Andrea Mantegna was an Italian painter, a student of Roman archeology, son-in-law of Jacopo Bellini. Like other artists of the time, Mantegna experimented with perspective, e.g. by lowering the horizon in order to create a sense of greater monumentality. His flinty, metallic landscapes and somewhat stony figures give evidence of a fundamentally sculptural approach to painting, he led a workshop, the leading producer of prints in Venice before 1500. Mantegna was born in Isola di Carturo, Venetian Republic close to Padua, second son of a carpenter, Biagio. At the age of eleven he became the apprentice of Paduan painter Francesco Squarcione. Squarcione, whose original profession was tailoring, appears to have had a remarkable enthusiasm for ancient art, a faculty for acting. Like his famous compatriot Petrarca, Squarcione was an ancient Rome enthusiast: he traveled in Italy, also in Greece, collecting antique statues, vases, etc. making drawings from them himself making available his collection for others to study.
All the while, he continued undertaking works on commission, to which his pupils, no less than himself, contributed. As many as 137 painters and pictorial students passed through Squarcione's school, established around 1440 and which became famous all over Italy. Padua attracted artists not only from the Veneto but from Tuscany, such as Paolo Uccello, Filippo Lippi and Donatello. At the time, Mantegna was said to be a favorite pupil of Squarcione, who taught him Latin and instructed him to study fragments of Roman sculpture; the master preferred forced perspective, recollection of which may account for some of Mantegna's innovations. However, at the age of seventeen Mantegna left Squarcione's workshop, he claimed that Squarcione had profited from his work without sufficient payment. Mantegna's first work, now lost, was an altarpiece for the church of Santa Sofia in 1448; the same year he was called, together with Nicolò Pizolo, to work with a large group of painters entrusted with the decoration of the Ovetari Chapel in the transept of the church of the Eremitani.
It is probable, that before this time some of the pupils of Squarcione, including Mantegna, had begun the series of frescoes in the chapel of S. Cristoforo, in the church of Sant'Agostino degli Eremitani, which are today considered a masterpiece. After a series of coincidences, Mantegna finished most of the work alone, though Ansuino, who collaborated with Mantegna in the Ovetari Chapel, brought his style from the Forlì school of painting; the now critical Squarcione carped about the earlier works of this series, illustrating the life of St James. This series was entirely lost in the 1944 allied bombings of Padua; the most dramatic work of the fresco cycle was the work set in the worm's-eye view perspective, St. James Led to His Execution; the sketch for the St. Stephen fresco survived and is the earliest known preliminary sketch which still survives to compare with the corresponding fresco; the drawing shows proof that nude figures—which were painted as clothed—were used in the conception of works during the Early Renaissance.
In the preliminary sketch, the perspective is less developed and closer to a more average viewpoint however. Despite the authentic Classical look of the monument, it is not a copy of any known Roman structure. Mantegna adopted the wet drapery patterns of the Romans, who took the form from the Greek invention, for the clothing of his figures, although the tense figures and interactions are derived from Donatello. Among the other early Mantegna frescoes are the two saints over the entrance porch of the church of Sant'Antonio in Padua, 1452, an altarpiece of San Luca Altarpiece from 1453, with St. Luke and other saints for the church of S. Giustina, now in the Brera Gallery in Milan; as the young artist progressed in his work, he came under the influence of Jacopo Bellini, father of the celebrated painters Giovanni Bellini and Gentile Bellini, met his daughter Nicolosia. In 1453 Jacopo consented to a marriage between Mantegna. Andrea seems to have been influenced by his old preceptor's strictures, although his subjects, for example, those from the legend of St. Christopher, combine his sculptural style with a greater sense of naturalism and vivacity.
