes. The island of Rhodes was once home to one of the Seven Ancient Wonders of The World – The Colossus of Rhodes.

Interesting Facts About Ancient Greece

Parthenon in Greece
Parthenon: timeless majesty of Greece

7. In 1959, an ancient human skull believed to be approximately 700,000 years old was found. An archaeological excavation in Petralona Cave found the skull, which pushes back the earliest known record of human presence in the area by almost 250,000 years.

8. Greece is widely acknowledged as the birthplace of democracy. The ancient city-state of Athens is credited with pioneering the concept in the 5th century BCE. It’s worth noting that this democracy only applied to free, adult male citizens. Women, slaves, and foreigners were excluded from political participation.

9. The Olympic Games started in ancient Greece to honor the gods, particularly Zeus. The first ancient Olympic Games were held in Olympia in 776 BCE.

10. In ancient Greek mythology and religion, there were 12 gods and goddesses. The Greeks believed the gods ruled the universe from Mount Olympus. Examples of Greek gods and goddesses include Zeus, Poseidon, Hara, Aphrodite, and Hermes.

11. The Greek alphabet is among the world’s oldest and most significant. It is believed to have been adopted in the 8th century BC and is an indirect or direct ancestor of every modern European alphabet.

12. The ancient Greeks invented comedy as a theatrical genre. Aristophanes, a renowned comic playwright, often used satire and humor to critique political and social issues of his time.

13. The ancient Greeks had many slaves. It is believed that at one time, 30% to 40% of Greece’s total population was made up of slaves. Even the poorest families in the country owned at least one slave.

14. Ancient Greeks enjoyed a sport called “Pále,” a unique form of wrestling. Pále became the most popular organized sport in Greece, and the main aim was to throw your opponent to the floor.

15. Symposia were gatherings where Greek men would discuss philosophical ideas, politics, and poetry while sipping wine. More often than not, these events would turn into raucous drinking parties.

16. Cleopatra, though associated with Egypt, was of Greek descent. She was known for her beauty, and it’s said that she used a mixture of crushed ants and carmine beetles to create her signature red lipstick.

17. Alexander the Great made his soldiers cut off their beards. Before then, beards were only cut off during mourning. He imposed this rule so that the enemy couldn’t grab soldiers.

18. In ancient Greece, a thick unibrow was considered a sign of intelligence and beauty. Some women even used powdered lead to darken their brows.

19. Women in ancient Greece used various unique methods to improve their hair. Some women even rubbed olive oil into their hair for a well-conditioned, shiny look.

20. Both men and women in ancient Greece would wear a type of dress called a tunic. A man’s tunic would typically be much shorter than a woman’s, particularly if he worked outdoors. 

21. Men in ancient Greece wore makeup. Kohl was used around their eyes and to paint their lips. At the time, makeup was used to showcase male masculinity. This was also the case in ancient Egypt and Rome.

22. Phallic symbols were common in ancient Greek art and architecture. They were believed to ward off evil and promote fertility, and you can still see them in Greece today.

23. Ancient Greeks used Pessoi (pebbles) and Ostraca as toilet paper. Ostraca were small pieces of ceramic pottery broken and smoothed out to prevent cutting.

24. Ancient Athenians practiced a form of ostracism. They would write the name of a person they wanted to be exiled on a shard of pottery called an “ostrakon.” The person with the most votes was exiled for ten years.

Interesting Facts About Modern Greece

Santorini, Greece.
Santorini: stunning cliffs meeting the Aegean Sea

25. Greece has the longest coastline in the Mediterranean Sea Basin and the third longest coastline in Europe. Greece’s coastline is 13,676 km (8,497 mi) long. Only Norway and Greenland have longer coastlines.

26. In 1975, Greece transitioned from a monarchy to a parliamentary republic. This change followed a national referendum that led to the abolition of the monarchy, establishing a government system where the parliament played a central role.

27. By land area, Greece is the 15th biggest country in Europe. However, Greece spans 131,940 square kilometers (50,940 square miles), making the nation smaller than the state of Alabama. 

28. Greece is one of the sunniest places on Earth. On average, it experiences 3,075 hours of sunshine annually, ranking 12th in the world rankings. 

29. Greece is the 5th largest producer of olive oil globally, producing more than 1.2 million tons annually. Only Italy, Spain, Morocco, and Turkey produce more.

30. Athens is the 11th worst city in the world to drive in. The city is renowned for its bad roads, bad traffic, and drivers’ lack of patience.

31. The famous island of Santorini is the only inhabited caldera in the world. The volcano’s center sank into the ocean, allowing Santorini to emerge.

32. It is a tradition in Greek weddings for the best man to shave the groom. This gesture takes place on the day of the ceremony because it symbolizes trust between the two men.

33. On Holy Saturday, it’s a common tradition in some Greek communities to create an effigy of Judas Iscariot, the betrayer of Jesus. The community then burns it as a symbolic act. In some areas, people also whip the effigy before burning it.

34. Name days are celebrated more prominently than birthdays in Greece. Each day of the year is associated with a saint, and if your name matches that of the saint, it’s your name day. People often host gatherings and offer treats to celebrate.

35. In some Greek regions, spitting is done for good luck, particularly when someone receives a compliment or admires a beautiful baby. It’s believed that spitting wards off the “evil eye.”

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