Greeks Explained

Population:approx. 14,000,000-16,000,000
Pop1:10,166,929 (2001 census)
Pop2:1,380,088 (2007 est.)
Pop3:635,914 (2001 census)
Pop4:365,120 (2006 census)
Pop5:294,891 (2007 est.)
Pop6:250,000 (estimated)
Pop7:242,685 (2006 census)
Pop8:97,827 (2002)
Pop10:70,000 (est.)
Pop11:91,500 (2001 census)
Pop12:55,000 (2008 estimate)
Pop14:30,000 (2008 estimate)
Pop16:30,000 (2008 estimate)
Pop17:15,742 (2007)
Pop19:13,000 (est)
Pop20:11,000 estimated
Pop21:9,500 estimate
Pop22:6,500 2002 census
Pop23:see Greek Diaspora
Religions:Greek Orthodox
Footnotes: An estimated 3,000,000 claim Greek descent.[2]
Whether the stated ethnic origin was solely "Greek" or not.
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.
"Including descendants".

The Greeks (Greek: Έλληνες,), also known as Hellenes, are a nation and ethnic group native to Greece, Cyprus and neighbouring regions, who can also be found in diaspora communities around the world.

Greek colonies and communities have been historically established in most corners of the Mediterranean but Greeks have always been centred around the Aegean Sea, where Greek has been spoken since antiquity.[3] Until the early 20th century, Greeks were uniformly distributed between the Greek peninsula, the western coast of Asia Minor, Pontus, Cyprus and Constantinople, regions which coincided to a large extent with the borders of the Byzantine Empire of the late 11th century and the Eastern Mediterranean areas of the ancient Greek colonization.[4]

In the aftermath of the Greco-Turkish War (1919-1922), a large-scale population exchange between Greece and Turkey transferred and confined ethnic Greeks almost entirely into the borders of the modern Greek state and Cyprus. Other ethnic Greek populations can be found from Southern Italy to the Caucasus and in diaspora communities in a number of other countries. Today, the vast majority of Greeks are at least nominally adherents of Greek Orthodoxy.[5]


See main article: History of the Greeks.

The Greeks speak an Indo-European language which forms its own unique branch of the IE language family tree.[3] They are part of a group of pre-modern ethnies that have managed to survive for millennia and are described as an archetypal Diaspora people.[6] [7]

The modern Greek state was created in 1832 when the Greeks liberated a part of their historic homelands from the Ottoman Empire.[8] The large Greek Diaspora and merchant class were instrumental in transmitting the ideas of western Romantic nationalism and Philhellenism,[9] which together with the conception of Hellenism formulated during the last centuries of the Eastern Roman Empire, formed the basis of the Greek Enlightenment and the current conception of Hellenism.[10]


See main article: Mycenaean Greece.

The Indo-European progenitors of the "proto-Greeks" probably arrived at the area now referred as "Greece" (the southern tip of the Balkan peninsula) at the end of the third millennium BC.[11] [12] There they mingled with the native pre-Hellenic populations and by the 16th century BCE this fusion had created the civilization we call Mycenaean today.[3] [13] Some archaeologists have pointed to evidence that there was a significant amount of continuity of prehistoric economic, architectural, and social structures across these assumed migrations, suggesting that the transition between the Neolithic civilisation of c.5000 BCE and the Greek civilisations of later periods may have proceeded without major rifts in social texture.[14] [15] The Mycenaeans were ultimately the first Greek-speaking people attested through historical sources, especially through their written records in the Linear B script,[16] and through their literary echoes in the works of Homer, a few centuries later.

The Mycenaeans quickly penetrated the Aegean and by the 15th century BCE had reached Rhodes, Crete, Cyprus where Teucrus (a characteristic Cypriot name) is said to have founded the first colony, and the shores of Asia Minor.[3] [17] From 1200 BCE the Dorians, another Greek-speaking people, followed from Epirus.[18] The Dorian Migration was followed by a poorly attested period of migrations, appropriately called the Greek Dark Ages, but by 800 BCE the landscape of Classical Greece was discernible.[3]

In the Homeric epics, the Greeks of prehistory are viewed as the forefathers of the early classical civilization of Homer's own time,[19] while the Mycenaean pantheon included many of the divinities (e.g. Zeus, Poseidon and Hades) attested in later Greek religion.[20] [21]


See main article: Ancient Greece.

See also: Ancient Greek dialects and Greek tribes.

The classical period of Greek civilization covers a time span from the early fifth century BCE to the death of Alexander the Great, in 323 BCE. It is so named because it set the standards by which Greek civilization would be judged in later eras.[22] The ethnogenesis of the Greek nation is marked by the first Olympic Games in 776 BCE when the idea of a common Hellenism among the Greek-speaking tribes was first translated into a shared cultural experience and Hellenism was primarily a matter of common culture.[23]

While the Greeks of the Classical era understood themselves to belong to a common Greek genos their first loyalty was to their city and they saw nothing incongruous about warring, often brutally, with other Greek Polis. The Peloponnesian War, the large scale Greek civil war between Athens and Sparta and their allies, is a case in point.[24]

Most of the feuding Greek city-states were, in some scholars' opinions, united under the banner of Philip's and 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 aforementioned "ideal" as useful propaganda directed towards the city-states.[25]

In any case, Alexander's toppling of the Persian Empire - following his victories at the battles of Granicus, Issus and Gaugamela - and advance as far as modern day India and Tajikistan, provided an important outlet for Greek culture, via the creation of colonies and trade routes along the way.[26] While the Alexandrian empire did not survive its creator's death intact, the cultural implications of the spread of Hellenism across much of the Middle East and Asia were to prove long lived as Greek became the lingua franca, a position it retained even in Roman times.[27] Two thousand years later, there are still communities in Pakistan and Afghanistan who claim to be descended from Greek settlers.[28]


See main article: Hellenistic Greece.

