“Greece today, 200 years after independence”
The goal of this pillar is to highlight the dynamic components of contemporary Greek society through the creativity and participation of foundations, universities, local governing bodies, research institutes, cultural institutes, as well as individuals, etc. At the same time, a maximum effort will be made to promote modern Greece abroad with a dynamic presence in global exhibitions and organizations under the general framework “1821-2021: This is modern Greece.”
“ “To erase a part from the past is like erasing an equal part from the future.” Georgios Seferis
Many times, we hear: “this country is beyond rescue.” Thankfully, our past contradicts this cynical and simplistic approach to our present.
Many people have adopted this motto under the weight of the lasting demons of the Greek state. But in reality, we are very much present and ready to strive for the best.
It is possible that with this phrase we perpetuate the myth of the restless Greek soul. This soul that was defined by Odysseus and the Odyssey and has led Greek people to the four corners of the world.
When reality does not offer us the satisfaction we seek, we search for it in our imagination. In intellectual and scientific creation.
One thing is certain, when foreign people hear us utter this phrase, they become puzzled. Because, to them, Greece has progressed. Many find it difficult to understand how.
It is time to take the next step forward. By studying our past, we can draw new paths.
The timeline you see here is only indicative. Each citizen of Greece can add their facts and events regarding a particular Greek. Anyone can add a personal historical milestone and make their evaluation of events and people. Suggest their projects for the future….
Athens, the glorious polis-state of classical times, was but a small and humble town at the beginning of the 19th century. Its inhabitants tried to survive amidst the neglected and ruined monuments of the city's history.
Deciding which city would be the capital of the newly established country was not an easy task. Influential voices were supporting other cities like Nafplion, Argos, etc., but Athens prevailed in the end. It was powerfully symbolic choosing the city where democracy was born as the first capital of the state. It is speculated that its candidacy was endorsed by Europe's archaeophiles who admired the classical era of ancient Greece.
Initially, the city gathered around the neighborhoods of Psirri, Plaka, and Makrigianni. Public utilities like water, electricity, and transportation did not exist. King Otto, the Bavarian first king of Greece, protected the ancient monuments and hired Greek architect Stamatis Kleanthis and Bavarian architects Eduard Schaubert and Franz Karl Leopold Klenze to design and rebuild the new Greek capital.
The National Bank of Greece was established in 1841 as a private-limited company with a capital of 5 million drachmas, which were offered as 5,000 stocks of face value of 1,000 drachmas. The first stockholders were the Greek state, and well-known personalities of the time, King Ludwig I of Bavaria, Nikolaos Zosimas and Jean-Gabriel Eynard, and the French bank Rothschild Frères Paris.
In 1891 the National Bank established the Greek Company of General Insurance "H Ethniki" (The National) and in 1927 the National Bank of Real Estate. The turning point in the bank's history came in 1928 when it lost currency-printing privilege with the establishment of the Bank of Greece.
Declared as the first stock market fraud, even though the Greek stock market did not exist at the time, the Lavrion Mines scandal was a combination of bureaucracy, populism, and the dream for easy and fast money.
"Lavreotika" started when Italian businessman Serpieri acquired the Lavrion Mines. His dispute with the Greek state almost caused a foreign military intervention against our country. Businessman Andreas Syggros offered a solution when he bought the deeds to the company and printed stocks. Wide-spread rumors that the mines held large gold deposits led Greek people to sell their land and buy shares, which proved to be worthless since the gold deposits at the mines had been exhausted since ancient times.
The appeal to international lending with high overcharging interests, political rivalry, and a series of costly infrastructure projects led Greece to the bankruptcy of 1893. Cease of all payments (state loans, salaries, and suppliers were not paid) forced the government of Charilaos Trikoupis to take a series of drastic measures and accept international economic control of the country.
Even though the phrase "unfortunately, we are bankrupt" seems to be fictional, as it is not mentioned in the minutes of the Parliament at the time, it made headlines and was attributed to the Prime Minister Charilaos Trikoupis. Charilaos Trikoupis made his mark in the political scene of Greece with his dreams about the development and prosperity of the country. These dreams he strived to achieve with the creation of large projects like the drying of the Kopaida lake, the railway network, the Korinthos Canal.
