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Flag of GreeceGreece, officially called the Hellenic Republic is located in the south of Europe on the Mediterranean and bordered by Albania, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Bulgaria and Turkey. Greece’s territory includes over one hundred inhabited islands; the main groups of islands are the Ionian, the Northeast Aegean, the Cyclades, and the Dodecanese. Crete is the largest island. There are numerous smaller islands of which few are inhabited.

Athens is the capital and the largest city with the highest number of residents; Thessaloniki is the next most populated city.

Greece is mountainous and hilly with a rocky terrain and a long coastline. The climate is Mediterranean: hot summers with mild winters.

Greece has over six thousand species of flowering plants: herbs such as thyme, rosemary and lavender; orchids, violets, dianthus, narcissus, and tulips. A variety of trees include beech, cypresses, oaks, pines, poplars, and tamarisk.

Most numerous among the country’s wildlife there are the smaller creatures such as lizards, snakes, tortoises, tree frogs, crickets and butterflies. Larger animals like the boar, lynx, mountain goat and the brown bear find survival increasingly difficult. Many species of birds are to be found including falcons, kingfishers, storks, swallows, quail and warblers. The surrounding seas are home to a wide variety of life, including jelly fish, octopus, sea horses, dolphins and sea turtles.

Greek architecture, with the Roman architecture which drew heavily on its principles, has been a major influence on western building.

The Minoan palaces, with columns that tapered from top to the bottom were large buildings – the palace at Knossos included over one thousand rooms. At Mycenae and Tiryns, on the mainland, fortress walls built of giant blocks of stone and huge ‘beehive’ tombs remain, but little else is left of the palace and the houses.

Classical Greek architecture is seen mainly in the temples. The basic form is a rectangular hall surrounded by columns and fronted by a columned porch. There were three base styles of column: Doric, with plain capitals (tops) and no bases, Ionic, with capitals decorated with carvings similar to a pair of ram’s horns and bases and, finally Corinthian whose capitals are decorated with elaborately carved acanthus leaves.

The Acropolis of Athens is graced by the most famous building of ancient Greece – The Parthenon, or Temple of Athena. The temple was built between 447 and 438 BC, under the direction of Pheidias the sculptor.

Another great contribution to world architecture was the Greek invention of the theatre: a D shaped construction with tiers of seating round the curved sides and the stage at the straight edge.

The later Greek architectural style best known is the Byzantine, largely a style of church architecture.

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