See also: Hellenistic civilization.

The Hellenistic age was the next period of Greek civilization, the beginnings of which are usually placed at Alexander's death.[29] This Hellenistic age, so called because it witnessed the partial Hellenization of many non-Greek cultures and a combination of Greek, Middle Eastern and Indian elements, lasted until the conquest of Egypt by Rome in 30 BCE.[29]

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.[30] 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 Hellenic paideia to the next generation.[31]

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 BCE continued with the introduction of new religious movements from the East.[23] The cults of deities like Isis and Mithra were introduced into the Greek world.[32] [33]

In the Indo-Greek and Greco-Bactrian kingdoms, Greco-Buddhism was spreading and Greek missionaries would play an important role in propagating it to China.[34] Further east, the Greeks of Alexandria Eschate became known to the Chinese as the Dayuan.[35]

Eastern Roman

See main article: Byzantine Greeks.

See also: Byzantine Greece and Eastern Roman Empire.

Of the new Eastern Religions introduced into the Greek world the most successful was Christianity. 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 maintain its cohesion and promoted a robust Roman national identity.[36] Concurrently the secular, urban civilization of late antiquity survived in the Eastern Mediteranean along with the Greek educational system, although it was from Christianity that the culture's essential values were drawn.[37]

The Eastern Roman Empire (which was later misnamed by Western historians as the Byzantine Empire, a name that would have meant nothing to Greek speakers of the era),[38] became increasingly influenced by Greek culture following the 7th century when Emperor Heraclius (575 CE-641 CE) decided to make Greek the Roman Empire's official language.[39] [40] Certainly from then on, but likely earlier, the Roman and Greek cultures were virtually fused into a single Greco-Roman world. Although the Latin West recognized the Eastern Empire's claim to the Roman legacy for several centuries, after Pope Leo III crowned King of Franks Charlemagne 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 Catholic Franks and began to refer the Eastern Roman Empire largely as the Empire of the Greeks (Imperium Graecorum).[41] Greek-speakers at the time, however, referred to themselves as Romaioi (Romans) and were proudly conscious of their Roman Imperial and Christian heritages.[38]

"At least three quarters of the ancient Greek classics that survived did so through Byzantine manuscripts."
Michael H. Harris/
"Much of what we know of antiquity – especially of Hellenic and Roman literature and of Roman law — would have been lost for ever but for the scholars and scribes and copyists of Constantinople."
J.J. Norwich
These Roman Greeks were largely responsible for the preservation of the literature of the Classical era.[37] [42] [43] Byzantine grammarians were those principally responsible for carrying, in person and in writing, ancient Greek grammatical and literary studies to early Renaissance Italy to which the influx of Greek scholars gave a major boost.[44] [45] The Aristotelian philosophical tradition was virtuall unbroken in the Greek world for almost two thousand years, until the Fall of Constantinople in the 15th century.[46]

To the Slavic world, Roman era Greeks contributed by the dissemination of literacy and Christianity. The most notable example of the later was the work of the two Greek brothers Saints Cyril and Methodius from Thessalonica, who are credited today with formalizing the first Slavic alphabet.[47]

A distinct Greek nationalism 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 so that when the empire was revived in 1261, it became in many ways a Greek national state. That new notion of nationhood engendered a deep interest in the classical past culminating in the ideas of the Neo-Platonist philosopher George Gemistus Plethon who abandoned Christianity. However it was the combination of Orthodoxy with a specifically Greek identity that shaped the Greeks notions of themselves in the empire's twilight years.[48]


See main article: Ottoman Greeks.

See also: Ottoman Greece and Phanariotes.

Following the Fall of Constantinople in the 15th century, many Greeks sought better employment and education opportunities by leaving for the West, particularly Italy, Central Europe, Germany and Russia.[44]

For those that remained under the Ottoman Empire's 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,[49] (as opposed to being so named by others) and, at least those educated, considered their ethnicity (genos) to be Hellenic.[50]

The roots of Greek success in the Ottoman Empire can be traced to the Greek tradition of education and commerce.[51] 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.[9] Not coincidentally, on the eve of 1821 the three most important centres of Greek learning, were situated in Chios, Smyrna and Aivali, all three major centres of Greek commerce.[9]


See main article: Greece. The relationship between ethnic Greek identity and Greek Orthodox religion continued after the creation of the Modern Greek state in 1830. According to the second article of the first Greek constitution of 1822, a Greek was defined as any Christian resident of the Kingdom of Greece, a clause removed by 1840. A century later, when the Treaty of Lausanne was signed between Greece and Turkey in 1923, the two countries agreed to use religion as the determinant for ethnic identity for the purposes of population exchange, while the majority of the Greeks displaced (over a million of the total 1,5 millions) had already been been driven out by the time the agreement was signed.[52] [53] [54] [55] [56] The Greek genocide, contemporaneous with 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.[57]

