The modern Greek language uses cases to distinguish the role and funtion of nouns, pronouns, adjectives, participles, and numerals within a sentence. Although there were five cases in ancient Greek, the modern Greek language only uses four of them.
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Welcome to your Greek Listening Comprehension exercise #3. Today’s topic covers what we call figurative expressions in Greek (Metaphors, Similes). For example, what do Greeks mean hen their “vessels are sinking”?
The modern Greek language uses cases to distinguish the role and funtion of nouns, pronouns, adjectives, participles, and numerals within a sentence. Although there were five cases in ancient Greek, the modern Greek language only uses four of them: Nominative (Ονομαστική), Genitive (Γενική), Accusative (Αιτιατική), Vocative (Κλητική). Dative (Δοτική) is no longer used.
Why are there so many buildings that resemble ancient Greek temples in Europe? And why do so many artists from the Romantic era depict ancient Greek mythological characters in their sculptures and paintings? The answer is Neoclassicism or Hellenism. Here is what you should know.
Is meze Greek? Is Greek food Mediterranean or Middle Eastern? Do Greek people eat lamb on a regular basis? And why are Greeks so obsessed with olive oil? Today, Helinika unravels the history of Greek food and Greek cuisine.
What is “Greek” Anyways?
You are visiting a Greek restaurant somewhere outside of Greece. You sit on a blue-painted wooden chair, next to an Ionic column, and you are given a menu written in an ancient Greek font. You choose between a big range of options: from typical Greek street food, such as gyros and souvlaki, and traditional Greek meze, like tzatziki and dolmadakia, to more gourmet dishes, such as split peas mousse with prosciutto, chives and sesame paste vinaigrette –a sophisticated way to describe fava. But is this actually… Greek food?
Food plays an important role in a culture. In order to understand what Greek food is, it is important to define the adjective “Greek” and what the Greek culture really is. The modern Greek culture, which is defined as the predominant culture in the state of Greece from 1821 till today, is built upon various complimentary and contrasting cultures and subcultures. These were either developed or adopted by the Greeks and other ethnic minorities that lived in Greece throughout the years.
Some people, predominately outside of Greece, consider “Greek” anything that is tied solely to the Archaic, Classical, and Hellenistic periods of Greece’s history. This is what some consider as the “purest” form of the Greek culture. In Greece, the great majority of people also consider the history of the Byzantine Empire and the religion of Orthodox Christianity as an important influence on the modern Greek culture.
At the same time, there is a time period that is rarely discussed: the Ottoman Occupation, also known as the “400 years of Slavery”. The Ottoman rule in Greece, lasting from the mid-15th century till 1821, had a significant influence on Greeks and their culture and this is the reason why some words, musical instruments, and dishes are common in both Turkey and Greece.
Since the Greek culture has been intertwined with similar but also contrasting cultures, Greek food includes various dishes for every taste. In Europe and most parts of the world, Greek cuisine falls under Mediterranean cuisine, whereas in the United States, they consider it “Middle Eastern”. This is why you might come across Greek restaurants with a contrasting décor and menu. The owners are simply trying to accommodate the needs of various people who perceive Greek cuisine differently. Before mentioning some popular and some lesser known Greek dishes, let’s see some ingredients that are predominately used in Greece.
Commons Greek Ingredients
Greeks love using their “liquid gold” in every single meal. The Greek extra virgin olive oil is used in cooking, but it is also used raw as a garniture in salads and cold dishes. It is actually Greece’s fourth most important export and its importance can be traced back to ancient times.
Now, some people, mostly in the US, believe that Greek food is spicy. However, authentic Greek food is savory and Greeks usually cannot tolerate spicy food. You might already know that oregano and basil are two of the most used dried herbs in Greece (and in other Mediterranean countries).
When it comes to dairy products, feta cheese and Greek yoghurt (simply called “yoghurt” in Greek) are consumed on their own or used in various dishes. Last but not least, let’s not forget honey. Greeks have been consuming honey since ancient times, not only for its sweet taste, but also for its various health benefits.
If you ask someone to name a Greek dish, they will mention “moussaka”. This eggplant and potato-based dish is consumed in most Balkan countries, in Turkey, Egypt, and elsewhere. Moussaka has roots in Ottoman Greece and it is not universally considered a traditional Greek dish. Due to the fact that it requires a lot of preparation, it is served hot, and it is high in calories, this dish is not consumed regularly. The generally warm climate in Greece requires light and easy-to-digest dishes: fish, salads, vegetables, and legumes.