Trained as he had been in the study of marbles and the severity of the antique, Mantegna avowed that he considered ancient art superior to nature as being more eclectic in form. As a result, the painter exercised precision in outline. Overall, Mantegna's work thus tended towards rigidity, demonstrating an austere wholeness rather than graceful sensitivity of expression, his draperies are tight and folded, being studied from models draped in paper and woven fabrics gummed in place. His figures are slim and bony. Tawny landscape, gritty with littering pebbles, marks the athletic hauteur of his style. Mantegna never changed the manner which he had adopted in Padua, though his coloring—at first neutral and undecided—strengthened and matured. Throughout his works there is more balancing of
Leonardo da Vinci
Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci, more Leonardo da Vinci or Leonardo, was an Italian polymath of the Renaissance whose areas of interest included invention, painting, architecture, music, engineering, anatomy, astronomy, writing and cartography. He has been variously called the father of palaeontology and architecture, he is considered one of the greatest painters of all time. Sometimes credited with the inventions of the parachute and tank, he epitomised the Renaissance humanist ideal. Many historians and scholars regard Leonardo as the prime exemplar of the "Universal Genius" or "Renaissance Man", an individual of "unquenchable curiosity" and "feverishly inventive imagination", he is considered one of the most diversely talented individuals to have lived. According to art historian Helen Gardner, the scope and depth of his interests were without precedent in recorded history, "his mind and personality seem to us superhuman, while the man himself mysterious and remote". Marco Rosci notes that, while there is much speculation regarding his life and personality, his view of the world was logical rather than mysterious, although the empirical methods he employed were unorthodox for his time.
Leonardo was born out of wedlock to notary Piero da Vinci and a peasant woman named Caterina in Vinci in the region of Florence, he was educated in the studio of Florentine painter Andrea del Verrocchio. Much of his earlier working life was spent in the service of Ludovico il Moro in Milan, he worked in Rome and Venice, he spent his last years in France at the home awarded to him by Francis I of France. Leonardo is renowned as a painter; the Mona Lisa is the most famous of his works and the most parodied portrait, The Last Supper is the most reproduced religious painting of all time. His drawing of the Vitruvian Man is regarded as a cultural icon, being reproduced on items as varied as the euro coin, T-shirts, his painting Salvator Mundi sold for $450.3 million at a Christie's auction in New York on 15 November 2017, the highest price paid for a work of art. 15 of his paintings have survived. These few works compose a contribution to generations of artists rivalled only by that of his contemporary Michelangelo, together with his notebooks, which contain drawings, scientific diagrams, his thoughts on the nature of painting.
Leonardo is revered for his technological ingenuity. He conceptualised flying machines, a type of armoured fighting vehicle, concentrated solar power, an adding machine, the double hull. Few of his designs were constructed or feasible during his lifetime, as the modern scientific approaches to metallurgy and engineering were only in their infancy during the Renaissance; some of his smaller inventions, entered the world of manufacturing unheralded, such as an automated bobbin winder and a machine for testing the tensile strength of wire. A number of his most practical inventions are displayed as working models at the Museum of Vinci, he made substantial discoveries in anatomy, civil engineering, geology and hydrodynamics, but he did not publish his findings and they had no direct influence on science. Leonardo was born on 15 April 1452 "at the third hour of the night" in the Tuscan hill town of Vinci, in the lower valley of the Arno river in the territory of the Medici-ruled Republic of Florence.
He was the out-of-wedlock son of the wealthy Messer Piero Fruosino di Antonio da Vinci, a Florentine legal notary, Caterina, a peasant. Leonardo had no surname in the modern sense—"da Vinci" meaning "of Vinci"; the inclusion of the title "ser" indicated. Little is known about Leonardo's early life, he spent his first five years in the hamlet of Anchiano in the home of his mother, from 1457 lived in the household of his father and uncle in the small town of Vinci. His father had married a 16-year-old girl named Albiera Amadori, who loved Leonardo but died young in 1465 without children; when Leonardo was 16, his father married again to 20-year-old Francesca Lanfredini, who died without children. Piero's legitimate heirs were born from his third wife Margherita di Guglielmo and his fourth and final wife, Lucrezia Cortigiani. In all, Leonardo had 12 half-siblings, who were much younger than he was and with whom he had few contacts, but they caused him difficulty after his father's death in the dispute over the inheritance.