While most Greeks today are descended from Greek-speaking Romioi there are sizeable groups of ethnic Greeks who trace their descent to Aromanian-speaking Vlachs and Albanian-speaking Arvanites as well as Slavs and Turkish-speaking Karamanlides. None of the latter groups were ever considered less Greek than the Rhomioi.[58] Today, Greeks are to be found all around the world as and there are many talented Greek scholars, entrepreneurs and artists.[59]


The terms used to define Greekness have varied throughout history but were never limited or completely identified with membership to a Greek state.[60] By Western standards, the term Greeks has traditionally referred to any native speakers of the Greek language, whether Mycenaean, Byzantine or modern Greek.[61] [62] Byzantine Greeks called themselves Romioi and considered themselves the political heirs of Rome, but at least by the 12th century a growing number of those educated, deemed themselves the heirs of ancient Greece as well, although for most of the Greek speakers, "Hellene" still meant pagan.[63] On the eve of the Fall of Constantinople the Last Emperor urged his soldiers to remember that they were the descendants of Greeks and Romans.[64]

Before the establishment of the Modern Greek 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".[65]

The Greeks today are a nation in the meaning of an ethnos, defined by possessing Greek culture and having a Greek mother tongue, rather than by citizenship, race, religion or by being subjects of any particular state.[66] In ancient and medieval times and to a lesser extent today the Greek term was genos, which also indicates a common ancestry.[67] [68]


See main article: Names of the Greeks.

Throughout the centuries, Greeks and Greek speakers have been known by a number of names, including:

Modern and ancient

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.[69] Scholars compare its continuity of tradition to Chinese alone.[69] [70] Since its inception, Hellenism was primarily a matter of common culture[23] and the national continuity of the Greek world is a lot more certain than its demographic.[71] Yet, Hellenism also embodied an ancestral dimension through aspects of Athenian literature that developed and influenced ideas of descent based on autochthony.[72] During the later years of the Eastern Roman Empire, areas such as Ionia and Constantinople experienced a Hellenic revival in language, philosophy and literature and on classical models of thought and scholarship.[71] Such revivals would manifest again in the 10th and 14th century providing a powerful impetus to the sense of cultural affinity with ancient Greece and its classical heritage.[71] The cultural changes undergone by the Greeks are, despite a surviving common sense of ethnicity, undeniable.[71] At the same time, the Greeks have retained their language and alphabet, certain values, 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),[73] a sense of Greek identity and common sense of ethnicity despite the global political and social changes of the past two millennia.[71]


See main article: Demographics of Greece and Demographics of Cyprus. 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 comprise 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; nonetheless the population of Greece has shown regular increase since the country's first census in 1828.[74] A large percentage of the population growth since the state's foundation has resulted from annexation of new territories and the influx of 1.5 million Greek refugees following the 1923 population exchange between Greece and Turkey.[74] About 80% of the population of Greece is urban, with 28% concentrated in the city of Athens[75]

Greeks from Cyprus have a similar history of emigration, usually to the English speaking world as a result 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.[76] After the ethnic cleansing of a third of the Greek population of the island in 1974,[77] [78] [79] [80] [81] there was also an increase in the number of Greek Cypriots leaving, especially for the Middle East, which contributed to a decrease in population which tapered off in the 1990s.[76] Today more than two thirds of the Greek population in Cyprus is urban.[76]

There is a sizeable Greek minority of about 105,000 people, in Albania.[82] The Greek minority of Turkey which numbered upwards of 200,000 people after the 1923 exchange has now dwindled to a few thousand, following the 1955 Constantinople Pogrom and other state sponsored violence and discrimination.[83] This effectively ended, though not entirely, the three-thousand year old presence of Hellenism in Asia Minor.[84] [85] 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).[86]


See main article: Greek diaspora. The total number of Greeks living outside Greece and Cyprus today is a contentious issue. Where Census figures are available it shows around 3 million Greeks outside of Greece and 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 Omogeneia. Important centres of the New Greek Diaspora today are London, New York, Melbourne and Toronto.[86] Recently, a law was passed by the Hellenic Parliament that enables Diaspora Greeks to vote in the elections of the Greek state.


In ancient times, the trading and colonising 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, Spain, the south of France and the Black sea coasts.[87] Under Alexander the Great's empire and successor states, Greek and Hellenizing ruling classes were established in the Middle East, India and in Egypt.[87] The Hellenistic period is characterized by a new wave of Greek colonization which established Greek cities and kingdoms in Asia and Africa.[88] 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.[39]


During and after the Greek War of Independence, Greeks of the Diaspora were important in establishing the fledgling state, raising funds and awareness abroad.[89] 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 Egypt), Russia (Odessa and Saint Petersburg), and Britain (London and Liverpool) from where they traded, typically in textiles and grain.[90] Businesses frequently comprised the whole extended family, and with them they brought schools teaching Greek and the Greek Orthodox church.[90]

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 Ralli or Vagliano Brothers.[91] With economic success the Diaspora expanded further across the Levant, North Africa, India and the USA.[91] [92]

In the twentieth century, many Greeks left their traditional homelands for economic reasons resulting in large migrations from Greece and Cyprus to the United States, Great Britain, Australia, Canada, Germany, and South Africa, especially after the Second World War (1939-45), the Greek Civil War (1946-49), and the Turkish Invasion of Cyprus in 1974.[93]


See main article: Culture of Greece. Greek culture has evolved over thousands of years, with its beginning in the Mycenaean civilization, continuing through the Classical period, the Roman and Eastern Roman periods and was profoundly affected by Christianity, which it in turn influenced and shaped.[94] [95] Ottoman Greeks had to endure through several centuries of adversity which culminated in a genocide in the 20th century but which nevertheless included cultural exchanges and enriched both cultures.[96] [97] [98] [99] [100] The Diafotismos is credited with revitalizing Greek culture and giving birth to the synthesis of ancient and medieval elements that characterize it today.[48] [62]


See main article: Greek language.

