Greek Cultures, Traditions, and People

Contributed by:
This booklet refers to the history of Greek, its culture, traditions, society, peoples, geography, arts, and tribes.
Paschalis Nikolaou – Fulbright Fellow Greece
2. ◦ What is ‘culture’?
“Culture is the characteristics and knowledge of a particular group of
people, encompassing language, religion, cuisine, social habits, music
and arts […] The word "culture" derives from a French term, which in turn
derives from the Latin "colere," which means to tend to the earth and Some
grow, or cultivation and nurture. […] The term "Western culture" has
come to define the culture of European countries as well as those that definitions
have been heavily influenced by European immigration, such as the
United States […] Western culture has its roots in the Classical Period of …when, to define, is to
the Greco-Roman era and the rise of Christianity in the 14th century.” realise connections and
significant overlap
◦ What do we mean by ‘tradition’?
◦ 1a: an inherited, established, or customary pattern of thought, action,
or behavior (such as a religious practice or a social custom)
◦ b: a belief or story or a body of beliefs or stories relating to the past
that are commonly accepted as historical though not verifiable …
◦ 2: the handing down of information, beliefs, and customs by word of
mouth or by example from one generation to another without written
◦ 3: cultural continuity in social attitudes, customs, and institutions
◦ 4: characteristic manner, method, or style in the best liberal tradition
What we consider ancient Greece was one of the main classical The Modern Greek State was founded in 1830, following the
civilizations, making important contributions to philosophy, mathematics, revolutionary war against the Ottoman Turks, which started in
astronomy, and medicine. The Greeks were known for their sophisticated 1821 and is celebrated every year on March 25th; in 2021,
sculpture and architecture. At its peak under Alexander the Great, Ancient Greece celebrates the bicentennial of this War of
Greece ruled much of Europe and Western Asia. Normally it is regarded as Independence.
coming to an end when Greece fell to the Romans, in 146 BC. However,
major Greek (or “Hellenistic”) kingdoms lasted longer than this. A later
Statement from the Department of State
successor was considered to be the Byzantine Empire, with its capital in …and an even more important statement!
Constantinople (until it fell to the Ottomans in 1453). Ancient Greece
continues to influence modern cultures today.
4. A CHANGING Geographies and
the reach of Greek
MAP civilization before
the modern era
5. ◦ The Bronze Age: 3000 B.C. - 1100 B.C. (2000 - 1700 B.C. Mycenean enter mainland Greece; 1700 - 1500 B.C. The height of
Minoan Civilization is reached; 1200 B.C. The Trojan War, civil war, and the fall of the Mycenean.)
◦ The Dark Age: 1100 - 800 B.C. (1100 - 1000 B.C. Ionian Immigration to Asia Minor; 900 B.C. Dorian migration to the
Aegean islands, Asia Minor (area around Rhodes), and through the Peloponnesus.)
A very, very,
◦ Archaic Period - 800 B.C. - 500 B.C. (800 - 700 B.C. Monarchies begin to be replaced by Aristocratic Republics; 776
B.C. Date of the first Olympic games.
◦ Classical Period: 500 - 400 B.C. (490 B.C. First Persian invasion of Greece, the Battle of Marathon; 480 B.C. Second Persian
invasion of Greece, Spartans are defeated at Thermopylae, Athens is occupied by the Persians. The Persians are finally
defeated at Salamis; 443 - 429 B.C. Pericles is leader of Athens during the Golden Age; 431 - 404 B.C. The Peloponnesian
very long
◦ Late Classical Period: 400 - 330 B.C. (395 - 340 B.C.Warfare between rival Greek leagues; 338 B.C. Philip of Macedonia
leads the Greek City States; 336 - 323 B.C. Alexander the Great's reign begins.
