Greece is located in southeastern Europe and forms an irregular-shaped peninsula in the Mediterranean with two additional large peninsulas projecting from it: the Halkidiki and the Peloponnese.
Indo-European peoples, including the Mycenaeans, entered Greece about 2000 B.C. About 1200 B.C. the Dorians, another Indo-European people, invaded Greece, and a dark age followed. Classical Greece emerged about 750 B.C. composed of small city-states. Greece reached the peak of its glory in the 5th century B.C. when the Parthenon was built under the leadership of Pericles. The Peloponnesian War weakened the nation and it was then conquered by the Macedonians. By the 2nd century B.C. Greece had declined to the status of a Roman province. It remained within the Eastern Roman Empire until Constantinople fell to the Crusaders in 1204. In 1453, the Turks took Constantinople and by 1460, Greece had become a Turkish province. The insurrection made famous by the English poet Lord Byron broke out in 1821, and by 1827 Greece won its independence.
Today Greece is a parliamentary republic with the executive power being held by the President; the Prime Minister heads the government and is responsible to a 300-member unicameral parliament. In 1981 it joined the European Union and in 2001 it adopted the Euro as its national currency.
It is the birthplace of democracy, Western philosophy, the Olympic Games, Western literature and historiography, political science, scientific and mathematical principles, and Western drama, including both tragedy and comedy.
This rather small country of 11 million people is home to hundreds of islands, 227 of which are inhabited. It has the 11th longest coastline in the world at 13,676 km (8,498 mi) in length, and controls more than 16% of the world’s total merchant fleet, thus making it the largest in the world. More than 80% of the country consists of mountains, of which Olympus is the highest at 2,917 m (9,570 ft).