Greece History

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Greece is considered the cradle of Western civilisation, being the birthplace of democracy, Western philosophy, Western literature, historiography, political science, major scientific and mathematical principles, and Western drama, as well as the Olympic Games. From the eighth century BC, the Greeks were organised into various independent city-states, known as poleis, which spanned the entire Mediterranean region and the Black Sea.

Greece was annexed by Rome in the second century BC, becoming an integral part of the Roman Empire and its successor, the Byzantine Empire, wherein Greek language and culture were dominant. Rooted in the first century A.D., the Greek Orthodox Church helped shape modern Greek identity and transmitted Greek traditions to the wider Orthodox World. Falling under Ottoman dominion in the mid-15th century, the modern nation state of Greece emerged in 1830 following a war of independence.

The sovereign state of Greece is a unitary parliamentary republic and developed country with an advanced high-income economy, a high quality of life, and a very high standard of living. It is the largest economy in the Balkans, where it is an important regional investor.


1453 - Constantinople fell to the Turks and became the capital of the Ottoman Empire
1821 - Greek war of independence against Ottoman rule began
1827 - Greek independence achieved. Kingdom of Greece included central Greece and Euboea, Peloponnesus, and the Cyclades Islands
1864 - Ionian Islands ceded to Greece by Great Britain
1881 - Thessaly and part of Epirus ceded to Greece by Turkey
1913 - Crete, Macedonia, and the Aegean Islands, and the rest of Epirus ceded to Greece by Turkey
1918 - Western Thrace ceded to Greece by Bulgaria
1920 - Eastern Thrace and part of Asia Minor granted to Greece
1923 - Eastern Thrace and part of Asia Minor returned to Turkey
1946-1949 - Greek Civil War
1947 - Dodecanese Islands ceded to Greece by Italy
1973 - Monarchy abolished; Greece declared a republic
1981 - Greece became tenth member of the European Community

Calendar Changes

The Gregorian calendar is the calendar in common use in the world today. It is a correction of the Julian calendar that had been in use since A.D. 46. Leap years had been miscalculated in the Julian calendar. By 1582, the calendar was 10 days behind the solar year. The Julian calendar changed to the Gregorian calender in Greece in 1923–1924, at which time the calender was changed 13 days to bring it in line with the solar year. Some records kept during Ottoman rule or kept by Greek communities in Asia Minor used the Ottoman calendar, which calculates time from the “flight of Mohammad” on 16 July 622. It is a lunar calendar and the first day of the year varies considerably from year to year. To make this equate to our modern calendar, 622 years must be added to the Ottoman calendar (for example, 1200 Islamic corresponds to 1822–1823 Gregorian). For exact correspondences of dates, use conversion tables such as in the following book:

Freeman-Grenville, G.S.P. The Muslim and Christian Calendars. New York. NY, USA: Oxford University Press, 1963. Tables for the conversion of Muslim and Christian dates from the Hajra to the year A.D. 2000.

A wonderful conversion calendar that converts days from our modern Gregorian calendar to the Julian and Muslim calendars and vice versa is found at the following website:

When the French Empire under Napoleon controlled parts of Greece, such as the Ionian islands, another calendar was introduced. This calendar, based on the founding of the French Republic, used a system of months unrelated to the regular calendar. You may find some records that use that calendar. If so, see French Republican Calendar.

Local Histories

Local histories can also be valuable sources for family history research. They describe the settlement of the area and the founding of churches, schools, and businesses. You may also find lists of soldiers and civil officials. Even if your ancestor is not listed, information on other relatives may be included that will provide important clues for locating the ancestor. A local history may also lead to clues for other records to search. In addition, you should study and enjoy local histories for the background information they can provide about your family’s lifestyle and the community in which your family lived.

The Family History Library has some local histories for towns in Greece. Similar histories are often available at major public and university libraries and archives, as well. Local town halls usually have such histories or can direct you to the source where you can obtain them. Bibliographies that list local histories are available for some areas in Greece.