a Includes those of ancestral descent. b Includes people with "cultural roots". c Those whose stated ethnic origins included "Greek" among others. The number of those whose stated ethnic origin is solely "Greek" is 145,250. An additional 3,395 Cypriots of undeclared ethnicity live in Canada. dApprox. 60,000
Griko people and 30,000 post WW2 migrants. e "Including descendants". f Including
Greeks have greatly influenced and contributed to culture, visual arts, exploration, theatre, literature, philosophy, ethics, politics, architecture, music, mathematics, medicine, science, technology, commerce, cuisine and sports. The
Greek language is the oldest written language still in use and its vocabulary has been the basis of many languages, including
English as well as
international scientific nomenclature. Greek was by far the most widely spoken lingua franca in the Mediterranean world[when?] and the
New Testament of the
Christian Bible was also originally written in Greek.
Around 1200 BC, the
Dorians, another Greek-speaking people, followed from
Epirus. Older historical research often proposed
Dorian invasion caused the collapse of the
Mycenaean civilization, but this narrative has been abandoned in all contemporary research. It is likely that one of the factors which contributed to the Mycenaean palatial collapse was linked to raids by groups known in historiography as the "
Sea Peoples" who sailed into the eastern Mediterranean around 1180 BC. The
Dorian invasion was followed by a poorly attested period of migrations, appropriately called the
Greek Dark Ages, but by 800 BC the landscape of
Classical Greece was discernible.
The Greeks of classical antiquity idealized their Mycenaean ancestors and the Mycenaean period as a glorious era of heroes, closeness of the gods and material wealth. The
Homeric Epics (i.e. Iliad and Odyssey) were especially and generally accepted as part of the Greek past and it was not until the time of
Euhemerism that scholars began to question Homer's historicity. As part of the Mycenaean heritage that survived, the names of the gods and goddesses of Mycenaean Greece (e.g.
Hades) became major figures of the
Olympian Pantheon of later antiquity.
ethnogenesis of the Greek nation is linked to the development of Pan-Hellenism in the 8th century BC. According to some scholars, the foundational event was the
Olympic Games in 776 BC, when the idea of a common Hellenism among the Greek tribes was first translated into a shared cultural experience and Hellenism was primarily a matter of common culture. The works of
Homer (i.e. Iliad and Odyssey) and
Hesiod (i.e. Theogony) were written in the 8th century BC, becoming the basis of the national religion, ethos, history and mythology. The
Oracle of Apollo at Delphi was established in this period.
classical period of Greek civilization covers a time spanning from the early 5th century BC to the
death of Alexander the Great, in 323 BC (some authors prefer to split this period into "Classical", from the end of the
Greco-Persian Wars to the end of the Peloponnesian War, and "Fourth Century", up to the death of Alexander). It is so named because it set the standards by which Greek civilization would be judged in later eras. The Classical period is also described as the "Golden Age" of Greek civilization, and its art, philosophy, architecture and literature would be instrumental in the formation and development of Western culture.
While the Greeks of the classical era understood themselves to belong to a common Hellenic
genos, their first loyalty was to their city and they saw nothing incongruous about warring, often brutally, with other Greek
Peloponnesian War, the large scale civil war between the two most powerful Greek city-states
theirallies, left both greatly weakened.
Most of the feuding Greek city-states were, in some scholars' opinions, united by force under the banner of
Alexander the Great's Pan-Hellenic ideals, though others might generally opt, rather, for an explanation of "
Macedonian conquest for the sake of conquest" or at least conquest for the sake of riches, glory and power and view the "ideal" as useful propaganda directed towards the city-states.
Hellenistic civilization was the next period of Greek civilization, the beginnings of which are usually placed at Alexander's death. This
Hellenistic age, so called because it saw the partial
Hellenization of many non-Greek cultures, extending all the way into India and Bactria, both of which maintained Greek cultures and governments for centuries. The end is often placed around conquest of
Egypt by Rome in 30 BC, although the Indo-Greek kingdoms lasted for a few more decades.
This age saw the Greeks move towards larger cities and a reduction in the importance of the city-state. These larger cities were parts of the still larger
Kingdoms of the Diadochi. Greeks, however, remained aware of their past, chiefly through the study of the works of Homer and the classical authors. An important factor in maintaining Greek identity was contact with barbarian (non-Greek) peoples, which was deepened in the new cosmopolitan environment of the multi-ethnic Hellenistic kingdoms. This led to a strong desire among Greeks to organize the transmission of the Hellenic paideia to the next generation. Greek science, technology and mathematics are generally considered to have reached their peak during the Hellenistic period.
Between 168 BC and 30 BC, the entire Greek world was conquered by Rome, and almost all of the world's Greek speakers lived as citizens or subjects of the Roman Empire. Despite their military superiority, the Romans admired and became
heavily influenced by the achievements of Greek culture, hence
Horace's famous statement: Graecia capta ferum victorem cepit ("Greece, although captured, took its wild conqueror captive"). In the centuries following the Roman conquest of the Greek world, the Greek and Roman cultures merged into a single
In the religious sphere, this was a period of profound change. The spiritual revolution that took place, saw a waning of the old Greek religion, whose decline beginning in the 3rd century BC continued with the introduction of new religious movements from the East. The cults of deities like
Mithra were introduced into the Greek world. Greek-speaking communities of the Hellenized East were instrumental in the spread of early Christianity in the 2nd and 3rd centuries, and Christianity's early leaders and writers (notably
Saint Paul) were generally Greek-speaking, though none were from Greece proper. However, Greece itself had a tendency to cling to paganism and was not one of the influential centers of early Christianity: in fact, some ancient Greek religious practices remained in vogue until the end of the 4th century, with some areas such as the southeastern Peloponnese remaining pagan until well into the mid-Byzantine 10th century AD. The region of
Tsakonia remained pagan until the ninth century and as such its inhabitants were referred to as Hellenes, in the sense of being pagan, by their Christianized Greek brethren in mainstream Byzantine society.