A lot of people also believe that Greeks consume lamb very often. The truth is that many Greek families roast lamb on Easter Sunday, following a long Christian Orthodox tradition. It is not clear when this tradition started. It is also worth mentioning that gyros and souvlaki are rarely served with lamb meat in Greece. Gyros with lamb is mostly served in Greek restaurants in the United States and Australia.
A very-well known Greek side dish that is actually consumed regularly in Greece is the Greek salad. The original Greek salad, called «χωριάτικη» (choriatiki * from the village) in Greek, has no green leaves. It can be eaten as a main dish, since it consists of uncooked pieces of vegetables, mostly tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, and onions. Add some olives, a feta brick, oregano, and lots of extra virgin olive oil and voilà: you made yourself an authentic Greek salad.
Meze Culture in Greece
In Greece, meze is also a huge part of the food culture. Meze is a selection of small dishes (e.g. dolmadakia, eggplant dip, tzatziki, pita bread, stuffed mussels etc.) served with alcoholic drinks, such as ouzo and rake. Each person on the table gets a small empty plate and tries a little bit of everything. Since the meze culture was introduced in Greece (and elsewhere) during the Ottoman occupation, some people refuse to consider it “Greek”.
It is important to note that meze culture is also present in the Middle East, however, the dishes are usually a bit different. For example, instead of a dip called fava, other countries consume hummus. These two look a lot alike but the first consists of fava beans and the latter consists of chickpeas. Hummus is rarely consumed in Greece; in fact, people who are now in their 80s and 90s have never heard about it. But if you visit a Greek restaurant in the US or Australia, hummus will most likely be in the menu.
The “purest” form of Greek cuisine is what we consider “Mediterranean Cuisine”. Ancient Greeks ate a lot of cereals, olives, grapes, legumes, and barley bread (often dipped in wine). All of these are still consumed at great amounts in Greece and are also exported abroad. Ancient Greeks also ate a type of pancakes called «τηγανήτες» (teganetes). These are widely eaten to this day.
Other authentic Greek dishes are the ones that were consumed in Byzantine times. Cheeses such as anthotyro (ανθότυρο) and kefalotyri (κεφαλοτύρι) were consumed by Byzantines and are still produced and consumed by Modern Greeks. That was the time when Greeks started using spices and sugar to their meals as well. On very special occasions, rich Byzantines consumed lamb, which is why Modern Greeks consume lamb on Easter Sunday. A very popular Byzantine omelet dish consumed till this day is «σφουγγάτα» (sphoungata). Many scholars also believe that the Greek pies that Modern Greeks love originate from the Byzantine Empire.
Some of the most sophisticated Greek restaurants today have started experimenting with ingredients that were widely used in ancient and Byzantine Greece but are now forgotten. There is also a resistance towards a demand for Greek restaurants that serve all tastes: the humble but rich in taste meze dishes of the enslaved Greeks, the simple yet sophisticated ancient Greek delicacies, and the delicious Byzantine meals.
There are many reasons to learn Greek but few people have money in mind. By learning modern Greek, you acquire a rare and valuable skill that you can use for your own benefit. Here is how to make your rare language skills into a money-making machine.
Stop using the same Greek words again and again. Use their synonyms instead. Today’s listening exercise aims at helping you enrich your Greek vocabulary. Don’t forget to subscribe to Helinika’s YouTube channel and never miss a video in the future.
With Halloween approaching, today’s video on Greek mythology is dedicated on ancient Greek ghost stories. Before we get started, make sure to subscribe to Helinika’s YouTube channel and never miss a video in the future.
Cases of ghostly apparitions have been reported since ancient times, particularly in Mesopotamia, Egypt, and Greece. There are many references of ghosts in Mesopotamian religions and in the ancient Egyptian culture, where ghosts were believed to be the souls and spirits of people who exited their material body and influenced the lives of the living. Ghosts could either harm people or assist them.
In classical antiquity, however, the concept of “haunting” was introduced and ghosts were perceived similarly as in Mesopotamia and Egypt. The souls of the dead could walk on the world of the living and haunt them. An example of that would be the story of Athenodorus’ haunting.
Helinika has collected ghost stories from different times of Greece’s ancient history. Some of them were narrated for entertainment purposes, while others were reported by ancient historians as real events. Stay till the end because some of the stories are terrifying.
