Timeline. Through history.

If we don’t understand the past, how can we understand our present and future? To truly absorb, appreciate, and reflect on the country we are visiting, we need to look at pivotal moments in history. Begin your journey through the ages now.

  • Jewish timeline
  • General timeline

  • 3000 Settlements & villages established as Indo-European tribes settle in area
    Minoan culture on island of Crete is considered first advanced European civilization
    1500 Mycenaeans establish mainland Greece’s first great culture
    Greek mythology develops, including gods such as include Zeus, Apollo, Aphrodite
    1184 A Trojan Horse: Greeks overrun Troy (in modern-day Turkey)
    1100 Greece’s “Dark Ages”: Dorians invade from north, raze many settlements, enslave locals
    800 The polis: Numerous city-states have developed including Athens and Sparta
    Politically independent, they are culturally linked. Greek alphabet developed
    Homer writes epic poems Iliad & the Odyssey, key influences on Greek education & language
    775 The first Olympic Games. Sole event: the men’s (almost) 200m sprint
    The Pythia, priestess-oracle of Delphi, the most powerful woman of the ancient world
    Aristocratic, inherited rule replaced by “nouveau riche” trader-tyrants in many city-states
    Colonization: 1500 Greek city-states established in Mediterranean, Black Sea, elsewhere
    508 Athens establishes first democracy. All citizens can vote and speak at legislative assemblies
    490 Battle of Marathon: Persian invasion of Greece failing and start of Greek military superiority


  • 480 Athens, “the cradle of western civilization,” flourishes economically, politically, culturally
    Architectural wonders include the Acropolis and Parthenon, a temple to Athena
    Theater, philosophers Socrates & Plato, physician Hippocrates part of this Golden Age
    431 Trade-rich, imperial Athens battles with military power Sparta
    401 Athens crippled by decades-long war with Sparta & bubonic plague
  • First evidence of Jewish presence
  • 336 A new power from the north takes charge: Macedonia under Alexander the Great
    He builds the largest empire the world has ever seen
    Conquers the Persian Empire, Egypt, and most areas between Greece and India
  • Alexander captures Jerusalem
    Some evidence of Jewish communities on Greece’s Aegean coast
  • Alexander dies at age 32. His empire splits between his generals and weakens
    The Greek city-states decline but Hellenism, Greek culture outside Greece, flourishes
  • 250 Many Hellenized Jews around world. Egyptian Jews translate Bible into Greek (Septuagint)
    167 In Land of Israel, Maccabees revolt against Greeks. Hellenized Jews leave Israel for Greece
    The Romaniote Jews establish themselves in Ioannina, Athens, and elsewhere
    Speak Judeo-Greek & follow unique customs including reciting Jewish prayers in Greek
    Today, the Romaniote are Europe’s oldest Jewish community


  • 86 Rome completes defeat of Greek city-states, Greece now a Roman province
    Greeks will not be independent for next 2,000 years
    However, Roman rulers heavily influenced by Greek culture
    The Pax Romania: 300 years of peace in Greece begins under Romans

  • 50 St. Paul brings Christianity to Greece
  • Jewish (Romaniote) communities in Thessaloniki, Athens, Veria, Ioannina, and elsewhere
  • 324 Greece part of Rome’s Eastern (Byzantine) Empire. Christian empire with Hellenistic culture
    394 Christianity state religion. Worship of Greek and Roman gods prohibited, temples destroyed
  • Jews pressed to accept Christianity but protected by law as Chosen People
    Jews of Thebes (pop. 2,000) dominate silk industry. In Crete, Jews export agricultural goods
  • 594 Classical Greek cultural influence dimming. Philosophy banned, Christian theology ascendant
  • Over time, Jewish population drops with heavy assimilation into Greek life
    Continuing Jewish religious & communal life heavily influenced by Greek-Jewish fusion
  • 1054 The Great Schism: Separate Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches formed
    The Greek Orthodox Church dominates the Eastern Orthodox & most Greek speakers
  • 1159 Jewish population small & scattered: Just 500 Romaniote Jews living in Thessaloniki
  • 1202 Byzantine Empire weakens. Venice & others control many Greek territories and trade
  • 1376 Ashkenazi Jews from Hungary & elsewhere begin settling in Thessaloniki