Leonardo received an informal education in Latin and mathematics. In life, Leonardo recorded only two childhood incidents. One, which he regarded as an omen, was when a kite dropped from the sky and hovered over his cradle, its tail feathers brushing his face; the second occurred while he was exploring in the mountains: he discovered a cave and was both terrified that some great monster might lurk there and driven by curiosity to find out what was inside. Leonardo's early life has been the subject of historical conjecture. Vasari, the 16th-century biographer of Renaissance painters, tells a story of Leonardo as a young man: A local peasant made himself a round shield and requested that Ser Piero have it painted for him. Leonardo responded with a
The Doni Tondo or Doni Madonna, is the only finished panel painting by the mature Michelangelo to survive. Now in the Uffizi in Florence and still in its original frame, the Doni Tondo was commissioned by Agnolo Doni to commemorate his marriage to Maddalena Strozzi, the daughter of a powerful Tuscan family; the painting is in the form of a tondo, meaning in Italian,'round', a shape, associated during the Renaissance with domestic ideas. The work was most created during the period after Doni's marriage in 1503 or 1504, before the Sistine Chapel ceiling frescoes were begun in 1508; the Doni Tondo portrays the Holy Family in the foreground, along with John the Baptist in the middle-ground, contains five nude male figures in the background. The inclusion of these nude figures has been interpreted in a variety of ways. Mary is the most prominent figure in the composition, taking up much of the center of the image, she sits directly on the ground without a cushion between herself and the grass, to better communicate the theme of her relationship to the earth.
Joseph is positioned higher in the image than Mary, although this is an unusual feature in compositions of the Holy Family. Mary is seated between his legs, as if he is protecting her, his great legs forming a kind of de facto throne. There is some debate as to whether Mary is receiving the Child from Joseph or vice versa, although it is clear that the former is the case as she has put down the book she was reading. Saint John the Baptist, the patron saint of Florence, is commonly included in Florentine works depicting the Madonna and Child, he is in the middle-ground between the Holy Family and the background. The scene appears to be a rural one, with the Holy Family enjoying themselves on the grass and separated from the curiously unrelated group at the back by a low wall; the painting is still in its original frame, one that Michelangelo might have influenced or helped design. The frame is ornately carved and rather unusual for the five heads it contains which protrude three-dimensionally into space.
Similar to the nudes of the background, the meanings of these heads has been the subject of speculation. The frame contains carvings of crescent moons, stars and lions’ heads; these symbols are references to the Doni and Strozzi families, taken from each one's coat of arms. As depicted on the frame, “the moons are bound together with ribbons that interlock with the lions,” referring to the marriage of the two families. There is a horizontal band a wall, separating the foreground and background; the background figures are five nudes, whose meaning and function are subject to much speculation and debate. Because they are much closer to us, the viewers, the Holy Family is much larger than the nudes in the background, a device to aid the illusion of deep space in a two-dimensional image. Behind Saint John the Baptist is a semi-circular ridge, against which the'ignudi' are leaning, or upon which they are sitting; this semi-circle reflects or mirrors the circular shape of the painting itself and acts as a foil to the vertical nature of the principal group.
Mary and Joseph gaze at Christ. The far background contains a mountainous landscape rendered in atmospheric perspective; the Doni Tondo is believed to be the only existing panel picture Michelangelo painted without the aid of assistants. The juxtaposition of bright colors foreshadows the same use of color in Michelangelo's Sistine Ceiling frescoes; the folds of the drapery are modelled, the modelling of the figures is distinctly sculptural, suggesting they are carved in medium marble. The nude figures in the background have softer modelling and look to be precursors to the ignudi, the male nude figures in the Sistine Ceiling frescoes. Michelangelo's technique includes shading from the most intense colors first to the lighter shades on top, using the darker colors as shadows. By applying the pigment in a certain way, Michelangelo created an "unfocused" effect in the background and focused detail in the foreground; the most vibrant color is located within the Virgin's garments, signifying her importance within the image.