Odysseus Crosses the Veil Between the Living and the Dead
Odysseus was an ancient Greek king of the island of Ithaca in the Ionian Sea. He is known as the mythical hero of the epic poem “The Odyssey”, which is attributed to the ancient Greek poet Homer. In Homer’s Odyssey, Odysseus goes through a series of adventures to get from Troy to Ithaca. At some point, he is instructed by a witch named Circe to contact the dead and learn more about his upcoming obstacles.
Odysseus arrives at a dark, foggy, and cold place named “Cimeria”, which is estimated to be modern-day Crimea. According to the legend, the veil between the world of the living and the world of the dead is very thin there. As soon as the Ithacan king arrived in Cimeria, he dug a hole in the ground, sacrificed animals, and poured milk and honey in the pit in order to attract the souls of the dead.
The otherwise brave and fearless Odysseus is terrified with the terrifying ghosts that appear before him. However, he manages to keep calm and finally talk to the blind prophet Teiresias, who instructs him how to reach Ithaca safely. He is also able to talk to his late mother – a tragic scene, since the hero was unaware of his mother’s death. It is important to remember that, in order to communicate with the dead, Odysseus had to offer animal blood, milk, and honey. These three things are considered to be attractors of ghosts till this day. So, if you do believe in ghosts, never mix all these ingredients together.
Macabre Tales of Ancient Greek Necromancy
Necromancy (from the Greek “νεκρός” and “μαντεία”) is a divination practice that involves some type of communication with the dead. You might be aware of modern-day mediums contacting spirits through dreams and visions or during seances and even by playing board games. Although these ways of communicating with the dead still give people the creeps, you can’t imagine how terrifying ancient methods of necromancy could get.
The less scary divination and magic practices involved inhaling hallucinogenic gases and chewing Nerium. Just like Pythia did in the oracle of Delphi when she supposedly communicated with gods and spirits. However, ancient Greek witches would often follow macabre rituals that involved digging up graves and stealing parts or entire human bodies. They would then use them to briefly bring the dead back to life and reveal secrets and truths. Sometimes, they would ask the dead man or woman to ask Hecate or another chthonic deity to curse someone. They would then burn the bodies and end their lives a second time.
A macabre story of necromancy is the one of Thelyphron in Apuleius. Thelyphron is a (fictional?) man that visits the Greek city of Larissa, where he learns that the area is infested with shape-shifting witches who try to steal the bodies of people who have recently died. The man is offered a well-paid job: to guard the body of a man the night before his burial. Thelyphron spends a night in a dark room with the dead body, holding a lantern. At some point, a bird enters the room and he tries to catch it. Within seconds, he falls into a deep sleep and awakens only when the sun is shining. Thankfully, the body he guarded was intact.
The widow thanked him and payed him for his service. When he tried to exit the house, he was greeted by an angry crowd. Friends and relatives of the diseased man were accusing the widow that she murdered her husband to live with her lover. A necromancer arrives at the scene to awaken the man. A ghost appears and enters his lifeless body.
The zombie reveals that he was indeed poisoned by his wife. He then turns his head and stares at Thelyphron, who stood there petrified. The zombie thanks his guardian for scaring away the witch who entered his room at night. However, he reveals that the witch, disguised as a bird, hypnotized Thelyphron and stole parts of his nose and ears. Thelyphron is shocked; he touches his nose, then his ear and chunks of wax fall on the ground. The witch had not only stolen his body parts, but had replaced them with wax figures. The crowd starts laughing at poor Thelyphron who runs away from Larissa.
Athenodorus was a philosopher and student of Posidonius of Rhodes, who eventually became the mentor of the first Roman emperor. However, he is known not only as a great thinker, but also as the witness of the first haunting ever reported. His experience has inspired countless urban legends, novels, and movies, but it has been reported as a true story.
Just like other thinkers in the 1st century AD, philosopher Athenodorus spent time studying in the city of Athens. As a broke student, he was looking for cheap houses to rent. After long research, he came across an amazing opportunity. There was a large and beautiful home offered at an extremely low price. It was a catch!
Athenodorus was warned that the house was rumored to be haunted with the spirit of a chained old man who would roam from room to room at night, dragging his chains and moaning. Not only that, but the ghost was said to have cursed the house. Whoever was brave enough to rent it would suffer from mysterious sicknesses. Rumor had it that those who stayed there for too long would eventually die from the lack of sleep and the abundance of stress and fear.
