Greece is one of the most fascinating countries in the world. Its history includes legends of gods and titans, love and beauty, and art and intellectualism.
With an incredible past and a rich, vibrant present, there is so much to appreciate about this beautiful European country. It is also a naturally stunning space, with tons of coastline, warm blue waters, towering mountains and green-covered hills.
Since there is so much to learn about a country as complex as this one, we’ve split this post into two interests – ancient Greece, and current Greece. So you can get inspired by the country’s history and learn about its contemporary culture.
Facts About Greece from Ancient Times
Table of Contents
- 1 Facts About Greece from Ancient Times
- 1.1 1. The First Olympic Games Were Held in 776 BC in Olympia
- 1.2 2. The Ancient Greek Alphabet is Still in Use Today
- 1.3 3. The word ‘alphabet’ is derived from the first two letters in the Greek alphabet – ‘alpha’ (α) and ‘beta’ (β).
- 1.4 4. Titans Came Before The Olympian Gods
- 1.5 5. Olympian Gods Were Birthed as Adults
- 1.6 6. Athens is known as the oldest capital city in Europe.
- 1.7 7. Greece is often considered to be the world’s first democracy
- 2 Facts About Contemporary Greece
- 2.1 8. There are 18 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Greece
- 2.2 9. There are Over 6000 Islands in the Greek Sovereign State
- 2.3 8. Greece has Over 16 000km of Coastline
- 2.4 9. Largest and Smallest Greek Islands
- 2.5 10. Athens is surrounded by over 60 km (37 miles) of coast.
- 2.6 11. 80% of Greece is Made Up of Mountains
- 2.7 12. Mount Olympus is the highest mountain in Greece, and one of the tallest in Europe.
- 2.8 13. Greece has Around 300 Days of Sunshine a Year
- 2.9 14. No point in Greece is more than 85 miles or 137 kilometers from water.
- 2.10 15. 30% of Greece’s Population Lives in Athens
- 2.11 16. Greece Has More Archeological Museums Than Any Other Country
- 2.12 17. The Mediterranean Diet Originated in Greece
- 2.13 18. Greece is the third largest olive oil producer in the world – after Italy and Spain.
- 2.14 19. Ikaria is one of the world’s blue zones where people have the longest lifespans
- 2.15 20. Red Meat is not eaten regularly in Greece
- 2.16 21. Greece still has a Royal Family
- 2.17 23. Grandparents in Greece usually live with their children’s family until they die
- 2.18 24. The Most Sexually Active Nation in the World
- 2.19 25. The blue in Greece’s flat represents sea and sky while the white stands for freedom
- 2.20 26. Greece contributes 7% to the marble produced in the whole world.
- 2.21 27. Military Service is still compulsory
- 2.22 28. Easter is more important than Christmas.
- 2.23 29. There are over 4,000 traditional dances in Greece.
- 2.24 30. Greece is the world’s largest producer of sea sponges.
- 2.25 31. Babies aren’t given a name until around their first birthday
- 2.26 32. The most visited Greek islands are Santorini, Corfu, Mykonos, Rhodes and Zante.
- 2.27 33. “Taking the bull by the horns” comes from a Greek myth
- 2.28 34. The Evil Eye is a common superstition
- 2.29 35. Voting is mandatory
- 2.30 36. Greece is big in shipping
- 2.31 37. Feta is the national cheese of Greece
- 3 Final Thoughts on Greek Facts
- 4 Who Paid for What in this Post
Greece has been around since around 800 BC. It is one of the oldest countries in the world, and this is still visible throughout the country as it stands.
You can go to a park and see thousand-year-old pillars sticking up out of the ground. Everywhere you look, history peeks its head out. So let’s learn a bit about why Greece’s history is still so important.
1. The First Olympic Games Were Held in 776 BC in Olympia
This competition of strength, agility and endurance was first held right here in Greece, which is why it is named after the town of Olympia. The name is particularly well-appointed, as it can also reflect the pursuit of perfection; Mount Olympus was said to be the seat of the gods, who were called Olympians.
Legend has it that Hercules, the son of Zeus, originally founded the games. Only men were allowed to compete in the first games, which were held in honour of the god Zeus once every four years. Women were not even allowed to watch the games, never mind participate.
2. The Ancient Greek Alphabet is Still in Use Today
Created in the late ninth century BC, this writing system has truly stood the test of time. It was also the first alphabet to have distinct letters for vowels and consonants, improving on the Phoenician alphabet previously used in Greece.
3. The word ‘alphabet’ is derived from the first two letters in the Greek alphabet – ‘alpha’ (α) and ‘beta’ (β).
4. Titans Came Before The Olympian Gods
The children of heaven (Ouranos) and earth (Gaia) were the Titans. The mythological history of these humongous beings is long and complicated. But to sum things up neatly, the youngest of the Titans, Kronos, defeated his father, Ouranos, thereby taking away his power.