Most Greeks speak the Greek language, an Indo-European language which forms a branch itself, with its closest relations being Armenian (see Graeco-Armenian) and the Indo-Iranian languages (see Graeco-Aryan).[69] It has one of the longest documented histories of any language and Greek literature has a continuous history of over 2,500 years.[101] Several notable literary works, including the Homeric epics, Euclid's Elements and the New Testament, were originally written in Greek.

Greek demonstrates several linguistic features that are shared with other Balkan languages, such as Albanian, Bulgarian and Romanian (see Balkan sprachbund), and has absorbed numerous foreign words, primarily of Western European and Turkish origin.[102] Because of the movements of Philhellenism and the Diafotismos in the 19th century, which emphasized the modern Greeks' ancient heritage, these foreign influences were excluded from official use via the creation of Katharevousa, a somewhat artificial form of Greek purged of all foreign influence and words, as the official language of the Greek state. In 1976, however, the Hellenic Parliament voted to make the spoken Dimotiki the official language, making Katharevousa obsolete.[103]

Modern Greek has, in addition to Standard Modern Greek or Dimotiki, a wide variety of dialects of varying levels of mutual intelligibility, including Cypriot, Pontic, Cappadocian, Griko and Tsakonian (the only surviving representative of ancient Doric Greek).[104] Yevanic is the language of the Romaniotes, and survives in small communities in Greece, New York and Israel. In addition to Greek, many Greeks in Greece and the Diaspora are bilingual in other languages or dialects such as English, Arvanitika, Aromanian, Macedonian Slavic, Russian and Turkish.[105] [69]


See main article: Religion in ancient Greece and Eastern Orthodox Church. The vast majority of Greeks are Eastern Orthodox Christians, belonging to the Greek Orthodox Church. During the first centuries after Jesus Christ, the New Testament was originally written in Koine Greek, which is mutually intelligible with modern Greek to a large extent, as most of the early Christians and Church Fathers were Greek-speaking.[94] [95] While the Orthodox Church was always intensely hostile to the ancient Greek religion, it did help Greeks retain their sense of identity during the Ottoman rule through its use of Greek in the liturgy and its modest educational efforts.[106] There are small groups of ethnic Greeks adhering to other Christian denominations like Greek Catholics, Greek Evangelicals, Pentecostals and Jehovah's Witnesses, and groups adhering to other religions including Romaniot and Sephardic Jews and Greek Muslims. In particular there are Greek Muslim communities in Tripoli, Lebanon, (7,000 strong) and Al Hamidiyah in Syria, while there is a large community of indeterminate size in the Pontus region, who were spared of the population exchange because of their faith. About 2,000 Greeks are members of Hellenic Polytheistic Reconstructionism congregations.[107] [108]


See main article: Greek art.

Greek art has a long and varied history. Greeks have made several contributions to the visual, literary and performing arts.[109] In the West, ancient Greek art was influential in shaping the Roman and later the modern Western artistic heritage. Following the Renaissance in Europe, the humanist aesthetic and the high technical standards of Greek art inspired generations of European artists.[109] Well into the 19th century, the classical tradition derived from Greece played an important part the art of the Western World.[110] In the East, Alexander the Great's conquests initiated several centuries of exchange between Greek, Central Asian and Indian cultures, resulting in Greco-Buddhist art, whose influence reached as far as Japan.[111] Byzantine Greek art, which grew from classical art and adapted the pagan motifs in the service of Christianity, provided a stimulus to the art of many nations.[112] Its influences can be traced from Venice in the West to Kazakhstan in the East.[112] [113]

In turn, Greek art was influenced by eastern civilizations in Classical Antiquity and the new religion of Orthodox Christianity during Roman times while modern Greek art is heavily influenced by Western art.[114] Notable Greek artists include Renaissance painter El Greco, soprano Maria Callas, and composers Iannis Xenakis and Vangelis. Greek Alexandrian Constantine P. Cavafy and Nobel laureates George Seferis and Odysseas Elitis are among the most important poets of the twentieth century.


See also: Greek mathematics, Medicine in ancient Greece and Byzantine science.

The Greeks of the Classical era made several notable contributions to science and helped lay the foundations of several western scientific traditions, like philosophy, historiography and mathematics. The scholarly tradition of the Greek academies was maintained during Roman times with several academic institutions in Constantinople, Antioch, Alexandria and other centres of Greek learning while Eastern Roman science was essentially a continuation of classical science.[115] 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,[116] and considering the original meaning of the world university as a corporation of students, the world’s first university as well.

As of 2007, Greece had the eighth highest percentage of tertiary enrollment in the world (with the percentages for female students being higher than for male) while Greeks of the Diaspora are equally active in the field of education. Hundreds of thousands of Greek students attend Western universities every year while the faculty lists of leading Western universities contain a striking number of Greek names.[117] Notable Greek scientists of modern times include Georgios Papanikolaou (inventor of the Pap test), Nicholas Negroponte, Constantin Carathéodory, Michael Dertouzos, John Argyris and Dimitri Nanopoulos.


