Why is Greece called Hellas and who are the Hellenes?

Hellas By beanve on Deviant Art
Hellas
By beanve on Deviant Art

How did Greece come to be called Hellas (Ἑλλάς- Ellás,  Ἑλλάδος- Elládos), and who are the Greeks?


The who, what, when and where, when talking about the Greeks, could go on forever, I want you to read this post, not send you to sleep, so, here is the long and the short of it!


Anyone who spoke the Greek language was considered Greek, so said the ancients, (So, you see, I’m “Greeker” than I thought!).


The first Greek - speakers were the Mycenaean Greeks, who originated way back in the Neolithic (15,200 BC - 4500 and 2000 BC) or Bronze Age (3300 - 1200 BC), and Greek was, of course, spoken in the Greek colonies which sprung up along the shores of the Mediterranean and Black Sea, but which mainly centered on the coast of the Aegean and Ionian seas.


According to Ovid’s “Metamorphoses”, after the “Deucalion Deluge”, a terrible flood in Greek mythology, (of which there are three; the Ogyges deluge, the Deucalion deluge and the Dardanus deluge), similar to the story of Noah and his Ark, or The Epic of Gilgamesh, the Greek civilization was wiped out, leaving only two survivors.

"The Flood" Deucalion and Pyrrha Paul Merwart
"The Flood"
Deucalion and Pyrrha, the only survivors of the Greek  Deucalion deluge
Paul Merwart

The two who made it through the “Deucalion Deluge” were Deucalion, son of the Titian, Prometheus, creator of mankind (Greek mythology), who later gave them fire, and Pyrrha, daughter of Pandora and Epimetheus, the first woman to be created by the gods.

‘Pandora’ 1878 Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828 - 1882)
‘Pandora’ 1878 Dante Gabriel Rossetti (1828 - 1882)
Mother of Pyrrha

Deucalion, ruler of Phthia, an ancient city of Thessaly, central Greece, was warned by his father, Prometheus, that the big rains were coming, and advised him to be prepared; build a wooden chest (Ark?), stock up on provisions and hope for the best.


Deucalion and Pyrrha riding out the Greek Deluge
Deucalion and Pyrrha riding out the Greek Deluge and hoping for the best.

Sure enough, the heavens opened, Deucalion, and his wife, Pyrrha, took refuge in the chest he had put together and proceeded to be thrown around in turbulent seas for the following nine days and nights, before finally running aground on the highest peak of Mount Parnassus, which overlooks Delphi in central Greece.

(Other variations on this story have the couple running aground on Mount Othrys, Thessaly, or Phouka, Argolis, today named Nemea.)


Mount Parnassus Source wikipedia
Mount Parnassus
Source wikipedia


So relieved to be back on terra firma, Deucalion and Pyrrha, would agree to anything asked of them, and so complied when ordered by Zeus (King of the Greek gods) to throw stones over their shoulders, which instantly became people, the stones thrown by Deucalion became men, and the ones thrown by Pyrrha, women, who went on to repopulate Greece.


From this story comes the Greek word for people; λαός (laós) m (plural λαοί), which derives from the word “laas”, meaning a stone.


Hellenes Illustration Johnny Shumate
Hellenes
Illustration Johnny Shumate

Of the couple’s many children, (or should I say stones?) the first was a son, Hellen, or Hellinas, (Not to be confused with the great beauty, who launched a thousand ships, Helen of Troy).


 Hellen eventually had many children himself, including Aeolus, leader of the tribe of Aeolians, Dorus, leader of the tribe of Dorians, Xuthus, leader of the tribe of Achaens and Ion, leader of the tribe of Ionians.


These ancient Greek tribes conquered ancient Thessaly, and other Greek cities, and the people of these conquered areas came to be known as “Hellenes”, and their territory, “Hellas” (Ellas- Ἑλλάς).

