Greece Greek Ellada, ( listen); Ancient Greek: Hellás, IPA: [hel?ás]), also known as Hellas and officially the Hellenic Republic Dimokratía, IPA is a country in southeastern Europe. Situated on the southern end of the Balkan Peninsula, Greece has land borders with Albania, the Republic of Macedonia and Bulgaria to the north, and Turkey to the east. The Aegean Sea lies to the east of mainland Greece, the Ionian Sea to the west,
and the Mediterranean Sea to the south. Greece has the tenth longest coastline in the world at 14,880 km (9,246 mi) in length, featuring a vast number of islands (approximately 1400, of which 227 are inhabited), including Crete, the Dodecanese, the Cyclades, and the Ionian Islands among others. Eighty percent of Greece consists of mountains, of which Mount Olympus is the highest at 2,917 m (9,570 ft).
Greece was the first area in Europe where advanced early civilizations emerged, beginning with the Cycladic civilization of the Aegean Sea, the Minoan civilization in Crete and then the Mycenaean civilization on the mainland. Later, city-states emerged across the Greek peninsula and spread to the shores of the Black Sea, South Italy and Asia Minor, reaching great levels of prosperity that resulted in an unprecedented cultural boom, that of classical Greece, expressed in architecture, drama, science and philosophy, and nurtured in Athens under a democratic environment.
Athens and Sparta led the way in repelling the Persian Empire in a series of battles. Both were later overshadowed by Thebes and eventually Macedonia, with the latter under the guidance of Alexander the Great uniting and leading the Greek world to victory over the Persians.
The Hellenistic period was brought only partially to a close two centuries later with the establishment of Roman rule over Greek lands in 146 BC. Many Greeks migrated to Alexandria, Antioch, Seleucia and the many other new Hellenistic cities in Asia and Africa founded in Alexander’s wake.
Greece consists of a mountainous, peninsular mainland jutting out into the sea at the southern end of the Balkans, the Peloponnesus peninsula (separated from the mainland by the canal of the Isthmus of Corinth), and numerous islands (1400, 227 of which are inhabited), including Crete, Euboea, Lesbos, Chios, the Dodecanese and the Cycladic groups of the Aegean Sea as well as the Ionian Sea islands. Greece has the tenth longest coastline in the world with 14,880 km (9,246 mi); its land boundary is 1,160 km (721 mi).
Eighty percent of Greece consists of mountains or hills, making the country one of the most mountainous in Europe. Mount Olympus, a focal point of Greek culture throughout history culminates at Mytikas peak 2,917 m (9,570 ft), the highest in the country. Once considered the throne of the Gods, it is today extremely popular among hikers and climbers. Western Greece contains a number of lakes and wetlands and is dominated by the Pindus mountain range. The Pindus reaches a maximum elevation of 2,637 m (8,652 ft) at Mt. Smolikas and is essentially a prolongation of the Dinaric Alps. The Vikos-Aoos Gorge is yet another spectacular formation and a popular hotspot for those fond of extreme sports.
The range continues through the central Peloponnese, crosses the islands of Kythera and Antikythera and find its way into southwestern Aegean, in the island of Crete where it eventually ends. The islands of the Aegean are peaks of underwater mountains that once constituted an extension of the mainland. Pindus is characterized by its high, steep peaks, often dissected by numerous canyons and a variety of other karstic landscapes. Most notably, the impressive Meteora formation consisting of high, steep boulders provides a breathtaking experience for the hundreds of thousands of tourists who visit the area each year.
The climate of Greece can be categorised into three types (the Mediterranean, the Alpine and the Temperate) that influence well-defined regions of its territory. The Pindus mountain range strongly affects the climate of the country by making the western side of it (areas prone to the south-westerlies) wetter on average than the areas lying to the east of it (lee side of the mountains). The Mediterranean type of climate features mild, wet winters and hot, dry summers.
The Cyclades, the Dodecanese, Crete, the Eastern Peloponnese and parts of the Sterea Ellada (Central Continental Grece) region are mostly affected by this particular type of climate. Temperatures rarely reach extreme values along the coasts, although, with Greece being a highly mountainous country, snowfalls occur frequently in winter. It sometimes snows even in the Cyclades or the Dodecanese.
The Alpine type is dominant mainly in the mountainous areas of Northwestern Greece (parts of Epirus, Central Greece, Thessaly, Western Macedonia) as well as in the central parts of Peloponnese, including parts of the prefectures of Achaia, Arcadia and Laconia, where extensions of the Pindus mountain range pass by. Finally, the Temperate type affects Central Macedonia and East Macedonia and Thrace; it features cold, damp winters and hot, dry summers with frequent thunderstorms. Athens is located in a transitional area featuring both the Mediterranean and the Temperate types.
The Greek economy (that is gross domestic product, GDP) expanded at an average annual rate of 4% from 2004–2007 and 2% during 2008 (at constant prices of 2000), one of the highest rates in the Eurozone. However, in 2009 GDP decreased by -1.9%. In 2010 a decrease of GDP by -2.5% to 4% is estimated. See below: 2010 Economic Crisis.
The tourism industry is a major source of foreign exchange earnings and revenue accounting for 15% of Greece’s total GDP and employing, directly or indirectly, 16.5% of the total workforce.
The Greek labor force totals 4.9 million, and it is the second most industrious between OECD countries, after South Korea. The Groningen Growth & Development Centre has published a poll revealing that between 1995 and 2005, Greece ranked third in the working hours per year ranking among European nations; Greeks worked an average of 1,811 hours per year. In 2007, the average worker produced around 20 dollars per hour, similar to Spain and slightly more than half of average U.S. worker’s hourly output. Immigrants make up nearly one-fifth of the work force, occupied mainly in agricultural and construction work.