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Total population
c. 14–17 million[1][2]
Map of the Greek Diaspora in the World.svg
Regions with significant populations
 Greece  9,903,268[3][4]
(2011 census)
 Cyprus  721,000[5][6][7]
(2011 estimate)
 United States1,279,000–3,000,000b (2016 estimate)[8][9]
 Germany443,000g (2016 estimate)[10]
 Australia422,234 (2011 census)[11]
 United Kingdom345,000–400,000 (2011 estimate)[12]
 Canada271,405c (2016 census)[13]
 Albaniaest. 200,000[14]
 New Zealandest. 2,478 to 10,000, possibly up to 50,000 [15]
 South Africa138,000 (2011 estimate)[16]
 Italy110,000–200,000d (2013 estimate)[17][18][19]
 Ukraine91,000 (2011 estimate)[23]
 Russia85,640 (2010 census)[24]
 France35,000 (2013 estimate)[26]
 Belgium35,000 (2011 estimate)[27]
 Argentina30,000–50,000 (2013 estimate)[28]
 Netherlands28,856 (2021)[29][30]
 Bulgaria1,356 (2011 census)[31] up to 28,500 (estimate)[32]
 Uruguay25,000–28,000 (2011 census)[33]
 Sweden24,736 (2012 census)[34]
 Georgia15,000 (2011 estimate)[35]
 Czech Republic12,000[36]
 Kazakhstan8,846 (2011 estimate)[37]
 Switzerland11,000 (2015 estimate)[38]
 Romania10,000 (2013 estimate)[39]
 Uzbekistan9,500 (2000 estimate)[40]
 Hungary4,454 (2016 census)[42]
Primarily Greek Orthodox Church

a Citizens of Greece and the Republic of Cyprus. The Greek government does not collect information about ethnic self-determination at the national censuses.
b Includes those of ancestral descent.
c Those whose stated ethnic origins included "Greek" among others. The number of those whose stated ethnic origin is solely "Greek" is 145,250. An additional 3,395 Cypriots of undeclared ethnicity live in Canada.
dApprox. 60,000 Griko people and 30,000 post WW2 migrants.
e "Including descendants".
f Including Greek Muslims.
g Includes people with "cultural roots".

The Greeks or Hellenes (

Egypt, and, to a lesser extent, other countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea. They also form a significant diaspora (omogenia), with Greek communities established around the world.[45]

Greek colonies and communities have been historically established on the shores of the

at various periods.

In recent times, most ethnic Greeks live within the borders of the modern Greek state or in Cyprus. The

Ukraine and in the Greek diaspora communities in a number of other countries. Today, most Greeks are officially registered as members of the Greek Orthodox Church.[49]

Greeks have greatly influenced and contributed to culture, visual arts, exploration, theatre, literature, philosophy, ethics, politics, architecture, music, mathematics,[50] medicine, science, technology, commerce, cuisine and sports. The Greek language is the oldest written language still in use and its vocabulary has been the basis of many languages, including English as well as international scientific nomenclature. Greek was by far the most widely spoken lingua franca in the Mediterranean world and the New Testament of the Christian Bible was also originally written in Greek.[51][52]


The Greeks speak the Greek language, which forms its own unique branch within the Indo-European family of languages, the Hellenic.[47] They are part of a group of classical ethnicities, described by Anthony D. Smith as an "archetypal diaspora people".[53][54]


The Proto-Greeks probably arrived at the area now called Greece, in the southern tip of the

Bronze Age collapse


In c. 1600 BC, the Mycenaean Greeks borrowed from the

syllabic script known as Linear B,[62] providing the first and oldest written evidence of Greek.[62][63] The Mycenaeans quickly penetrated the Aegean Sea and, by the 15th century BC, had reached Rhodes, Crete, Cyprus and the shores of Asia Minor.[47][64]

Around 1200 BC, the

Mycenaean civilization, but this narrative has been abandoned in all contemporary research. It is likely that one of the factors which contributed to the Mycenaean palatial collapse was linked to raids by groups known in historiography as the "Sea Peoples" who sailed into the eastern Mediterranean around 1180 BC.[66] The Dorian invasion was followed by a poorly attested period of migrations, appropriately called the Greek Dark Ages, but by 800 BC the landscape of Archaic and Classical Greece was discernible.[67]

