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The last of these empires was run by the Ottoman Turks, who established control over much of Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean after conquering Constantinople in By the late eighteenth century, the Ottoman Empire was losing ground. A military defeat at Vienna and the growing commercial power of Western Europe led Turkish overlords to institute harsher tactics toward the peasants on their agricultural estates.

Increasing discontent in the countryside was matched by difficulty in keeping administrative structures functional. Several regions in which Greeks were numerically dominant developed strong local leadership, while entrepreneurial Greek merchants, sailors, and craftspeople acted as intermediaries between the expanding economies of Western Europe and the declining ones of the empire. Enlightenment ideals of ethnic self-determination were embraced by the merchant diaspora and resonated with the desire of all Greeks to end Ottoman control.

Greek Culture Facts

A series of rebellions against the empire led to a full-scale revolution in The War of Independence aimed at an independent, ethnically based state modeled after the nationalist political philosophies of western Europe. With the aid of armed contingents from Europe and the United States, fighting ended in , when the Turks agreed to cede some lands in which Greeks formed the majority.

The shape and structure of the new country were uncertain and contentious. The desire for a parliamentary form of government was thwarted when the first president was assassinated in The foreign nations that negotiated the final treaty with the Ottomans then established an absolute monarchy monitored by England, France, and Russia. Otto, the son of Ludwig I of Bavaria, was named the first king.

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The boundaries of the new state were much smaller than had been hoped. Only the Peloponnesos, central Greece, and some of the Aegean Islands were included. An coup resulted in a constitutional monarchy, and another coup in led to expanded Houses in Santorini, Greece.


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Much Greek housing has traditionally been small and owner-built, and a high value is placed on home ownership. Although Otto was replaced with a Danish-born king, the powers of the monarchy steadily diminished, and the institution was abolished in The territorial constriction of the original state was attacked through pursuit of the Megali Idea: the belief that the country should eventually encompass all lands in which Greeks were a majority, including Constantinople and western Anatolia.

Through a series of wars, treaties, and agreements, most of modern Greece had been transferred by World War I. Greece fought on the side of Allies during the war. In the negotiations that followed, the possibility of allowing the Greek-majority population around Smyrna to vote on union with Greece was discussed.

Greek forces were allowed to occupy the area. As Turkish nationalism arose from the ashes of the defeated Ottoman Empire, however, a revived Turkish army routed the Greek troops and destroyed the city. The Anatolian Greeks who survived the conflict fled the area. Although the Dodecanese Islands were granted to Greece after World War II, ideas of a larger state were ended by this event, which is known as the Catastrophe of The nation also has been shaped by efforts to limit foreign involvement in its internal affairs.

The direct role the original treaty granted to England, France, and Russia faded by the end of the nineteenth century, but the twentieth century was marked by the invasions that accompanied the Balkan Wars and World Wars I and II, including the German occupation of — The Greek Civil War of — saw the forces of the left and right backed by their counterparts in the nations soon to face each other in the Cold War. The outcome of this conflict led to Greece's alignment with the West, its entry into NATO in , massive American aid, and continued foreign involvement in national affairs.

Public sentiment against such interference combined with the waning of the Cold War in the s to limit direct foreign intervention.

National Identity. A strong sense of ethnic self-determination initially fueled the construction of the state, erased regional differences, and led to a citizenry largely composed of ethnic Greeks. Nation— state and ethnic group were seen as coterminous. Public consciousness is also characterized by the frustration of unfulfilled hopes, foreign interference, and consignment to marginal status within Europe. The national identity generally is considered a matter of cultural continuity, with language, religion, democracy, an analytic approach to life, travel, entrepreneurship, cleverness, and personal honor and responsibility as core values that connect contemporary Greeks to the past.

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An intense relationship to the Mediterranean landscape also plays a role. The War of Independence, the Catastrophe of , the German occupation, and the civil war figure heavily in national memory. The relationship to the more distant past has, however, been shaped by the important symbolic place reserved for classical Greece in post-Renaissance Europe. While eighteenth-century Greeks called themselves Romeic and looked toward their Byzantine Orthodox heritage, the emphasis Western Europeans placed on classical Greek antiquity led nineteenth-century Greeks to stress European connections over Mediterranean and classical history over medieval.

