Greece: A Political and Economic Survey, 1939-1953

Greece: A Political and Economic Survey, 1939-1953

Greece: A Political and Economic Survey, 1939-1953

Greece: A Political and Economic Survey, 1939-1953

Excerpt

Greece and the islands are almost exactly the same size as England and Wales--50,000 square miles--and are slightly larger than the State of New York. Mountains cover more than two-thirds of the mainland. They divide the country from the Balkan Peninsula; they run down from the north to the Gulf of Corinth; and they cover most of the Peloponnese. More than half the population lives in the plains--Thessaly and Macedonia, Attica, Boeotia, and Sparta--and in the coastal stretches along the north of the Peloponnese. The islands, too, are mountainous, but perhaps as a whole more fertile than the mainland, particularly the Ionian islands and Crete, though most of the Cyclades are sparse and barren. About a million of the population are islanders. The mountains of the mainland often attain 6,000 feet-the highest, Olympus, is 9,570 feet--and the highland shepherds they breed are among the hardiest in Europe. The climate is generally Mediterranean, but the great plains have a more Continental climate, dry and hot in summer and cold in winter.

Geography has had an unusually marked effect upon the character of the people. The mountain masses have made land communications with the rest of Europe difficult. It was not till July 1920 that the first Simplon-Orient Express ran through from Paris to Athens. Older Greeks still talk of 'going to Europe' when they speak of a visit to London or Paris or Rome. From the days of Homer and Hesiod the poorness of land communications has driven the inhabitants to the sea, and even internal communications often involve a sea voyage. This has had important results on the Greek economy. It has also given the Greeks a keener interest in and a wider knowledge of what is going on in the outside world than their continental neighbours. At the same time, it has created a sharp distinction between the mentality and outlook of the Athenian and the mountaineer, and produced ignorance in the peasant of the point of view of the townsman. The excessive centralization of the administration . . .

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