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Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature


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( ῾Ελλάς ), properly the country in Europe inhabited by the Greek race (1 Maccabees 1:1); but in Acts 20:2, apparently designating only that part of it comprising the -Roman province of MACEDONIA (See MACEDONIA) (q.v.). See Wetstein, Nov. Test. 2:590; Kruse, Hellas, 1:557. (See ACHAIA).

1. Greece is sometimes described as a country containing the four provinces of Macedonia, Epirus, Achaia or Hellas, and Peloponnesus, but more commonly the two latter alone are understood to be comprised in it. We will consider it as composed of Hellas and Peloponnesus, though there seems to be no question that the four provinces were originally Inhabited by people of similar language and origin, and whose relilion and manners were alike. Except upon its northern boundary it is surrounded on all sides by the sea, which intersects it in every direction and naturally gives to its population seafaring habits. It is also a very mountainous country, abounding in eminences of great height, which branch out and intersect the lands from its northern to its southern extremity, and form the natural limits of many of the provinces into which it is divided. At the isthmus of Corinth it is separated into its two great divisions, of which the northern was called Graeca intra Peloponnesum, and the southern the Peloponnesus, now called the Morea. The mountain and sea are thus the grand natural characteristics of Greece, and had a very considerable influence on the character of its inhabitants, as is evidenced in the religion, poetry, history, sand manners of the people. The country has always been famous for the temperature of its climate, the salubrity of its air, and the fertility of its soil.

The Greek nation had a broad division into two races, Dorians and Ionians, of whom the former seem to have long lain hid in continental parts, or aon the western side of the country, and had a temperament and institutions more approaching the Italic. The Ionians, on the contrary, retained many Asiatic usages and tendencies, witnessing that they had never been so thoroughly cut off as the Dorians from Oriental connection. When afterwards the Ionic colonies in Asia Minor rose to eminence, the Ionian race, in spite of the competition of the half Doric Aolians, continued to at tract most attention in Asia.

Of the history of Greece before the first recorded Olympiad, B.C. 77,6, little that can be depended upon is known. There is no doubt, that from very remote periods of antiquity, long prior to this date, the country had been inhabited, but facts are so intermingled with legend and fable in the traditions which have come down to us of these ancient times, that it is impossible with certainty to distinguish the false from the true (Grote, Hist. of Greece, pref. to volume 1). After its conquest by the Romans, B.C. 146, Greece continued for one thousand three hundred and fifty years the either really or nominally a portion of the Roman empire. Literature and the arts, long on the decline were at length destroyed by Justinian, who closed the schools of Athens. Alaric the Goth invaded the country in the year 400, followed by Genseric and Zabei Khan in the sixth and seventh, and by the Normana in the eleventh century. After the Latin conquest of Constantinople in 1204, Greece was divided into feuda principalities, and governed by a variety of Roman Venetian, and Frankish nobles; but in 1261, was the exception of the dukedoms of Athens and Nauplia, and some portions of the Archipelago, it was reunited to the Constantinopolitan empire by Michael Palaeogus. In 1438 it was invaded by the Turks, who conmpleted its conquest in 1481. The Venetians, however, were not disposed to allow its new masters quiet possession, and the country during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries was the theater of obstinate wars, which continued till the treaty of Passarovitz in 1718 confirmed the Turks in their conquest with the exception of Msaina, the whole country remained under their despotic sway till 1821, when the Greeks once more aroused from their lethargy, and asserted their claim to a national existence. The revolutionary struggle was continued with varied success and much bloodshed till the great European powers interfered, and the battle of Navarino, in 1827, secured the independence of Greece, which was reluctantly acknowledged by the Porte in 1829. In 1831 Greece was erected into an independent monarchy it retains its classic name, and nearly its ancient limits, comprehending the Morea, or ancient Peloponnenus, south of the Gulf of Corinth, now Gulf of Lepanto, and the province of Livadia. or the ancient Graecia principia, with part of Thessaly and Epirus, north of that gulf; besides the island of Negropont, the ancient Eubsea, and other smaller islands in the Archipelago. The Republic of the Ionian lslands, Cephalonia, Zante, Corfu, and others on the western coast of Greece, is under the protection of Great Britain.

2. The relations of the Hebrews with the Greeks were always of a distant kind until the Macedonian conquest of the East: hence in the Old Testament the mention of the Greeks is naturally rare. (See JAVAN). It is possible that Moses may have derived some geographical outlines from the Egyptians, but he does not use them in Genesis 10:2-5, where he mentions the descendants of Javas as peopling the isles of the Gentiles. This is merely the vaguest possible indication of a geographical, "locality" and yet it is not improbable that his Egyptian teachers were almost equally in the dark as to the position of a country which had not at that time arrived at a unity sufficiently imposing to arrest the attention of its neighbors. The amount aned precision of the information possessed by Moses must be measured by the nature of the relation which we can conceive as existing in his time between Greece and Egypt. Now it appears from Herodotus that prior to the Trojan War the current of tradition, sacred and mythological, set from Egypt towards Greece; and the first quasi-historical event which awakened the curiosity and stimulated the imagination of the Egyptian priests was the story of Paris and Helen. (Herodotus, 2:43, 1:52, and 112). At the time of the Exodus, therefore. it is not likely that Greece had entered into any definite relation whatever with Egypt. Withdraws from the sea-coast, and only gradually fighting their way to it during the period of the Judges, the Hebrews could have had no opportunity of forming connections with the Greeks. From the time of Moses to that of Joel we have no notice of the Greeks in the Hebrew writings, except that which was contained in the word Javan (Genesis 10:2); and it does not seem probable that during this period of the words had any peculiar significance for a Jew, except in so far as it was associated with the idea of islanders. When, indeed, they came into contact with the Ionians of Asia Minor, and recognized them as the long-lost islanders of the Western migration, it was natural that they should mark the similarity of sound between יָוָן = יוֹן and ones, and the application of that name to the Asiatic Greeks would tend to satisfy in some measure a longing to realize the Mosaic ethnography.

Accordingly, the O.T. word, which in the A.Vers. is Greece, Greeks, etc., is in Hebrew יָוָן, Joavan (Joel 3:6; Daniel 8:21): the Hebrew, however, is sometimes retained (Isaiah 66:19; Ezekiel 27:13). In Genesis 10:2 the Sept. has καὶ Ι᾿ώυαν καὶ Ε᾿λισά, with which Rosenmü ller compares Herod. 1:56-58, and professes to discover the two elements of the Greek race. From Ι᾿ώυαν he gets the Ionian or Pelagian, from Ε᾿λισά (for which he supposes the Heb. Original אֵַלישָׁה ) the Hellenic element. This is excessively fanciful. (See ELISHAH).

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Bibliography Information
McClintock, John. Strong, James. Entry for 'Greece'. Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological and Ecclesiastical Literature. Harper & Brothers. New York. 1870.

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