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History

Greece has a history stretching back almost 4.000 years. The people of the mainland, called Hellenes, organised great naval and military expeditions, and explored the Mediterranean and the Black Sea, going as far as the Atlantic Ocean and the Caucasus Mountains. One of those expeditions, the siege of Troy, is narrated in the first great European literary work, Homer's Iliad. Numerous Greek settlements were founded throughout the Mediterranean, Asia Minor and the coast of North Africa as a result of travels in search of new markets.

During the Classical period (5th century B.C.), Greece was composed of city-states, the largest being Athens, followed by Sparta and Thebes. A fierce spirit of independence and love of freedom enabled the Greeks to defeat the Persians in battles which are famous in the history of civilization -Marathon, Thermopyles, Salamis and Platees.

In the second half of the 4th century B.C., the Greeks, led by Alexander the Great, conquered most of the then known world and sought to Hellenize it.

In 146 B.C. Greece fell to the Romans. In 330 A.D. Emperor Constantine moved the Capital of the Roman Empire to Constantinople, founding the Eastern Roman Empire which was renamed Byzantine Empire or Byzantium for short, by western historians in the 19th century. Byzantium transformed the linguistic heritage of Ancient Greece into a vehicle for the new Christian civilization.

The Byzantine Empire fell to the Turks in 1453 and the Greeks remained under the Ottoman yoke for nearly 400 years. During this time their language, their religion and their sense of identity remained strong.

On March 25, 1821, the Greeks revolted against the Turks, and by 1828 they had won their independence.

As the new state comprised only a tiny fraction of the country, the struggle for the liberation of all the lands inhabited by Greeks continued. In 1864, the Ionian islands were added to Greece; in 1881 parts of Epirus and Thessaly. Crete, the islands of the Eastern Aegean and Macedonia were added in 1913 and western Thrace in 1919. After World War II the Dodecanese islands were also returned to Greece.

During World War II, Greece as occupied by Bulgaria, Germany and Italy.  A government in exile was established in 1944. By 1945 the World War was over, but the internal struggle between left and right-wing factions raged. When the dust settled, Alexandros Papagos and Konstantinos Karamanlis were the leaders of new conservative coalition parties; with the aid of the Marshall Plan, political  and economic conditions stabilized, but left  the country dependent on foreign aid. 

In the election of 1950, no fewer than forty-four parties contended for 250  parliament seats. The Populists, Liberals, and National Progressive Center Unionfinally  formed a coalition government headed by General Plastiras.  At this time, they still had a constitutional monarchy under King Paul. Social conditions declined despite economic growth, leading to successful military coups in 1963 and 1967. Crowding into cities caused demands for social welfare and better income distribution. "The Colonels" remained in power until 1973, heading a reign of terror. A Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974 allowed an opportunity to unseat the military dicatorship. A new constitution was written, and once again, elections were held.  This time, they elected to abolish the monarchy, and Greece once again established a republic, the type of government it enjoys today.


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