The tyrant of Corinthos, Periandros, studied first in the 6th century BC the possibility of opening a canal at the Isthmus of Corinthos. Two thousand three hundred years later, the new sea road became a reality. In the meantime, many historical figures attempted the feat, to name just a few: Demetrios I of Macedon, Julius Caesar, Caligula, Nero were among those who tried to penetrate the Corinthian land. The Byzantines and the Venetians followed them and, after the Liberation, governor Kapodistrias.
The 19th century was the right time for its achievement, and the project was completed during the last years of the century. The final phase began during the government of Zaimis in 1869, and the inauguration took place during the government of Sotiropoulos in 1893. The canal has a length of 6,346 meters, and its width is 24,6 meters on sea level and 21,3 meters at the sea bottom. Its depth varies between 7,5 and 8 meters.
In the afternoon of March 25, 1896, the Olympic Hymn was heard for the first time, initiating the Revival of the Olympic Games and their presence consequently in modern history. Two hundred and forty-one athletes from 14 countries gave life to Baron Pierre de Coubertin's dream. Spyros Louis won the Marathon race giving our country a symbolic victory that was celebrated with enthusiasm at the Panathinaic Stadium.
Many attempts had been made to revive the Olympic Games. The Zappeian Olympiads in 1859, 1870, 1875 and 1888-1889 and the Olympia in 1870. Athens beat Paris and London as the first city to host the modern Olympic Games, and the news brought enthusiasm and skepticism…. mainly about the financing.
The Panathenaic Stadium housed weight-lifting, gymnastics, wrestling and track and field, Zappeion Megaron housed fencing, the Bay of Zea housed swimming. Other venues were the Tennis Club of Athens, the Velodrome of Faliron, and the Shooting Gallery at Kallithea.
There are different explanations regarding the Antikythera mechanism; some scholars consider it the first computer, others a chronometer or an instrument for celestial observations. Since its discovery by fishermen in the sea of Antikythera, the mechanism remains a scientific enigma. It was discovered almost two thousand years after it was made, in the hold of the ship that carried it.
Bronze was used for its creation, the oldest mechanism that exhibits gears. CAT scans of its inside have detected revolving discs with astronomical terms and … directions manual.
The Phaistos Disc was Minoan and made in the 17th century BC. The clay disc with a diameter of just 15 centimeters guards its secret safely. Forty-five different symbols compose two groups on both sides of the disc, to a total of 241 symbols.
Its content has not revealed its meaning, even though several scholars tried to interpret it. Some think it is a religious text, a sort of prayer. Some believe that it narrates the Feats of Herakles, and others talk about a document on evolution and the human race. A prevailing opinion supports the documentation of an astrological-zodiac symbolism.
The calendar showed May 14, 1920. The Hellenic population of Thrace waited for more than 500 years to welcome the Hellenic army in the cities of Komotini and Alexandroupolis. A new day was dawning…
When the refugees from Asia Minor arrived, there was a big population increase, and the need for running water exploded. The construction of a dam in the village of Marathonas was the answer. The American company Ulen signed as the contractor for the development of the dam.
The dam is located 223 m. above sea level and is 54 m high and 285 m. long. Its width is 4,5 m. at the top and 28 m. at the base. Its depth is 54 m.
Some of its structural parts are decorated with marble from the mountain of Pendeli in a symbolic gesture to link it to Parthenon, which is made of the same marble.
On one side of the demonstration stood the destitute tobacco workers. On the other side, the law enforcement forces of the Metaxas regime which would become a dictatorship in a few months. The "Bloody May of '36" left 12 dead and 280 wounded. A shocking document of the riots and the massacre is a photo of a mother lamenting over the body of her dead son. It inspired the poet Yiannis Ritsos to write his poem "Epitaph." In the end, the government accepted the demands of the tobacco workers, but the culprits of the massacre were never punished even though this was promised.
Greece tried to stay away from WWII, but the Italian fascist regime had other plans. A few months after the torpedoing of the submarine "Ellie" in the harbor of Tinos by Italian forces, Benito Mussolini sent Metaxas an ultimatum for submission to the Italian army. The "No" (Ohi) that Metaxas replied was a reflection of the desire of the Greek people. In a rare historical instant, a singing nation marched towards war. During the following months, the Greek army advanced and captured major cities and strategic points in Albania. Wehrmacht finally defeated the Greek defense, and the Occupation of Greece by the Germans cast its shadow on the land.