He then parented the Olympian gods with his sister, Rhea, and swallowed them once they were born. But Rhea tricked Kronos into eating a stone instead of his son Zeus, who then grew up in secret, far away from his tyrannical father.
When he reached adulthood, Zeus came back and defeated his father, who then threw up his other children. A battle raged for 10 years, but the Olympians won in the end.
5. Olympian Gods Were Birthed as Adults
That’s right, in most of the stories, there were no babies among the gods. In fact, right after Artemis was born, she acted as the midwife to her mother, helping her mother birth Artemis’s twin brother, Apollo.
However, there are as many stories about the gods as there are gods themselves, if not more. Greek mythology is fluid, and so there are differing stories, making it all the more interesting.
6. Athens is known as the oldest capital city in Europe.
Athens is named after Athena, the Greek goddess of wisdom.
7. Greece is often considered to be the world’s first democracy
The Athenian Democracy was a system dating back to the fifth century B.C. It was a system of direct democracy, where citizens with voting-rights voted directly on legislation and executive bills. However, participation at this point was not open to all residents.
⇒ Read all about Paxos Greece as well as the best Paxos restaurants and Paxos beaches. Or find out how to get from Santorini to Ios, the best things to do in Ios and a complete guide to Mylopotas Beach. And don’t miss 11 Famous Greek Landmarks, 37 Fascinating Facts About Greece, 13 Most Beautiful Islands in Greece and my 10 Days in Greece Itinerary.
Facts About Contemporary Greece
Just as compelling as the past, is the present culture, archaeology and art of Greece. There is so much to see and do in Greece, and these facts will inspire you to experience it all.
8. There are 18 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Greece
Including the Acropolis of Athens, the medieval City of Rhodes, the Temple of Apollo, and the Archeological site of Delphi, this list is long and impressive. The fantastic history of Greece is conserved in these spaces, making it possible for us and our children to still marvel at it all.
Most of these sites can be explored at your own steam. However, taking a guided tour to the Acropolis or any of the other sites gives you an opportunity to learn about the history and stories as you go. And as we’ve seen, Greece’s stories are unendingly interesting.
9. There are Over 6000 Islands in the Greek Sovereign State
Yes, that’s right, there are over 6000 islands and islets spread over the Aegean and Ionian Seas. These varied little bodies of land rise from the water in a random manner, making this one of the most unique natural spaces in Europe.
They’re absolutely beautiful, dotting the sea haphazardly. Only 227 of the islands are inhabited, and the rest are home only to plants and animals. If you want to explore some of these islands from the water, take an island discovery tour.
8. Greece has Over 16 000km of Coastline
Largely surrounded by the sea, Greece boasts over 16 000 km (9 942 miles) of coastline. So of course, there are plenty of beaches to enjoy. Just a little bit of exploring can often unearth an empty little beach that you can enjoy away from the crowds.
⇒ There is something special about seeing a famous landmark in person – and Europe has a lot of landmarks – see how many you have visited – 60 Most Famous Landmarks in Europe, Famous Greek Landmarks, 26 Landmarks of Germany, 61 Magnificent Landmarks of the UK, 30 Famous Landmarks in France, Spain Famous Landmarks, 25 Famous Paris Monuments, 40 Impressive English Landmarks, 38 Famous Landmarks in Italy and top Landmarks of London.
9. Largest and Smallest Greek Islands
Crete is the largest Greek Island. The entire island is 3218.548 square miles (8836 square kilometers) and has a population of over 630,000 people. In comparison, Halki is the smallest inhabited Greek island and is only 11 square miles (28 square kilometers).
10. Athens is surrounded by over 60 km (37 miles) of coast.
11. 80% of Greece is Made Up of Mountains
Greece is one of the most mountainous countries in the world. The thought of this Baltic country usually conjures up ideas of whitewashed houses, olive groves and endless coastline (all very valid and true). However, the vast majority of the countryside is actually mountains.
This makes it a great place to visit for those that want an active vacation of hiking and exploring. It also makes it an even more beautiful country, with undulating hills and mountains spreading across the land.
12. Mount Olympus is the highest mountain in Greece, and one of the tallest in Europe.
13. Greece has Around 300 Days of Sunshine a Year
One of the sunniest places in the world, Greece produces gorgeous sunshiney days for about 85% of the year. Which is particularly wonderful, considering what you can do with those days.
Whether you prefer to laze on the sand between dips in the ocean, or you want to spend your days exploring all that there is to see, sunshine and Greece go hand in hand. Adding to its well-deserved reputation as an ultimate vacation destination.
14. No point in Greece is more than 85 miles or 137 kilometers from water.
15. 30% of Greece’s Population Lives in Athens
Greece has a national population of over 10 million, and approximately 3 million of those people live in the capital city of Athens. So it’s certainly a bustling, vibrant space to explore. For this reason, Athens also attracts many visitors throughout the year, adding to the bulk of the population.
16. Greece Has More Archeological Museums Than Any Other Country
This is a natural continuation of Greece’s incredible history and abundance of artefacts. Because Ancient Greece added so much to the world’s wealth of knowledge and beauty, these museums are able to showcase some pretty impressive stuff.
