Travel through our timeline of major events in Greece's history.
The first major civilization in the region begins on the island of Crete. Its people, known as Minoans, live peacefully in big cities, trade with other countries and develop Europe's first system of writing.
The Mycenaean (My-suh-nee-un) culture develops on the Greek mainland. Its people are the first known Greek speakers.
A volcanic explosion on the island of Santorini creates tidal waves and earthquakes that destroy the Minoan civilization.
NORTH WIND PICTURE ARCHIVE/AP
The first Olympic Games are held at Olympia. The winning athletes receive an olive-branch crown, a symbol of honor. The Games begin as part of a religious festival dedicated to Zeus, king of the gods.
Independent urban areas called city-states flourish and develop different systems of government. Democracy, or government by popular vote, is first practiced here, and science, culture and fine arts thrive.
The Persian Empire, a large and powerful Asian kingdom, conquers much of Greece.
Greek cities defeat Persians at sea. The city-state of Athens becomes the head of a group of city-states known as the Delian League. It is formed to protect Greece's mainland from overseas invaders.
Fighting between the city-states, known as the Peloponnesian War, breaks out. It brings famine and devastation to cities, rural areas and islands. Athens eventually loses this war to the heavily armed Spartans.
King Philip II of Macedonia conquers Greece after wars between city-states weaken the country.
Alexander the Great, son of King Phillip II, expands his father's empire and brings Greek culture to the lands he conquers. Greek becomes a commonly used language among educated people in Asia and other lands.
Romans invade and conquer the Greek Empire. After years of civil wars, Greece's city-states prosper once again under the rule of the Romans, who greatly admire Greek culture.
Invaders from Asia known as the Ottoman Turks conquer the Byzantine Empire and take control of Greece. Turkish leaders rule over Greek cities, ports and islands for several centuries afterward. Athens, once wealthy and powerful, becomes a poor farming village.
Greeks, tired of living under Turkish rule, defeat the Ottoman Turks in the Greek War of Independence. They accomplish this with help from France, Britain and Russia, as well as successful Greek merchants and traders.
The first modern Olympic Games are held in Athens to build friendship among different countries. Many of its games, including wrestling and discus-throwing, originated in ancient Greece.
PAUL POPPER—POPPERFOTO/GETTY IMAGES
During the Balkan Wars, Greece gains power over Turkish-controlled land, including Crete and southern Macedonia.
Greece joins NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization), a military alliance of several European countries and the United States.
New constitution of the Republic of Greece is approved. It establishes a president as head of state and a prime minister to run the government.
The Summer Olympic Games are set to take place in Athens, Greece. They will return to the country that gave birth to the Olympics more than 2,000 years ago and the city that staged the first modern Olympic Games in 1896.
JOHN THYS—AFP/GETTY IMAGES
Greece faces a major debt crisis. To avoid bankruptcy, the Greek government gets $61 billion from the European Union.