While ethnic distinctions still existed in the
Roman Empire, they became secondary to religious considerations, and the renewed empire used Christianity as a tool to support its cohesion and promote a robust Roman national identity. From the early centuries of the
Common Era, the Greeks self-identified as Romans (
Greek: ῬωμαῖοιRhōmaîoi). By that time, the name Hellenes denoted pagans but was revived as an ethnonym in the 11th century.
Gemistos Plethon, one of the most renowned philosophers of the late Byzantine era, a chief pioneer of the revival of Greek scholarship in Western Europe
During most of the Middle Ages, the Byzantine Greeks self-identified as Rhōmaîoi (Ῥωμαῖοι, "Romans", meaning
citizens of the
Roman Empire), a term which in the
Greek language had become synonymous with Christian Greeks. The Latinizing term Graikoí (Γραικοί, "Greeks") was also used, though its use was less common, and nonexistent in official Byzantine political correspondence, prior to the Fourth Crusade of 1204. The
Eastern Roman Empire (today conventionally named the Byzantine Empire, a name not used during its own time) became increasingly influenced by Greek culture after the 7th century when Emperor
r. 610–641 AD) decided to make Greek the empire's official language. Although the
Catholic Church recognized the Eastern Empire's claim to the Roman legacy for several centuries, after
Pope Leo III crowned
Charlemagne, king of the
Franks, as the "
Roman Emperor" on 25 December 800, an act which eventually led to the formation of the
Holy Roman Empire, the Latin West started to favour the Franks and began to refer to the Eastern Roman Empire largely as the Empire of the Greeks (Imperium Graecorum). While this Latin term for the ancient Hellenes could be used neutrally, its use by Westerners from the 9th century onwards in order to challenge Byzantine claims to
ancient Roman heritage rendered it a derogatory
exonym for the Byzantines who barely used it, mostly in contexts relating to the West, such as texts relating to the
Council of Florence, to present the Western viewpoint. Additionally, among the Germanic and the Slavic peoples, the Rhōmaîoi were just called Greeks. 
There are three schools of thought regarding this Byzantine Roman identity in contemporary
Byzantine scholarship: The first considers "Romanity" the mode of self-identification of the subjects of a multi-ethnic empire at least up to the 12th century, where the average subject identified as Roman; a perennialist approach, which views Romanity as the medieval expression of a continuously existing Greek nation; while a third view considers the eastern Roman identity as a pre-modern national identity. The Byzantine Greeks' essential values were drawn from both Christianity and the Homeric tradition of ancient Greece.
A distinct Greek identity re-emerged in the 11th century in educated circles and became more forceful after the fall of Constantinople to the Crusaders of the
Fourth Crusade in 1204. In the
Empire of Nicaea, a small circle of the elite used the term "Hellene" as a term of self-identification. For example, in a letter to
Pope Gregory IX, the Nicaean emperor
John III Doukas Vatatzes (r. 1221–1254) claimed to have received the gift of royalty from Constantine the Great, and put emphasis on his "Hellenic" descent, exalting the wisdom of the Greek people. After the Byzantines recaptured Constantinople, however, in 1261, Rhomaioi became again dominant as a term for self-description and there are few traces of Hellene (Έλληνας), such as in the writings of
George Gemistos Plethon, who abandoned Christianity and in whose writings culminated the secular tendency in the interest in the classical past. However, it was the combination of
Orthodox Christianity with a specifically Greek identity that shaped the Greeks' notion of themselves in the empire's twilight years. In the twilight years of the Byzantine Empire, prominent Byzantine personalities proposed referring to the Byzantine Emperor as the "Emperor of the Hellenes". These largely rhetorical expressions of Hellenic identity were confined within intellectual circles, but were continued by
Byzantine intellectuals who participated in the
The Byzantine scholar and cardinal
Basilios Bessarion (1395/1403–1472) played a key role in transmitting classical knowledge to Western Europe, contributing to the Renaissance.
Fall of Constantinople on 29 May 1453, many Greeks sought better employment and education opportunities by leaving for the
Russia. Greeks are greatly credited for the European cultural revolution, later called, the Renaissance. In Greek-inhabited territory itself, Greeks came to play a leading role in the
Ottoman Empire, due in part to the fact that the central hub of the empire, politically, culturally, and socially, was based on
Western Thrace and
Greek Macedonia, both in
Northern Greece, and of course was centred on the mainly Greek-populated, former Byzantine capital,
Constantinople. As a direct consequence of this situation, Greek-speakers came to play a hugely important role in the Ottoman trading and diplomatic establishment, as well as in the church. Added to this, in the first half of the Ottoman period men of Greek origin made up a significant proportion of the Ottoman army, navy, and state bureaucracy, having been levied as adolescents (along with especially
Serbs) into Ottoman service through the
devshirme. Many Ottomans of Greek (or Albanian or Serb) origin were therefore to be found within the Ottoman forces which governed the provinces, from Ottoman Egypt, to Ottomans occupied
Algeria, frequently as provincial governors.
For those that remained under the
millet system, religion was the defining characteristic of national groups (milletler), so the
exonym "Greeks" (Rumlar from the name Rhomaioi) was applied by the Ottomans to all members of the
Orthodox Church, regardless of their language or ethnic origin. The
Greek speakers were the only ethnic group to actually call themselves Romioi, (as opposed to being so named by others) and, at least those educated, considered their ethnicity (genos) to be Hellenic. There were, however, many Greeks who escaped the second-class status of Christians inherent in the Ottoman
millet system, according to which Muslims were explicitly awarded senior status and preferential treatment. These Greeks either emigrated, particularly to their fellow Orthodox Christian protector, the
Russian Empire, or simply converted to Islam, often only very superficially and whilst remaining
crypto-Christian. The most notable examples of large-scale conversion to Turkish Islam among those today defined as
Greek Muslims—excluding those who had to convert as a matter of course on being recruited through the
devshirme—were to be found in
Greek Macedonia (for example among the
Vallahades of western
Macedonia), and among
Pontic Greeks in the
Pontic Alps and
Armenian Highlands. Several Ottoman sultans and princes were also of part Greek origin, with mothers who were either Greek concubines or princesses from Byzantine noble families, one famous example being sultan
Selim the Grim (
r. 1517–1520), whose mother
Gülbahar Hatun was a
The roots of Greek success in the Ottoman Empire can be traced to the Greek tradition of education and commerce exemplified in the
Phanariotes. It was the wealth of the extensive merchant class that provided the material basis for the intellectual revival that was the prominent feature of Greek life in the half century and more leading to the outbreak of the
Greek War of Independence in 1821. Not coincidentally, on the eve of 1821, the three most important centres of Greek learning were situated in
Aivali, all three major centres of Greek commerce. Greek success was also favoured by Greek domination in the leadership of the
Eastern Orthodox church.
