Greece’s Geography Problem

Greece’s Geography Problem

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Centuries ago nations like Portugal, and Iraq,
and Syria, Spain, Mongolia, Turkey, Italy,
Egypt, and Greece were the world’s most
powerful, most advanced civilizations.
Today, though, that’s not the case.
While this group does not necessarily represent
the losers in the game that is history, they’re
also certainly not in first place.
Change has relegated them into second tier
status despite their earlier prowess.
One particularly noticeable case is that of
In a span of a couple thousand years the people
living on this peninsula went from shaping
the way the western world would work to being
boxed in by the very world around them.
Greece is one of the most celebrated nations
in history.
They developed the political system of democracy—the
very one used by many of the world’s most
powerful nations today.
Because of this perhaps a disproportionate
amount of attention is placed upon the history
of this small nation but nonetheless, ancient
Greece overcame the odds to create a number
of small yet powerful city-states.
However, many of the factors that led to the
success of this ancient civilization are the
same ones holding back the modern state.
On a global scale the country is far from
poor but, as a European nation, it’s one
of the poorest in a very rich area.
Greece is exceptionally mountainous yet the
terrain of Greece is different than that of
many other countries.
Switzerland, for example, has enormous mountains
with nice, wide and long valleys in between.
The mountains of Greece, though, are not as
The average elevation of Greece is 1,600 feet
compared to 4,400 in Switzerland but the mountains
in Greece are much more irregular.
What this means is that there is only so much
flat land in any one place.
Any settlement needed enough land around it
to grow the food that would feed its people
and most agriculture can only grow on relatively
flat land.
While today we can ship food across the world,
in the time of ancient Greece transportation
technology was not advanced enough so one
essentially had to have enough fields to feed
the population directly around each settlement.
Therefore, the sizes of ancient Greek settlements
were essentially determined by the amount
of flat land they could find in one place.
It was tough for any one political entity
to hold power over vast amounts of land because
it was just too difficult to get around.
For that reason, the peninsula was not one
unified nation as it is today, it was divided
into hundreds of small city-states unified
by a common language and religion.
The most powerful city-states, you’ll notice,
were the ones that had the most flat land.
The area directly surrounding Sparta, one
of the historically strongest city-states,
is a relatively large, flat valley that would
have given them more land than other city-states
to grow food and therefore Sparta was one
of the largest cities.
Athens was also one of the strongest city-states
and still today is by far the largest city
in Greece thanks to being in one of the largest
single flat areas in the country.
This geography did, of course, fragment the
peninsula into hundreds of political entities
but at the time that wasn’t really an issue.
The same geography protected the entire area
from outside invasion.
Mountains acted as a thick shield from western
Europe but this also, of course, made it tough
to get to these areas, at least by land.
This geography forced Greece to the ocean
and the city-states became some of the most
advanced maritime powers.
Because of this, Greece was exposed to civilizations
all around the Mediterranean and beyond and
was able to learn from other nations such
as Egypt and Mesopotamia.
This exposure to the outside world helped
turn the city-states into highly advanced
and cosmopolitan civilizations that produced
the era’s greatest philosophers.
Nowadays, however, the mountains are less
As the world has become more globalized trade
linkages to other countries have become even
more important and the mountains that pepper
the Greek peninsula continue through the Balkans
which means that land transportation infrastructure
is limited to get goods and people between
Western Europe and Greece.
More consequently, though, 78% of the land
in Greece is considered mountainous making
it tied with Slovenia as the most mountainous
country in the European Union.
Greece is also one of the poorer countries
in the European Union.
As it turns out, there’s a link between
how mountainous an EU country is and its GDP
per capita.
The average EU country with 35% of its land
mountainous has a GDP per capita of $30,000
while the average EU country with only 25%
of its land mountainous has a GDP per capita
of $54,000 proving that there is a correlation
between flatness and wealth.
Now, there are some major exceptions—Sweden
is one of the wealthiest EU countries while
also being one of the most mountainous while
Latvia is one of the poorest while being completely
flat—so the correlation is not that strong
and the EU also conveniently leaves out Switzerland
and Norway—two exceptionally wealthy European
countries that are also exceptionally mountainous—but
nonetheless, it intuitively makes sense that
mountains inhibit development and the statistics
back this up to an extent.
It’s worth pointing out that this is not
just a European phenomenon.
The five most mountainous countries in the
world are Bhutan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan,
Lesotho, and Montenegro all of which have
GDP per capita’s below the world average.
What you’ll notice in Europe is that the
wealthy mountainous countries such as Norway,
Sweden, Switzerland, and Finland are all in
cold climates while the less wealthy mountainous
countries such as Bulgaria, Spain, Italy,
Portugal, and Greece are all in warmer climates.
As it turns out, climate too is a predictor
of wealth.
For every additional tenth of a degree Fahrenheit
of average yearly temperature in the EU a
country’s GDP per capita is, on average,
$1,670 lower.
The reasoning behind the link between climate
and wealth is massively complex, controversial,
and not yet fully understood so we’ll leave
that out but Greece is therefore in this double
whammy situation of being both hot and mountainous
which has proven itself as an inhibitor to
Of the world’s 30 wealthiest countries none
could be considered both hot and predominantly
mountainous—many are one or the other but