 "Do not fear me fair one; I am a Hellen and no barbarian" Perseus Part IV Illustration William Russell Flint "The Heroes (or Greek Fairy Tales for My Children) By Charles Kingsley
"Do not fear me fair one; I am a Hellen and no barbarian" Perseus Part IV
Illustration William Russell Flint
"The Heroes (or Greek Fairy Tales for My Children) By Charles Kingsley

And so, Greeks were known as the “Hellenes” of “Hellas”, until the onset of Christianity (The Byzantine period), when the name “Hellenes” smacked of pagan rituals, idolatry, a belief in Zeus and the worshiping of the twelve gods of Olympus.


Mount Olympus Thessaly Home of the twelve Greek gods.
Mount Olympus Thessaly
Home of the twelve Greek gods.
2,917 m (9,570 ft)]  the highest mountain in Greece.

“What shall I do with these heathen Hellenes?”, asked Theodosius I, Roman Emperor from AD 379 to AD 395, who, in 380 he proclaimed himself a Christian.


“I know" said Theodosius, answering his own question,  "From now on, the Hellenes shall again be  known as "Romaeos”, as they were called by the Romans."

 (Virtually all Greeks, after 212 AD, were under Roman rule) 


St. Ambrose Barring Theodosius I from Milan Cathedral.  Anthony van Dyck, 1619-20
St. Ambrose Barring Theodosius I from Milan Cathedral.
 Anthony van Dyck, 1619-20

After the fall of Constantinople in 1453, the “Hellenes”, under Turkish rule until 1821, were largely known as Romaeos, Graecus and Gracus, by non-Greeks and came from Graecia, “The land of the Greeks”.


By the early 20th century, over half of the Greek-speaking population was settled in Asia Minor (Turkey), later, that same century, many Greeks migrated to the United States, Australia, Canada and elsewhere.

The emblem of The Hellenic Republic by Kostas Grammatopoulos Adopted on June 7 1975
The emblem of The Hellenic Republic by Kostas Grammatopoulos
Adopted on June 7 1975


 Today the population of Greece, which since 1973 is officially called "The Hellenic Republic", is about  ten million, and they are known as Greeks in English-speaking countries, Yunan, from the old Persian Yauna, for the Ionian Greeks living on the West coast of Asia Minor, the first Greeks the Persians ever came across and Yevanim in Hebrew, Turkish and Arabic and Berdzeni by the people of Georgia (A country in the Caucasus region of Eurasia).


For the Greeks though, they will forever be called Hellenes, and their country is Hellas.




Hellas

Percy Bysshe Shelley 1792–1822

The world's great age begins anew, 
         The golden years return, 
The earth doth like a snake renew 
         Her winter weeds outworn: 
Heaven smiles, and faiths and empires gleam 
Like wrecks of a dissolving dream. 

A brighter Hellas rears its mountains 
         From waves serener far; 
A new Peneus rolls his fountains 
      Against the morning star. 
Where fairer Tempes bloom, there sleep 
Young Cyclads on a sunnier deep. 

A loftier Argo cleaves the main, 
         Fraught with a later prize; 
Another Orpheus sings again, 
         And loves, and weeps, and dies. 
A new Ulysses leaves once more 
Calypso for his native shore. 

Oh, write no more the tale of Troy, 
         If earth Death's scroll must be! 
Nor mix with Laian rage the joy 
         Which dawns upon the free: 
Although a subtler Sphinx renew 
Riddles of death Thebes never knew. 

Another Athens shall arise, 
         And to remoter time 
Bequeath, like sunset to the skies, 
         The splendour of its prime; 
And leave, if nought so bright may live, 
All earth can take or Heaven can give. 

Saturn and Love their long repose 
         Shall burst, more bright and good 
Than all who fell, than One who rose, 
         Than many unsubdu'd: 
Not gold, not blood, their altar dowers, 
But votive tears and symbol flowers. 

Oh cease! must hate and death return? 
         Cease! must men kill and die? 
Cease! drain not to its dregs the urn 
         Of bitter prophecy. 
The world is weary of the past, 
Oh might it die or rest at last! 

Want to learn more Greek magical mysteries? Look no further than Amazon:

Greek Mythology
Related posts:


The Greeks Did it First: 20 Amazing Ancient Greek Inventions Still in Use Today


Old Steampunk Engine House by Robert Filip
Old Steampunk Engine House by Robert Filip

“Greece: the cradle of Western civilization”, “Athens: the birthplace of democracy”, “Greece: home to the Olympic Games”, we’re all familiar with these quotes and sayings, right?