The movement of the Greek enlightenment, the Greek expression of the
Age of Enlightenment, contributed not only in the promotion of education, culture and printing among the Greeks, but also in the case of independence from the
Ottomans, and the restoration of the term "Hellene".
Adamantios Korais, probably the most important intellectual of the movement, advocated the use of the term "Hellene" (Έλληνας) or "Graikos" (Γραικός) in the place of Romiós, that was seen negatively by him.
The relationship between ethnic Greek identity and
Greek Orthodox religion continued after the creation of the modern Greek nation-state in 1830. According to the second article of the first
Greek constitution of 1822, a Greek was defined as any native Christian resident of the
Kingdom of Greece, a clause removed by 1840. A century later, when the
Treaty of Lausanne was signed between
Turkey in 1923, the two countries agreed to use religion as the determinant for ethnic identity for the purposes of population exchange, although most of the Greeks displaced (over a million of the total 1.5 million) had already been driven out by the time the agreement was signed.[b] The
Greek genocide, in particular the harsh removal of Pontian Greeks from the southern shore area of the Black Sea, contemporaneous with and following the failed Greek
Asia Minor Campaign, was part of this process of
Turkification of the Ottoman Empire and the placement of its economy and trade, then largely in Greek hands under ethnic Turkish control.
The terms used to define Greekness have varied throughout history but were never limited or completely identified with membership to a Greek state.Herodotus gave a famous account of what defined Greek (Hellenic) ethnic identity in his day, enumerating
descent (ὅμαιμον – homaimon, "of the same blood"),
language (ὁμόγλωσσον – homoglōsson, "speaking the same language")
Before the establishment of the modern Greek nation-state, the link between ancient and modern Greeks was emphasized by the scholars of Greek Enlightenment especially by Rigas Feraios. In his "Political Constitution", he addresses to the nation as "the people descendant of the Greeks". The
modern Greek state was created in 1829, when the Greeks liberated a part of their historic homelands,
Peloponnese, from the
Ottoman Empire. The large
Greek diaspora and merchant class were instrumental in transmitting the ideas of western
romantic nationalism and
philhellenism, which together with the conception of Hellenism, formulated during the last centuries of the
Byzantine Empire, formed the basis of the
Diafotismos and the current conception of Hellenism.
The Greeks today are a nation in the meaning of an ethnos, defined by possessing
Greek culture and having a Greek
mother tongue, not by citizenship, race, and religion or by being subjects of any particular state. In ancient and medieval times and to some extent today the Greek term was genos, which also indicates a common ancestry.
Map showing the major regions of mainland ancient Greece, and adjacent "barbarian" lands
Greeks and Greek-speakers have used different names to refer to themselves collectively. The term Achaeans (Ἀχαιοί) is one of the
collective names for the Greeks in
Homer's Iliad and Odyssey (the Homeric "long-haired Achaeans" would have been a part of the
Mycenaean civilization that dominated Greece from
c. 1600 BC until 1100 BC). The other common names are Danaans (Δαναοί) and Argives (Ἀργεῖοι) while Panhellenes (Πανέλληνες) and Hellenes (Ἕλληνες) both
appear only once in the Iliad; all of these terms were used, synonymously, to denote a common Greek identity. In the historical period, Herodotus identified the
Achaeans of the northern
Peloponnese as descendants of the earlier, Homeric Achaeans.
Alexander the Great in
Byzantine Emperor's clothes, by a manuscript depicting scenes from his life (between 1204 and 1453)
The most obvious link between modern and ancient Greeks is their language, which has a documented tradition from at least the 14th century BC to the present day, albeit with a break during the
Greek Dark Ages from which written records are absent (11th- 8th cent. BC, though the
Cypriot syllabary was in use during this period). Scholars compare its continuity of tradition to
Chinese alone. Since its inception, Hellenism was primarily a matter of common culture and the national continuity of the Greek world is a lot more certain than its demographic. Yet, Hellenism also embodied an ancestral dimension through aspects of Athenian literature that developed and influenced ideas of descent based on autochthony. During the later years of the Eastern Roman Empire, areas such as
Constantinople experienced a Hellenic revival in language, philosophy, and literature and on classical models of thought and scholarship. This revival provided a powerful impetus to the sense of cultural affinity with ancient Greece and its classical heritage. Throughout their history, the Greeks have retained their language and
alphabet, certain values and cultural traditions, customs, a sense of religious and cultural difference and exclusion (the word barbarian was used by 12th-century historian
Anna Komnene to describe non-Greek speakers), a sense of Greek identity and common sense of ethnicity despite the undeniable socio-political changes of the past two millennia. In recent anthropological studies, both ancient and modern Greek osteological samples were analyzed demonstrating a bio-genetic affinity and continuity shared between both groups. There is also a direct genetic link between ancient Greeks and modern Greeks.
Today, Greeks are the majority ethnic group in the
Hellenic Republic, where they constitute 93% of the country's population, and the
Republic of Cyprus where they make up 78% of the island's population (excluding Turkish settlers in the occupied part of the country). Greek populations have not traditionally exhibited high rates of growth; a large percentage of Greek population growth since Greece's foundation in 1832 was attributed to annexation of new territories, as well as the influx of 1.5 million Greek refugees after the
1923 population exchange between Greece and Turkey. About 80% of the population of Greece is urban, with 28% concentrated in the city of Athens.