If you’re in Greece and only have the time or inclination to visit one museum, head to the National Archeological Museum in Athens. It houses some of the most important artefacts from throughout Greece, and from a number of different time periods of the country’s history.
⇒ Explore more of Europe in my posts on 14 Beautiful Cities in Europe 16 European Palaces not to Miss, 17 Beautiful Castles in Europe Not to Miss, 21 Most Beautiful Countries in Europe, 9 Most Beautiful Cities in Germany, 26 Landmarks of Germany, 25 Rome Monuments, 60 Most Famous Landmarks in the World, 12 Beautiful Famous Spain Landmarks, 9 Famous Ireland Landmarks and 16 Famous Landmarks in Europe.
It is considered one of the greatest museums in the world, and it’s no wonder why. The sculptures alone are enough to take your breath away.
17. The Mediterranean Diet Originated in Greece
I’m sure we’ve all heard of this dreamy way of eating, where red wine is always present, carbs are encouraged, and the olive oil flows happily. But did you know that this diet has been around since ancient times in Greece?
The Greek love affair with olives was said to begin when the goddess Athena gifted an olive tree to the city of Athens, which was devoted to her. From that point forwards, olives have been at the centre of the city’s eating habits.
Wine is also a popular part of Greek culture, and you’ll often find it in a jug on the table, waiting to be generously shared with all.
18. Greece is the third largest olive oil producer in the world – after Italy and Spain.
19. Ikaria is one of the world’s blue zones where people have the longest lifespans
Ikaria is what the scientists call a “blue zone” where people have the longest lifespans in the world. Ikaria is one of five blue zones in the world.
20. Red Meat is not eaten regularly in Greece
With so much coast surrounding the country, it’ll come as no surprise that seafood is much more commonly found on the menu. You’ll also find plenty of fruits and vegetables, as well as delicious bread.
21. Greece still has a Royal Family
The monarchy was abolished in Greece in 1874 so King Constantine II does not have any power, but he is still a King.
23. Grandparents in Greece usually live with their children’s family until they die
Very few people move out of home as such in Greece. Children will live at home until they marry and grandparents then live with their children until they die. As a result, there are very few retirement homes in Greece.
24. The Most Sexually Active Nation in the World
Reports claim that Greeks have sex on average 164 times a year, which makes them the most sexually active nation in the world.
25. The blue in Greece’s flat represents sea and sky while the white stands for freedom
The Greek flag includes nine blue-and-white horizontal stripes, which stands for the nine syllables of the Greek motto “Eleftheria i Thanatos” or “Freedom or Death”. The Greek Orthodox cross is in the upper left corner of the flag.
26. Greece contributes 7% to the marble produced in the whole world.
Greece’s architecture style can be seen in marble all over the world.
27. Military Service is still compulsory
All young men in Greece must undertake military service for between six and nine months.
28. Easter is more important than Christmas.
The Greek Orthodox Church sees Christ’s resurrection as the biggest event of the year. Easter Sunday is the biggest day of celebration.
29. There are over 4,000 traditional dances in Greece.
30. Greece is the world’s largest producer of sea sponges.
Most of these sponges are produced on Kalimnos island.
31. Babies aren’t given a name until around their first birthday
Babies are often named are their grandparents in Greece. This is seen as carrying the family forward and sometimes families will have more than one child with the same name.
That name isn’t normally given until the child is baptised which tends to be near their first birthday.
32. The most visited Greek islands are Santorini, Corfu, Mykonos, Rhodes and Zante.
33. “Taking the bull by the horns” comes from a Greek myth
According to a Greek myth, Hercules saved Crete from a bull by grabbing its horns.
34. The Evil Eye is a common superstition
Mati, or the evil eye, is believed to be negative energy that can cause things such as bad luck or weakness. In the 6th century, a blue and white charm called a mati pendant was developed to protect its wearer from the evil eye. These pendants continue to be worn today.
35. Voting is mandatory
All adults 18 years of age or older must vote by law in Greece.
36. Greece is big in shipping
The crew on ships in Greece must be at least 75% Greek. And in the European Union, 70% of merchant ships are Greek.
37. Feta is the national cheese of Greece
The people of Greece have been eating feta since the time of Homer and have the highest per capita consumption of the cheese in the world.
Final Thoughts on Greek Facts
Greece is one of those countries where you just know that there have been fascinating things going on since time unremembered. It is so full of life and always has been.
These days, this can be seen in museums and archaeological sites, as well as in the city streets of Athens and the little restaurants dotting the country. Everywhere you look, there’s something going on.
With these facts about Greece, you can know a little more of what Greece has to offer, in all spheres of knowledge, art and love.
Who Paid for What in this Post
I covered all of the costs involved in writing this post. However, this facts about Greece post includes affiliate links. That means if you click through and end up making a purchase I will receive a small commission. I wanted to make sure you were aware of this.