none both.
The two factors together just seem to be the
perfect cocktail for poor economic health.
Greece suffers from strong regionalization.
The same geography that cut the peninsula
into small city-states today makes it difficult
for a central government to govern the entire
area effectively.
You see this often, countries that were formerly
multiple countries or nations often have problems
with governance, but part of the difficulty
for the Greek government is that their infrastructure
is just not good.
It’s hard to get around the country.
Of course Greece is made up of about 6,000
islands and you cannot, of course, build roads
across the Aegean Sea but the country still
lacks infrastructure on the mainland.
This can likely be attributed to a mix of
a lack of funds and high cost to build through
mountains and the country is therefore considered
to have the third worst infrastructure in
the European Union.
With a lack of proper infrastructure to overcome
the geographical boundaries this makes simple
government functions like tax collection difficult.
Greece receives about 28% less value added
tax than it levies due to how rampant tax
evasion is.
The same is true for income and other forms
of taxation so it’s no wonder why the country
ended up in a debt crisis.
In fact, this debt crisis that has devastated
the country over the past ten years can too
be partially linked back to geography.
You see, Greece’s main geographic asset
is the Aegean Sea.
Part of this is economic.
Many of Greece’s most popular tourist destinations
from Santorini, to Mykonos, to Crete are islands
in the Aegean Sea but the more significant
asset of the Aegean is strategic.
To the Northeast of Greece is the Black Sea
which drains out into the Mediterranean through
the Turkish Straits and the Aegean.
While Turkey holds the most direct level of
control over maritime traffic by controlling
the Turkish Straits, the density of Greek
islands and the strength of the country’s
Navy means that it too, if it wanted to, could
relatively easily blockade the Black Sea.
This means that Greece holds the keys for
Bulgaria, Romania, Ukraine, and Georgia’s
only ocean access.
Perhaps more significantly, Greece also controls
the maritime routes to and from Russia’s
most important ports.
Being a very northern country, the majority
of Russia’s coastline sees ice in the winter
which makes shipping difficult whereas the
Black Sea ports do not making them both militarily
and economically critical for Russia.
17% of Russia’s shipping containers leave
from the Port of Novorossiysk, for example,
which is only one of the many Black Sea ports.
A good portion of Greece’s little geopolitical
clout is as a result of holding the Aegean.
Given its importance, Greece therefore puts
a lot of effort into asserting its sovereignty
over this sea.
This sovereignty, however, has for decades
been the subject of a dispute with Turkey.
The dispute is over not only who owns a number
of islands near Turkey but also over the extent
of Greek sovereignty over Aegean waters and
Despite both countries officially being NATO
allies tensions do occasionally heat up and
Greece therefore regularly patrols the Aegean
by sea and air.
The country has a world class Navy and Air
Force that are considered to be some of the
strongest especially for such a small country
but this, of course, comes at a cost.
The country spends a full 2.5% of its GDP
on its military.
That’s a higher percentage than any NATO
member except the US.
The high government spending, which high military
spending contributed significantly to, along
with the country’s seeming inability to
collect the taxes it levies forced the government
to take on debt which, after the Great Recession
hit in 2008, it could not pay off.
The country was then plunged into years of
economic and social crisis.
This affected what is arguably Greece’s
most important industry—tourism.
A full quarter of jobs in Greece are in or
as a result of tourism and the industry represents
20% of the country’s GDP so if tourism disappears,
the whole country is affected.
During the debt crisis, as violent demonstrations
on the streets of Athens were publicized worldwide
the number of tourist arrivals immediately
declined which further exasperated the crisis.
For a number of years the country actually
had negative GDP growth and an unemployment
rate close to 30% but, after austerity measures
and a series of bailouts, unemployment rates
are now shrinking and the country’s GDP
is once again growing, at least slowly.
The truth about Greece is that its geography,
with warm weather, disconnected landmasses,
sheer ocean cliffs, and soaring mountains,
is terrible for most types of economic development
but it’s these geographical features, along
with a fascinating history and warm hospitality,
that make Greece such an attractive travel
Tourist numbers in the country are reaching
historic levels to the point where there’s
starting to be a problem of too much tourism.
While the country continues its path towards
economic recovery the real test will be whether
it can take what it has going for it, most
specifically tourism, and use that to fix
what’s not.
What’s really fascinating about Greece is
not that they fell from a position of strength,
it’s that they ever had that position of
History has proven that the land of this peninsula,
despite all its natural beauty, is not quite
as hospitable and idyllic as it may seem.
In this video I’m sure you noticed the stunning
historical footage of Greece.
This all came from Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey—a
brand new game that has essentially recreated
the entirety of ancient Greece during the
Peloponnesian War.
Ubisoft actually brought me out to Greece
to try the game and visit the historical sites
they recreated so most of the modern footage
of Greece in this video is my own and, even
as someone who doesn’t really play video
games, I really enjoyed playing Assassin’s
Creed: Odyssey for the ability to explore
a pretty breath-taking historical world.
Of course the gameplay and storylines are
great too but, if you’re just in it for
the exploration, they’ll be releasing a
“discovery tour” mode soon which will
essentially be an interactive museum in the
If you want to learn more and maybe even buy
Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey be sure to click
the link at the top of the description.
Thanks for watching and we’ll see you again
in two weeks for another Wendover Productions