Greeks from Cyprus have a similar history of emigration, usually to the English-speaking world because of the island's colonization by the
British Empire. Waves of
emigration followed the
Turkish invasion of Cyprus in 1974, while the population decreased between mid-1974 and 1977 as a result of emigration, war losses, and a temporary decline in fertility. After the
ethnic cleansing of a third of the Greek population of the island in 1974, there was also an increase in the number of Greek Cypriots leaving, especially for the Middle East, which contributed to a decrease in population that tapered off in the 1990s. Today more than two-thirds of the Greek population in Cyprus is urban.
Around 1990, most Western estimates of the number of ethnic Greeks in Albania were around 200,000 but in the 1990s, a majority of them migrated to Greece. The Greek minority of
Turkey, which numbered upwards of 200,000 people after the 1923 exchange, has now dwindled to a few thousand, after the 1955
Constantinople Pogrom and other state sponsored violence and discrimination. This effectively ended, though not entirely, the three-thousand-year-old presence of Hellenism in Asia Minor. There are smaller Greek minorities in the rest of the Balkan countries, the
Levant and the
Black Sea states, remnants of the Old
Greek Diaspora (pre-19th century).
The total number of Greeks living outside Greece and Cyprus today is a contentious issue. Where census figures are available, they show around 3 million Greeks outside
Cyprus. Estimates provided by the
SAE - World Council of Hellenes Abroad put the figure at around 7 million worldwide. According to George Prevelakis of
Sorbonne University, the number is closer to just below 5 million. Integration, intermarriage, and loss of the Greek language, influence the self-identification of the Greek diaspora (Omogenia); important centres include
Toronto. In 2010, the Hellenic Parliament introduced a law that allowed members of the diaspora to vote in the Greek elections; this law was later repealed in early 2014.
The American Hellenic Council's Census 2020 Initiative encourages the Greek American diaspora to identify as Greek when asked about their ethnic origins. Identifying as Greek in the
US Census will result in funds being invested to support services in the
Greek American community, including funding for Greek education, including Greek language programs and services for government-run programs, as well as funding to support
Medicare, aged care,
Section 8 housing, and many other services.
In ancient times, the trading and colonizing activities of the Greek tribes and city states spread the Greek culture, religion and language around the Mediterranean and Black Sea basins, especially in
Sicily and southern Italy (also known as
Magna Grecia), Spain, the
south of France and the
Black sea coasts. Under Alexander the Great's empire and successor states, Greek and Hellenizing ruling classes were established in the
India and in
Hellenistic period is characterized by a new wave of Greek colonization that established Greek cities and kingdoms in
Africa. Under the Roman Empire, easier movement of people spread Greeks across the Empire and in the eastern territories, Greek became the
lingua franca rather than
Latin. The modern-day
Griko community of southern Italy, numbering about 60,000, may represent a living remnant of the ancient Greek populations of Italy.
Distribution of ethnic groups in 1918, National Geographic
During and after the
Greek War of Independence, Greeks of the diaspora were important in establishing the fledgling state, raising funds and awareness abroad. Greek merchant families already had contacts in other countries and during the disturbances many set up home around the Mediterranean (notably Marseilles in
France, Livorno in
Italy, Alexandria in
Saint Petersburg), and
Britain (London and Liverpool) from where they traded, typically in textiles and grain. Businesses frequently comprised the extended family, and with them they brought schools teaching Greek and the
Greek Orthodox Church.
As markets changed and they became more established, some families grew their operations to become
shippers, financed through the local Greek community, notably with the aid of the
Vagliano Brothers. With economic success, the Diaspora expanded further across the
Levant, North Africa, India and the USA.
While official figures remain scarce, polls and anecdotal evidence point to renewed Greek emigration as a result of the
Greek financial crisis. According to data published by the
Federal Statistical Office of Germany in 2011, 23,800 Greeks emigrated to Germany, a significant increase over the previous year. By comparison, about 9,000 Greeks emigrated to Germany in 2009 and 12,000 in 2010.
Greek culture has evolved over thousands of years, with its beginning in the Mycenaean civilization, continuing through the classical era, the Hellenistic period, the Roman and Byzantine periods and was profoundly affected by Christianity, which it in turn influenced and shaped.Ottoman Greeks had to endure through several centuries of adversity that culminated in
genocide in the 20th century. The
Diafotismos is credited with revitalizing Greek culture and giving birth to the synthesis of ancient and medieval elements that characterize it today.
Greek-speaking Muslims live mainly outside Greece in the contemporary era. There are both Christian and Muslim Greek-speaking communities in
Syria, while in the
Pontus region of
Turkey there is a large community of indeterminate size who were spared from the
population exchange because of their religious affiliation.
Byzantine Greek art, which grew from the Hellenistic
classical art and adapted the pagan motifs in the service of Christianity, provided a stimulus to the art of many nations. Its influences can be traced from
Venice in the West to
Kazakhstan in the East. In turn, Greek art was influenced by eastern civilizations (i.e.
Persia, etc.) during various periods of its history.
The Greeks of the Classical and Hellenistic eras made seminal contributions to science and philosophy, laying the foundations of several western scientific traditions, such as
political science. The scholarly tradition of the Greek academies was maintained during Roman times with several academic institutions in
Alexandria and other centers of Greek learning, while Byzantine science was essentially a continuation of classical science. Greeks have a long tradition of valuing and investing in paideia (education).Paideia was one of the highest societal values in the Greek and Hellenistic world while the first European institution described as a university was founded in 5th century Constantinople and operated in various incarnations until the
city's fall to the Ottomans in 1453. The
University of Constantinople was Christian Europe's first secular institution of higher learning since no theological subjects were taught, and considering the original meaning of the world university as a corporation of students, the world's first university as well.
The pre-1978 (and first) flag of Greece, which features a
Greek cross (crux immissa quadrata) on a blue background, is widely used as an alternative to the official flag, and they are often flown together. The
national emblem of Greece features a blue
escutcheon with a white cross surrounded by two laurel branches. A common design involves the current flag of Greece and the pre-1978 flag of Greece with crossed flagpoles and the national emblem placed in front.