However, Athenodorus was a sceptic. He kept thinking how much money he would save while staying in a literal mansion. The philosopher rented the house and spent his first day organizing it. The house was a literal mess. And by the time the first night stars started beaming in the Athenian sky, he was able to relax in his new office room and start studying philosophy – his favorite nightly habit.
Athenodorus was concentrated on his studies when he suddenly heard heavy steps and chains rattling within his house. Could the rumors be true? Or was someone playing a prank on him? The young philosopher stayed focused on his books, refusing to look at the source of the noise. The footsteps kept coming closer and closer and he could hear a man’s heavy breathing. He eventually looked up only to see the ghostly figure of a man in chains.
Although terrified, the philosopher asked the ghost to leave his room. He needed to study. The ghost seemed impatient, he rattled his chains and seemed to be asking Athenodorus to follow him. Athenodorus finally understood what was going on and stood up. He was willing to follow the phantom wherever he wanted him to go.
The chained ghost started walking from room to room and finally exited through the backdoor. As soon as the phantom stepped on the courtyard, it vanished. The philosopher grew suspicious. Was someone murdered and buried there?
The next morning, Athenodorus visited the city officials and asked them to excavate his courtyard. He was right; a skeleton tied with heavy chains was discovered there. The bones were removed and buried according to the ancient traditions in a cemetery. No ghosts ever visited Athenodorus again. He was able to enjoy his enormous house all by himself!
Have you ever heard of any of these stories? Feel free to share any ghost stories from your countries and don’t forget to follow Helinika on social media!
Helinika’s shop on Redbubble is introducing a new collection named “Minimal Shape and Line Art”. Inspired by the simplicity of the Greek aesthetic, these wall art designs will add character to your living space.
Test your Greek language skills by adding the modern Greek verbs in the Present Tense (Ενεστώτα). The first three are multiple choice exercises, but you will have to fill-in the blanks in the last three examples. You can find the correct answers at the bottom of the page.
Ο Γιάννης και ο Δημήτρης ………………….. (κάνω) ποδήλατο.
Εσύ δεν ………………….. (έχω) αδέλφια;
Εμείς ………………… (γράφω) διαγώνισμα σήμερα.
Η Μαρία ………………….. (είμαι) έξυπνη, όμως δεν …………………… (διαβάζω) αρκετά.
Εσείς ………………….. (ντύνομαι) γρήγορα.
Ο Κωνσταντίνος και η Ελένη ……………………….. (τρώω) στο εστιατόριο.
Helinika created a table with 30 common Greek verbs (regular/irregular, active/passive). Learning Greek is much easier than you think. Start by memorizing these verbs and you will already be able to maintain short conversations in Greek!
No, you don’t need to find an expensive language school in your region or spend a fortune on a private tutor who is only available on your busiest days. E-learning is becoming more and more popular, since it is the most flexible, affordable, and safest way to learn a new skill, especially in times when social distancing is essential. Helinika has created one of the highest rated Greek courses on Udemy, while hundreds of people are using its free resources for practicing one of the oldest languages in the world.
On the 28th of October Greeks and philhellenes around the world celebrate the “Anniversary of the No” (Επέτειος του Όχι), also known as “Ohi Day” (Ημέρα του Όχι). It marks Greece’s rejection of Benito Mussolini’s ultimatum to allow Axis forces to enter Greek territory during World War II.
The 28th of October is an annual national holiday in the Hellenic Republic, and it is celebrated with military and student parades. The student parades are a controversial topic in Greece, with some people stating that children should not be parading as soldiers and others adding that the parades are symbolic, showing the young generation’s respect for their ancestors’ sacrifices.
The Greek Anniversary of the No (Ohi Day). Metaxa’s Reply
According to the official report of events, the Prime Minister of Greece, General Ioannis Metaxas, received an ultimatum from the Italian embassy to Greece in the early hours of the 28th October 1940. They demanded to allow Axis forces to enter Greek territory; otherwise, war would ensue.
Metaxas replied with the phrase “Alors, c’est la guerre!” (Then it is war!). However, there is an unverified common belief that his reply was a laconic «Όχι!» (No!). This day does not only mark the start of the Greco-Italian war, but also Greece’s general stance against Italian Fascism and German Nazism.
It is important to note that General Metaxas was the totalitarian leader of the 4th of August Regime that was inspired by the rhetoric of Musolini but kept closed relations with Britain and the French Third Republic.