See main article: Flag of Greece and Double headed eagle. The most widely used symbol is the flag of Greece, which features nine equal horizontal stripes of blue alternating with white representing the nine syllables of the Greek national motto Eleftheria i thanatos (freedom or death), which was the motto of the Greek War of Independence.[118] The blue square in the upper hoist-side corner bears a white cross, which represents Greek Orthodoxy. The Greek flag is widely used by the Greek Cypriots, although Cyprus has officially adopted a neutral flag so as to ease ethnic tensions with the Turkish Cypriot minority – see flag of Cyprus).

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 totally 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 Byzantine Empire and a common symbol in Eastern Europe.[119] It is not currently 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.


See also: Greek name.

The Greeks were one of the first people in Europe to use surnames and these were widely in use by the 9th century supplanting the ancient tradition of using the father’s name, however Greek surnames are most commonly patronymics.[120] Commonly, Greek male surnames end in -s, which is the common ending for Greek masculine proper nouns in the nominative case. Exceptionally, some end in -ou, indicating the genitive case of this proper noun for patronymic reasons.[121] Although surnames in mainland Greece are static today, dynamic and changing patronymic usage survives in middle names where the genitive of father's first name is commonly the middle name. In Cyprus by contrast surnames follow the ancient tradition of being given according to the father’s name (e.g. Ioannis Demetriou is Ioannis the son of Demetrios).[122] [123] Finally, in addition to Greek-derived surnames many have Turkish, Albanian or Slavic origin.[124]

With respect to personal names, the two main influences are early Christianity and antiquity. The ancient names were never forgotten but have become more widely bestowed from the eighteenth century onwards.


See main article: Greek shipping.

The traditional Greek homelands have been the Greek peninsula and the Aegean, the Black Sea and Ionian coasts of Asia Minor, the islands of Cyprus and Sicily and the south of the Italian peninsula. In Plato's Phaidon, Socrates remarks that "we (Greeks) live like ants or frogs around a pond".[125] 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 rocky and does not offer good prospects for agriculture.[23]

Notable Greek seafarers include people such as Pytheas of Marseilles, Scylax of Caryanda who sailed to Iberia and beyond, Nearchus, the 6th century merchant and later monk Cosmas Indicopleustes (Cosmas who sailed to India) and the explorer of the Northwestern passage Juan de Fuca.[126] [127] [128] [129] In later times, the Romioi plied the sea-lanes of the Mediterranean and controlled trade until an embargo imposed by the Roman Emperor on trade with the Caliphate opened the door for the later Italian pre-eminence in trade.[130] [131]

The Greek shipping tradition recovered during Ottoman rule when a substantial merchant middle class developed, which played an important part in the Greek War of Independence.[48] Today, Greek shipping continues to prosper to the extent that Greece has the largest merchant fleet in the world, while many more ships under Greek ownership fly flags of convenience.[75] The most notable shipping magnate of the 20th century was Aristotle Onassis,others being Yiannis Latsis, George Livanos, and Stavros Niarchos.[132] [133] A famous Greek poet of the 20th century was the Chinese-born seaman Nikos Kavvadias.[134]


The history of the Greek people is closely associated with the history of Greece, Cyprus, 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.

Some key historical events have also been included for context, but this timeline is not intended to cover history not related to migrations. There is more information on the historical context of these migrations in History of Greece.

3rd millennium BCEProto-Greek tribes form in Central Europe.
20th century BCEGreek settlements established on the Balkans.
17th century BCEDecline of Minoan civilization, possibly because of the eruption of Thera. Settlement of Achaeans and Ionians, Mycenaean civilization.
13th century BCEFirst colonies established in Asia Minor.
11th century BCEDoric tribes move into peninsular Greece. Achaeans flee to Aegean islands, Asia Minor and Cyprus.
9th century BCEMajor colonization of Asia Minor and Cyprus.
8th century BCEFirst major colonies established in Sicily and Southern Italy.
6th century BCEColonies established across the Mediterranean and the Black Sea.
4th century BCECampaign of Alexander the Great; Greek colonies established in newly founded cities of Ptolemaic Egypt and Asia.
2nd century BCEConquest of Greece by the Roman Empire. Migrations of Greeks to Rome.
4th centuryEastern Roman Empire. Migrations of Greeks throughout the Empire, mainly towards Constantinople.
7th centurySlavic conquest of several parts of Greece, Greek migrations to Southern Italy, Roman Emperors capture main Slavic bodies and transfer them to Cappadocia, Bosphorus re-populated by Macedonian and Cypriot Greeks.
8th centuryRoman dissolution of surviving Slavic settlements in Greece and full recovery of the Greek peninsula.
9th centuryRetro-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).
13th centuryRoman 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.
15th century
19th century
Conquest of Constantinople by the Ottoman Empire. Greek diaspora into Europe begins. Ottoman settlements in Greece. Phanariot Greeks occupy high posts in Eastern European millets.
1830sCreation of the Modern Greek State. Immigration to the New World begins. Large-scale migrations from Constantinople and Asia Minor to Greece take place.
1913European Ottoman lands partitioned; Unorganized migrations of Greeks, Bulgarians and Turks towards their respective states.
1914-1923Pontic Greek Genocide, approximately 353,000 Pontian Greeks killed.
1919Treaty of Neuilly
Greece and Bulgaria exchange populations, with some exceptions.
1922The Destruction of Smyrna (modern day Izmir) more than 40 thousand Greeks killed, End of significant Greek presence in Asia Minor.
1923Treaty of Lausanne; Greece and Turkey agree to exchange populations with limited exceptions of the Greeks in Constantinople, Imbros, 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.
1940sHundred of thousands Greeks died from starvation during the Axis Occupation of Greece
1947Communist regime in Romania begins evictions of the Greek community, approx. 75,000 migrate.
1948Greek Civil War. Tens of thousands of Greek communists and their families flee into Eastern Bloc nations. Thousands settle in Tashkent.
1950sMassive emigration of Greeks to West Germany, the United States, Australia, Canada, and other countries.
1955Istanbul Pogrom against Greeks. Exodus of Greeks from the city accelerates; less than 2,000 remain today.
1958Large Greek community in Alexandria flees Nasser's regime in Egypt.
1960sRepublic of Cyprus created as an independent state under Greek, Turkish and British protection. Economic emigration continues.
1974Turkish invasion of Cyprus. Almost all Greeks living in Northern Cyprus flee to the south and the United Kingdom.
1980sMany civil war refugees were allowed to re-emigrate to Greece. Retro-migration of Greeks from Germany begins.
1990sCollapse of Soviet Union. Approx. 100,000 ethnic Greeks migrate from Georgia, Armenia, southern Russia, and Albania to Greece.
2000sSome statistics indicate the beginning of a trend of reverse migration of Greeks from the United States and Australia.

