Find out a little about Greece - ancient and modern - and enjoy our flag printables and flag colouring pages in your projects at home and at school.
One of Greece's beautiful islands - Symi in the Dodecanese
A little geography:
- Greece lies between the Mediterranean and the southern end of the Balkans in south eastern Europe.
- Also known as the Hellenic Republic, Greece is known as the cradle of Western Civilisation. It is a country of mountains and islands. Lying as it does at the crossroads of Europe, Africa and Asia, it has a long and colourful past.
- Greece boasts 16,000 km of coastline, over 1200 islands and numerous sandy beaches, so it is not surprising that tourism and shipping each account for about 15% of GDP.
A little history:
- The Olympics originated in ancient Greece in 776 BCE on Mount Olympus, the mythical home of the Greek gods, from which they took their name. There were chariot races, boxing, wrestling and athletics events.
- The Marathon race is based on the distance of 26.2 miles run by a messenger named Pheidippides, from the battlefield at Marathon to Athens in 490 BCE. He made the journey to report a victory over the Persian army.
- Athens hosted the first modern Olympic Games in 1896 and the Summer Olympics in 2004.
- Crete, the largest island, was home to the Minoans, who lived in from 3000 BCE. Friezes found at the Knossos Palace depicts young men jumping over charging bulls.
Frescoes of young Minoan men jumping over bulls, Knossos Palace, Crete
- Athens, the ancient and modern capital, is home to the Acropolis on which the Parthenon sits. The impressive marble temple from the 5th century BCE is adorned with carvings of mythical stories such as the Siege of Troy. There was a gold and ivory statue of the Goddess Athena inside.
Parthenon Temple on the Acropolis, Athens, Greece
- The island of Santorini was partly destroyed by an huge volcanic eruption in ancient times. It has been suggested that this was the site of the fabled city of Atlantis. Santorini now has the largest caldera crater in the world which is 11 km wide.
- Ancient Greeks gave the world democracy, theatre, mathematics and chewing gum! Mastic gum comes from the bark of trees that are only found on the island of Chios. It is used as a breath freshener because it kills bacteria.
- Monks built 20 monasteries on top of Mount Athos to protect the Orthodox Greek Church. Only men are allowed to visit the monasteries and the area is a protected zone.
Find out more about Ancient Greece and explore our collection of worksheets, printables, crafts, colouring pages and Greek Myths activities:
And some more fun facts:
- Blue and white are the national colours that appear on the Greek flag. In the Cyclades islands, villagers paint their doors and roofs blue because they believe it will ward off evil spirits. They paint the walls of their houses white to keep them cool in the summer.
Images of Santorini, one of the Greek Cyclades islands
- Greeks traditionally smashed plates during wedding celebrations. Happily this custom has been replaced by restaurant guests throwing flowers, which is less messy!
- Many Greeks move abroad in search of work. Toronto, Chicago, New York, and London are popular but Melbourne is said to have the world's third highest population of Greek speakers after Athens and Thessaloniki.
- According to Homer, the one eyed giant cyclops Polyphemus made sheep’s cheese in his cave. Greeks still eat crumbly white sheep’s cheese called feta today. The name feta is based on the Italian word for slice.