/div>Country, Balkan Peninsula
, southeastern Europe. Area: 50,949 sq mi (131,957 sq km). Population: (2009 est.) 11,285,000. Capital: Athens
. The people are predominantly Greek. Language: Greek (official). Religion: Christianity (predominantly Eastern Orthodox [official]). Currency: euro. The land, with its 2,000-odd islands and extensive coastline, is intimately linked with the sea. About one-fifth of this mountainous country consists of lowland, much of this as coastal plains along the Aegean or as mountain valleys and small plains near river mouths. The interior is dominated by the Pindus (Modern Greek: Píndos) Mountains, which extend from Albania on Greece's northwestern border into the Peloponnese (Pelopónnisos)
. Mount Olympus (Ólympos) is the country's highest peak. Among the Greek islands are the Aegean
groups and Crete (Kríti)
. The climate is Mediterranean. Greece has an advanced developing economy characterized mainly by private enterprise and based on agriculture, manufacturing, and tourism. It is a unitary multiparty republic with one legislative house; the head of state is the president, and the head of government is the prime minister. The earliest urban society in Greece was the palace-centred Minoan
civilization, which reached its height on Crete c.
2000 BCE. It was succeeded by the mainland Mycenaean
civilization, which arose c.
1600 BCE following a wave of Indo-European invasions. About 1200 BCE a second wave of invasions destroyed the Bronze Age
cultures, and a Dark Age followed, known mostly through the epics of Homer
. At the end of this time, Classical Greece began to emerge (c.
750 BCE) as a collection of independent city-states, including Sparta
in the Peloponnese and Athens in Attica. The civilization reached its zenith after repelling the Persians at the beginning of the 5th century BCE (see Persian Wars
) and began to decline after the civil strife of the Peloponnesian War
at the century's end. In 338 BCE the Greek city-states were taken over by Philip II
of Macedon, and Greek culture was spread by Philip's son Alexander the Great
throughout his empire. The Romans, themselves heavily influenced by Greek culture, conquered the city-states in the 2nd century BCE. After the fall of Rome, Greece remained part of the Byzantine Empire
until the mid-15th century, when it became part of the expanding Ottoman Empire
; it gained its independence in 1832. It was occupied by Nazi Germany during World War II. Civil war followed and lasted until 1949, when communist forces were defeated. In 1952 Greece joined NATO
. A military junta ruled the country from 1967 to 1974, when democracy was restored and a referendum declared an end to the Greek monarchy. In 1981 Greece joined the European Community (see European Union
), the first eastern European country to do so. Upheavals in the Balkans in the 1990s strained Greece's relations with some neighbouring states. Greece revised its constitution in 2001.