See also


  1. [Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization|UNPO]
  2. Web site: Greece (05/08). 2008-12-24.
  3. Encyclopedia: 2008. The Greeks. Encyclopedia Britannica. Encyclopedia Britannica Inc.. US. Online Edition. .
  4. Book: Beaton, R... The Medieval Greek Romance. 1996. Routledge. 0415120322. 1-25.
  5. [CIA World Factbook]
  6. Book: Hutchinson, John F.; Montserrat Guibernau. History And National Destiny: Ethnosymbolism and its Critics. Wiley-Blackwell. 2004. 23. 1-4051-2391-5. Indeed. Smith emphasizes that the myth of divine election sustains the continuity of cultural identity, and, in that regard, has enabled certain pre-modem communities such as the Jews, Armenians, and Greeks to survive and persist over centuries and millennia (Smith 1993: l5—20).
  7. Book: Smith, Anthony Robert. Myths and memories of the nation. Oxford University Press. Oxford [Oxfordshire]. 1999. 21. 0-19-829534-0. 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..
  8. Book: Veremis, Thanos; Koliopoulos, John S.. Greece: The Modern Sequel. C Hurst & Co Publishers Ltd. 2007. 277. 1-85065-463-8.
  9. Encyclopedia: 2008. history of Greece, Ottoman Empire, The merchant middle class. Encyclopedia Britannica. Encyclopedia Britannica Inc.. United States. Online Edition.
  10. Book: Smith, Anthony Robert. Chosen peoples: [sacred sources of national identity]. Oxford University Press. Oxford [Oxfordshire]. 2003. 98. 0-19-210017-3.
  11. Book: Cadogan, Gerald. The End of the Early Bronze Age in the Aegean (Cincinnati Classical Studies). Brill Academic Publishers. Boston. 1997. 125-126. 90-04-07309-4.
  12. Though some would date the event as late as the middle second millennium, e.g. Book: Drews, Robert. The coming of the Greeks: Indo-European conquests in the Aegean and the Near East. Princeton University Press. Princeton, N.J. 1989. 21. 0-691-02951-2. See Greek language in Book: Mallory, James. Encyclopedia of Indo-European Culture. Routledge. New York. 1997. 1-884964-98-2. 2008-12-27. for an overview of possible scenarios.
  13. Book: Chadwick, John. The Mycenaean world. Cambridge University Press. Cambridge, UK. 1976. 1-3. 0-521-29037-6.
  14. Book: Murray, Priscilla; Runnels, Curtis N.. Greece before history: an archaeological companion and guide. Stanford University Press. Stanford, Calif. 2001. 64. 0-8047-4050-X.
  15. Korrés, George S. "Excavations in the Region of Pylos" (Alexander Cambitoglou and Jean-Paul Descœudres. Eumousia: Ceramic and Iconographic Studies in Honour of Alexander Cambitoglou. Meditarch, 1990, ISBN 090979717X, p. 7).
  16. Encyclopedia: 2008. 'Mycenaean language. Encyclopedia Britannica. Encyclopedia Britannica Inc. US. Online Edition. .
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  18. Book: Hall, Jonathan M.. A History of the Archaic Greek World, Ca. 1200-479 BCE. 2007. Blackwell Publishing. 0631226672. 43.
  19. Book: Podzuweit, Christian. Die mykenische Welt und Troy. B. Hänsel (ed.),. 1982. Moreland. Germany. 65–88.
  20. Book: Clive Dietrich, Bernard. The Origins of Greek Religion. 1974. Walter de Gruyter. 3110039826. 156.
  21. Encyclopedia: 2008. Aegean civilizations, Religion. Encyclopedia Britannica. Encyclopedia Britannica Inc.. United States. Online Edition.
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  25. Web site: Riding with Alexander. 2008-12-27. Fox. Robin Lane. 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 B.C. Philip's 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..
  26. Encyclopedia: 2008. Alexander the Great. Columbia Encyclopedia. Columbia University Press. United States. Online Edition.
  27. Book: Green, Peter. Alexander The Great and the Hellenistic Age. 2008. Orion Publishing Group, Limited. 9780753824139. xiii.
  28. Book: Wood, Michael. In the Footsteps of Alexander The Great: A Journey from Greece to Asia. 2001. University of California Press. 0520231929. 8.
  29. Book: Boardman, John. The Oxford History of Greece and the Hellenistic World. Jasper Griffin, Oswyn Murray. 2001. Oxford University Press. 0192801376. 364.
  30. Book: Grant, Michael. The Hellenistic Greeks: From Alexander to Cleopatra. 1990. Weidenfeld & Nicolson. 0297820575. Introduction.
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  32. Encyclopedia: 2008. Hellenistic age. Encyclopedia Britannica. Encyclopedia Britannica Inc.. United States. Online Edition.
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  34. Book: Foltz, Richard C. Religions and the Silk Road. 1999. St. Martin's Press. 0312233388. 46.
