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The Hellenes are the nation that has populated Greece from the 17th century BC until today.

A few Greek nationalists dogmatically believe that the modern Greeks are pure descendants of the Ancient Greeks; on the other extreme are those that believe that the Ancient Greeks genetically disappeared at some point in time (for example, see Jakob Philipp Fallmerayer).

Most modern ethnologists agree that the ancient and the modern Greeks are the same nation based on the linguistic, cultural and physical evidence that points to a continuum that links the two people across time, without discarding the cultural and genetic infusions that occurred during these 38 centuries. This has been reinforced by the work of population geneticist Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza.


The name Hellene

According to Thucydides, Hellenes were the people of Hellas. Greek mythology states that they were named after Hellen. A more scientific approach considers this an aitiological myth, placing the origin of the name in Epirus, the land of the Dorians, where people were called Selloi or Helloi. The etymology of the term is *sedlēnes, meaning "settlers" (from the PIE root *sed, "to sit"). The spread of the worship of Zeus in the rest of Greece (based in Dodoni), the Dorian tendency to form amfictionies and the increasing popularity of the Delphic religion caused the name to refer to all people today known as Greeks (that name having come from the Graikoi people who were, according to Aristotle, the inhabitants of a city in Boeotia named Graia, before the deluge of Deucalion). In 212 the Roman emperor Caracalla gave people from Roman provinces equal rights to those of the citizens of Rome and the right to call themselves "Romans". The name Hellenes, which by then had become a synonym of attachment to old religions, was replaced by the name Roman.

The name Hellenes began to mean Greek again around the 11th century when the Byzantine Empire was already a "Greek state", although preserving the name "Eastern Roman Empire".

During the Ottoman occupation of Greece (14531828) the Christian inhabitants of Greece were again called Romans (Rhomioi). This name is still in everyday use.

History of the Hellenes

The history of the Hellenic people is closely associated with the History of Greece. While Hellenes have migrated away from Greece for many centuries, historically these colonists or emigrants remained close to their homeland.

During the Ottoman rule of Greece, a number of Greek enclaves around the Mediterranean were cut off from the the core, notably in Southern Italy, the Caucasus, Syria and Egypt.

During the 20th century, a huge wave of migration to the United States, Australia, Canada and elsewhere created a Greek diaspora which, in many ways, has developed a cultural identity separate from that of the Greeks who remained home.

Timeline of Greek migrations

Practically every event in this timeline is disputed by one theory or another. This timeline attempts to represent the mainstream views of modern Greek historians. Some key historical events have also been included for context. For more details, see History of Greece.

  • 20th Century BC - Greek tribes migrate into Macedonia (most likely from the Caucasus region), and establish some settlements in peninsular Greece.
  • 17th Century BC - Decline of Minoan civilization, possibly due to the eruption of Thira. Greek tribes (Achaeans, Ionians) seize the opportunity to fully conquer Greece, establishing the Mycenaean civilization. Greek history begins.
  • 13th Century BC - First colonies established in Asia Minor.
  • 11th Century BC - Doric tribes move into peninsular Greece.
  • 8th Century BC - First colonies established in Sicily and Southern Italy.
  • 6th Century BC - Colonies established across the Mediterranean and the Black Sea
  • 4th Century BC - Campaign of Alexander the Great. Middle East under Greek control; colonies established in Egypt.
  • 2nd Century BC - Roman conquest of Greece. Greek language and religion become common across the Roman empire, making Greek national identity harder to define.
  • 4th Century AD - Christianity replaces ancient Greek religion; the name Hellene falls out of favour. Greek national identity largely suppressed inside the Byzantine Empire. Migrations of Greeks throughout the Empire, and of non-Greeks into Greece.
  • 13th Century AD - Crusaders overrun the Byzantine Empire. Re-emergence of Greek nationalism.
  • 14th Century AD - Byzantine Empire recreated and refashioned as a Greek state.
  • 15th Century AD - Turks overrun Greece. Greek diaspora into Europe begins. Turkish settlements in Greece.
  • 19th Century AD - Creation of Modern Greek State. Immigration to the New World begins.
  • 1913 - Macedonia partitioned; Population exchange with Bulgaria; Greek presence in Bulgaria and Slavic presence in Greece practically end.
  • 1910s - Genocide of Pontian Greeks; approximately 350,000 killed.
  • 1923 - Treaty of Lausanne. 1.3 million Greeks vacate Turkey; 500,000 Turks vacate Greece. The exchange was agreed along religious (rather than ethnic) lines, leaving some ethnic Greek Muslims in Asia Minor. 50,000 Christian Greeks in Constantinople excluded from the exchange.
  • 1948 - Greek Civil War. Tens of thousands of Greek communists and their families flee into Eastern Block nations. Thousands settle in Tashkent.
  • 1950s - Large Greek community in Alexandria forced to flee Naser's regime.
  • 1950s - Massive emigration of Greeks to Germany, the United States, Australia, Canada, and other countries.
  • 1955 - Violent riots against Greeks in Constantinople. Exodus of Greeks from the city begins; less than 2000 remain today.
  • 1960s - Republic of Cyprus created, as a joint Greek - Turkish state. Economic emigration continues.
  • 1974 - Turkish invasion of Northern Cyprus. Almost all Greeks living in northern Cyprus flee to the south; many flee to England.
  • 1980s - Civil war refugees allowed to remigrate to Greece. Reverse migration of Greeks from Germany also begins.
  • 1990s - Collapse of Soviet Union. Approx. 300,000 ethnic Greeks migrate from Georgia, Armenia and southern Russia to Greece.
  • 2000s - Schengen Treaty increases population mobility within the European Union. Numbers indicate a trend of reverse migration of Greeks from America and Australia beginning.

See also

Last updated: 10-29-2005 02:13:46