Greeks in Greece

People in Greece don't call themselves Greeks. Which word do they use instead?

And the answer: Hellenes.  

The official name of Greece is the Hellenic Republic, and Greeks call their country Hellas. The words "Greece" and "Hellas" both have Greek roots, but "Greece" was adopted by the Romans and later adapted into English.

Photo credit: hcc-sw.com

The word "Greek" comes from the Latin "Graeci," and serves as the common root for Greek people in most languages. Naturally, "Greek" today is used to refer to the modern nation-state of Greece and its peoples. However, Hellene makes reference to something more widespread, and deeply rooted in history. Hellenistic culture was once a source of transformation for many societies beyond the islands of Greece. Indeed, the Hellenistic proponents of beauty and truth became so widespread inside and out of the Greek culture that it formed a religion which is still practiced today. It also sponsored a period of Ancient Greek revival, and marks the peak of Greek cultural influence and power through geographical expansion. The beginning of this period is marked by the rise of Alexander the Great, and completed at the death of Cleopatra.

After the death of Alexander, some city-states came under Greek influence and were considered "Hellenized." The Hellenes, therefore, were not necessarily ethnic Greeks as we know them today; rather, they included groups we now know of as Assyrians, Egyptians, Jews, Arabs, and Armenians, among others. As Greek influence spread, Hellenization even reached the Balkans, the Middle East, Central Asia, and parts of modern India and Pakistan.

In more recent times, with the resurrection of Hellenism as a religion, the term Hellene has often been reclaimed as a religious self-identity by practitioners of Hellenism and Greek citizens alike.

Learn more about Greek history and culture below.


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