Greece, officially the Hellenic Republic, historically also known as Hellas, is a country located in Southeast Europe. Greece is considered the cradle of Western civilization, being the birthplace of democracy, western philosophy, western literature, theatre, drama, poetry, historiography, political science, major scientific and mathematical principles and the Olympic Games. Greek is the oldest written language still in existence, continuously used for more than 5000 years. From the eighth century B.C., the Greeks were organized into various independent city-states, which spanned the entire Mediterranean region and the Black Sea. Philip of Macedon united most of the Greek mainland in the fourth century B.C., with his son Alexander the Great rapidly conquering much of the ancient world, from the eastern Mediterranean to India. Greece was annexed by Rome in the second century B.C., becoming an integral part of the Roman Empire and its successor, the Byzantine Empire, which adopted the Greek language and culture. The Greek Orthodox Church, which emerged in the first century A.D., helped shape modern Greek identity and transmitted Greek traditions to the wider Orthodox World. Even more, there are more than 4000 traditional dances around the country. Greece emerged as a modern nation state in 1830 following a war of independence. The country’s rich historical legacy is reflected in part by its 18 UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
The population of Greece is approximately 11 million. Athens is the nation’s capital and the largest city, followed by Thessaloniki. Situated on the southern tip of the Balkan Peninsula, Greece is located at the crossroads of Europe, Asia, and Africa. The Aegean Sea lies to the east of the mainland, the Ionian Sea to the west, the Cretan Sea and the Mediterranean Sea to the south. Greece has the longest coastline on the Mediterranean Basin and the 11th longest coastline in the world (13,676 km), featuring many islands, of which 227 are inhabited. Eighty percent of Greece is mountainous, with Mount Olympus being the highest with its peak at 2,918 meters. It is also one of the sunniest countries in the world as the whole country has more than 250 days of sun on average. Moreover, Greece has one of the richest varieties of wildlife in Europe, being the home of 116 species of mammals, 18 species of amphibians, 59 species of reptiles, 240 species of bird and 107 species of fish.
Greece is a unitary parliamentary republic and developed country with an advanced high-income economy, a high quality of life, and a very high standard of living. Its economy is the largest in the Balkans, where it is an important regional investor. A founding member of the United Nations, Greece was the tenth member to join the European Communities (precursor to the European Union) and has been part of the Eurozone since 2001. It is also a member of numerous other international institutions, including the Council of Europe, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the World Trade Organization (WTO), the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), and the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie (OIF).
Greece’s unique cultural heritage, large tourism industry, prominent shipping sector and geostrategic importance classify its power. The traditional heritage of a country is the sum of the cultural and material achievements bequeathed by previous generations. Folk culture for the Greek people, rich in music, dances, poetry and theatre, is part of their everyday life. All over the country have been created many specialized museums and cultural organizations aiming to preserve and study the Greek traditional heritage.