For the Greek language used during particular eras; see Proto-Greek, Mycenaean Greek, Ancient Greek, Koine Greek, Medieval Greek and Modern Greek.

Pronunciation [eliniˈka]
Region Greece, Eastern Mediterranean
Ethnicity Greeks
Native speakers
13.4 million (2012)[1]
Language family
Early form

This article contains IPA phonetic symbols. Without proper rendering support, you may see question marks, boxes, or other symbols instead of Unicode characters. For an introductory guide on IPA symbols, see Help:IPA.
Greek (Modern Greek: ελληνικά, elliniká) is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages, native to Greece, Cyprus, Albania and other parts of the Eastern Mediterranean and the Black Sea. It has the longest documented history of any living Indo-European language, spanning at least 3,500 years of written records.[3] Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the major part of its history; other systems, such as Linear B and the Cypriot syllabary, were used previously.[4] The alphabet arose from the Phoenician script and was in turn the basis of the Latin, Cyrillic, Armenian, Coptic, Gothic, and many other writing systems.

The Greek language holds an important place in the history of the Western world and Christianity; the canon of ancient Greek literature includes works in the Western canon such as the epic poems Iliad and Odyssey. Greek is also the language in which many of the foundational texts in science, especially astronomy, mathematics and logic and Western philosophy, such as the Platonic dialogues and the works of Aristotle, are composed; the New Testament of the Christian Bible was written in Koiné Greek. Together with the Latin texts and traditions of the Roman world, the study of the Greek texts and society of antiquity constitutes the discipline of Classics.

During antiquity, Greek was a widely spoken lingua franca in the Mediterranean world, West Asia and many places beyond. It would eventually become the official parlance of the Byzantine Empire and develop into Medieval Greek.[5] In its modern form, Greek is the official language in two countries, Greece and Cyprus, a recognised minority language in seven other countries, and is one of the 24 official languages of the European Union. The language is spoken by at least 13.2 million people today in Greece, Cyprus, Italy, Albania, and Turkey and by the Greek diaspora.



Dress in the Eastern Empire, later to be called Byzantium by the West, (although properly called Romania at the time) was directly taken from the later Roman Empire. Strictly speaking Byzantium/Romania was the late Roman Empire, although its capitol was Constantinople, and its religion predominantly Christian. The Eastern Empire continued in the Roman tradition until it was shrunk into the space of little more than Constantinople and the southern tip of Greece by successive wars with the Ottoman Turks and Western Christian countries. In 1460 the last vestige of the Eastern Empire was swallowed up into the Ottoman Empire.

Late Roman and “Byzantine” dress is more body covering than earlier Roman costume, usually including long sleeves and long hems. This is generally assumed to be a reaction to the growing Christian view that the body was not beautiful, but a pit of vice. When the tunica is shorter (only on men) the lower limbs are encased in trousers, a “barbarian” invention first adopted by the Roman army and lower classes, and eventually (after some aristocratic resistance) by all men. The toga remained for emperors and other high officials in this period, but in vestigial form as a long thin (about 6″) strip wrapped round the torso in the traditional manner.

Long half circle capes were part of male court dress, worn in place of the old toga over the new long sleeved tunica. The most notable feature of the Eastern Empire’s dress is its surface decoration. Unlike the earlier period which left fabric largely undecorated, the people of the Byzantine Empire used all manner of woven, embroidered and beaded surface embellishment, particularly on Church vestments and court dress. This style of decoration, and many of the garment shapes, survive to this day in the priestly vestments of Orthodox churches in Greece, Eastern Europe and Russia.