Greece is one of the most important countries in the history of western civilization. Many historians refer to it as the cradle of western civilization as it was very influential in the past. Cities such as Athens still hold many ancient historical buildings that people flock to in droves. It’s an extremely popular tourist destination and the country certainly displays its fair share of history. We created a list of fun facts about Greece that will blow your mind!
Whether you have Greek ancestry or simply find Greek traditions and culture interesting, it’s always fun to learn more facts about the country. Greece has a lot of fun trivia for you to dig into. The unique blend of intriguing modern culture mixed with legends from the past provides a lot of entertaining material to look at. Take a look at these fun facts about Greece and you’ll see exactly why so many people make it a vacation destination every year.
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Democracy Started in Athens
One of the cool facts of Greece is that Athens is regarded by most historians as the birthplace of democracy. In modern times, there has been some debate about whether there were rumblings of democratic structures of government elsewhere in the world prior to Athens. Regardless of any theories about this, Athens remains the inspiration for the democratic nations that were to come in the future. Greece was unique in its structure at the time and each of its cities had its own way of doing things.
The Athenians didn’t create the first democracy overnight, though. It took a lot of political and social unrest to arrive at democracy as a necessary conclusion. There was a lot of discrimination and inequality that preceded these ideas. It was essentially class warfare that led to democracy being created and democratic ideals were shaped by principles of equality and freedom.
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Greece Is Truly Ancient
Many people visit Greece because it has such an interesting history. Some people don’t realize how truly ancient Greece is though. One of the fun facts of Greece is that the city of Athens has been populated for over 7,000 years. There has been no break in the chain between the past and present times.
The same Athens that you can go visit today has never stopped having people living there.
A lot has changed over the years, of course. It has weathered many different social and political changes through the course of its long history but it’s still standing. One of the top interesting Greece facts is that its the oldest city in Europe by far and is definitely a destination that you’ll want to visit someday.
The Greeks Don’t Call Their Country Greece
One of the coolest facts of Greece is this one! This is pretty weird to think about but the Greeks don’t even call their country Greece. They actually refer to their country as Hellas or Hellada. Its official name is the Helliniki Dimokratia or Hellenic Republic and it has always been Hellas, even in ancient times. English-speaking people refer to it as Greece based on the term Graecia, which is Latin for the “land of the Greeks.”
The Romans popularly used Latin, of course. Being that Rome was so influential in the eventual development of western society, many of the English naming conventions are somewhat derived from Latin. It’s sort of funny to think that a society such as Rome that changed the name of gods from Zeus to Jupiter also wound up altering the popular name for the land those gods originated in. It’s a peculiar coincidence but is also very fitting.
You Can Still Visit Ancient Greek Temples Today
One of the fun facts on Greece is that there are a plethora of different ancient Greek temples that you can visit today. Bear in mind that these temples are incredibly old and most of them are only remnants of structures at this point. Through years of experiencing war and being tested by the elements, many parts of these structures have been lost to time.
But even the structures such as the Temple of Poseidon in Sounion, where only a few pillars are left standing, can be a sight to behold.
One temple that is remarkably well-preserved is the Temple of Hephaestus. It was built in the 5th century BC and still has the vast majority of its structure intact.
Visiting these ancient Greek sites is very interesting for anyone who is intrigued by ancient Greek mythology. The architectural design is undoubtedly beautiful and you’ll have a great time witnessing the majesty of these sites with your own eyes.
Greek Weddings Are Really Rowdy
The next fact about Greece is about their weddings. You may have heard the stereotypes about Greek weddings. They’re well-known for being super rowdy and kind of crazy. This stereotype happens to be true, mostly. You see, the actual weddings in Greece are usually very formal but it’s the receptions where everything becomes exceptionally raucous.
People dance without inhibition at these wedding receptions. It’s also traditional for the family to perform a “bride’s dance” that is led by the bride. People break plates at these weddings, too. This is a ceremonial act that is thought to ward off the evil spirits by making them think that the people are angry with each other instead of celebrating.