The partisan forces of EDES and ELAS collaborated with the British agents in the greatest moment of the Greek Resistance against the powers of the Axis. The blowing of the bridge imposed a major blow on the supply line of the German forces regarding the North African front.
A total of 86 ELAS partisans, 52 EDES partisans, and 14 British commandos faced 100 Italian and 5 German soldiers who guarded the bridge. The attack was a diversion for the placing of the explosives around the pillars of the viaduct.
Greek women voted for the first time in the municipal elections on February 11, 1934. For a woman to vote, she had to have an elementary school diploma and be more than 30 years old.
Women had to wait until 1956 to elect members of Parliament since the Constitution of 1952 gave them the right to vote in the national, parliamentary elections. In reality, it finally implemented the clause on a catholic vote for everybody that existed in the Constitution of 1864. Eleni Skoura was the first female member of Parliament, an MP for the "Greek Rally."
Greece is ousted from the European Commission for human rights violations and torture
The uprise of Polytechneion (The National Metsoveion Engineering School) marked the countdown of the military junta. The military had put the country in a cast since 1967, and that cast, unfortunately, demanded blood to break.
The students begun to demonstrate in February 1973, when they overtook the Law School of Athens asking for democracy and freedom. The climax of the demonstrations came in November when the students barricaded inside the Engineering School. The images of the tank crushing the wrought iron gate of the school, and with it, the bodies of the students are imprinted on the collective memory of the Greek people. And so are the voices of the students calling for help over the university radio station.
If the uprise of Polytechneion was the beginning of the end for the colonels of the dictatorship, the coup d' etat of Cyprus and the Turkish invasion of the island was the final blow. On July 23 of 1974, the dictators were forced to surrender their power.
The first steps towards democracy were the return of former Prime Minister Konstantinos Karamanlis for his exile in Paris and the congress of the "National Unity" government.
The new government dissolved all the exile camps, including the one on the island of Yiaros, released the political prisoners and announced a general amnesty for all the people who were persecuted by the dictatorial regime. This period of the restoration of democracy and the transition to freedom of state is called "Metapolitefsi" (Political Regime Change.)
After the fall of the military junta, the Greek people were called to vote on the type of political system they desired for the newly freed state. With the referendum of December 8, 1974, the Greek people chose constitutional democracy over monarchy with a percentage of 69,2% over 30,8%.
The first transitional President of the Hellenic Republic was Michail Stasinopoulos, a state list MP from the New Democracy party.
The military junta of Ioannidis overthrew the democratic President of Cyprus, Archbishop Makarios 3rd, with a military coup d' etat. The coup was followed by the Turkish invasion in Cyprus under the attacks Attila I kai Attila II. Half of Cyprus became occupied by Turkey, and over the years, many efforts have been made to end the occupation and resolve the issue. Last in this long line of interventions was the Annan Reunification Plan, which was rejected by the Greek-Cypriots in a referendum in April of 2004.
Monolis Andronikos himself recounted his findings: "I held the small shovel I carried with me since 1952 and dug into the hole, impatiently, under the keystone of the arch. My colleagues were all around me. (…) I kept digging, and I was sure. The stone in the west wall was in situ, undisturbed, solid. (…) It is intact, sealed! I was delighted. I had discovered the first unplundered Macedonian tomb. At the moment, I was not interested in anything else. That night -like all the following nights- I could not sleep for more than two or three hours. Around midnight, I got into the car and went to make sure the guards were there. I did the same at 2 am and at 5 am. I was sure that inside the sarcophagus, there would be a nice surprise."
The rest is history! Inside the sarcophagus, there was a solid gold funerary urn. On its lid, there was an impressive 16-ray star with a central rosette. Inside the urn, there were incinerated bones and a gold wreath of oak leaves folded and placed on top of the bones.
The affiliation between Greece and the European Economic Community began in 1959. In 1961 an agreement for collaboration with the EEC was signed, and in 1975 Greece applies for full membership which was accomplished in 1981.
Greece became the 10th member state, laying the groundwork for Spain and Portugal, who followed. The next landmark was Greece's participation in the Economic Monetary Union and the membership of Cyprus.1983
Law 1329/1983 enacts the equality between the two sexes, a law that even though it existed in the constitution, in reality, it was never enforced. After PASOK won the parliamentary elections in 1981, the government brought to vote a series of equality laws that brought changes to Domestic Law, like the civil-ceremony wedding and the abolition of dowry.