Another highly recognizable and popular Greek symbol is the
double-headed eagle, the imperial emblem of the last dynasty of the Eastern Roman Empire and a common symbol in
Asia Minor and, later,
Eastern Europe. It is not part of the modern Greek flag or coat-of-arms, although it is officially the insignia of the
Greek Army and the flag of the
Church of Greece. It had been incorporated in the Greek coat of arms between 1925 and 1926.
Classical Athens is considered the birthplace of
Democracy. The term appeared in the 5th century BC to denote the political systems then existing in
Greek city-states, notably Athens, to mean "rule of the people", in contrast to
aristocracy (ἀριστοκρατία, aristokratía), meaning "rule by an excellent elite", and to
oligarchy. While theoretically these definitions are in opposition, in practice the distinction has been blurred historically. Led by
Cleisthenes, Athenians established what is generally held as the first democracy in 508–507 BC, which took gradually the form of a
direct democracy. The democratic form of government declined during the Hellenistic and Roman eras, only to be revived as an interest in Western Europe during the
early modern period.
Greek surnames began to appear in the 9th and 10th century, at first among ruling families, eventually supplanting the ancient tradition of using the father's name as disambiguator. Nevertheless, Greek surnames are most commonly patronymics, such those ending in the suffix -opoulos or -ides, while others derive from trade professions, physical characteristics, or a location such as a town, village, or monastery. Commonly, Greek male surnames end in -s, which is the common ending for Greek masculine
proper nouns in the
nominative case. Occasionally (especially in Cyprus), some surnames end in -ou, indicating the
genitive case of a patronymic name. Many surnames end in suffixes that are associated with a particular region, such as -akis (Crete), -eas or -akos (
Mani Peninsula), -atos (island of
Cephalonia), -ellis (island of
Lesbos) and so forth. In addition to a Greek origin, some surnames have Turkish or Latin/Italian origin, especially among Greeks from
Asia Minor and the
Ionian Islands, respectively. Female surnames end in a vowel and are usually the genitive form of the corresponding males surname, although this usage is not followed in the diaspora, where the male version of the surname is generally used.
With respect to personal names, the two main influences are Christianity and classical Hellenism; ancient Greek nomenclatures were never forgotten but have become more widely bestowed from the 18th century onwards. As in antiquity, children are customarily named after their grandparents, with the first born male child named after the paternal grandfather, the second male child after the maternal grandfather, and similarly for female children. Personal names are often familiarized by a diminutive suffix, such as -akis for male names and -itsa or -oula for female names. Greeks generally do not use middle names, instead using the genitive of the father's first name as a middle name. This usage has been passed on to the
Russians and other
East Slavs (
The traditional Greek homelands have been the Greek peninsula and the Aegean Sea,
Southern Italy (
Magna Graecia), the
Black Sea, the
Ionian coasts of
Asia Minor and the islands of
Sicily. In Plato's Phaidon, Socrates remarks, "we (Greeks) live around a sea like frogs around a pond" when describing to his friends the Greek cities of the Aegean. This image is attested by the map of the Old Greek Diaspora, which corresponded to the Greek world until the creation of the
Greek state in 1832. The
sea and trade were natural outlets for Greeks since the Greek peninsula is mostly rocky and does not offer good prospects for agriculture.
Admixture analysis of
autosomalSNPs of the Balkan region in a global context on the resolution level of 7 assumed ancestral populations: African (brown), South/West European (light blue), Asian (yellow), Middle Eastern (orange), South Asian (green), North/East European (dark blue) and Caucasian/Anatolian component (beige).
Factor correspondence analysis comparing different individuals from European ancestry groups
archaeogenetic study, Lazaridis et al. (2017) found that Minoans and Mycenaean Greeks were genetically highly similar, but not identical; modern Greeks resembled the Mycenaeans, but with some additional dilution of the early Neolithic ancestry. Furthermore, proposed migrations by
Phoenician colonists was not discernible in their data, thus "rejecting the hypothesis that the cultures of the Aegean were seeded by migrants from the old civilizations of these regions." The
FST between the sampled Bronze Age populations and present-day West Eurasians was estimated, finding that Mycenaean Greeks and Minoans were least differentiated from the populations of modern Greece, Cyprus, Albania, and Italy. In a subsequent study, Lazaridis et al. (2022) concluded that around ~58.4–65.8% of the ancestry of the Mycenaeans came from
Anatolian Neolithic Farmers (ANF), while the remainder mainly came from ancient populations related to the
Caucasus Hunter-Gatherers (CHG) (~20.1–22.7%) and the
Pre-Pottery Neolithic (PPN) culture in the Levant (~7–14%). The Mycenaeans had also inherited ~3.3–5.5% ancestry from a source related to the
Eastern European Hunter-Gatherers (EHG), introduced via a proximal source related to the inhabitants of the Eurasian steppe who are hypothesized to be the
Proto-Indo-Europeans, and ~0.9–2.3% from the
Iron Gates Hunter-Gatherers in the Balkans. Mycenaean elites were genetically the same as Mycenaean commoners in terms of their steppe ancestry, while some Mycenaeans lacked it altogether.
A genetic study by Clemente et al. (2021) found that in the Early Bronze Age, the populations of the Minoan,
Cycladic civilizations in the Aegean, were genetically homogeneous. In contrast, the Aegean population during the Middle Bronze Age was more differentiated; probably due to gene flow from a Yamnaya-related population from the
Pontic–Caspian steppe. This is corroborated by sequenced genomes of Middle Bronze Age individuals from northern Greece, who had a much higher proportion of steppe-related ancestry; the timing of this gene flow was estimated at ∼2,300 BCE, and is consistent with the dominant linguistic theories explaining the emergence of the Proto-Greek language. Present-day Greeks share ∼90% of their ancestry with them, suggesting continuity between the two time periods. In the case of Mycenaean Greeks however, this steppe-related ancestry was diluted. The ancestry of the Mycenaeans could be explained via a 2-way admixture model of such MBA individuals in northern Greece, and either an EBA Aegean or MBA Minoan population; the difference between the two time periods could be explained by the general decline of the Mycenaean civilization.