The Olympics Originated in Greece
One of the most well-known Greece funny facts is that it is the birthplace of the Olympics. This is the only sort of true; really, it would be more accurate to say that Greece inspired the modern-day Olympics. Historians say that the first-ever Greek Olympics was held to celebrate a religious event in 776 BC. They were held to celebrate the highest god of Mount Olympus, Zeus.
Many of the games held in these Olympics were quite different than what people are used to seeing today. The most unusual game to modern eyes would be the sport of chariot racing. This definitely had the potential to get bloody and dangerous. It was a spectacle that the Greeks very much enjoyed, though.
There was also an ancient sport known as pankration that was a combination of wrestling and boxing. If this sounds familiar, it’s probably because this is really very similar to modern mixed martial arts. In some ways, you could say that ancient Greece held the first MMA competitions in their ancient Olympic games. Boxing itself was a popular sport for these games too, and the combat didn’t have weight limits imposed.
One last Greece interesting facts for you is that the ancient Greek Olympics were performed in the nude. You’ll be forgiven for doing a double-take as most people with modern sensibilities find that either astonishing or quite funny.
But there were some competitors who would wear restraints for their genitalia that were not unlike modern thong underwear. Regardless of whether all competitors were totally nude, this is definitely an interesting fact.
Greeks Don’t Like Waving With An Open Palm
One of the fun facts about Greece is about their waving situation. Greece is a country of many old superstitions and because of this, many modern greetings or actions aren’t seen as acceptable there. One generally harmless gesture that could be taken the wrong way in Greece is waving. If you wave at someone with an open palm, a Greek native will find this to be insulting. People generally greet others with closed palms in Greece.
Voting Is Not Optional
No Greece interesting facts list would be complete without mentioning their modern voting conditions. You see, the Greeks take their elections incredibly seriously. You aren’t allowed the option to stay home and let the other citizens decide who is going to become your next political leader. All Greek citizens over the age of eighteen are required by law to get out and vote.
In some ways, this could lead to more people maintaining informed positions on the politics of their land. Greeks have a reputation for being opinionated and this isn’t a bad thing. When you compare Greek voting numbers to those of the United States of America, where only a fraction of the population actually exercises their voting rights, it’s pretty interesting. Some might say that forcing someone to vote is against personal freedoms, though, so it’s a give and takes situation.
Family Units Live Together For A Long Time
One of the Greece fun facts is that in this country, family units typically stay together for a very long time. It’s normal for children to stay with their parents until they become married.
People don’t send the elderly to retirement homes, either, as they usually wind up living with their children or grandchildren until their demise. The sense of family unity in Greece is truly very strong.
Some Laws Prevent Wearing High Heels In Historical Sites
This is definitely a weird but interesting fact about Greece. Some historical sites have banned the wearing of high heels. This is because a high heel is more likely to damage important historical sites. There have been studies that show that the amount of pressure that a high heel puts on a certain point is very high. This could lead to creating cracks in the ancient stone and the Greeks take maintaining their ancient structures very seriously.
Even if this seems silly to you, it’s definitely sensible to try to safeguard these historical sites for future generations. Being that Greece is home to many of the oldest historical sites in all of Europe, it’s truly a land full of wonder. It might be best to leave your favorite high heels back at the hotel when you’re going to visit an ancient temple site or something else that has historical significance. Even if you look really nice in those shoes, it just isn’t worth destroying a part of history.
Greece Has About 6,000 Islands
Greece is one of the most popular holiday destinations in Europe. No wonder why- it has more than 6,000 islands! And only about 227 of them are inhabited.
The most popular ones are Crete, Corfu, and Rhodes. Another of the fun Greece interesting facts is that the last island, Rhodes, is also called ‘The Island of The Sun’. According to Greek mythology this is where Helios (the Sun God) spent a lot of time. Many tourists travel to Rhodes to relax and unwind.
Greek History Has An Impact On The Food Culture
There are many fun facts about Greece and its food. The history of the country, as well as the religions and the economic situation, had an impact on Greek meals over the years. Greek food is known all over the world.
Greeks are masters of the art of cooking meat. They use tomatoes and lemon in most meals, although it’s pretty rare you’ll find both of them in the same meal. They use olive oil with everything.