1987 was a turning point for the modern way of living. The unprecedented heatwave of that summer left behind a tragic result which forced the state and citizens to change their habits and equipment. Air-conditioning units, an item unknown to Greece until then, entered people's homes, especially in large cities.
A heatwave's potency is based not only on its temperatures but also on the number of days it lasts. In 1987, there were eight consecutive days and nights of extreme temperatures that effected people with pre-existing health problems.
"With Gallis, Yiannakis, Philippou, and the other boys…."! Greece was singing this while following the course of success of the Greek National Basketball Team, which was a step-by-step win over the mega-powers of the time, the Soviet Union, and Yugoslavia. The heart of the country was beating at the Peace and Friendship Stadium in Athens.
In the end, the entire city swarmed the streets and celebrated the win. Memorable moments from the final game were the play of Gallis among three opponents and the free throws of Argiris Kampouris that cemented the victory.
In January of 1996, Greece and Turkey were on the verge of a declaration of war with their naval fleets in battle formation in the Aegean Sea.
The trigger for this was the shipwreck of the Turkish commercial boat "Figen Acat" in shallow waters near the Small Imia, an island that Turkey had included in the Turkish Land Registry.
The Mayor of Kalymnos, at the time, raised the Greek flag on the island. His act was followed by a group of Turkish journalists who landed on the island, took down the Greek flag and raised the Turkish flag. The events led to a Greek helicopter crash, tension escalated, and special forces from both countries landed on the two islands. Eventually, American intervention defused the situation.
The airport at Hellinikon held a special place in the hearts of the Greek people since it was connected with numerous historic events and was used in many Greek movies. But, the new airport "Eleftherios Venizelos" quickly won over those hearts as a trademark of Greece's modernization and new identity.
The Greek Football National Team sent all Greeks to seventh heaven when they climbed to the top of European football. At the premiere, our national team beat the team of host country Portugal 2-1, and everybody considered it a good omen.
It was followed by a tie with the Spanish team, a defeat with Russia, and three consecutive wins against France, Czech Republic, and again, Portugal at the final match. Delirious with joy, the Greeks sang and partied all night after the game!
The extraordinary Greek summer of 2004 included the Olympic Games' magical opening ceremony upon their return home. Many people consider this Olympiad one of the best that ever took place. Earlier, the Olympic flame had visited all continents, carrying the message of peace to every corner of the Earth. The shot-put competition was held at the ancient stadium of Olympia, the birthplace of the ancient Olympic Games. It was a very emotional moment for both athletes and spectators.
During the 2004 Olympic Games, the roster of Greek Olympic Winners was enriched with the athletes, Fani Halkia at 400m hurdles, Thomas Bimis and Nikos Syranidis in diving, Athanasia Tsoumeleka in race walking, Ilias Iliadis in judo, Sofia Bekatorou and Aimilia Tsoulfa in sailing, Demosthenis Tampakos in gymnastics, Anastasia Kelesidou in discus throwing, Paraskevi Devetzi in the triple jump, Nikos Kaklamanakis in windsurfing, the Women's Water Polo team, Alexandros Nikolaidis and Ellie Mystakidou in taekwondo, Mirella Maniani in the javelin, Pyrros Dimas in weightlifting, Vasilis Polymeros and Nikos Skiathitis in rowing and Artiom Kiouregian in Greco-Roman wrestling.
Greece, after a period of prosperity in the 1990s and 2000s, was forced to declare an emergency situation regarding the economy. Prime Minister Gorgios Papandreou chose to announce Greece’s appeal to the bailout mechanisms of the EU and the IMF from the island of Kastelorizo. Olli Rehn, Commissioner of the EU at the time, did not sugarcoat his words: “Greeks, show courage.” It was, without doubt, the bitter reality.
Until 1953, the Kasta hill was just a geographical site on a map. Since then, it became the Kasta Tomb and later the monument of Amphipolis, a truly unique archaeological discovery.
A large number of theories and speculations surround the findings. Science has not been able to determine, yet, the occupant of the funerary monument. The excavation team speculates that it was ordered by Alexander the Great to receive the remains of Hephaestion.
After many decades of controversy over the name of the neighboring country, Athens and Skopie decided on the name "North Macedonia." The agreement was signed at the natural border of the two counties, the Prespes lakes. The treaty divided the political world in both countries. Alexis Tsipras and Zoran Zaev managed to pass the agreement from their parliaments and implement it in 2018.