Genetic studies using multiple
mtDNA markers, show that Greeks share similar backgrounds as the rest of the Europeans and especially Southern Europeans (
Italians and southern
Balkan populations such as
Slavic Macedonians and
Romanians). A study in 2008 showed that Greeks are genetically closest to
Romanians and another 2008 study showed that they are close to Italians,
Albanians, Romanians and
southern Balkan Slavs. A 2003 study showed that Greeks cluster with other South European (mainly Italians) and North-European populations and are close to the
Basques, and FST distances showed that they group with other European and Mediterranean populations, especially with Italians (−0.0001) and Tuscans (0.0005). A study in 2008 showed that Greek regional samples from the mainland cluster with those from the Balkans, principally Albanians while
Cretan Greeks cluster with the central Mediterranean and Eastern Mediterranean samples. Studies using mitochondrial DNA gene markers (mtDNA) showed that Greeks group with other Mediterranean European populations and
principal component analysis (PCA) confirmed the low genetic distance between Greeks and Italians and also revealed a cline of genes with highest frequencies in the Balkans and Southern Italy, spreading to lowest levels in Britain and the Basque country, which
Cavalli-Sforza associates it with "the Greek expansion, which reached its peak in historical times around 1000 and 500 BC but which certainly began earlier".
Greek warriors, details from painted
sarcophagus found in Italy, 350–325 BC
A study from 2013 for prediction of hair and eye colour from DNA of the Greek people showed that the self-reported phenotype frequencies according to hair and eye colour categories was as follows: 119 individuals – hair colour, 11
blond, 45 dark blond/light brown, 49 dark brown, 3 brown red/auburn and 11 had black hair; eye colour, 13 with
blue, 15 with intermediate (green, heterochromia) and 91 had brown eye colour.
Another study from 2012 included 150 dental school students from the
University of Athens, and the results of the study showed that light hair colour (blonde/light ash brown) was predominant in 10.7% of the students. 36% had medium hair colour (light brown/medium darkest brown), 32% had darkest brown and 21% black (15.3 off black, 6% midnight black). In conclusion, the hair colour of young Greeks are mostly brown, ranging from light to dark brown with significant minorities having black and blonde hair. The same study also showed that the eye colour of the students was 14.6% blue/green, 28% medium (light brown) and 57.4% dark brown.
The history of the Greek people is closely associated with the history of Greece, Cyprus, Southern Italy, Constantinople, Asia Minor and the Black Sea. During the Ottoman rule of Greece, a number of Greek enclaves around the Mediterranean were cut off from the core, notably in Southern Italy, the Caucasus, Syria and Egypt. By the early 20th century, over half of the overall
Greek-speaking population was settled in Asia Minor (now Turkey), while later that century a huge wave of migration to the United States, Australia, Canada and elsewhere created the modern Greek diaspora.
c. 3rd millennium BC
Proto-Greek tribes from around the Southern Balkans/Aegean are generally thought to have arrived in the Greek mainland.
Major colonization of Asia Minor and Cyprus by the Greek tribes.
8th century BC
First major colonies established in
Southern Italy. The first Pan-Hellenic festival, the Olympic games, is held in 776 BC. The emergence of Pan-Hellenism marks the
ethnogenesis of the Greek nation.
Roman dissolution of surviving Slavic settlements in Greece and full recovery of the Greek peninsula.
Retro-migrations of Greeks from all parts of the Empire (mainly from Southern Italy and Sicily) into parts of Greece that were depopulated by the
Slavic Invasions (mainly western Peloponnesus and Thessaly).
Roman Empire dissolves, Constantinople taken by the
Fourth Crusade; becoming the capital of the
Latin Empire. Liberated after a long struggle by the Empire of Nicaea, but fragments remain separated. Migrations between Asia Minor, Constantinople and mainland Greece take place.
The Destruction of Smyrna (modern-day Izmir) more than 40 thousand Greeks killed; end of significant Greek presence in Asia Minor.
Treaty of Lausanne; Greece and Turkey agree to exchange populations with limited exceptions of the Greeks in
Tenedos and the Muslim minority of
Western Thrace. 1.5 million of Asia Minor and Pontic Greeks settle in Greece, and some 450 thousands of Muslims settle in Turkey.
^There is a range of interpretations:
Carl Blegen dates the arrival of the Greeks around 1900 BC, John Caskey believes that there were two waves of immigrants and
Robert Drews places the event as late as 1600 BC. Numerous other theories have also been supported, but there is a general consensus that the Greek tribes arrived around 2100 BC.
^While Greek authorities signed the agreement legalizing the population exchange this was done on the insistence of
Mustafa Kemal Atatürk and after a million Greeks had already been expelled from
Asia Minor (
Gilbar 1997, p. 8).
^Maratou-Alipranti 2013, p. 196: "The Greek diaspora remains large, consisting of up to 4 million people globally."
^Clogg 2013, p. 228: "Greeks of the diaspora, settled in some 141 countries, were held to number 7 million although it is not clear how this figure was arrived at or what criteria were used to define Greek ethnicity, while the population of the homeland, according to the 1991 census, amounted to some 10.25 million."
^"2011 Population and Housing Census". Hellenic Statistical Authority. 12 September 2014. Archived from
the original on 16 July 2016. Retrieved 18 May 2016. The Resident Population of Greece is 10.816.286, of which 5.303.223 male (49,0%) and 5.513.063 female (51,0%) ... The total number of permanent residents of Greece with foreign citizenship during the Census was 912.000. [See Graph 6: Resident Population by Citizenship]
^"United Kingdom: Cultural Relations and Greek Community". Hellenic Republic: Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 9 July 2013. There are between 40 and 45 thousand Greeks residing permanently in the UK, and the Greek Orthodox Church has a strong presence in the Archdiocese of Thyateira and Great Britain ... There is a significant Greek presence of Greek students in tertiary education in the UK. A large Cypriot community – numbering 250–300 thousand – rallies round the National Federation of Cypriots in Great Britain and the Association of Greek Orthodox Communities of Great Britain.
^"Immigration and Ethnocultural Diversity Highlight Tables". statcan.gc.ca.
abBideleux, Robert; Jeffries, Ian (2007).
