Greece is a country in southeastern Europe, situated on the southern end of the Balkan Peninsula. The country has borders with Albania, the Republic of Macedonia and Bulgaria to the north, and Turkey to the east. The Aegean Sea lies to the east and south of mainland Greece, while the Ionian Sea lies to the west. Both parts of the Eastern Mediterranean basin feature a vast number of islands, islets and rock islands.
Modern Greece traces its roots to the civilization of ancient Greece, generally considered to be the cradle of Western civilization. As such, it is the birthplace of democracy, Western philosophy, the Olympic Games, Western literature and historiography, political science, major scientific and mathematical principles, and Western drama, including both tragedy and comedy.
Greece is a developed country, a member of the European Union since 1981, a member of the Economic and Monetary Union of the European Union since 2001, NATO since 1952, the OECD since 1961, a founding member of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation and a member of ESA since 2005.Athens is the capital; Thessaloniki, Patras, Heraklion, Larissa, Volos, Ioannina, Kavala, Rhodes, Chania and Serres are some of the country’s other major cities.
Greece was the first area in Europe where advanced early civilizations emerged, beginning with the Minoan civilization in Crete and then the Mycenean civilization on the mainland. Later, city-states emerged across the Greek peninsula and spread to the shores of Black Sea, South Italy and Asia Minor reaching great levels of prosperity that resulted in an unprecedented cultural boom, expressed in architecture, drama, science and philosophy, and nurtured in Athens under a democratic environment.
Athens and Sparta led the way in repelling the Persian Empire in a series of battles. Both were later overshadowed by Thebes and eventually Macedon, with the latter under the guidance of Alexander the Great uniting and leading the Greek world to victory over the Persians.
The Hellenistic era was brought only partially to a close two centuries later with the establishment of Roman rule over Greek lands in 146 BC Many Greeks migrated to Alexandria, Antioch, Seleucia and the many other new Hellenistic cities in Asia and Africa founded in Alexander’s wake.
The subsequent mixture of Roman and Hellenic cultures took form in the establishment of the Byzantine Empire in 330 AD around Constantinople. Byzantium remained a major cultural and military power for the next 1,123 years, until the Fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Turks in 1453. On the eve of the Ottoman conquest, much of the Greek intelligentsia migrated to Italy and other parts of Europe not under Ottoman rule, playing a significant role in the Renaissance through the transmission of ancient Greek works to Western Europe. Nevertheless, the Ottoman millet system contributed to the cohesion of the Orthodox Greeks by segregating the various peoples within the empire based on religion, as the latter played an integral role in the formation of modern Greek identity.
After the Greek War of Independence, successfully waged against the Ottoman Empire from 1821 to 1829, the nascent Greek state was finally recognized under the London Protocol. In 1827, Ioannis Kapodistrias, from Ionian Islands, was chosen as the first governor of the new Republic. However, following his assassination, the Great Powers installed a monarchy under Otto, of the Bavarian House of Wittelsbach. In 1843, an uprising forced the King to grant a constitution and a representative assembly.
Due to his unimpaired authoritarian rule, he was eventually dethroned in 1863 and replaced by Prince Vilhelm of Denmark, who took the name George I and brought with him the Ionian Islands as a coronation gift from Britain. In 1877, Charilaos Trikoupis, who is attributed with the significant improvement of the country’s infrastructure, curbed the power of the monarchy to interfere in the assembly by issuing the rule of vote of confidence to any potential prime minister.