The Greeks of classical antiquity idealized their Mycenaean ancestors and the Mycenaean period as a glorious era of heroes, closeness of the gods and material wealth.[68] The Homeric Epics (i.e. Iliad and Odyssey) were especially and generally accepted as part of the Greek past and it was not until the time of Euhemerism that scholars began to question Homer's historicity.[67] As part of the Mycenaean heritage that survived, the names of the gods and goddesses of Mycenaean Greece (e.g. Zeus, Poseidon and Hades) became major figures of the Olympian Pantheon of later antiquity.[69]


The three great philosophers of the classical era: Socrates, Plato and Aristotle

The ethnogenesis of the Greek nation is linked to the development of Pan-Hellenism in the 8th century BC.[70] According to some scholars, the foundational event was the Olympic Games in 776 BC, when the idea of a common Hellenism among the Greek tribes was first translated into a shared cultural experience and Hellenism was primarily a matter of common culture.[45] The works of Homer (i.e. Iliad and Odyssey) and Hesiod (i.e. Theogony) were written in the 8th century BC, becoming the basis of the national religion, ethos, history and mythology.[71] The Oracle of Apollo at Delphi was established in this period.[72]

The classical period of Greek civilization covers a time spanning from the early 5th century BC to the death of Alexander the Great, in 323 BC (some authors prefer to split this period into "Classical", from the end of the Greco-Persian Wars to the end of the Peloponnesian War, and "Fourth Century", up to the death of Alexander). It is so named because it set the standards by which Greek civilization would be judged in later eras.[73] The Classical period is also described as the "Golden Age" of Greek civilization, and its art, philosophy, architecture and literature would be instrumental in the formation and development of Western culture.

While the Greeks of the classical era understood themselves to belong to a common Hellenic genos,[74] their first loyalty was to their city and they saw nothing incongruous about warring, often brutally, with other Greek city-states.[75] The Peloponnesian War, the large scale civil war between the two most powerful Greek city-states Athens and Sparta and their allies, left both greatly weakened.[76]

Hellenistic Age

Most of the feuding Greek city-states were, in some scholars' opinions, united by force under the banner of Philip's and Alexander the Great's Pan-Hellenic ideals, though others might generally opt, rather, for an explanation of "Macedonian conquest for the sake of conquest" or at least conquest for the sake of riches, glory and power and view the "ideal" as useful propaganda directed towards the city-states.[77]

In any case, Alexander's toppling of the

Roman times.[80] Many Greeks settled in Hellenistic cities like Alexandria, Antioch and Seleucia.[81]


The Hellenistic realms c. 300 BC as divided by the Diadochi; the Μacedonian Kingdom of Cassander (green), the Ptolemaic Kingdom (dark blue), the Seleucid Empire (yellow), the areas controlled by Lysimachus (orange) and Epirus
Cleopatra VII (Altes Museum, Berlin), the last ruler of a Hellenistic kingdom (apart from the Indo-Greek Kingdom


Egypt by Rome in 30 BC,[82]
although the Indo-Greek kingdoms lasted for a few more decades.

This age saw the Greeks move towards larger cities and a reduction in the importance of the city-state. These larger cities were parts of the still larger Kingdoms of the Diadochi.[84][85] Greeks, however, remained aware of their past, chiefly through the study of the works of Homer and the classical authors.[86] An important factor in maintaining Greek identity was contact with barbarian (non-Greek) peoples, which was deepened in the new cosmopolitan environment of the multi-ethnic Hellenistic kingdoms.[86] This led to a strong desire among Greeks to organize the transmission of the Hellenic paideia to the next generation.[86] Greek science, technology and mathematics are generally considered to have reached their peak during the Hellenistic period.[87]

In the

Indo-Greek and Greco-Bactrian kingdoms, Greco-Buddhism was spreading and Greek missionaries would play an important role in propagating it to China.[88] Further east, the Greeks of Alexandria Eschate became known to the Chinese people as the Dayuan.[89]

Roman Empire

Between 168 BC and 30 BC, the entire Greek world was conquered by Rome, and almost all of the world's Greek speakers lived as citizens or subjects of the Roman Empire. Despite their military superiority, the Romans admired and became


In the religious sphere, this was a period of profound change. The spiritual revolution that took place, saw a waning of the old Greek religion, whose decline beginning in the 3rd century BC continued with the introduction of new religious movements from the East.