The masculinity of Mary could be explained by Michelangelo's use of male models for female figures, as was done for the Sistine Chapel. Michelangelo used a limited palette of pigments comprising Lead White, Verdigris and a few others, he avoided ochres and used little vermilion. The composition is, most partially influenced by the cartoon for Leonardo da Vinci’s The Virgin and Child with St. Anne. Michelangelo's Holy Family forms a tight, separated group in the centre foreground of the image, with the Virgin's figure constructing a typical Renaissance pyramid or triangle. Michelangelo saw the drawing in 1501 while in Florence working on the David; the Doni Tondo is associated with Luca Signorelli’s Medici Madonna in the Uffizi. Michelangelo knew of the work and its ideas, he wanted to incorporate those ideas into his own work. Signorelli's Madonna uses a tondo form, depicts nude male figures in the background, displays the Virgin sitting directly on the earth. Three aspects of the painting can be attributed to an antique sardonyx cameo and a 15th-century relief from the circle o
Mary, mother of Jesus
Mary was a 1st-century BC Galilean Jewish woman of Nazareth, the mother of Jesus, according to the New Testament and the Quran. The gospels of Matthew and Luke in the New Testament and the Quran describe Mary as a virgin; the miraculous conception took place when she was betrothed to Joseph. She accompanied Joseph to Bethlehem; the Gospel of Luke begins its account of Mary's life with the Annunciation, when the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary and announced her divine selection to be the mother of Jesus. According to canonical gospel accounts, Mary was present at the crucifixion and is depicted as a member of the early Christian community in Jerusalem. According to Catholic and Orthodox teachings, at the end of her earthly life her body was raised directly into Heaven. Mary has been venerated since early Christianity, is considered by millions to be the most meritorious saint of the religion, she is claimed to have miraculously appeared to believers many times over the centuries. The Eastern and Oriental Orthodox, Catholic and Lutheran churches believe that Mary, as mother of Jesus, is the Mother of God.
There is significant diversity in the Marian beliefs and devotional practices of major Christian traditions. The Catholic Church holds distinctive Marian dogmas, namely her status as the Mother of God, her Immaculate Conception, her perpetual virginity, her Assumption into heaven. Many Protestants minimize Mary's role within Christianity, basing their argument on the relative brevity of biblical references. Mary has a revered position in Islam, where one of the longer chapters of the Quran is devoted to her. Mary's name in the original manuscripts of the New Testament was based on her original Aramaic name מרים, translit. Maryam or Mariam; the English name Mary comes from the Greek Μαρία, a shortened form of Μαριάμ. Both Μαρία and Μαριάμ appear in the New Testament. In Christianity, Mary is referred to as the Virgin Mary, in accordance with the belief that she conceived Jesus miraculously through the Holy Spirit without her husband's involvement. Among her many other names and titles are the Blessed Virgin Mary, Saint Mary, the Mother of God, the Theotokos, Our Lady, Queen of Heaven, although the title "Queen of Heaven" was a name for a pagan goddess being worshipped during the prophet Jeremiah's lifetime.
Titles in use vary among Anglicans, Catholics, Protestants and other Christians. The three main titles for Mary used by the Orthodox are Theotokos, Aeiparthenos as confirmed in the Second Council of Constantinople in 553, Panagia. Catholics use a wide variety of titles for Mary, these titles have in turn given rise to many artistic depictions. For example, the title Our Lady of Sorrows has inspired such masterpieces as Michelangelo's Pietà; the title Theotokos was recognized at the Council of Ephesus in 431. The direct equivalents of title in Latin are Deipara and Dei Genetrix, although the phrase is more loosely translated into Latin as Mater Dei, with similar patterns for other languages used in the Latin Church. However, this same phrase in Greek, in the abbreviated form ΜΡ ΘΥ, is an indication attached to her image in Byzantine icons; the Council stated that the Church Fathers "did not hesitate to speak of the holy Virgin as the Mother of God". Some Marian titles have a direct scriptural basis.
For instance, the title "Queen Mother" has been given to Mary since she was the mother of Jesus, sometimes referred to as the "King of Kings" due to his ancestral descent from King David. Other titles have arisen from special appeals, or occasions for calling on Mary. To give a few examples, Our Lady of Good Counsel, Our Lady of Navigators, Our Lady Undoer of Knots fit this description. In Islam, she is known as mother of Isa, she is referred to by the honorific title sayyidatuna, meaning "our lady". A related term of endearment is Siddiqah, meaning "she who confirms the truth" and "she who believes sincerely completely". Another title for Mary is Qānitah, which signifies both constant submission to God and absorption in prayer and invocation in Islam, she is called "Tahira", meaning "one, purified" and representing her status as one of two humans in creation to not be touched by Satan at any point. The Gospel of Luke mentions Mary the most identifying her by name twelve times, all of these in the infancy narrative.