We’ve heard, maybe, that Hippocrates is the father of Western medicine, Socrates, Plato and Aristotle are the father’s of Western philosophy, Thespis was the first recorded actor (hence The Thespians), and Homer, (The Iliad  and The Odyssey) and Herodotus (The Histories), were the first historians, and surely, we all know a bit about Greek mythology.

Did you know though, how many useful inventions, still in use today, have ancient Greek origins?

Yes! The Greeks did it first (and better!), and here are twenty amazing Greek inventions to prove it!

In no particular order

1. Alarm clock


Ctesibius' water clock, as visualized by the 17th-century French architect Claude Perrault
Ctesibius' water clock, as visualized by the 17th-century French architect Claude Perrault

The alarm clock or water clock (which didn’t seem to catch on with the Greeks who are renowned for their tardiness!), was used to measure time, and also to make sure speeches given in the courtroom, or by long-winded politicians didn’t go on forever!

Called a clepsydra (water thief), this was the most accurate clock in the world up until the use of the pendulum.

Invented by Ctesibus (285 – 222 BC) from Alexandria, Egypt, the father of pneumatics, an inventor and mathematician, who started his career as a barber.


2. Vending machine


The original vending machine, for holy water. Invented by Hero of Alexandria
The original vending machine, for holy water.
Invented by Hero of Alexandria

The first vending machine was invented by Heron, or Hero, of Alexandria (10 – 70 AD), a mathematician and engineer.

A coin, inserted into the top of the machine, dropped onto a pan which was attached to a lever, which then opened a valve, allowing, wait for it, holy water to flow.

Yes, the first vending machine dispensed holy water!

3. Computer


Antikythera Mechanism, an astronomical calculator, raised from a shipwreck in 1901
Antikythera Mechanism,
 an astronomical calculator, raised from a shipwreck in 1901

Forget all you know about Apple, Bill Gates and Microsoft, the very first Computer, an analogue computer, was found by sponge divers, concealed in the wreckage of a ship, off the shore of the Greek island of Antikythera in 1901.

Said to date back to around 87BC, the Antikythera mechanism, as it’s known, was encased in a wooden box, and  consisted of  a clockwork mechanism of about thirty bronze gears and was used to calculate astronomical positions and eclipses, for use in calendars, and other astrological goings on.

The Antikythera Mechanism is now  kept at the National Archaeological Museum in Athens, Greece.

4. Central heating


Temple of Artemis at Ephesus  16th-century hand-colored engraving by Martin Heemskerck Evidence of one the first examples of ancient Greek under floor central heating was found here.
Temple of Artemis at Ephesus
 16th-century hand-colored engraving by Martin Heemskerck
Evidence of one the first examples of ancient Greek under floor central heating was found here.

 Before the Romans came up with the hypocaust system, the ancient Minoans of Crete had already invented the first, under-floor central heating.

Slaves kept roaring fires burning, which produced hot air to force hot water through clay pipes under the floor.

One example of ancient central heating was discovered at the Temple of Artemis in Ephesus, one of the Seven Wonders of the World, (Today modern Turkey).


5. Plumbing


Plumbing mechanics in Ancient Greece.
 Waste water was removed by complex sewage systems and released into nearby bodies of water, keeping the towns clean and free from effluent.

Again, as with central heating, the ancient Minoans of Crete, were the first civilizations to have underground pipes, carrying water.

Excavations have also uncovered vast plumbing systems, baths and fountains at ancient Olympia.


6. Shower


Ancient Greek pottery depicting the first showers, which were  invented by the ancient Greeks.
Ancient Greek pottery depicting the first showers, which were
 invented by the ancient Greeks.

Showers, in the form of communal shower rooms, cold water only, the Greeks believed cold water toughened the skin, have been found at the ancient site of Pergamon, an ancient Greek city of Aeolis (along the west and northwest coast of Asia Minor).

The Romans refined the ancient Greek shower system and made use of it in their many baths and spas.