  35. Book: Burton, Watson (transl.). Records of the Grand Historian by Sima Qian, Han Dynasty II (Revised Edition). Columbia University Press. 0231081669. 244-245.
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  40. Shahid. Irfan. 1972. The Iranian Factor in Byzantium during the Reign of Heraclius. Dumbarton Oaks Papers. 26. 295–296, 305. 10.2307/1291324.
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  44. Encyclopedia: 2008. Renaissance. Encyclopedia Britannica. Encyclopedia Britannica Inc.. United States. Online Edition.
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  46. Encyclopedia: 2008. Aristotelian Philosophy. Encyclopedia Britannica. Encyclopedia Britannica Inc.. United States. Online Edition.
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  49. Encyclopedia: 2008. History of Europe, The Romans. Encyclopedia Britannica. Encyclopedia Britannica Inc.. United States. Online Edition.
  50. Book: Mavrocordatos, Nicholaos. Philotheou Parerga. 1800. Grēgorios Kōnstantas: Para tō Phrantz Antōniō Schraimvl (original from Harvard University Libray). Γένος μεν ημίν των άγαν Ελλήνων.
  51. Encyclopedia: 2008. Phanariotes. Encyclopedia Britannica. Encyclopedia Britannica Inc.. United States. Online Edition.
  52. While Greek authorities signed the agreement legalizing the population exchange this was done on the insistence of Ataturk and after a million Greeks had already been expelled from Asia Minor. Book: Gilbar, Gad G.. Population dilemmas in the Middle East: essays in political demography and economy. F. Cass. London. 1997. 8. 0-7146-4706-3.
  53. Book: Bruce. Twice A Stranger: How Mass Expulsion Forged Modern Greece and Turkey. 2006. Granta. 1862077525.
  54. Book: Crossing the Aegean: The Consequences of the 1923 Greek-Turkish Population Exchange (Studies in Forced Migration). Berghahn Books. Providence. 2003. 29. 1-57181-562-7.
  55. Book: Sofos, Spyros A.; Özkırımlı, Umut. Tormented by History: Nationalism in Greece and Turkey. C Hurst & Co Publishers Ltd. 2008. 116-117. 1-85065-899-4.
  56. Book: Hershlag, Zvi Yehuda. Introduction to the Modern Economic History of the Middle East. Brill Academic Pub. 1997. 177. 90-04-06061-8.
  57. Üngör. Uğur Ümit. March. 2008. On Young Turk social engineering in Eastern Turkey from 1913 to 1950. Journal of Genocide Research. 10. 1. 15 - 39. 10.1080/14623520701850278.
  58. Book: Mazower (ed.)., M.. After The War Was Over: Reconstructing the Family, Nation and State in Greece, 1943-1960. 2000. Princeton University Press. 0691058423. 23.
  59. News: When nettles go ungrasped. The Economist. 11 December 2008. 19 December 2008. To find out what they are, ask any of the Greek-born scholars, entrepreneurs, artists and other talented types who flourish all over the world but recoil at working in their homeland, much as they love it..
  60. Book: Broome, Benjamin J.. Exploring the Greek Mosaic: A Guide to Intercultural Communication in Greece (The Interact Series). Intercultural Press. Yarmouth, Me. 1996. 22-25. 1-877864-39-0.
  61. Book: Adrados, Francisco Rodríguez. A History of the Greek Language: From Its Origins to the Present. 2005. BRILL. 9004128352. xii.
  62. Book: Mazower, Mark. The Balkans: A Short History. 2002. Random House Publishing Group. 081296621X. 105-107.
  63. Book: Mango, Cyril. The Oxford History of Byzantium. 2002. Oxford University Press. 0198140983. 5.
  64. Book: Sfrantzes, George. The Chronicle of the Fall. 1477.
  65. Feraios, Rigas. "New Political Constitution of the Inhabitants of Rumeli, Asia Minor, the Islands of the Aegean, and the Principalities of Moldavia and Wallachia".
  66. Elizabeth Tonkin, Malcolm Kenneth Chapman, Maryon McDonald. History and Ethnicity. Taylor & Francis, 1989, ISBN 0415000564.
  67. Book: Patterson, Cynthia. The Family in Greek History. Harvard University Press. Cambridge. 2001. 18-19. 0-674-00568-6.
  68. Book: Michael Psellus. Michaelis Pselli Orationes panegyricae. Walter de Gruyter. Stuttgart/Leipzig. 1994. 33. 0-297-82057-5.
  69. Book: Adrados, Francisco Rodríguez. A History of the Greek Language: From Its Origins to the Present. 2005. BRILL. 9004128352. xii, 3-5.
  70. Book: Browning, Robert. Medieval and Modern Greek. 1983. Cambridge University Press. 0521234883. 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..
  71. Book: Smith, Anthony Robert. National identity. University of Nevada Press. Reno. 1991. 29-32. 0-87417-204-7.
