Saturday 24 February 2018
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History and Culture


• Demographic Trends
From the wide range of macro and micro indicators there some indicative indexes which would portray the current state of development in life expectancy, health status and quality of life. Greece ranks 29th, out of 187 countries, according to the UN Human Development Indicator. Average life expectancy is 79.9 years and adult literacy rate (% aged 15 and above) is 97. The average Greek is 42 years old.
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• Urban Life
Greece has a population of approximately 11 million. Athens is the largest city and capital of Greece, with a population of over four million and a history of more than 6,000 years. The second largest city, Thessaloniki, with one million inhabitants, is located in northern Greece and is an important seaport, cultural focal point, and regional business center. Other large cities include Piraeus, the main port of Greece, Patras, Volos, Larissa, and Iraklion on the island of Crete. More than 60% of the country’s population resides in cities.

• Welfare
After the re-establishment of democracy in 1974, the social objectives were redefined and new policies were introduced aiming at the expansion of social insurance coverage, improving the access to social services, balancing regional inequalities and reallocating resources. Public expenditure on health, is 5.8% of GDP (2011). Greece has the third highest ratio of number of physicians to people (6 per 1,000), after San Marino and Cuba.

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Modern Greek derives from the same idiom used by Homer and other renowned Greek poets and writers more than 3,000 years ago. Greek was the language of the Gospels and has made a major contribution to all western languages. It is considered one of the oldest languages. Thousands of English words come from the Greek language, sometimes via the Roman adaptation into Latin and then to English.

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The Greek Alphabet
Α α Alpha
Β β Beta
Γ γ Gamma
Δ δ Delta
Ε ε Epsilon
Ζ ζ Zeta
Η η Eta
Θ θ Theta
Ι ι Iota
Κ κ Kappa
Λ λ Lambda
Μ μ Mu
Ν ν Nu
Ξ ξ Xi
Ο ο Omicron
Π π Pi
Ρ ρ Rho
Σ σ Sigma
Τ τ Tau
Υ υ Upsilon
Φ φ Phi
Χ χ Chi
Ψ ψ Psi
Ω ω Omega

Learning Greek
The Greek language can be studied through courses offered in Greek universities, state-run institutions, summer schools, private schools and online programs, all of them contributing to the fostering and promotion of Greek language within and outside Greece, offering at the same time an invaluable insight of Greek culture.

• The Center for Greek Language is an academic institution dedicated to the description and documentation of trends in the Modern Greek language at home and abroad. The Center is particularly concerned with the linguistic support of return migrants and Greeks abroad, especially those in the Black Sea region. It is situated in Thessaloniki and is supervised and financed by the Ministry of National Education.

• The Greek Language School of the Intercultural Education Centre of the Department of Primary Education at the University of Patras offers since 1992 courses of Modern Greek language for students, teachers and individuals, repatriates, Greeks living abroad and foreigners from the EU and around the world.

• The School of Modern Greek Language was founded at Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in 1970 and has been operating ever since under the supervision of the Faculty of Philosophy. It offers courses in Greek language and culture to foreign students and also to students of Greek origin, who intend to study in Greek Educational Institutions, or wish to familiarize with Greece and its culture.

• The Greek House - Elliniki Estia is a center for Greek language lessons and culture manifestations, created in 1999 in Athens, aiming to provide students with a grasp on language, while exploring Greek culture through dance, cuisine, mythology and history.

• The “Alexander the Great" Hellenic Language School offers courses to foreigners with either business or scientific orientation. The school has branches in Thessaloniki and Chania in Greece, in Sophia and Philipoupolis (Plovdiv), Bulgaria, in Skopjie, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, and Tirana, Albania.

• The Center of Intercultural & Migration Studies operates in the Crete University at Rethymno implementing the project of Educating the Greeks of Diaspora.

• The Modern Greek Language Teaching Center of the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens offers teaching courses of Modern Greek as a foreign language.

• Seasonal language courses are offered by the Institute of Balkan Studies (IMXA), in Thessaloniki.

• The State Scholarships Foundation (I.K.Y.) grants scholarships for postgraduate or postdoctoral studies in Greece to all foreigners as well as scholarships for the attendance of lessons and seminars of Modern Greek Language and Culture.

DIAS International Academic Studies is a non-profit organization dedicated to making the necessary arrangements for students from all over the world to attend accredited summer courses at Greek universities. Students are given the opportunity to feel the timeless legacy of Greece and study the roots of the Western Civilization at its birthplace.

• The Filoglossia+ is a series of four educational multimedia CD-ROMs for learning Greek as a foreign language, addressed to beginners. The program is mainly based on the communicative approach and focuses on the production and comprehension of both oral and written speech.

