Photo by Abby Avgerinos @beyondblueandwhite

Greece is a unique and fascinating country to visit with a very long history and enticing culture. Here are a few interesting facts you may have hot heard about Greece or Greeks before.

Did you know… 

1. Greeks were culinary pioneers.

That the earliest form of cheesecake was enjoyed by ancient Greeks? The Greek physician Aegimus wrote a book on the art of making cheesecakes during the 5th century BCE (source: Wikipedia).

2. A long time ago, Greeks liked to be on time.

Alarm clocks were invented in ancient Greece. Although the device looked nothing like what they look now, the concept is the same. The ancient philosopher Plato (428–348 BC) was the first one to have been recorded to use a “water clock” that somehow produced an alarm signal (source: Wikipedia).

3. It IS all Greek to you and me.

English language is partly Greek. In a typical English of 80,000 words dictionary, about 5% of the words are borrowed from Greek.  More than that, out of the 500 most common words in English, 18 are of Greek origin. (source: Wikipedia)

4. The flag stripes have a special meaning.

The nine stirpes of the Greek flag represent the nine syllables of the phrase Freedom or Death (Ελευθερία ή Θάνατος). The five blue stripes form the word “Freedom” and the four white stripes form “Or Death”.

5. Two alphabet letters come in different sizes.

Omicron and Omega are letters of the Greek alphabet. Omicron literally means little o and Omega means big o and they both produce the same o sound in modern Greek. However, it has not been always like that.  In ancient times, the Greeks pronounced the omicron with a shorter sound and the Omega with a longer sound. Hence the -micro/mega distinction in their name.

6. Greeks celebrate their name.

Namedays are bigger than birthdays. Greeks celebrate their name day on the day of the year the Greek Orthodox Church honors the memory of the saint they are name after. It is a bigger celebration than a birthday. There are two reasons for that. First, everyone who knows you, knows your name but they do not necessarily remember your exact birth date and since the Greeks never pass an opportunity for a celebration, automatically this gives namedays a heavier weight. Secondly, the religious aspect of the celebration is very important as Greeks are proud of their faith and traditions.

7. Greeks treat YOU on their birthday.

Speaking of birthdays. When Greeks celebrate their birthday or nameday for that matter, they themselves organize and pay their party for you to attend and not the other way around.

8. The National Anthem is long. Very long.

The Greek National Anthem has the longest text for a national anthem in the world. It consists of 158 stanzas or 632 verses. It is called “Hymn to Freedom” and is the national anthem of Greece and Cyprus. Only the first two stanzas are used in the official national anthem though (source: Wikipedia).

9. Mind the open hand.

Never wave with an open palm in Greece. Showing the palm of your hand with the fingers extended and spread to someone is considered an insult in Greece. The act is called “moutza” or “moutzono”. Sometimes they use both hands to add more to the insult!

10. They are not yours; they’re ours.

Greece and United Kingdom have a long dispute over the marbles of the Parthenon.  In early 19th century, while Greece was under the occupation of the Ottoman Empire, the Earl of Elgin removed marbles from the Parthenon and took them to Britain. He then sold the marbles to the British Government which passed the marbles to the British Museum which holds a display of them until now. Since immediately after gaining its independence from the Ottoman Empire in 1832, the Greek government has been actively fighting for the restoration of the looted marbles. The British government claims that they obtained the marbles through a legal transaction with the Ottoman Empire although the search in the extensive and detailed archives of the Ottomans has yet to produce a document to support the claim (source: Wikipedia).

Do you have a fun fact about Greece and Greeks?

Share your thoughts in the comments section below!

Image from: Beyond Blue and White (@beyondblueandwhite)


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