The name given in Western languages to the more strictly peninsular part of the current Balkan Peninsula derives from the denomination of Graeci, under which the Romans (like the Italics in general) knew its residents in historical times. The origin of this ethnic group is not entirely sure, some connecting it, on the basis of a passage of Aristotle that reflects ancient etymologies, with the supposed Γραικοί residents in the surroundings of Dodona in Epirus, others with the residents of Γραῖα (v. Grea), name of two towns, in Boeotia and in Euboea. Quite distinct is the name of Hellas (‛Ελλάς, ethnic” Ελληνες) with which the ancient Greeks called their homeland, and which, at first specific to a narrow region of Thessaly, then extended gradually, some of which can be found (Hellas and Argos, in the Odyssey), to the whole peninsula inhabited in ancient times by the Greeks. The two names Hellas and Greece thus coexisted throughout ancient times, one in indigenous use, the other in Latin, except for the official name of Greece when it became a province Roman, which was Achaia. Then the second remained geographically and culturally throughout the Western Middle Ages, and is still in force today in the languages that drew it from Latin (Grèce, Griechenland, Greece). The first darkened and decayed with the extinction of the ancient civilization, replaced on the spot by Romania, which reflects the Roman imperial continuity in the Byzantine denominations; the name of Ρωμαῖοι in Byzantium itself, R ū m in the Muslim Near East, united all the Byzantines, and the residents in the land that once belonged to the Hellenes. The ancient glorious name rose again with the rise to freedom and state unity of the neo-Greek nation, which as a symbol of alleged traditional and ethnic continuity took the official name of ‛Ελλάς and the ethnic name of” Ελληνες; renewing, with a geographically expanded content after the Balkan wars and ethnically very complex and modified for centuries, the ancient indigenous denominations.
The Greek terms that recur in the discussion, when they are not written in Greek characters, occur:
- Italianized, when there is a traditional Italian form (both for voices passed through Latin, such as Posidone, and for medieval and modern voices, such as Scio, Lepanto, Ipsilanti);
- in transliteration, that is, by making the letters of the Italian alphabet correspond to the letters of the Greek alphabet, as follows:
the sweet spirit (‘) is not indicated; the sour one (‛) is indicated with h ; accents are like in Greek: ??? acute; ??? serious; ??? circumflex; the diphthongs, accented on the second vowel are pronounced with a tonic accent on the first.
As for the pronunciation of transliterated words, it is necessary to refer to the pronunciation of Greek in the various epochs: for the ancient age the traditional pronunciation is valid; for the medieval and modern age, news is given on p. 908; in particular, keep in mind the following: the vowels ē (η), y (υ) and the diphthongs ei (ει), oi (οι) sound like i di bile ; ai (αι) is pronounced as e of good ; ou (ου) is pronounced like u of wolf ; the u in the groups au (αυ), eu (ευ), ē u (ηυ) before vowels and consonants b (β), g (γ), d (δ), z (ζ), l (λ), m (μ), n (ν), r (ρ) pronounced as v of wind ; in front of the other consonants it sounds like f of fire ; b (β) sounds like v of flight ; g (γ) to front and, i, is pronounced almost like the of yesterday ; before k(κ), x (ξ), ch (χ), g (γ) is pronounced as n of angle ; in front of the other letters it has a sonorous fricative sound; d (δ) is pronounced as English th in the ; th (ϑ) is pronounced like English th in death ; ch (χ) has a deaf fricative sound; mp (μπ), nk(γκ), nt (ντ) sound mb, ng (gutt.), nd (at initial b, g gutt., d).
It cannot be said that Greece, within its present limits, as indeed also in those it had previously (see below), constitutes a clearly defined geographical region. In this, it participates in the general characteristics of the Balkan Region, as it appears as the union, albeit intimate, of almost always small regional units, each characterized by different natural conditions – orographic, hydrographic, climatic -. Nor does the political border of the state always mark the borders of these minor regions: it is the result of political compromises, the more imperfect the more difficult it was to resolve the ethnic issues of the Balkan and the greater the territorial aspirations of the various states.
This border starts from the Ionian coast in front of Corfu, cuts the headlands of the Voiussa and its tributaries, reaches the small massif of the Smolica, and then passing east of Corizza (Korça) arrives at Lake Prespa. From here it turns eastwards crossing the lake and then the beautiful plain of Monastir (Bitolj), and keeping to the southern limit of the Crna Reka basin it reaches the Vardar just downstream of Bogdanci; it crosses the small Lake of Doiran, and for the Belezik Planina it then descends to the Struma; it cuts the Pirin Planina chain, crosses the Mesta, embraces the basin of some of its left tributaries, and finally closes to the sea just west of the Strait area. This border is thus traced, which cuts the course of numerous rivers, which partly flow into the Albanian territory, in Yugoslavian and Bulgarian, i.e. within the limits of the three neighboring states: sometimes, that is, it gives Greece the heads of valleys flowing towards Albania (the Voiussa and Semeni basins) or towards Yugoslavia, sometimes instead the lower trunk of others (Vardar, Struma, Mesta), whose greatest development is in the Yugoslavia itself or Bulgaria. And it is this double fact that on the one hand facilitates Greece’s penetration beyond its borders, and on the other gives it the natural outlet for extensive regions that do not belong to it. The superficial extension of Greece, continental and insular, before the Balkan wars, was about 65,000 sq km; after those wars it rose to about 120,000 sq km and 130,199 sq km. at the end of the world war.