◦ Hellenistic Age: 330 - 30 B.C. (323 - 148 B.C. Greek City States remain relatively independent. Frequent warfare continues Some historical frames
between rival leagues; 200 - 196 B.C. First Roman victories over Greece; 146 B.C. Romans defeat the Achaean League,
destroy Corinth. and key events
◦ 330 AD: Constantine founds the new capital of the Roman Empire on the existing site of the ancient Greek city
Byzantium: Byzantium was renamed Constantinople; 395: The Roman Empire divides in half, with the Eastern Roman
Empire based in Constantinople and the Western Roman Empire based in Rome/Ravenna.
◦ 1071: Defeat at Manzikert to the Seljuk Turks. Permanent loss of most of Asia Minor.
◦ 1054: The Great Schism: The Latin Roman Church and the Greek Orthodox Church excommunicate each other.
◦ 1095: Emperor Alexius appeals to Urban II at Council of Piacenza for help against the Turks. The First Crusade is
proclaimed at Council of Clermont.
◦ 1204: Fourth Crusade captures Constantinople. The Latin Empire of Constantinople is formed as well as many Byzantine
successor states. The capture of Constantinople in 1204 was a blow from which the Byzantines never fully recovered.
◦ 1261: The successor state of Nicaea recaptures Constantinople and restores the Byzantine Empire.
◦ 1453: Fall of Constantinople to the Ottomans
◦ 1821-1829: Greek War for Independence
◦ 1829-1932: First Hellenic Republic and 1833-1924 Kingdom of Greece
◦ 1924-1935 Second Hellenic Republic and 1935-1967 Restoration of the Kingdom of Greece
◦ 1945-1949: Civil War
◦ 1967-1974: Military Dictarorship 1974-today: Third Hellenic Republic: The Cyprus Issue; Changing Political Landscape; The
Years of the Financial Crisis; In the Present: LGBTQ+ Rights/#MeToo, Eastern Mediterranean Geopolitical Shifts, and
Responses to the Pandemic
6. ◦ The Lenaia was an annual Athenian festival with a dramatic
competition. It took place in Athens and in Delphi in the month of
Gamelion roughly corresponding to January. The festival was in honour
of Dionysus Lenaios. ("Lenaia" probably comes from "lenos" 'wine-press' Ancient
or from "lenai", another name for the Maenads (the female worshippers
of Dionysus)). Greek
◦ The Anthesteria was one of the four Athenian festivals in honor Festivals
of Dionysus. It was held each year from the 11th to the 13th of the month
of Anthesterion, around the time of the January or February full moon. It
celebrated the beginning of spring, particularly the maturing of the wine
stored at the previous vintage, now ceremoniously opened. During the
feast, social order was interrupted or inverted, the slaves being allowed
to participate.
◦ In the Dionysia, the central events were theatrical performances of
dramatic tragedies and, from 487 BC, comedies. It was the second-most
important festival after the Panathenaia. The Dionysia actually consisted
of two related festivals, the Rural Dionysia and the City Dionysia, which
took place in different parts of the year.
◦ The Panathenaic Games were held every four years in Athens, from 566
BC to the 3rd century AD. These Games incorporated religious festival,
athletic competitions, and cultural events hosted within a stadium.
7. ◦ Epiphany
◦ Apokries (Carnival) Major Holidays
◦ Independence Day: The Greek National Anniversary and a major religious holiday
with military parades in the larger towns and cities, celebrating Greece's victory in the
& Festivals
war of Independence against the Turks who had occupied the country for 400 years. Throughout Modern
The 25th of March was actually the day Bishop Germanos of Patras raised the flag of Greece
national rebellion at the monastery of Agia Lavra in the northern Peleponisos. For
Greece, the 25th of March is the equivalent to the 4th of July to Americans.
◦ Holy Week and Easter
◦ August 15th: The day of the Panagia (Virgin Mary)
This is the second biggest religious holiday after Easter and on the island of Tinos this
day is celebrated like on no other. Pilgrims by the thousands come here to crawl on
their knees up the steps to the church that holds the holy Icon. But this day is also
celebrated in almost every town and village in Greece especially those with a church
dedicated to the Panagia (Virgin Mary).