Saint Paul) were generally Greek-speaking,[93] though none were from Greece proper. However, Greece itself had a tendency to cling to paganism and was not one of the influential centers of early Christianity: in fact, some ancient Greek religious practices remained in vogue until the end of the 4th century,[94] with some areas such as the southeastern Peloponnese remaining pagan until well into the mid-Byzantine 10th century AD.[95] The region of Tsakonia remained pagan until the ninth century and as such its inhabitants were referred to as Hellenes, in the sense of being pagan, by their Christianized Greek brethren in mainstream Byzantine society.[96]

While ethnic distinctions still existed in the Roman Empire, they became secondary to religious considerations, and the renewed empire used Christianity as a tool to support its cohesion and promote a robust Roman national identity.[97] From the early centuries of the Common Era, the Greeks self-identified as Romans (Greek: Ῥωμαῖοι Rhōmaîoi).[98] By that time, the name Hellenes denoted pagans but was revived as an ethnonym in the 11th century.[99]

Middle Ages

Scenes of marriage and family life in Constantinople
Emperor Basil II (11th century) is credited with reviving the Byzantine Empire

During most of the Middle Ages, the Byzantine Greeks self-identified as Rhōmaîoi (Ῥωμαῖοι, "Romans", meaning

exonym for the Byzantines who barely used it, mostly in contexts relating to the West, such as texts relating to the Council of Florence, to present the Western viewpoint.[109][110] Additionally, among the Germanic and the Slavic peoples, the Rhōmaîoi were just called Greeks. [111][112]

There are three schools of thought regarding this Byzantine Roman identity in contemporary Byzantine scholarship: The first considers "Romanity" the mode of self-identification of the subjects of a multi-ethnic empire at least up to the 12th century, where the average subject identified as Roman; a perennialist approach, which views Romanity as the medieval expression of a continuously existing Greek nation; while a third view considers the eastern Roman identity as a pre-modern national identity.[113] The Byzantine Greeks' essential values were drawn from both Christianity and the Homeric tradition of ancient Greece.[114][115]

A distinct Greek identity re-emerged in the 11th century in educated circles and became more forceful after the fall of Constantinople to the Crusaders of the

George Gemistos Plethon,[119] who abandoned Christianity and in whose writings culminated the secular tendency in the interest in the classical past.[116] However, it was the combination of Orthodox Christianity with a specifically Greek identity that shaped the Greeks' notion of themselves in the empire's twilight years.[116] In the twilight years of the Byzantine Empire, prominent Byzantine personalities proposed referring to the Byzantine Emperor as the "Emperor of the Hellenes".[120][121] These largely rhetorical expressions of Hellenic identity were confined within intellectual circles, but were continued by Byzantine intellectuals who participated in the Italian Renaissance.[122]

The interest in the Classical Greek heritage was complemented by a renewed emphasis on

These Byzantine Greeks were largely responsible for the preservation of the literature of the classical era.[115][124][125] Byzantine grammarians were those principally responsible for carrying, in person and in writing, ancient Greek grammatical and literary studies to the West during the 15th century, giving the Italian Renaissance a major boost.[126][127] The Aristotelian philosophical tradition was nearly unbroken in the Greek world for almost two thousand years, until the Fall of Constantinople in 1453.[128]

To the

first Slavic alphabet.[129]

Ottoman Empire

Basilios Bessarion
(1395/1403–1472) played a key role in transmitting classical knowledge to Western Europe, contributing to the Renaissance.

Following the

Greek Macedonia, both in Northern Greece, and of course was centred on the mainly Greek-populated, former Byzantine capital, Constantinople. As a direct consequence of this situation, Greek-speakers came to play a hugely important role in the Ottoman trading and diplomatic establishment, as well as in the church. Added to this, in the first half of the Ottoman period men of Greek origin made up a significant proportion of the Ottoman army, navy, and state bureaucracy, having been levied as adolescents (along with especially Albanians and Serbs) into Ottoman service through the devshirme. Many Ottomans of Greek (or Albanian or Serb) origin were therefore to be found within the Ottoman forces which governed the provinces, from Ottoman Egypt, to Ottomans occupied Yemen and Algeria
, frequently as provincial governors.