100 thoughts on “Greece’s Geography Problem”

  1. Hey everyone! You may notice the numbers in brackets that pop up in the lower left-hand corner of this video. Those are a long-requested addition to the channel: references! Just look in the description for the corresponding number to see where different info comes from.

  2. So montainous region has an inverse correlation with wealth? Well, thats no the case in the Southern Basque Country. Despite being one of the most montainous regions in spain, its also one of the wealthiest regions. Whats more, inside the basque country, places with more plain territory such as Araba or Navarre are also the ones less populated and developed.

  3. I am from greece and I now this problem but my country have a problem this problem is

    Idiot politicans

  4. …but….Greece is one of the most beautiful and most visited country in the world…so geography is also a blessing


  6. 1974 Greece did not owε 1 cent to the IMF or to external debtσ, industry was booming in all sectors and unemployment’s was unknown. Greece mineral resources were kept secret by the ‘’systems’’ … then camε the EU to impoverish Greece and robed all its assets, oil and gas, gold, airports, even ancient monuments, museums etc. etc. making Greeks to search food in garbage bins, for the Multinational consortiums to become richer and fat salaries for Brussels unelected office boys . This is how the EU’s strategies are acting as the sevants of the NWO

  7. You missed a point, corrupt politicians and the politics itself, they created democracy but it means nothing to them today lol

  8. Greece should give the islands which are very close to Turkeye. Then they don’t need to spend billions to protect them. They gotta spend those money for their prosperity..

  9. Plotted up your data comparing %mountainous area to GDP per capita of European countries, the r-squared is 0.0093, there is absolutely no correlation. Greece's mountains may be an issue for them but it is not a trend. Every country has comparative geography "problems", successful countries find a way to overcome them and use it to their advantage. Authoritarian and/or corrupt governments are usually why countries are relatively economically unsuccessful.