The Gospel of Matthew mentions her by name six times, five of these in the infancy narrative and only once outside the infancy narrative. The Gospel of Mark names her once and mentions her as Jesus' mother without naming her in 3:31 and 3:32; the Gospel of John never mentions her by name. Described as Jesus' mother, she makes two appearances, she is first seen at the wedding at Cana. The second reference, listed only in this gospel, has her standing near the cross of Jesus together with Mary Magdalene, Mary of Clopas (or Cleophas
The Uffizi Gallery is a prominent art museum located adjacent to the Piazza della Signoria in the Historic Centre of Florence in the region of Tuscany, Italy. One of the most important Italian museums and the most visited, it is one of the largest and best known in the world and holds a collection of priceless works from the period of the Italian Renaissance. After the ruling house of Medici died out, their art collections were gifted to the city of Florence under the famous Patto di famiglia negotiated by Anna Maria Luisa, the last Medici heiress; the Uffizi is one of the first modern museums. The gallery had been open to visitors by request since the sixteenth century, in 1765 it was opened to the public, formally becoming a museum in 1865. Today, the Uffizi is one of the most popular tourist attractions of Florence and one of the most visited art museums in the world; the building of Uffizi complex was begun by Giorgio Vasari in 1560 for Cosimo I de' Medici so as to accommodate the offices of the Florentine magistrates, hence the name uffizi, "offices".
The construction was continued by Alfonso Parigi and Bernardo Buontalenti. The top floor was made into a gallery for the family and their guests and included their collection of Roman sculptures; the cortile is so long and open to the Arno at its far end through a Doric screen that articulates the space without blocking it, that architectural historians treat it as the first regularized streetscape of Europe. Vasari, a painter and architect as well, emphasised its perspective length by adorning it with the matching facades' continuous roof cornices, unbroken cornices between storeys, as well as the three continuous steps on which the palace-fronts stand; the niches in the piers that alternate with columns of the Loggiato filled with sculptures of famous artists in the 19th century. The Uffizi brought together under one roof the administrative offices and the Archivio di Stato, the state archive; the project was intended to display prime art works of the Medici collections on the piano nobile.
He commissioned the architect Buontalenti to design the Tribuna degli Uffizi that would display a series of masterpieces in one room, including jewels. The octagonal room was completed in 1584. Over the years, more sections of the palace were recruited to exhibit paintings and sculpture collected or commissioned by the Medici. For many years, 45 to 50 rooms were used to display paintings from the 13th to 18th century; because of its huge collection, some of the Uffizi's works have in the past been transferred to other museums in Florence—for example, some famous statues to the Bargello. A project was finished in 2006 to expand the museum's exhibition space some 6,000 metres2 to 13,000 metres2, allowing public viewing of many artworks, in storage; the Nuovi Uffizi renovation project which started in 1989 was progressing well in 2015 to 2017. It was intended to modernize all of more than double the display space; as well, a new exit was planned and the lighting, air conditioning and security systems were updated.
During construction, the museum remained open, although rooms were closed as necessary with the artwork temporarily moved to another location. For example, the Botticelli rooms and two others with early Renaissance paintings were closed for 15 months but reopened in October 2016; the major modernization project, New Uffizi, had increased viewing capacity to 101 rooms by late 2016 by expanding into areas used by the Florence State Archive. The Uffizi hosted over two million visitors in 2016, making it the most visited art gallery in Italy. In high season, waiting times can be up to five hours. Tickets are available on-line in advance, however, to reduce the waiting time. A new ticketing system is being tested to reduce queuing times from hours to just minutes; the museum is being renovated to more than double the number of rooms used to display artwork. On 27 May 1993, the Sicilian Mafia carried out a car bomb explosion in Via dei Georgofili and damaged parts of the palace, killing five people.