  • 1453 Ottoman Turks capture Constantinople. Greece part of the Ottoman Empire
    Thessaloniki becomes a major seaport & city with multi-ethnic population
  • 1493 Sephardi influx to Thessaloniki (which they call Salonika) begins
    Ottomans welcome Jews from Spain, Portugal, North Africa, Italy, and elsewhere
    30 separate congregations in Salonika, most named after native countries and communities
    Jewish population includes many Marranos, forced converts to Christianity, expelled from Spain
    1553 20,000 Jews in Salonika, making it one of the world’s largest Jewish communities
    Most speak Ladino (Judeo-Spanish). They create rich Sephardi culture in city
    Salonika Jews also play a key role in growth of international trade
    Jewish ties to Ottomans (Muslims, Turks) make them suspect to Greek-speaking Christians
    1600 Salonika is nicknamed “ir v’em beYisrael,” the mother-city of Israel
    30,000 Jews form majority (68%) in city. Smaller communities in Athens & around Greece
    1665 A Jewish tumult. In Salonika & around world, many Jews claim Shabbetai Zevi is the messiah
    1666 Threatened with death from Ottoman rulers, Shabbetai converts to Islam
    Most in Salonika abandon Shabbetai, downplaying former allegiance to him
    They reorganize community. Greater unity and central control, powerful rabbinical courts
    1683 But some Shabbetai supporters convert to Islam while practicing Judaism secretly
    This group (the Donmeh) remain in Salonika for centuries as separate community
  • 1669 Ottoman rule declining. Parthenon damaged as Ottomans & Venetians battle
    1770 Ottoman Turks suppress several Greek Christian rebellions
    1814 Greek nationalist demands for independence from Ottomans Turks grow


  • 1821 Greek War of Independence begins. Massacres, heavy casualties on both sides
    Ottomans respond to atrocities in Greece by attacking Greek communities in Turkey
  • Greeks massacre thousands of Jews as community associated with Ottoman rule
    Athens and other Greek Jewish communities diminished or destroyed
  • 1829 Greeks win independence with British, Russian, French support
    1831 Kingdom of Greece includes Athens & south. Most of north, incl. Salonika, under Ottomans
  • Many Greek Jews move north to Ottoman-controlled Salonika
  • In “independent” Greece, considerable political instability & Great Power influence
    Britain, France and Russia install a Bavarian, King Otto, onto throne
  • 1834 Jewish community in Athens gradually revives and grows through migrants
  • 1862 Greeks rebel against Otto but British install a new foreign sovereign, the Danish King George
    Modernization: A period of relative stability with some economic and technological progress
  • 1873 Jews in Salonika, Athens and elsewhere affected by growing western and liberal influence
  • 1890 Mass migration: One-sixth of Greeks migrate in next 15 years, mainly to the US and Egypt
    1896 The first modern Olympic Games hosted in Athens. The new nation coming of age?


  • 1897 Greeks lose war with Ottomans. Only western powers prevent Turks from taking Athens
    1910 Humiliating defeat leads to rise of the “Greek political messiah,” Prime Minister Venizelos
    1912 He leads country into Balkan Wars against Ottomans. Greeks double territory and population
    Greeks gain southern Macedonia from Ottomans including Thessaloniki (Salonika)
  • 90,000 Jews in Salonika. A center of Jewish commerce and Sephardi, Ladino-speaking culture
    Jews half city’s population & influential in all walks of life. City, including the docks, closes for Shabbat.
  • 1916 Seeking further territory, Greeks join Allies in WWI fighting Germany and Ottoman Turks
    1919 Greeks attack Turkey but are defeated by 1923. Greek communities in Turkey massacred
    1923 War leads to poverty & political chaos in Greece. 400,000 Turks forced out of Greece
    1.5 m. Greeks leave Turkey. Tension between Greek refugees and Jews in Salonika
  • Jewish population and influence in Salonica drops. City’s day of rest is now Sunday
  • 1935 Right-wing dictator Metaxas imprisons opponents (but does not persecute Jews)
  • Jewish communities in 31 cities. Zionism and Aliyah are growing
    Salonika remains key Jewish center with a wide range of secular and religious culture


  • 1940 Greeks declare neutrality in WWII. Fascist Italy invades Greece but is beaten back.
    1941 Nazis and their allies invade. They defeat Greeks and Allied armies, divide country into 3 zones
    400,000 Greeks will die during brutal occupation, including 100,000 from starvation
  • About 76,000 Jews in Greece. 57,000 Salonika Jews are trapped in German Zone
    6,000 Jews in Thrace under Bulgarians. 13,000 in Athens and elsewhere under Italians
    Germans begin arrests, execution of Jewish leadership, plunder of community resources
  • 1942 Fierce resistance from Greek partisans, including opposing royalist & Communist groups
  • 1943 Salonika Jews forced into ghettos. Over 40,000 deported to Auschwitz, nearly all perish there
    Some Salonika Jews survive through protection by Greek citizens or by joining partisans
    4,100 Jews in Bulgarian zone deported to Treblinka and murdered
    Jews in Italian zone generally protected. Italians refuse to allow deportations
    1944 But after Italy surrenders, Germans take over zone and 5,000 Jews are sent to Auschwitz
    60-70,000 Greek Jews die in the Holocaust, about 85% of the Jewish population
    Post-war Jewish population at 10,000.
  • Germans withdraw, but Greek communists and royalists begin civil war
    1945 Britain intervenes to ensure Greek royalists take control
    1946 After unsteady truce, civil war breaks out again. 50,00 killed. Communists defeated by 1949
    1949 A shattered society. Since 1938, population has dropped by 1/8th, 1000 villages obliterated
    Greek economy in tatters, 20% of nation homeless