7. Automatic doors


The first automatic doors,  invented by Heron of Alexandria.
The first automatic doors,
invented by Heron of Alexandria.

Heron of Alexandria, of vending machine fame, came up with the idea for automatic doors; a steam powered hydraulic system, using air heated by fire, opened the very first automatic doors belonging to a temple in Alexandria.

 8. Urban planning


Map of Piraeus, showing the grid plan of the city 1908
Map of Piraeus, showing the grid plan of the city 1908

Hippodamus of Miletus, a rather eccentric character, (498 – 408 BC), was an ancient Greek architect, urban planner, physician, mathematician, meteorologist and philosopher, considered to be the Father of European Urban Planning.

Hippodamos drew up plans for the city of Piraeus, (the port of Athens) at the request of Pericles, (Statesman and general of Athens).

According to the ancient philosopher, Aristotle, Hippodamos was the first urban planner to focus attention to proper arrangements of cities.


9. Lighthouse


"The Lighthouse of Alexandria, sometimes called the Pharos of Alexandria" "Old Steampunk Engine House by Robert Filip"
"The Lighthouse of Alexandria, sometimes called the Pharos of Alexandria" 

            The first lighthouse, The lighthouse, or Pharos, of Alexandria, Egypt, one of The Seven Wonders of the World, the tallest manmade structure for centuries, at 120 meters tall, was built by a Greek, Sostratus of Cnidus, between 280 and 247 BC.

Pharos, the location of the lighthouse, was a small island on the western edge of the Nile Delta, opposite the city of Alexandria, and for this reason the word for lighthouse in Greek is pharos.

The lighthouse was slowly destroyed by recurring earthquakes, and disappeared completely in1480, when the Sultan of Egypt, Qaitbay, built a fort on the site of the lighthouse, using the fallen stones of the lighthouse.


10. Steam engine


The ancient invention of the steam engine by the Hero of Alexandria
The ancient invention of the steam engine by the Hero of Alexandria

Forgive me for thinking that someone named Stephenson invented the steam engine, I’m sure I remember something called Stephenson’s Rocket, anyway, it wasn’t him, it was our friend Heron of Alexandria again, the one who invented the first automatic doors and the vending machine.

Called an aeoliplie, or the Hero engine, it’s a simple, bladeless steam turbine which spins when the central water container is heated.


11. Spiral staircase


The first spiral staircase was discovered in one of the five ancient Greek temples  at the Ancient Greek city of Selinute, Sicily, Italy. Photo: Getty images Fr
The first spiral staircase was discovered in one of the five ancient Greek temples
at the Ancient Greek city of Selinunte, Sicily, Italy.
Photo: Getty images Fr

The first spiral staircase ever to be discovered was found in one of the five temples of Selinunte an ancient Greek city, one of the most important Greek colonies in Sicily, founded in around in 654 BC.


12. Clock tower


The Tower of the Winds, also called horologion (timepiece) is an octagonal Pentelic marble clock tower, located at the ancient agora, under the Acroplolis, Plaka, Athens.
The Tower of the Winds, also called horologion (timepiece) is an octagonal Pentelic marble clock tower, located at the ancient agora, under the Acropolis, Plaka, Athens.

The ancient "Tower of the Winds", located in the ancient agora, below the Acropolis, in Plaka, Athens, is the first known clock, tower.

The tower, twelve meters tall, which was driven by water flowing down from the Acropolis, dates back to 100 BC.

Only the tower, which housed a water clock, with eight sun dials and an astrological calendar around the exterior, and a wind vane on the top, remains, the mechanism has disappeared.

13. Maps


Relief representing Anaximander (Roma, Museo Nazionale Romano). Probably Roman copy of an earlier Greek original. This is the only existing image of Anaximander from the ancient world.
Relief representing Anaximander (Roma, Museo Nazionale Romano). Probably Roman copy of an earlier Greek original. This is the only existing image of Anaximander from the ancient world.

Cartography, the art of map making, was first practiced by Anaximander of Miletus (610 – 546), who created the first map of the world, and was the first to approach the use longitude and latitude.