Another fun thing to know is that in spite of their ability to cook meats in delightful ways, it’s pretty easy to find vegetarian food as well in Greece. Although, being a vegan or vegetarian in Greece is a bit more challenging with the abundance of tasty meat dishes around.
If you have a sweet tooth, you will love Greek desserts like baklava or lemon bougatsa!
Greeks Have A Few More Strange Wedding Traditions
- One of the strange yet interesting Greece facts is that guests will pretend to spit on the bride and groom. This protects them from evil spirits.
- Once the bride is dressed, she writes the names of her single friends under her right foot. The names that disappear by the end of the night are next in line to get wed.
- During the wedding ceremony, the bride has to stomp on her husband’s foot. This is done to ensure she has the upper hand in their marriage. Hmm!
- The last dance at a Greek wedding is only for the bridal couple. It’s during this dance that family and friends pin money to the clothes of the bride and groom.
The Island Of Ikaria Is A Blue Zone
There are only 5 blue zones in the world, and Ikaria, one of the most unique places to visit in Greece, is one of them. The others are Nicoya in Costa Rica, Loma Linda in California, Okinawa in Japan, and Sardinia, Italy. Most people living in blue zones live long healthy lives well past 90 years of age.
The Ikarian diet of homegrown vegetables and fruits, red wine, fish, olive oil and exercise is conducive to a longer life and lower rates of disease.
Ancient Greek Soldiers Wore Over 33 Kg of Armour
Think it’s tough to be a soldier in modern times? Ancient Greek soldiers wore over 33 kg of body armor! Would you be able to do that?
Alexander The Great Changed The History of Greek Coins
Talking about armour and soldiers, did you know that Alexander The Great was Greek? He conquered many lands for the Greek Empire all the way up to India.
He also changed how you look at coins. Up until Alexander, all Greek coins bore the face of a god or goddess. But Alexander changed that by putting his face on new coins.
Greek Leads The World In The Production Of Sponge
Greek is the world leader in the production of natural sea sponges. They’re better than commercial synthetic sponges as they are chemical-free and last almost up to 8 years.
So if you’re looking for a holiday where you could really go for a swim and pick up your own ocean sponge, head over to Greece!
Greece Is Sunny For Most Of The Year
Greece gets more than 3000 hours of sunshine in the year. That’s over 250 days of nice sunny weather.
Add this to the fact that Greece has over 9000 miles of coastline. So if you’re looking for a beach vacation, Greece is right up your alley!
Name Days Are More Important Than Birthdays
Greeks don’t name newborn babies till their first birthday, and the name given is often that of a senior family member.
But Greeks are also religious. So in addition to being named after ancestors, babies also get names of saints. And the day of the saint you’re named after is more important than your birthday.
Greeks Believe Blue Wards Off The Evil Eye
Greeks believe in superstition and the evil eye. And the way to ward off this evil eye is by wearing blue beads or charms. They even paint their rooftops, doors and windows blue in a bid to protect themselves from evil.
Greeks Love Dancing
That may be an understatement! The Greeks love dancing so much that they have over 4000 varieties of dances coming from the different islands and regions of Greece. The most famous Greek dances include the sirtaki, hasapiko, kalamatianos, and the syrtos.
Other Greece Interesting Facts That Will Surprise You
- Thales of Miletus who lived circa 624 BC – 425 BC is considered to be the world’s first philosopher.
- Top of the Greece interesting facts is that Herodotus who lived from 484 BC to 425 BC and wrote about the war between the Greeks and the Persians is considered the world’s first historian.
- Greece ranks third among the leading producers of olives.
- Ouzo is the national drink in Greece.
- Feta made from goat’s milk is the national cheese.
- Over 80% of Greece is made up of mountains.
- The blue in the Greece flag represents their sea and sky while the white represents purity.
- Over 40% of the Greek population lives in Athens.
- Over 100,000 birds from Europe and Asia fly to Greece for winter.
- The first nude scene in European cinema was in the Greek movie Daphnis and Chloe in 1931.
- Taking a bull by the horns emerged as an expression after Hercules took on a bull by its horns and saved the island of Crete.
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Did you know any of these amazing facts about Greece? Do you know any other Greece interesting facts? Share your thoughts in the comments!