Greece is a state of southern Europe, including the lower part of the Balkan Peninsula, the archipelagos of the Ionian and Aegean and the island of Crete. It borders to the NW with Albania, to the North with the Republic of Macedonia and Bulgariaand to the East with Turkey ; it is washed to the West by the Ionian Sea, to the East by the Aegean. The set of islands occupies 1/5 of the entire surface.
The name lat. Graecia was used only by the Romans; The Greeks used (and still use) the term Ελλάς ” Hellas ” and, like ethnic Ελληνες “Hellenes”. According to some, this depends on the fact that the Romans first came into contact with the Greek world through the Epirotic populations who called themselves with the local name Γραικοί ; according to others, however, the name should be related to that of the residents of a city of Euboea or Boeotia, named Grea, who would have taken part in the colonization in Italy. The Romans called Graeci all Hellenes and this name was established in Western culture.
Greece, like the other states of the Balkan region, does not represent a homogeneous geographical unit, but a set of minor regional units, albeit not very differentiated. Due to the presence of numerous islands and the marked peninsularity of the continental part, it is an eminently maritime country. The coasts are very indented and therefore acquire a very remarkable linear development. The Ionian coast is irregular, with deep coves (Gulf of Corinth), coastal plains (around the Gulf of Árta) and lagoons (Missolungi). The eastern coasts, facing the Aegean Sea, rocky and steep, show a rather regular trend, excluding the Chalkidiki Peninsula. From the Golfo di Volo, through the Tríkeri channel, a real inland sea develops between Euboea and the mainland, which constitutes an excellent communication route between the northern and southern Greece way that continues westward through the Saronic Gulf and the Isthmus of Corinth, cut by the homonymous canal that puts the Aegean and Ionian seas in more direct communication.
The morphology finds a sort of ‘knot’ in the Pindo massif (2637 m), from which two buttresses branch off to the East, delimiting the Thessaly basin ; the northern one culminates in Mount Olympus, the highest (2917 m) in the whole country. A third offshoot, towards the SE, culminates in Mount Eta (2152 m) and slopes down towards the Gulf of Lamia; other reliefs extend towards the S from the Eta massif, such as Parnassus and Helicon overlooking the Gulf of Corinth. These reliefs and the southernmost ones of Citerone and Parnete enclose another typical regional unit divided into several basins, the Boeotia, and delimit Attica to the North. In the Peloponnese the Pindus continues in the mountains of Achaia and Arcadia; finally, the buttresses that form the four great peninsulas in which the Peloponnese is divided at south extend from the central massifs. A limestone strip with a typically karst morphology extends near the Ionian Sea, which forms the coastal reliefs of Acarnania and Aetolia, and continues to the NW in the bare limestone plateaus of Epirus.
In the insular section, the mountains of Crete (continuation of the alpine fold; Mount Ida, 2456 m), Euboea (1743 m), Kefalonia (1620 m) are remarkable. We distinguish the groups of the Ionian islands to the west; in the Aegean the Sporades and the Cyclades, respectively to the North and S of Euboea; the Southern Sporades and the Dodecanese off the coast of Anatolia.
In Macedonia there are extensive alluvial plains crossed by the rivers Mesta, Struma, Vardar, Mariza. The Aliakmon (312 km), the largest in terms of course length, and the Peneus (216 km) flow into the Gulf of Thessaloniki. Frequent, along the Ionian coast, alluvial deposits, delta systems and lagoon formations, absent along the Aegean coast. The extension of limestone soils and karst phenomena, especially in Attica and in the region around Athens, favors the development of an underground hydrographic network, and the presence of some temporary lakes.
Regional differences are also evident in climatic conditions. Greece is a country with a typically Mediterranean climate, with mild, rainy winters and hot, dry summers, but the great Pindus chain determines a clear climatic differentiation between the western side of the peninsula and the eastern one (cold winters with little rainfall, characterized by a dry and serene atmosphere). Precipitation is around 400 mm per year. In the west, the annual thermal averages are slightly higher and the rainfall is abundant, mainly distributed during the winter. The presence of the relief creates in the interior (especially along the Pindus chain) a third zone with a distinctly alpine climate.
Flora and fauna
The vegetation is very varied in relation to the nature of the soil and climatic differences. Three regions can be distinguished, one lower, one montano-subalpine and one alpine: the first, comprising the coast, the great plains and most of the islands, presents the formation of low or frigana fruit trees and the scrub, which also reaches up to 1000 m in height. The second region, from 1000 to 1800 m, is occupied by deciduous forests, often associated with evergreen trees, such as holm oak and thorny oak. The alpine region extends from 1500-1800 m up to the highest peaks: in the lower level junipers and fir trees grow and above there are meadows and pastures, in which endemic herbaceous species abound, mixed with plants of the Alps and central Europe.
The fauna has a Mediterranean character and zoogeographically belongs to the Mediterranean sub-region of the Palearctic region. Among the Mammals, the Carnivores are represented by the jackal, the wolf, the fox, the brown bear, the wild cat, various martens; the insectivores from the hedgehog, from the blind mole, from various species of shrews; the rodents from squirrels, mice, hare and porcupine. Birds include the pelican, Bonelli’s eagle, the dwarf owl, and many Nordic migrating birds, which settle their quarters in Greece in winter.