Greek News Agenda: Learn Greek in Greece

Foreign languages education is widespread. The proportion of people who can speak English well enough to take part in a conversation has increased in Greece significantly (37%, 2nd in EU ranking). In 2006, a Special Euro-barometer survey indicated that 57% of Greeks claimed to speak one foreign language (at least at a conversational level), and 19% two languages.

Greece has a rich tradition and a variety of customs linked to religion, nature and the mores of local societies. Read about what Greeks do during Christmas, Easter time and the carnivals. Discover what they prefer to eat, where to travel, how to dance and how to enjoy their time during the holidays.

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Greek families have always placed a high value on education, which is the right of every citizen and is provided by the Greek state from kindergarten to the university level. Greek people have reached a very high level of education (56% of Greeks in their third decade have had tertiary education). The country sends more students abroad to study, per capita, than any other country in the world. European and American Universities boast large numbers of students from Greece, many of whom achieve high academic success.

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The Greek educational system is divided into three levels, namely primary, secondary and tertiary, with an additional post-secondary level providing vocational training. Education in Greece, including pre-school, primary and lower secondary education, is compulsory for all children 6 to 15 years old. The Greek educational system is under the supervision of the Hellenic Ministry of National Education and Religious Affairs (YPEPTH).

Primary and Secondary Education

Primary education is divided into kindergarten lasting one or two years, and primary school (Demotiko) lasting six years, where children are admitted at the age of six. Lower secondary (Gymnasio) schooling is based on a wide curriculum aiming to provide subject-specific knowledge and to prepare pupils for the role of citizens in society. Upper secondary education includes two types of schools in which schooling lasts three years: the Unified Upper Secondary School (Eniaio Lykeio) and the Technical Vocational School (TEE). There are public and private school units of all levels and types of primary and secondary education.

Alongside mainstream schools of primary and secondary education, there are also special-orientation schools (like music, ecclesiastical and athletic lower and upper secondary schools). In addition, programs of intercultural education are provided to repatriated students of Greek origin and to students of foreign or gipsy origin, while minority schools are established for the education of the Muslim minority of Thrace. Last but not least, there are also experimental schools functioning under the supervision of Universities applying experimental methods of teaching.

Tertiary Education

Higher Education institutions in Greece are fully self-administered legal entities under public law, funded and supervised by the Hellenic Ministry of National Education and Religious Affairs in accordance with Provision 16 of the Constitution. Public higher education is divided into Universities and Polytechnics (AEI), Technological Education Institutes (TEI) and Academies which primarily cater for the military and the clergy. Admission to tertiary education is based on a student’s performance in national level examinations taking place at the end of the third year of upper secondary education.

Undergraduate courses last typically 4 years (5 in polytechnics and some technical/art schools, and 6 in medical schools); postgraduate courses last from 1 to 2 years and doctorates from 3 to 6 years. Additionally, students are admitted to the Hellenic Open University upon the completion of the 22nd year of age by drawing lots.

All levels of education are catered for by both private and public schools. Public schools and universities do not charge tuition fees and textbooks are provided free to all students. There are also a number of private tutor schools, colleges and universities operating alongside the state education and providing supplementary tuition.

98%percent of the people adhere to the Greek Orthodox faith (Greek Orthodox 98%, Muslim 1.3%, other 0.7%). Freedom of religion is guaranteed by the Constitution, and other religious groups, such as Muslims, Catholics, Protestants, and Jews, have their own places of worship.

Young people in today’s Greece constitute 18.5%, forming an ever changing group, tending to enter the job market and start a family later in life, as they are switching backwards and forwards between work and learning.

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• Civil Society
Emerging from an extremely influential state and political party system, Greek civil society has been steadily rising, with the formation and mobilization of an increasing number of NGOs and related networks active especially in social and environmental protection.

• Family
Greek society is very coherent and family, a basic social institution, seems strong enough to support its members even at the most difficult times. Retirement homes are rare in Greece and many grandparents live in close proximity to their children and grandchildren. Divorce rates are among the lowest in the European Union (2008), but abortion rates among the highest.

• Crime
Greece has one of the lowest crime rates in Europe and a very low suicide rate on a world scale (male suicide rate 5.9 per 100,000 people). Together with Spain and Portugal, Greece shares one of the highest ratios in number of police officers per 100,000 inhabitants. As far as illegal migration is concerned, according to 2010 data, Greece accounts for 90% of all detections of illegal border crossings to the EU.

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• Sports
Greece has risen to prominence in a number of sporting areas in recent decades. Modern Greek champions have been awarded with numerous medals in individual and team sports such as basketball, wrestling, water polo, athletics, and weightlifting. Many of them have gained international recognition through their participation in world championships and Olympic Games. In 2004 the Olympic Games returned to its birthplace and created a unique capital gain to the benefit of the country itself and of the Olympic Games.