The blast destroyed five pieces of art and damaged another 30. Some of the paintings were protected by bulletproof glass; the most severe damage was to the Niobe room and classical sculptures and neoclassical interior, although its frescoes were damaged beyond repair. In early August 2007, Florence experienced a heavy rainstorm; the Gallery was flooded, with water leaking through the ceiling, the visitors had to be evacuated. There was a much more significant flood in 1966 which damaged most of the art collections in Florence including some of the works in the Uffizi; the collection contains some ancient sculptures, such as the Arrotino and the Two Wrestlers. Collections of the Uffizi Official website Uffizi – Google Art Project Uffizi Gallery
Condottieri were Italian military leaders involved in classical formation battles, first as mercenary captains commanding free companies and as generals of multi-national armies. In medieval Italian, condottiero meant "contractor" but the term acquired the broader meaning of "military leader" in reference to Italian Catholics serving as commanders for the Roman Catholic side during the Counter-Reformation. Therefore, in Italian historiography, the term Condottiero: refers to mercenary captains, named capitani di ventura, contracted by the Italian city-states and the Papacy. Excludes military commanders in contemporary warfare; some authors have described Guido da Landriano as the "first condottiero" and Napoleon Bonaparte as the "last condottiero": according to this view, the condottieri tradition would span a huge diverse period from the battle of Legnano in 1176 to the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. Most historians would narrow it down to the years from c.1350 to c.1650, with a particular focus on the rise of the ventura captains and their transformation in captain generals fighting for the major powers during the struggle for political and religious supremacy in Europe.
In the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, the Italian city-states of Venice and Genoa were rich from their trade with the Levant, yet possessed woefully small armies. In the event that foreign powers and envious neighbors attacked, the ruling nobles hired foreign mercenaries to fight for them; the military-service terms and conditions were stipulated in a condotta between the city-state and the soldiers, the contracted leader, the mercenary captain commanding, was titled the Condottiere. From the eleventh to the thirteenth century, European soldiers led by professional officers fought against the Muslims in the Crusades; these crusading officers provided large-scale warfare combat experience in the Holy Land. On the Crusades' conclusion, the first masnada appeared in Italy. Given the profession, some masnade were less mercenaries than desperate men; these masnada were not Italian, but German, from the Duchy of Brabant, from Aragon. The latter were Spanish soldiers who had followed King Peter III of Aragon in the War of the Sicilian Vespers in Italy in October 1282, post-war, remained there, seeking military employment.
By 1333 other mercenaries had arrived in Italy to fight with John of Bohemia as the Compagnia della Colomba in Perugia's war against Arezzo. The first well organised mercenaries in Italy were the Ventura Companies of Duke Werner von Urslingen and Count Konrad von Landau. Werner's company differed from other mercenary companies because its code of military justice imposed discipline and an equal division of the contract's income; the Ventura Company increased in number until becoming the fearsome "Great Company" of some 3,000 barbute. The first mercenary company with an Italian as its chief was the "Company of St. George" formed in 1339 and led by Lodrisio Visconti; this company was defeated and destroyed by Luchino Visconti of Milan in April 1339. In 1377, a second "Company of St. George" was formed under the leadership of Alberico da Barbiano an Italian and the Count of Conio, who taught military science to condottieri such as Braccio da Montone and Giacomuzzo Attendolo Sforza, who served in the company.
Once aware of their military power monopoly in Italy, the condottieri bands became notorious for their capriciousness, soon dictated terms to their ostensible employers. In turn, many condottieri, such as Braccio da Montone and Muzio Sforza, became powerful politicians; as most were educated men acquainted with Roman military science manuals, they began viewing warfare from the perspective of military science, rather than as a matter of valor or physical courage—a great, consequential departure from chivalry, the traditional medieval model of soldiering. The condottieri fought by outmanoeuvring the opponent and fighting his ability to wage war, rather than risk uncertain fortune—defeat, death—in battlefield combat; the earlier, medieval condottieri developed the "art of war" into military science more than any of their historical military predecessors—fighting indirectly, not directly—thus, only reluctantly endangering themselves and their enlisted men, avoiding battle when possible avoiding hard work and winter campaigns, as these all reduced the total number of trained soldiers available, was detrimental to their political and economic interest.