◦ The 28th of October is Ochi Day, celebrating the Greek refusal to let Italy occupy the
country during WWII. The Italians invaded and were driven back into Albania and
nearly back to Italy. There are military parades in the major towns and cities.
◦ The 17th of November is the anniversary of the student uprising at the Polytechnic
University in Athens in 1973. The demonstrations against the military dictatorship
gained momentum and were crushed when tanks crashed the gates of the university
killing many students. The holiday is celebrated with the annual march at the
American Embassy. If you have business at the Embassy it is a good idea to save it for
another day.
◦ When you go to a village ask one of the locals when the Panigiri for a particular
church is and if it happens to be during your stay, join in the celebration.
8. From the Parthenon to
Polykatoikies(…or, how rich
architecture can be when a
civilization spans millenia)
◦ Xenia hotels project: a nationwide
hotel construction program initiated
by the Hellenic Tourism
Organisation to improve the country's
tourism infrastructure in the 1960s and
1970s. It constitutes one of the largest
infrastructure projects in modern
Greek history
◦ Modern landmarks
9. ◦ Regions of Greece
A range of cultures and
10. A country that is 80% mountainous
This Photo by Unknown Author is licensed under CC BY-SA
This Photo by Unknown Author is licensed under CC BY-SA
11. The Islands
…they come in different sizes (and large numbers)
◦ - over 6000 islands
◦ 227 inhabited
◦ The Greek Archipelago takes up 7,500 km of the country’s total
16,000 km coastline, offering a highly diversified landscape
◦ In the Aegean Sea: the northeastern islands, the islands of the
Argosaronic, the Sporades, the Cyclades, the Dodecanese (12 islands)
◦ In the Ionian Sea; we only have The Ionian Islands
Zakynthos, Ithaca, Corfu, Kefallonia, Lefkada, Paxi, and Kythira which is
situated opposite the southern Peloponnese (Laconia). These islands,
which are the biggest of the Ionian Sea, constitute the famous
Eptanissa (meaning seven islands; epta in Greek means seven).
This Photo by Unknown Author is licensed under CC BY-SA
12. Scenes from
(‘El Greco’, 1541-
‘View of Toledo’ (1599-1600)At
the Metropolitan Museum of Art,
In this, his greatest surviving
landscape, El Greco portrays the
city he lived and worked in for
most of his life. The painting
belongs to the tradition of
emblematic city views, rather
than a faithful documentary
description. The view of the
eastern section of Toledo from
the north would have excluded
the cathedral, which the artist
therefore imaginatively moved
to the left of the royal palace.
Other buildings represented in
the painting include the ancient
Alcántara Bridge, and on the
other side of the river Tagus, the
Castle of San Servando.
onone of Greece's most important
19th-century painters. He was most
famous for his work Eros and the
Painter, his first genre painting. He
was the major representative of
the so-called "Munich School", the
major 19th-century Greek art
This Photo by Unknown Author is licensed under CC BY-SA
YANNIS MORALIS (1916-2009), he
Member of the generation of the 30s. In the 1970s, he moved from the
realistic depictions of the human form of his earlier works towards
a geometric stylisation, incorporating curves. Over the years, Moralis was
also involved with creating theatrical set and costume designs for
the Greek National Theatre and the Greek National Ballet; illustrating
poetic works by Odysseus Elytis and Giorgos Seferis; and decorating
architectural works such as the façade of the Athens Hilton, the Metro-
Station "Panepistimiou" and the Athens Central Station.
‘Angel’ (1960)
[Draft for frontispiece of Odysseus Elytis’ Six Plus
One Remorses for the Sky’]
Draft for Odysseus Elytis’ Six Pl
This Photo by Unknown Author is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND
(1935 -)
‘Zeus’ (2003)
Very popular; some of his works are exhibited in public
places: two large murals entitled The Myth of My
Neighborhood, can be seen in Athens at the Metaxourgeio
metro station. Sculptures exist in front of the Orthodox
Church of St. Irene in Athens. A giant vertical mural can be
seen in the lobby of the Electra Metropolis Hotel.