This shift was the source of literary and political debate in the twentieth century, with broader conceptions of Greek identity gradually emerging. Ethnic Relations. The Balkan peninsula and the Anatolian coast were multiethnic at the start of the nineteenth century. Different groups lived side by side, and there was considerable intermingling and even intermarriage.

The pursuit of ethnic nationalism over the last two centuries, however, resulted in increasing ethnic separation. The establishment of ethnically based nation-states led to warfare, territorial disputes, and massive migration. Greece became increasingly monoethnic as members of certain ethnic groups left while Greeks from outside the nation entered.

Some sixty thousand of the country's seventy-five thousand Jews were executed or exiled during World War II.

Recently, the influx of new immigrants since is once again creating greater ethnic diversity. International tension over territorial boundaries and the treatment of minority populations remain high in the region, although the disintegration of Yugoslavia and the former Soviet bloc has unleashed a new dynamic. These tensions often take on an ethnic character. Relations are best with other Orthodox countries and most strained with Turkey, Albania, and the former Yugoslavian republic of Macedonia. The partitioning of Cyprus into Greek and Turkish sides in remains a bone of contention.

The population historically has been mobile. Sailors, shepherds, and merchants traveled as a matter of occupation, while peasants frequently moved in response to wars, land tenure policies, and agricultural opportunities. Market towns such as Corinth and Athens have endured for millennia, but smaller settlements appeared and disappeared with regularity.


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  • Over the last century, internal migration has overwhelmingly been from mountains to plains, inland to coastal areas, and rural to urban settlements. In this process, hundreds of new villages were founded while others were abandoned, and some towns and cities grew greatly while others declined. A strongly centralized settlement system revolving around the capital, Athens, has emerged from these moves. The population became predominantly urban after World War II, with only 25 percent living in rural settlements in The concentration of economic opportunities, international trade, governmental functions, and educational and health facilities in only a few cities has led to the decline of many regional centers and the growth of Athens as a primate city.

    In , Greater Athens contained 3. There are distinctive regional architectural styles, such as the pitched roofs of the Arcadian mountains and the flat, rolled ones of the Cyclades. Until recently, much housing was small and owner-built from mud brick, stone, and ceramic tile. Over the last fifty years, the use of industrially produced materials and the construction of more elaborate dwellings has accompanied a dramatic increase in commercial building.

    International architectural movements have also been influential. Rural settlements are still characterized by single-family houses, but urban areas contain apartment buildings of five to ten stories. A high value is placed on home ownership, and most urban apartments are owned, not rented. Families tend to buy or remodel homes only after saving the funds needed to do so. There is a strong public-private distinction in spatial arrangements. Homes are considered private family spaces. Single-family houses often contain walled courtyards that have been replaced in urban apartments with tented balconies.

    Plazas, open-air markets, shops, churches, schools, coffeehouses, restaurants, and places of entertainment are the major public gathering spots.

    Greek Folk Traditions

    An interior view of a home on Crete. Greek homes are private spaces, and hospitality is seen as both a pleasure and a responsibility. Food in Daily Life. Grain, grapes, and olives are central to the diet, supplemented with eggs, cheese, yogurt, fish, lamb, goat, chicken, rice, and fruits and vegetables. Certain foods are emblematic of the national identity, including moussaka, baklava, thick coffee, and resinated wine retsina. Coffee-houses have long functioned as daily gathering places for men.

    Dining out has gained in popularity, with a corresponding increase in the number and variety of restaurants. Food Customs at Ceremonial Occasions. Guests must always be offered refreshment, and all major ceremonies involve food. At funerals, mourners are given koliva boiled wheat, sugar, and cinnamon , a special cake is baked on New Year's Day, and the midnight Easter service is followed by a feast, generally of lamb.

    Basic Economy.