  • 1949 A conservative, repressive, royalist govt takes power backed by anti-democratic army
    Many communists imprisoned. Leftists and their families discriminated against for many years
    1952 Greece joins NATO. During Cold War, Greece is a staunch supporter of US
    Constant tension with Turkey and also with Slav population in Macedonia
    But with massive US aid, economy recovers from free fall although remains stagnant
    Mass migration. In next 20 years, 1 million Greeks settle in north Europe, Australia and elsewhere
    1961 A flawed “democracy.” Conservatives stay in power after rigged election
    The beginning of mass tourism in Greece
    1964 Center-left party win election, raising army fears
    1967 Supported by king, army seize power. Opponents imprisoned, culture stifled
    Military government’s anti-modern attitude includes banning long hair, mini-skirts
  • Migration to Israel sees Jewish population drop to 6,500
    Athens has largest Jewish community (2,800)
  • 1969 Greece banned from Council of Europe but tourism continues
    1973 Military violently squashes demonstrations by anti-junta students in Athens
    1974 Seeking nationalist boost, military encourage coup in Cyprus, and Cyprus uniting with Greece
    A Greek humiliation: Turks respond by capturing Northern Cyprus. Cyprus divided.


  • 1974 Failed Cyprus adventure leads to collapse of Greek military junta
    A two party (center-right, center-left) system will dominate Greek politics for the next 40 years
    They bring stability, security, democracy and gradually, higher standards of living
    But huge tax exemptions and heavy spending lay foundations for later economic crises
    1975 Economy hit as Greek migrant workers return from recession-hit Germany
    1979 Nobel Laureate for Literature Odysseas Elytis part of the growing Greek role in European culture
    1981 Greece full member (and poorest state) of European Economic Community
    A second Marshall Plan. Greece receives huge payments from EEC and later from the EU
  • Greece considered one of Israel’s harshest critics in western Europe
  • 1992 Civil marriage example of social liberalization and weakening Greek Orthodox Church
    1996 A period of privatization as new leader seeks modernization, integration into EU economy
    2000 Left-wing terrorism has diminished but not died. A British diplomat assassinated
    2002 Greece accepted into Eurozone (after downplaying level of debt). Drachma replaced by Euro
    2004 The Year of Miracles: Greece wins European Soccer Championship and hosts Olympics
    Living standards and expectations continue to rise, as does national debt and bank loans
    A changing, aging society. Birth rate is 1.4 per woman, as opposed to 4.1 in 1934
  • First kosher Greek restaurant since WWII opens
  • 2005 Welfare cuts, privatization and end of job security laws lead to protest
    2007 International financial crisis leads to concern about Greek level of debt
  • 2008 Previously frosty Greek-Israel relations improve significantly. Military, trade and diplomatic ties
  • 2009 Fear that Greeks will default on debt repayment starts country’s economic crisis
    Over next 8 years, Greece suffers longest recession of any advanced economy on record
    Radical austerity measures, social welfare system collapses, migration of many educated
    Despite reforms, government requires a series of bailout loans to avoid debt default
    2012 Post-junta political system weakens as protests rise and Europe demands more cost-cutting
    Far-right, racist Golden Dawn win 7% of votes and 21 parliamentary seats
    2013 26.8% of workers unemployed (highest in Europe). Youth unemployment at 60%
    Government launches crackdown on hate speech, arrests Golden Dawn leaders
    2015 Anti-austerity, radical left-wing party Syriza win elections
    Facing expulsion from Eurozone, government agrees to more cuts in exchange for another bailout
    Migrant crisis at peak. In one year, 100,000 migrants from Middle East reach Greek Islands
    2017 GDP per person has dropped from $32,000 in 2008 to $18,600
    2018 A degree of economic stabilization. 33 million tourists visit, tourism 25% of economy
    Country of Macedonia changes name to North Macedonia, ending long dispute with Greece
  • 2019 Moses Elisaf elected mayor of Ioannina, believed to be the first Jewish mayor in Greece
  • Greek population: 10.8 million
  • Greek Jewish population: c. 5,000. Communities in nine areas, largest in Athens






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