Niccolò Machiavelli said that condottieri fought each other in grandiose, but pointless and near-bloodless battles. However in the Renaissance the condottieri line of battle still deployed the grand armoured knight and medieval weapons and tactics after most European powers had begun employing professional standing armies of pikemen and musketeers. In 1347, Cola di Rienzo had Werner von Urslingen executed in Rome, Konrad von Landau assumed command of the Great Company. On the conclusion of the Peace of Bret
Greece the Hellenic Republic, self-identified and known as Hellas, is a country located in Southern and Southeast Europe, with a population of 11 million as of 2016. Athens is largest city, followed by Thessaloniki. Greece is located at the crossroads of Europe and Africa. Situated on the southern tip of the Balkan Peninsula, it shares land borders with Albania to the northwest, North Macedonia and Bulgaria to the north, Turkey to the northeast; the Aegean Sea lies to the east of the mainland, the Ionian Sea to the west, the Cretan Sea and the Mediterranean Sea to the south. Greece has the longest coastline on the Mediterranean Basin and the 11th longest coastline in the world at 13,676 km in length, featuring a large number of islands, of which 227 are inhabited. Eighty percent of Greece is mountainous, with Mount Olympus being the highest peak at 2,918 metres; the country consists of nine geographic regions: Macedonia, Central Greece, the Peloponnese, Epirus, the Aegean Islands, Thrace and the Ionian Islands.
Greece is considered the cradle of Western civilisation, being the birthplace of democracy, Western philosophy, Western literature, political science, major scientific and mathematical principles, Western drama and notably the Olympic Games. From the eighth century BC, the Greeks were organised into various independent city-states, known as poleis, which spanned the entire Mediterranean region and the Black Sea. Philip of Macedon united most of the Greek mainland in the fourth century BC, with his son Alexander the Great conquering much of the ancient world, from the eastern Mediterranean to India. Greece was annexed by Rome in the second century BC, becoming an integral part of the Roman Empire and its successor, the Byzantine Empire, in which Greek language and culture were dominant. Rooted in the first century A. D. the Greek Orthodox Church helped shape modern Greek identity and transmitted Greek traditions to the wider Orthodox World. Falling under Ottoman dominion in the mid-15th century, the modern nation state of Greece emerged in 1830 following a war of independence.
Greece's rich historical legacy is reflected by its 18 UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The sovereign state of Greece is a unitary parliamentary republic and developed country with an advanced high-income economy, a high quality of life, a high standard of living. A founding member of the United Nations, Greece was the tenth member to join the European Communities and has been part of the Eurozone since 2001, it is a member of numerous other international institutions, including the Council of Europe, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the World Trade Organization, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie. Greece's unique cultural heritage, large tourism industry, prominent shipping sector and geostrategic importance classify it as a middle power, it is the largest economy in the Balkans. The names for the nation of Greece and the Greek people differ from the names used in other languages and cultures.
The Greek name of the country is Hellas or Ellada, its official name is the Hellenic Republic. In English, the country is called Greece, which comes from Latin Graecia and means'the land of the Greeks'; the earliest evidence of the presence of human ancestors in the southern Balkans, dated to 270,000 BC, is to be found in the Petralona cave, in the Greek province of Macedonia. All three stages of the stone age are represented for example in the Franchthi Cave. Neolithic settlements in Greece, dating from the 7th millennium BC, are the oldest in Europe by several centuries, as Greece lies on the route via which farming spread from the Near East to Europe. Greece is home to the first advanced civilizations in Europe and is considered the birthplace of Western civilisation, beginning with the Cycladic civilization on the islands of the Aegean Sea at around 3200 BC, the Minoan civilization in Crete, the Mycenaean civilization on the mainland; these civilizations possessed writing, the Minoans writing in an undeciphered script known as Linear A, the Mycenaeans in Linear B, an early form of Greek.
The Mycenaeans absorbed the Minoans, but collapsed violently around 1200 BC, during a time of regional upheaval known as the Bronze Age collapse. This ushered from which written records are absent. Though the unearthed Linear B texts are too fragmentary for the reconstruction of the political landscape and can't support the existence of a larger state contemporary Hittite and Egyptian records suggest the presence of a single state under a "Great King" based in mainland Greece; the end of the Dark Ages is traditionally dated to the year of the first Olympic Games. The Iliad and the Odyssey, the foundational texts of Western literature, are believed to have been composed by Homer in the 7th or 8th centuries BC. With the end of the Dark Ages, there emerged various kingdoms and city-states across the Greek peninsula, which spread to the shores of the Black Sea, So