14. Odometer


Heron's odometer was most probably an invention made by Archimedes.
Heron's odometer was most probably an invention made by Archimedes.

The world’s first odometer, “Heron's odometer”, used to measure distance travelled by car or bicycle, or, in those days, I suppose, a donkey, was first described by Vitruvius, a Roman military engineer, who thought it to be the work of Heron of Alexandria, but evidence shows it was actually invented by Archimedes of Syracuse (287 – 212 BC), ancient Greek mathematician, physicist, engineer, astronomer and inventor.

15. Watermill


Hydraulic wheel of Perachora. Photo : Augusta Stylianou
Hydraulic wheel of Perachora.
 Photo: Augusta Stylianou 

 “The Hydraulic Wheel of Perahora”, excavated in Perahora, Loutraki (on my doorstep!), which used a horizontal wheel and two millstones, the earliest known water driven mill, was attributed to Philo of Byzantium (280 – 220 BC), also known as Philo Mechanicus, a Greek engineer and physicist.


16. Archimedes screw



Archimedes Screw
Archimedes Screw

The Greek mathematician, of “Eurika” fame,  Archimedes, invented a screw pump; used to transfer and lift low lying water into irrigation canals, and to remove bilge water.

17. Anchor


This stone Greek anchor was discovered in La Baie d'Anao (Beaulieu) and dates back to the 6th century BC.  It's on display by the harbour where it was found - Beaulieu-sur-Mer.  Photo:Monte Carlo Daily
This stone Greek anchor was discovered in La Baie d'Anao (Beaulieu) and dates back to the 6th century BC.
 It's on display by the harbour where it was found - Beaulieu-sur-Mer.
Photo:Monte Carlo Daily

It’s not surprising, that the ancient Greeks, famous seafarers and builders of some of the first boats, known for their long sea voyages, in boats that could not be brought to shore, were the first to create anchors, using buckets filled with boulders, and later metal, that eventually took on today’s anchor-shape.


18. Catapult


Ancient Greek Catapult, the Dionysus Repeating Catapult.
Ancient Greek Catapult, the Dionysus Repeating Catapult.

The catapult, which dates back to the third century, and various other ancient Greek artillery, such as the ballista, a Greek projectile weapon, used in The Wars of the Ancient Greeks , so ahead of its time, that it was used until the Middle Ages, the cannon, associated with Ctesibius of Alexandria and the Gastraphate (the forerunner of the catapult) a hand held large crossbow, were all invented by the ancient Greeks.

19. Astrolabe


Jean Fusoris planispheric astrolabe in Putnam Gallery, 2009- photo Sage Ross
Jean Fusoris planispheric astrolabe in Putnam Gallery, 2009-
photo Sage Ross

Hipparchus of Nicaea (190 – 120), Greek astronomer, geographer and mathematician (he was the founder of trigonometry), invented several astronomical instruments( as well as cataloguing 850 stars) such as the celestial globe and the equatorial ring, used to observe solar equinoxes, but his most famous invention was the astrolabe, used to identify stars and planets.

20. Cheesecake


Cheesecake was invented thousands of years ago by the ancient Greeks! Photo: sugarapron.com
Cheesecake was invented thousands of years ago by the ancient Greeks!
Photo: sugarapron.com

I left the best until last, the delicious dessert, well-known the world over, and still enjoyed today by millions; the cheesecake, was invented by the ancient Greeks!

Cheesecake was eaten by the ancient Greeks as far back as the fifth century BC, thought to be a source of energy; it was given to athletes, competing in the first Olympic Games, 776 BC, to give them strength.

Ancient Greek physician, Aegimus even wrote a book about the art of making cheesecake.
The the oldest known surviving Greek cheesecake recipe was made by the writer Athenaeus in 230 A.D:

“Pound the cheese until it is smooth, mix it in a brass pan with honey and spring wheat flour, heat the cheesecake “in one mass”, allow to cool, then serve.”

 After conquering Greece, the Romans adopted the Greek cheesecake, modified it and called it “libuma”.

So, the next time you are caught up in an automatic door, your plumbing goes on the blink, or your alarm clock fails to wake you, you know what to do:


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