Wednesday, 23 November 2011

CASE 364 - The history of Greece

Greece (and the Greek Islands) is a country with a particularly rich history and famous personalities.
Excavations show that the first settlement dates from the Palaeolithic era (11,000-3,000 BC). During the second millennium BC, Greece gave birth to the great civilization of the Minoans (2600-1500 BC), the Mycenaeans (1500-1150 BC) and the Cycladic civilization.

The Classical Period of the Greek history (6th-4th centuries BC) is the most famous worldwide. The peak of the classical period is the 5th century BC, when the foundations of western civilization were put in Athens. This city-state became the greatest naval power of Greece that time and developed all domains of culture, including philosophy, music, drama, rhetorics and a new regime, democracy.

Then, the history of Greece is a succession of various invasions and dominations. In 334 BC, Alexander the Great invaded the Persian Empire and his army conquered all the way till India. However, in 323 BC, the great general dies in Babylon and his Macedonian empire is torn apart and governed by his heirs. In 168 BC onwards, the Romans conquer Greece and a new period starts for the Greek history.

In the 3rd century AD, the Roman Empire is cut in two pieces, the Eastern and the Western Roman Empire. While the Western Roman Empire was gradually invaded by barbaric North-European tribes, the Eastern Roman Empire with Constantinople as capital developed and became the Byzantine Empire that lasted for about 1,000 years.

In 1453 BC, the Ottoman Turks conquered Constantinople and gradually the rest of Greece, which had already been dominated by the Venetians. The country suffered a lot under the Ottoman occupation and people tried to rebel many times. However, all rebels were suspended, until March 1821 when the Greek War of Independence started. The country finally got its freedom in 1829, when the first independent Greek state was formed and Ioannis Kapodistrias was set as governor.

After Kapodistrias was assassinated in 1831, prince Otto from Bavaria became the first king of Greece, followed by George I from Denmark in 1863. That time, the Ionian islands were given to Greece by Britain and then Thessaly was attached to the Greek state by the Turks. In the early 20th century, Macedonia, Crete and the Eastern Aegean islands were also attached to the Greek state. This was the time when the figure of an important Greek politician raised, Eleftherios Venizelos.

Greece resisted a lot the Axis forces during the Second World War, but it eventually lost the war. Most of the Greek territory was conquered by the Germans and some parts by the Italians. After the Second World War, the Dodecanese islands also became part of the Greek state. Three decades of political turmoil followed, including a military junta from 1967 till 1974. Since 1975, the regime of Greece is Parliamentary Republic.

Post-World War II Greece has seen rapid economic and social change. Major contributors to the economy are tourism and shipping.

The financial crisis of the late 2000s hit Greece particularly hard, as the legacy of high public spending and widespread tax evasion combined with the credit crunch and the resulting recession to leave the country with a crippling debt burden.
In the spring of 2010, amid fears of an imminent default on debt payments, Greece's fellow eurozone countries agreed an unprecedented 110bn euro package to rescue its teetering economy. The main condition attached to the loan - drastic cuts in public spending and tax hikes - prompted protracted social unrest and destabilisation of the eurozone.

Parthenon, Athens: Built at the apex of the city-state's power
The 2010 rescue package soon proved to be unequal to the task of plugging the hole in Greece's finances, and the following year an even bigger bailout of 130bn euros was required to stave off the imminent danger of the country defaulting on its debts.

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