You Better Believe It: Fascinating Facts About Greece

The Acropolis in Athens, Greece
The Acropolis in Athens, Greece. Credit: Christophe Meneboeuf/CC BY-SA 3.0

Everyone knows that Greece is the cradle of Western civilization, the cradle of democracy, that it has a breathtakingly beautiful coastline and that our Independence Day is March 25. However, there are some facts that very few people know about.

There may be things about Greece and its history that even many Greeks do not know. Why not take this opportunity to brush up on some interesting facts and facts about this most fascinating country before finally heading there for an idyllic vacation this summer?

Facts you probably didn’t know about Greece

  • There are around 2,000 islands and islets in Greece, but only 170 of them are inhabited. The largest, Crete, has an area of ​​8,260 square kilometers (3,189 square miles).
  • Greece is the first country in the world in the production of natural sponges.
  • Athens had a population of around 7,000 people just two centuries ago. Today, the capital’s inhabitants exceed five million, or nearly half of the country’s population.
  • Surrounded by the sea, there is no place in Greece that is more than 137 km (85 miles) from the sea. Greece has the tenth longest coastline in the world.
  • Greece’s merchant fleet represents 70 percent of all European vessels. National law requires that 75% of a ship’s crew have Greek nationality.
  • Last year Greece welcomed more than 30 million visitors, nearly three times its own population of 11 million.
  • About 7 percent of all marble mined on planet Earth comes from Greece.
  • In the 1950s, only 30% of Greeks could read and write. Today, the illiteracy rate is only 5%.
  • Greece is the third largest producer of olive oil in the world. The cultivation of olive trees in the country began in ancient times. Indeed, some olive trees which we know were planted in the 13th century still produce fruit.
  • Even though Greece is surrounded by the sea, 80% of the country is mountainous. The country does not even have a single navigable river due to its particular geomorphology.
  • Over twelve million people around the world speak Greek. There are ten million Greek residents, around one million Cypriots and another million Greeks in the diaspora, mainly in the United States, Australia and EU countries.
  • The Greek language has been spoken for around 3,000 years, making it one of the oldest languages ​​in the world.
  • Athens has been inhabited for 7,000 years, making it one of the oldest cities in Europe.
  • On average, Greeks enjoy 250 days of sunshine per year. This corresponds to 6,000 hours of sunshine per year.
  • Life expectancy in ancient Greece was only 36 years for women and 45 years for men. Of the children born during this time, only half managed to survive to infancy.
  • Today, life expectancy reaches 77 years for men and 82 years for Greek women. Greece ranks 26th in the world among the countries with the highest life expectancy.
  • Greece has more archaeological museums than any other country in the world, which is quite natural considering the age of its civilization.
  • About 100,000 birds from northern Europe and Asia spend the winter in Greece.
  • Slaves in ancient Greece made up 40-80% of the city-state population. They were mainly prisoners of war, abandoned children or children of slaves.
  • Fauna in Greece includes 116 species of mammals, 18 amphibians, 59 species of reptiles, 240 species of birds and 107 species of fish. However, about half of mammal species are now in danger of extinction.
  • Government corruption cost the country around 800 million euros in 2009 alone.
  • Eons ago in geological times, Greece was a rocky mass, completely covered with sea water. Its mountainous area was formed after its tectonic plate collided with Europe, and even today, earthquakes in the Aegean Sea are related to the movements of its particular plate in the lithosphere.

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