In 1991 the population of Athens, the largest city, was 748,000,
but the population of Greater Athens, including its port city of
Piraeus, was 3.1 million. The second largest city, Thessaloniki,
had 396,000 people in 1991, but only four other cities, Patras,
Heraklion, Volos, and Larisa, had populations over 100,000.
The Greek language is probably the oldest in Europe, with a 4000-year
oral tradition and a 3000-year written tradition. Today, Greek constitutes
a large part of the vocabulary of any Indo-European language, and
much of the lexicon of any scientific repertoire.
Modern Greek is a southern dialect adopted as a standardised version
of the language and differs substantially from Katharevousa, the
artificial language loosely based on Ancient Greek that was instated
by various right-wing puritanical regimes this century. Katharevousa
is still evident on street signs and can cause endless confusion
for the tourist.
About 98% of Greeks are Greek Orthodox, and the rest of the population
is split between Roman Catholic, Jewish and Muslim faiths. Religion
is integral to life in Greece and the Greek year is centred around
the festivals of the church calendar.