The Balkans : a post-communist history. London: Routledge. p. 49.
OCLC85373407. It is difficult to know how many ethnic Greeks there were in Albania before the exodus of refugees during the early to mid-1990s. The Albanian government claimed there were only 60,000, based on the biased 1989 census, whereas the Greek government claimed there were upwards of 300,000. Most Western estimates were around the 200,000 mark
^"Italy: Cultural Relations and Greek Community". Hellenic Republic: Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 9 July 2013. The Greek Italian community numbers some 30,000 and is concentrated mainly in central Italy. The age-old presence in Italy of Italians of Greek descent – dating back to Byzantine and Classical times – is attested to by the Griko dialect, which is still spoken in the Magna Graecia region. This historically Greek-speaking villages are Condofuri, Galliciano, Roccaforte del Greco, Roghudi, Bova and Bova Marina, which are in the Calabria region (the capital of which is Reggio). The Grecanic region, including Reggio, has a population of some 200,000, while speakers of the Griko dialect number fewer that 1,000 persons.
ab"Grecia Salentina" (in Italian). Unione dei Comuni della Grecìa Salentina. 2016. La popolazione complessiva dell'Unione è di 54278 residenti così distribuiti (Dati Istat al 31° dicembre 2005. Comune Popolazione Calimera 7351 Carpignano Salentino 3868 Castrignano dei Greci 4164 Corigliano d'Otranto 5762 Cutrofiano 9250 Martano 9588 Martignano 1784 Melpignano 2234 Soleto 5551 Sternatia 2583 Zollino 2143 Totale 54278).
abBellinello 1998, p. 53: "Le attuali colonie Greche calabresi; La Grecìa calabrese si inscrive nel massiccio aspromontano e si concentra nell'ampia e frastagliata valle dell'Amendolea e nelle balze più a oriente, dove sorgono le fiumare dette di S. Pasquale, di Palizzi e Sidèroni e che costituiscono la Bovesia vera e propria. Compresa nei territori di cinque comuni (Bova Superiore, Bova Marina, Roccaforte del Greco, Roghudi, Condofuri), la Grecia si estende per circa 233 km (145 mi)q. La popolazione anagrafica complessiva è di circa 14.000 unità."
^"Ukraine: Cultural Relations and Greek Community". Hellenic Republic: Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 4 February 2011. There is a significant Greek presence in southern and eastern Ukraine, which can be traced back to ancient Greek and Byzantine settlers. Ukrainian citizens of Greek descent amount to 91,000 people, although their number is estimated to be much higher by the Federation of Greek communities of Mariupol.
^"France: Cultural Relations and Greek Community". Hellenic Republic: Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 9 July 2013. Some 15,000 Greeks reside in the wider region of Paris, Lille and Lyon. In the region of Southern France, the Greek community numbers some 20,000.
^"Belgium: Cultural Relations and Greek Community". Hellenic Republic: Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 28 January 2011. Some 35,000 Greeks reside in Belgium. Official Belgian data numbers Greeks in the country at 17,000, but does not take into account Greeks who have taken Belgian citizenship or work for international organizations and enterprises.
^"Argentina: Cultural Relations and Greek Community". Hellenic Republic: Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 9 July 2013. It is estimated that some 20,000 to 30,000 persons of Greek origin currently reside in Argentina, and there are Greek communities in the wider region of Buenos Aires.
^"Bulgaria: Cultural Relations and Greek Community". Hellenic Republic: Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 28 January 2011. There are some 28,500 persons of Greek origin and citizenship residing in Bulgaria. This number includes approximately 15,000 Sarakatsani, 2,500 former political refugees, 8,000 "old Greeks", 2,000 university students and 1,000 professionals and their families.
^"Sweden: Cultural Relations and Greek Community". Hellenic Republic: Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 4 February 2011. The Greek community in Sweden consists of approximately 24,000 Greeks who are permanent inhabitants, included in Swedish society and active in various sectors: science, arts, literature, culture, media, education, business, and politics.
^"Migranti z Řecka v Česku" [Migrants from Greece in the Czech Republic] (PDF). Hellenic Republic: Ministry of Foreign Affairs (in Czech). 9 March 2011.
Archived(PDF) from the original on 9 October 2022. Retrieved 25 April 2019.
^Kurt Aland, Barbara Aland The text of the New Testament: an introduction to the critical 1995 p52
^Archibald Macbride Hunter Introducing the New Testament 1972 p9
^Guibernau & Hutchinson 2004, p. 23: "Indeed, Smith emphasizes that the myth of divine election sustains the continuity of cultural identity, and, in that regard, has enabled certain pre-modern communities such as the Jews, Armenians, and Greeks to survive and persist over centuries and millennia (Smith 1993: 15–20)."
^Smith 1999, p. 21: "It emphasizes the role of myths, memories and symbols of ethnic chosenness, trauma, and the 'golden age' of saints, sages, and heroes in the rise of modern nationalism among the Jews, Armenians, and Greeks—the archetypal diaspora peoples."
^Burckhardt 1999, p. 168: "The establishment of these Panhellenic sites, which yet remained exclusively Hellenic, was a very important element in the growth and self-consciousness of Hellenic nationalism; it was uniquely decisive in breaking down enmity between tribes, and remained the most powerful obstacle to fragmentation into mutually hostile poleis."
^Burger 2008, pp. 57–58: "Poleis continued to go to war with each other. The Peloponnesian War (431–404 BC) made this painfully clear. The war (really two wars punctuated by a peace) was a duel between Greece's two leading cities, Athens and Sparta. Most other poleis, however, got sucked into the conflict as allies of one side or the other ... The fact that Greeks were willing to fight for their cities against other Greeks in conflicts like the Peloponnesian War showed the limits of the pull of Hellas compared with that of the polis."
^Fox, Robin Lane (2004).
"Riding with Alexander". Archaeology. The Archaeological Institute of America. Alexander inherited the idea of an invasion of the Persian Empire from his father Philip whose advance-force was already out in Asia in 336 BC. Philips campaign had the slogan of "freeing the Greeks" in Asia and "punishing the Persians" for their past sacrileges during their own invasion (a century and a half earlier) of Greece. No doubt, Philip wanted glory and plunder.