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The Ancient Olympic Games
The Olympic Games and the Marathon have been established across the world by promoting world peace, fair play and the three Olympic values: excellence, respect and friendship.

Read more about the history of the Olympic Games

Olympia in the western Peloponnese was the home of the ancient Olympic Games, established by Hercules, according to tradition, in honor of the Olympian gods who were the first competitors. Evidence indicates that games were initially held at Olympia in the 9th century B.C. Named after the highest mountain in Greece, Olympus, the Games were recorded as held every four years since 776 B.C.E. In 676 B.C.E. they acquired pan-Hellenic significance, and by 576 B.C.E., their prestige had reached its peak.

Special messengers were sent in every direction to announce the beginning of a sacred truce and there was a suspension of all disputes and warfare among Greek city-states. The largest cities were represented by official ambassadors to Olympia. The competitions testing strength and endurance lasted five days and included a wide variety of events. Eventually, additional contests included a four-horse chariot race.

Chariot and horse races took place in the hippodrome, while athletic contests were held in the stadium. Wrestling and boxing were combined in the pankration; jumping, discus-throwing, javelin-throwing, running, and wrestling were included in the pentathlon.

The victors of the games were honored by all Greeks. Memorials were erected and they were praised in poems and songs. Victorious competitors did not receive any trophies or medals. The emblem of supreme honor was an olive wreath placed on their heads. Some cities were said to tear down sections of their walls to let their victorious athletes pass through, signifying that with such individuals they did not need fortifications.

The Olympics and other popular festivals were more significant as institutions than the individual honors accorded to athletes who competed. In addition to inspiring succeeding generations to pursue competitive sports, they also contributed to a sense of unity between the Greek city-states, as indicated by the fact that of an Olympic truce during the games.

For a thousand years, the games were held at regular intervals of four years. The games continued well after the decline of Olympia as a sanctuary and the Roman conquest of Greece. The advent of Christianity inspired radical social and religious changes and the old monuments were used to build a castle. The Games continued until A.D. 393, when the Byzantine Emperor Theodosius I banned them by decree, while, in A.D. 426, Theodosius II ordered the total destruction of the sanctuary's temples. The Goths delivered the final blow by destroying what could not be carried away.

In the following centuries, the river Kladeos covered the sacred land with sand and pebbles. It was not until 1875 that archaeologists brought it back to light and re-discovered ancient Olympia.

Did you know?

• The first Olympic champion was a Greek cook named Coroebus who won the sprint race.
• During each Olympics, Greeks would sacrifice one hundred bulls to Zeus.

Modern Olympics
The first modern games took place in Athens in 1896. The modern revival of the Olympic Games is associated with Pierre de Coubertin (1863-1937) who, in January 1894, in a letter to the athletic organizations of every country, pointed out the educational value of sports to modern man, if practiced in accordance with the ideals of ancient Greece.

Read more about the Games’ revival

Since the Olympic revival, the Greek athletes always lead the parade that marks the opening of the Games preceded by the lighting of the Olympic torch. The flame that is used to light the torch comes from the sacred site of Olympia, where it is lit from the sun's rays and then carried by a relay of runners to the city where the games are being held.

The first modern games took place in Athens in 1896. Many of the original Olympic contests were retained, with new events added. One of the original events still contested is the Marathon race, commemorating the feat of an unknown Athenian warrior. In 490 B.C., he ran in full armor from the battlefield of Marathon to Athens, to bring the news that the invading Persians had been defeated. He could only utter the words "Rejoice, we are victorious," before falling dead from exhaustion.

This event is now regarded as the pinnacle of the Olympic Games. The present distance of the race is 26 miles, 385 yards or 42.2 kms, the distance between Marathon and Athens. The first Olympic Marathon in 1896 was won by a Greek runner, Spyros Louis, in 2 hours, 58 minutes and 50 seconds.

Since their revival in Athens in 1896, the Olympic Games have been celebrated every fourth year, except for interruptions caused by World Wars. Athens hosted the Olympic Games of 2004 with a celebration of sports and culture that linked antiquity with the modern world.

Athens 2004 Olympic & Paralympic Games

The 2004 Summer Olympic Games, officially known as the Games of the XXVIII Olympiad, was a premier international multi-sport event held in Athens from August 13 to August 29, 2004 with the motto Welcome Home. 10,625 athletes competed, some 600 more than expected, accompanied by 5,501 team officials from a record 201 countries. There were 301 medal events in 28 different sports.

Athens 2004 marked the first time since the 1996 Summer Olympics that all countries with a National Olympic Committee were in attendance. It was also the first time since 1896 that the Olympics were held in Greece, marking the return to the birthplace of both the ancient and modern Olympic Games.

Athens 2011 Special Olympics

The Special Olympics is a non-profit organization that invites children and adults with intellectual disabilities to explore their abilities in various sports activities. In 2007, the Special Olympics International Committee selected Athens to host the Special Olympics World Summer Games for the year 2011.