16. Installations
and Public
Costas Varotsos
‘Dromeas’ (1988)
This Photo by Unknown Author is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND
17. Costas Tsoclis
‘You, the last leper’ (2012)
(but see also:
◦ Anthony Gormley)
18. Performing Arts
◦ Traditional dances include the hasapiko,
kalamatiano, ikariotiko, pontic dances,
zervodexio and variations of these across
different regions
◦ Traditional instruments include the Byzantine
lyra, the bouzouki, the Cretan lyra, the baglamas
and mandolin.
19. A Diverse
Dances: Skalkotas, cond. Mitropoulos Culture
Mikis Theodorakis’s ‘Dance of the Kites’
Manos Hadzidakis’s ‘Gioconda’s Smile’
Eleni Karaindrou’s ‘By the Sea’ Greek Composers
20. The 2004
◦ (or: how things may
come together and a
culture reflects upon
The Athens 2004 Ol
marked the first time
since the 1996 Summer
Olympics that all
countries with a National
Committee were in
attendance, and also
saw the return of the
Olympic Games to the
city where they began.
Having previously hosted
the first modern Olympics
in 1896. Athens became
one of only four cities to
have hosted the Summer
Olympic Games on two
occasions at the time
(together with Paris,
London and Los Angeles)
21. (Modern) Greek Cinema
*and what was there before
Theo Angelopoulos Yorgos Lanthimos
22. The 1950s and
1960s: A Golden
Age of Greek
23. Theo Angelopoulos (1935-2012)
24. Yorgos Lanthimos (1973 – )
25. Eating as a
where to
◦ Cultural and
geographical variety
means that Greek
cuisine is varied and
expansive, considering
size of country, and
◦ -- known everywhere:
◦ -- hidden magic:
26. Destination:
◦ Corfu (Kerkyra), unlike the rest of
Greece, never fell under the Ottoman
oppression. Due to the successive
dominations of the Venetians, the
French and the British over the
centuries, the island has primarily
become part of the Western rather the
Levantine world. Their culture wielded
strong influence in the city: it was here
that the first Greek University (the Ionian
Academy), the first Philharmonic
Orchestra and the First School of Fine
Arts were founded.
◦ In the beautifully preserved Old
Town of Corfu, a UNESCO world
heritage site, Renaissance, Baroque
and Classical “repertoire” came to be
successfully applied to local artistic
traditions. Palaces, fortresses, austere
public buildings of the Venetian rule
uniquely blend with lines of drying
washing in tiny alleyways and small
secluded squares. Strolling through a
complex of narrow cobbled streets with
stairways and vaulted passages, the so-
called “kantounia”, will make you feel
as if you’ve travelled to Genoa or
27. Also, in Corfu: The Ionian University (and the Dept
of Foreign Languages, Translation and Interpreting
◦ part of the IONIAN UNIVERSITY (1984) & its School of
History and Translation
◦ formerly Greece’s Centre for Translation and
Interpreting (1977-1984)
◦ based in Corfu, northernmost of the ‘Eptanisa’ (seven
◦ The only Department offering undergraduate degrees
in translation and interpreting in Greece; includes
several research groups
◦ four years of study; specialization in last two, e.g.
technical and scientific or literary translation
◦ Modular MA in Translation
28. Major Greek Universities
There are 22 public universities in Greece, among them, the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, the National and
Kapodistrian University of Athens, the Democritus University of Thrace, the University of Crete, the University of Ioannina, the
University of Patras and the University of the Aegean. There were also –until quite recently- also 15 Technological
Educational Institutes, which were first established in 1983. Concerning colleges, the constitution of Greece clearly states
that tertiary level education shall be exclusively provided by public universities.