  72. Book: Benjamin, Isaac. The Invention of Racism in Classical Antiquity. 2004. Princeton University Press. 0691125988. 504. Autochthony, being an Athenian idea and represented in many Athenian texts, is likely to have influenced a broad public of readers, wherever Greek literature was read..
  73. Book: Comnena, Anna. Alexiad. Books 1-15.
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  76. Encyclopedia: 2008. Cyprus Demographic trends. Encyclopedia Britannica. Encyclopedia Britannica Inc.. United States. Online Edition.
  77. Book: Welz, Gisela. Divided Cyprus: Modernity, History, and an Island in Conflict. Indiana University Press. 0253218519. 2.
  78. Book: Linos-Alexandre Sicilianos. The Prevention of Human Rights Violations (International Studies in Human Rights). Springer. Berlin. 2001. 24. 90-411-1672-9.
  79. Book: Borowiec, Andrew. Cyprus: a troubled island. Praeger. New York. 2000. 2. 0-275-96533-3.
  80. Book: Rezun, Miron. Europe's nightmare: the struggle for Kosovo. Praeger. New York. 2001. 6. 0-275-97072-8.
  81. Book: Brown, Neville. Global instability and strategic defence. Routledge. New York. 2004. 48 isbn=0-415-30413-X.
  82. Web site: Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol. Official site of Trentino-Alto Adige/Südtirol-Report of the minorities in Albania.
  83. News: George. Gilson. Destroying a minority: Turkey's attack on the Greeks. Athens News. 24 June 2005. 19 December 2008.
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  85. News: Mehmet Ali. Birand. The shame of Sept. 6-7 is always with us. Hurriyet. 7 September 2005. 19 December 2008.
  86. Web site: prevelakis.PDF (application/pdf Object). PDF. 2008-12-27. Prevelakis. George.
  87. Book: Boardman, John. The Cambridge Ancient History: Plates to Volume III : the Middle East, the Greek World and the Balkans to the Sixth Century B.C.. Cambridge University Press. 0521242894. 136, 276-278.
  88. Book: Horden, Peregrine. The Corrupting Sea: A Study of Mediterranean History. Peregrine and Purcell, Nicholas. 2000. Blackwell Publishing. 0631218904. 111,128.
  89. Book: Calotychos, Vangelis. Modern Greece: A Cultural Poetics. 2003. Berg Publishers. 1859737161. 16.
  90. Book: Baghdiantz McCabe, Ina. Diaspora Entrepreneurial Networks: Four Centuries of History. Gelina Harlaftis, Iōanna Pepelasē Minoglou. 2000. Macmillan. 0333600479. 147.
  91. Book: Kardasis, Vassilis. Diaspora Merchants in the Black Sea: The Greeks in Southern Russia, 1775-1861. 2001. Lexington Books. 0739102451. xvii-xxi.
  92. Book: Clogg, Richard. The Greek diaspora in the twentieth century. 2000. Macmillan. 0333600479. The Greeks in America.
  93. Book: Encyclopedia of Diasporas: Immigrant and Refugee Cultures Around the World. Volume II: Diaspora Communities. 2004. Springer. 0306483211. 85-92.
  94. Book: van der Horst, Pieter Willem. Hellenism, Judaism, Christianity: Essays on Their Interaction. 1998. Peeters Publishers. 9042905786. 9-11.
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  99. Mark. Levene. Creating a Modern "Zone of Genocide": The Impact of Nation- and State-Formation on Eastern Anatolia, 1878–1923. Holocaust and Genocide Studies. 12(3). 1998. 10.1093/hgs/12.3.393. 393.
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  107. News: James. Head. The ancient gods of Greece are not extinct. The New Statesman. The Faith Column. 20 March 2007. 19 December 2008.
  108. News: Harry. de Quetteville. Modern Athenians fight for the right to worship the ancient Greek gods. The Telegraph. 8 May 2004. 19 December 2008.
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  131. Book: Postan, Cynthia; Miller, Edward. The Cambridge economic history of Europe. Cambridge University Press. Cambridge, UK. 1966. 132-166. 0-521-08709-0.
  132. News: Myrna. Blyth. Greek Tragedy, The life of Aristotle Onassis. National Review Online. 12 August 2004. 19 December 2008.
  133. News: Helena. Smith. Callas takes centre stage again as exhibition recalls Onassis's life. The Guardian. 19 December 2008.
  134. News: The sea in Greek tradition. Eleuthero Vima. 20 March 2003. 19 December 2008.


Further reading

Mycenaean Greeks
Classical Greeks
Hellenistic Greeks
Roman Greeks

. Runciman, Steven. Steven Runciman. Byzantine Civilisation. Edward Arnold (Publishers) Ltd.. 1966. ISBN 1-56619-574-8.

Ottoman Greeks
Modern Greeks

External links




The Construction and Uses of the Greek Past among Greeks under the Roman Empire.