Holidays in Greece and the Greek islands

Mural artwork from Thera (Santorini) - 1500 BC

Hellas, otherwise named Greece

Myrmidons, Hellenes, and Achaeans, the Argonauts and Beautiful Helen

The Greek islands

Brief history of Greece
The Prehistoric Period
The first Greeks
Hellas & the Hellenes
The Classical Period
Democracy in Greece
The Persian wars
Golden Age of Pericles
Map of Ancient Greece
The Macedonians
Alexander The Great
The Hellenistic period
Map of Hellenistic World

Hellas and the Hellenes

The names "Hellas" and "Hellenes" are first mentioned by the poet Homer.
The name used by the poet does not seem to have been in common use, or have taken on a general sense to include all the Greeks of the time. The name was used only for Phthia, in Thessaly, the home of Achilles, the hero of the Iliad.
The reader may be interested to see the actual lines, quoted from the Iliad, B 683-685, in which the name Hellas is first mentioned by the greatest Greek poet:

The poet Homer

"οιτ' ειχον Φθιην ηδ' Ελλαδα καλλιγυναικα,
Μυρμιδονες δε καλευντo και Ελληνες και Αχαιoι,
των αυ πεντηκoντα νεων ην αρχoς Αχιλλευς."

Translation: "They held Fthia or Hellas, the land of beautiful women, they were called Myrmidons and Hellenes, and Achaeans, they had fifty ships and Achilles was their Leader."

During this long period, covering many centuries, two events took place which show the interdependence and the multiform intercourse between the populations of this southeastern corner of Europe, on the one hand, and the western coasts of Asia Minor, on the other.
The first of these events, dating from mythological times, and showing the early commercial intercourse between the inhabitants of Greece and those of Asia Minor, is the voyage of the Argonauts in order to find and seize the Golden Fleece.
The Argonauts, under Jason, manned the ship Argo at Jolcos, a port in the bay of Pagasae, and sailed for Colchis, a port in the Black Sea. Tradition has it that the expedition was a success.
The prevalent explanation of the legend is that the expedition was a commercial enterprise in view of obtaining metal ores. The other event, which may be considered a historical one, is the Greek expedition against Troy, the capital of Priam's Kingdom, lying on the north-west coast of Asia Minor, near the Hellespont.
For many years, eminent men of letters disputed the existence of Homer and also the authenticity of his two Epics, the Iliad and the Odyssey. As long as there were doubts about the genuineness of the poems, the Greek expedition against Troy could not be considered as an actual and historical fact. The aforementioned excavations at Mycenae, and particularly the excavations at Troy in 1871 and subsequently, the later excavations at Pylos, which brought to light the palace of Nestor, together with other more recent evidence, finally proved that Homer's descriptions were absolutely true to life. The historians of ancient times Herodotus (484-425 BC) and Thucydides (460-395 BC) accept the existence of Homer and do not doubt about the facts he mentions. Of the treasures discovered at Troy by Schliemann some are now in the Constantinople Museum and others in Berlin.

I stood upon the soil of Greece at  last!  (Oscar Wilde)
line line

The Trojan war is the first evidence of the Greeks' unity in those remote years. The existence of a national unity is certified in an indubitable way by the study of the Iliad. B (484-785). In these lines the poet gives a list of the Leaders and the forces of the participating Greeks both on land and sea.
The number of ships, 1156 in all, with which the various Greek Kings of the time participated, illustrates the importance of this overseas expedition, which lasted nine long years (1193-1184 BC).
Regarding the causes of the expedition, they should be looked for deeper than in the incident of the rape of Beautiful Helen, the wife of the Greek King of Sparta, Menelaus by Paris, the son of the King of Troy, Priam.
The voyage of the Argonauts and the Trojan War are the starting points of the struggle for supremacy between the peoples of Asia and the Greeks of Europe.


General info on the islands

Windsurfing in Paros
Driving & cycling in Naxos
One day cruise to Poros
Relaxing holidays - Paxos
Zakynthos and its turtles



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