For those that remained under the

Gülbahar Hatun was a Pontic Greek

The roots of Greek success in the Ottoman Empire can be traced to the Greek tradition of education and commerce exemplified in the

Eastern Orthodox


The movement of the Greek enlightenment, the Greek expression of the

Ottomans, and the restoration of the term "Hellene". Adamantios Korais
, probably the most important intellectual of the movement, advocated the use of the term "Hellene" (Έλληνας) or "Graikos" (Γραικός) in the place of Romiós, that was seen negatively by him.

The relationship between ethnic Greek identity and

Kingdom of Greece, a clause removed by 1840.[135] A century later, when the Treaty of Lausanne was signed between Greece and Turkey in 1923, the two countries agreed to use religion as the determinant for ethnic identity for the purposes of population exchange, although most of the Greeks displaced (over a million of the total 1.5 million) had already been driven out by the time the agreement was signed.[b][136] The Greek genocide, in particular the harsh removal of Pontian Greeks from the southern shore area of the Black Sea, contemporaneous with and following the failed Greek Asia Minor Campaign, was part of this process of Turkification of the Ottoman Empire and the placement of its economy and trade, then largely in Greek hands under ethnic Turkish control.[137]


The cover of Hermes o Logios, a Greek literary publication of the late 18th and early 19th centuries in Vienna with major contribution to the Modern Greek Enlightenment

The terms used to define Greekness have varied throughout history but were never limited or completely identified with membership to a Greek state.[138] Herodotus gave a famous account of what defined Greek (Hellenic) ethnic identity in his day, enumerating

  1. shared
    descent (ὅμαιμον – homaimon, "of the same blood"),[139]
  2. shared language (ὁμόγλωσσον – homoglōsson, "speaking the same language")[140]
  3. shared
    sacrifices (θεῶν ἱδρύματά τε κοινὰ καὶ θυσίαι – theōn hidrumata te koina kai thusiai)[141]
  4. shared customs (ἤθεα ὁμότροπα – ēthea homotropa, "customs of like fashion").[142][143][144]

By Western standards, the term Greeks has traditionally referred to any native speakers of the

Last Emperor urged his soldiers to remember that they were the descendants of Greeks and Romans.[148]

Before the establishment of the modern Greek nation-state, the link between ancient and modern Greeks was emphasized by the scholars of Greek Enlightenment especially by Rigas Feraios. In his "Political Constitution", he addresses to the nation as "the people descendant of the Greeks".

Diafotismos and the current conception of Hellenism.[116][130][151]

The Greeks today are a nation in the meaning of an ethnos, defined by possessing Greek culture and having a Greek mother tongue, not by citizenship, race, and religion or by being subjects of any particular state.[152] In ancient and medieval times and to some extent today the Greek term was genos, which also indicates a common ancestry.[153][154]


Greeks and Greek-speakers have used different names to refer to themselves collectively. The term Achaeans (Ἀχαιοί) is one of the

Mycenaean civilization that dominated Greece from c. 1600 BC until 1100 BC). The other common names are Danaans (Δαναοί) and Argives (Ἀργεῖοι) while Panhellenes (Πανέλληνες) and Hellenes (Ἕλληνες) both appear only once in the Iliad;[155] all of these terms were used, synonymously, to denote a common Greek identity.[156][157] In the historical period, Herodotus identified the Achaeans of the northern Peloponnese as descendants of the earlier, Homeric Achaeans.[158]

Pyrrha and Deucalion, the only survivors after the Great Deluge.[161] The Greek philosopher Aristotle names ancient Hellas as an area in Epirus between Dodona and the Achelous river, the location of the Great Deluge of Deucalion, a land occupied by the Selloi and the "Greeks" who later came to be known as "Hellenes".[162] In the Homeric tradition, the Selloi were the priests of Dodonian Zeus.[163]

In the

Pandora II, sister of Hellen the patriarch of the Hellenes.[164] According to the Parian Chronicle, when Deucalion became king of Phthia, the Graikoi (Γραικοί) were named Hellenes.[160] Aristotle notes in his Meteorologica that the Hellenes were related to the Graikoi.[162]


Byzantine Emperor
's clothes, by a manuscript depicting scenes from his life (between 1204 and 1453)