By being offered the opportunity to host the 2011 Special Olympics World Summer Games, 7 years after having hosted the 2004 Olympic and Paralympic Games, Greece became one of only four countries to have organized the entire range of great athletic multiple‐sport events.

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The Marathon

Every year, thousands of runners from all over the world participate in the Athens Classic Marathon. The classic Marathon’s 42km is the link between a legend and a leading athletic event signaling the power of human will.

The Marathon Race stands out as it was born by a true historic and heroic event. It was a feat accomplished by a news-bearing foot soldier from ancient Athens, who announced - with his last words - the victory of the Greeks against the Persians during the Marathon Battle in 490 BC. The Athens 2010 Race is considered historic as it marked the 2,500th anniversary since the Battle of Marathon.

In modern times, the 42,195m Marathon Race became one of the most competitive events during the revival of the Olympic Games in 1896. A Greek athlete named Spyros Louis, running what has ever since been referred to as the Original Marathon Course from the ancient city of Marathon to the Panathinaikon Stadium in Athens, won the gold medal of the first modern Olympic Games and became a legend of Greek and International Athletics.

Apart from the sporting experience, athletes who participate in the Athens Classical Marathon have the chance to enjoy the traditional Greek hospitality, discover the fascinating landscape of our country and explore a city which is constantly improving.

Greek News Agenda: Athens- Marathon Capital of the World

• Media

The media landscape has changed a lot during the past thirty years. Major developments include the deregulation and privatization of the broadcasting system in the 1980s, resulting in a plethora of private TV channels and radio stations, both national and local, as well as the switch to digital media. Nowadays, Greece counts 160 private TV channels and 1,150 private radio stations.

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Mass Media in Greece


Television is a well-established medium of information, entertainment and culture in contemporary Greek society. Following the deregulation of 1989 and the end of state monopoly, private television reached Greek households and dominated the market. Currently, there are 8 private television stations nationwide - analog and digital terrestrial broadcasting- and 126 regional and local TV stations.

The public broadcaster in Greece is ERT, which owns three TV nationwide channels (ET-1, NET, ET-3), ERT WORLD EUROPE and ERT WORLD AMERICAS & AUSTRALIA via satellite, ERT HD, three digital terrestrial channels (CINE PLUS, SPORT PLUS and PRISMA PLUS for disabled people) and VOULI TV. The latter is dedicated to live broadcasts of Hellenic Parliament proceedings. ERT also provides news bulletins in 13 languages.

Numerous Greek television and radio stations are available via satellite around the world, mainly by Hellas Sat 2, the first Greek satellite. One satellite TV and three IPTV platforms are operating on subscription in Greece, as well as two analog pay television channels.

Radio is another important source of information and entertainment in Greece. The Public Broadcasting Corporation, ERT, owns five nationwide radio stations (NET FM, SECOND PROGRAMME, KOSMOS, ERA-3, ERA SPORT), the VOICE OF GREECE broadcasting world-wide, the International Network of ERA, 21 regional and local stations as well as radio station FILIA (FRIENDSHIP) with news for expats living in Greece.

The first private radio station was Athina 98.4 FM, which went on air in 1987 Currently, around 930 radio stations broadcasting regularly in Greece, among which 42 in the Athens region. The vast majority is private and transmits locally or regionally.

Print media
Greece has one of the highest numbers of newspapers relative to the size of the market, and therefore one of the lowest circulation rates. Today, 82 newspapers circulate nationwide. There are 47 weekly and Sunday editions and 35 daily, 4 of which are financial and 12 sport newspapers. Furthermore, around 600 daily or weekly newspapers circulate on a local or regional level, including 65 local newspapers in Athens.

There are also around 650 magazines (published on a weekly, fortnightly and monthly basis) with a wide range of titles.

News Agency
The two leading news agencies in Greece merged in 2006. The merger brought together Athens News Agency (ANA), which was founded in 1895, with the Macedonian News Agency (MPA), founded by the state in 1991 in Thessaloniki.

ANA-MPA collects, processes and assesses national and international news, photos, as well as radio and television material and distributes it to media in Greece, Cyprus, the Diaspora and abroad. It places great emphasis on the development of mutual relations with Balkan countries, by promoting inter-Balkan cooperation between news agencies in the region.

Part of the agency’s services is online in English, French, Russian, Chinese and Albanian.

Digital Media
Focusing on digital media, almost all of the media companies have developed portals with services like webTV, webRadio, online news etc. An extensive list of the addresses, telephone & fax numbers, e-mails and websites of media in Greece can be found on Media Directory.

Except for the public media which offer services for non-Greek speakers, some major private media networks offer similar services, mainly in English (Greek Media in languages other than Greek).

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