^Harrison 2002, p. 268: "Roman, Greek (if not used in its sense of 'pagan') and Christian became synonymous terms, counterposed to 'foreigner', 'barbarian', 'infidel'. The citizens of the Empire, now predominantly of Greek ethnicity and language, were often called simply ό χριστώνυμος λαός ['the people who bear Christ's name']."
abcdef"Greece during the Byzantine period (c. AD 300–c. 1453), Population and languages, Emerging Greek identity". Encyclopædia Britannica. United States: Encyclopædia Britannica Inc. 2008. Online Edition.
^See for example Anthony Bryer, 'The Empire of Trebizond and the Pontus' (Variourum, 1980), and his 'Migration and Settlement in the Caucasus and Anatolia' (Variourum, 1988), and other works listed in
Caucasian Greeks and
^ὅμαιμος, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, on Perseus
^ὁμόγλωσσος, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, on Perseus
^I. Polinskaya, "Shared sanctuaries and the gods of others: On the meaning Of 'common' in Herodotus 8.144", in: R. Rosen & I. Sluiter (eds.), Valuing others in Classical Antiquity (LEiden: Brill, 2010), 43–70.
^ὁμότροπος, Henry George Liddell, Robert Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon, on Perseus)
^Herodotus, 8.144.2: "The kinship of all Greeks in blood and speech, and the shrines of gods and the sacrifices that we have in common, and the likeness of our way of life."
^Athena S. Leoussi, Steven Grosby, Nationalism and Ethnosymbolism: History, Culture and Ethnicity in the Formation of Nations, Edinburgh University Press, 2006, p. 115
^Smith 2003, p. 98: "After the Ottoman conquest in 1453, recognition by the Turks of the Greek millet under its Patriarch and Church helped to ensure the persistence of a separate ethnic identity, which, even if it did not produce a "precocious nationalism" among the Greeks, provided the later Greek enlighteners and nationalists with a cultural constituency fed by political dreams and apocalyptic prophecies of the recapture of Constantinople and the restoration of Greek Byzantium and its Orthodox emperor in all his glory."
^Psellos, Michael (1994). Michaelis Pselli Orationes Panegyricae. Stuttgart/Leipzig: Walter de Gruyter. p. 33.
^See Iliad, II.2.530 for "Panhellenes" and Iliad II.2.653 for "Hellenes".
^Cartledge 2011, Chapter 4: Argos, p. 23: "The Late Bronze Age in Greece is also called conventionally 'Mycenaean', as we saw in the last chapter. But it might in principle have been called 'Argive', 'Achaean', or 'Danaan', since the three names that Homer does apply to Greeks collectively were 'Argives', 'Achaeans', and 'Danaans'."
^Nagy 2014, Texts and Commentaries – Introduction #2: "Panhellenism is the least common denominator of ancient Greek civilization ... The impulse of Panhellenism is already at work in Homeric and Hesiodic poetry. In the Iliad, the names "Achaeans" and "Danaans" and "Argives" are used synonymously in the sense of Panhellenes = "all Hellenes" = "all Greeks.""
1.14: "The deluge in the time of Deucalion, for instance took place chiefly in the Greek world and in it especially about ancient Hellas, the country about Dodona and the Achelous."
^Homer. Iliad, 16.233–16.235: "King Zeus, lord of Dodona ... you who hold wintry Dodona in your sway, where your prophets the Selloi dwell around you."
^Browning 1983, p. vii: "The Homeric poems were first written down in more or less their present form in the seventh century B.C. Since then Greek has enjoyed a continuous tradition down to the present day. Change there has certainly been. But there has been no break like that between Latin and Romance languages. Ancient Greek is not a foreign language to the Greek of today as Anglo-Saxon is to the modern Englishman. The only other language which enjoys comparable continuity of tradition is Chinese."
^Papagrigorakis, Kousoulis & Synodinos 2014, p. 237: "Interpreted with caution, the craniofacial morphology in modern and ancient Greeks indicates elements of ethnic group continuation within the unavoidable multicultural mixtures."
^Argyropoulos, Sassouni & Xeniotou 1989, p. 200: "An overall view of the finding obtained from these cephalometric analyses indicates that the Greek ethnic group has remained genetically stable in its cephalic and facial morphology for the last 4,000 years."
abGibbons, Ann (2 August 2017). "The Greeks really do have near-mythical origins, ancient DNA reveals". Science.
^Tsokalidou, Roula (2002).
"Greek-Speaking Enclaves of Lebanon and Syria"(PDF). Actas/Proceedings II Simposio Internacional Bilingüismo. Roula Tsokalidou (Primary School Education Department, University of Thessaly, Greece). pp. 1245–1255.
Archived(PDF) from the original on 9 October 2022.
^Wilson, N.G. (2006). Encyclopedia of ancient Greece. New York: Routledge. p. 511.
^R. Po-chia Hsia, Lynn Hunt, Thomas R. Martin, Barbara H. Rosenwein, and Bonnie G. Smith, The Making of the West, Peoples and Cultures, A Concise History, Volume I: To 1740 (Boston and New York: Bedford/St. Martin's, 2007), 44.
^Harl 1996, p. 260: "Cities employed the coins of an empire that formed a community of cities encircling the Mediterranean Sea, which Romans audaciously called "Our Sea" (mare nostrum). "We live around a sea like frogs around a pond" was how Socrates, so Plato tells us, described to his friends the Hellenic cities of the Aegean in the late fifth century B.C."
^Cavalli-Sforza, Luigi Luca; Piazza, Alberto (1993). "Human genomic diversity in Europe: a summary of recent research and prospects for the future". Eur J Hum Genet. 1 (1): 3–18.
^Lowen, Mark (29 May 2013).
"Greece's young: Dreams on hold as fight for jobs looms". BBC News. Retrieved 25 July 2013. The brain drain is quickening. A recent study by the University of Thessaloniki found that more than 120,000 professionals, including doctors, engineers and scientists, have left Greece since the start of the crisis in 2010.
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