  10. Transport drones might make it cheaper for inland transport. However China has taken over one of their biggest ports.

  11. Greek crisis was made because Germans and Chinese wanted to steal Greece resources. Now that they succeeded, they are happy to finance the Greek debt, which was artificially increased to a level of no possible repayment. I am simplifying things ofc, the dirty hands of the Englishmen were all over the country too.

  12. How do you explain Japan? If flat land is the key why the big planes states are not the richest in the Union? Your theory is really flawed. The major drive of wealth is culture…not geography.

  13. Very nice video congrats!!! But i have one guestion.
    Why all the world say everytime about ancient Greece and didnt say anything about Byzantium or history of Greece after ancient times???, Maybe nobody of you know the greats heroes Greeks after ancient times. Which of you know Kolokotronis which voted from Greek people as the 3rd greatest Greek of all the time(for me is the biggest and my favourite) and many other things about Greece.Byzantium was 1000 years roles these land and the official language is Greek. All Greek people (I am Greek) we say that Byzantine empire is Greek and after many years we inspired in Greek revolution against Ottomans from Byzantium more than ancient Greece and many Greek people even now have Constandinopoli as capital in their hearts more than Athens.

  14. The financial status of a country isn’t only effected by geography. It isn’t so simple. Many other things take a role.

  15. How exactly mountains and "bad" infrastructure make tax collection difficult??? Just how did you think of that????
    Tax collection happens digitally. There isn't a person on a donkey going from village to village to collect taxes in cash bags and transfer them to the big city through the mountains…

  16. Lmao he says Greece spends so much on it's military like it's for no reason or something.
    Greece honors it's committment to NATO and is hitting the percentage threshold that all NATO members are required to hit, but nearly none of them do, depite having much better and stable economies.
    So thanks for keeping your word, Greece.

  17. No its not the mounthens or no enough flatland but just the greeks being laezy,corrupted.
    There is google and E-bankig the greeks never heard zbout it?!. Noe the greeks are just corrupted and dont pay threr taxes. Its a greek thing always has been and always will be,thats why the byzantine has and EU wll go down to becouse the greeks greed.

  18. greece's debt crisis is undermined by a certain ruling/financial block which used the corrupted system to its benefit. that system encompasses all major economic and political powers in europe and in greece and a not-very-well-planned scheme to force greece join the IMF.

    at the time, based on an (otherwise expected) debt, an (inexplicable) 'dept crisis' was invented in order to take over greece's assets, privileges and sovereignty. there were (and still are) major countries in much greater relative dept, which are also unable to pay off. greece was the easy victim, sought after since… forever. everybody wants a piece of greece, and that accounts to its geography position in other ways than this particular video is showing.

    the plan was to turn the general public against the very greek population(??) as being thieves and/or money-sucking lazy gits (see PIGS). on the other side, the greeks themselves were being threatened over being pushed out from the EU (if that was possible). media channels like bloomberg, bbc etc consistently published irregularities and lies multiple times a day. everybody gave their best shot with everyday nonsense and threats.

    tracing back the source is easy, you just need to identify the most fearsome, relentless, quarrelsome and threatening institution/government/system. but that's in your own research people (one does what one can)!

  19. Greece is an amazing country, the people the scenery, the culture one of my favourite places to go, it has given so much to the world 💙🇬🇷🇬🇧

  20. Why is he using red for Athens and blue for Sparta and showing pictures of Athens while talking about Sparta

  21. Over simplyfied and totally out of date analysis. Left out the airports and seaports which are all over and of course compensated for the late motorway development. In any case, now Greece has a fully developed and adequate motorway and railway system.

  22. Swiss landscape is dotted with ledges installed on hillsides so cows can graze without falling off
    The Swiss are masters of their art

  23. This video has many inaccuracies – the one that struck me was highlighting what Greece spends on its armed forces and not taking into consideration what it is forced to purchase and spend as a NATO members. And let’s not forget Greece’s contribution to NATO: as we discovered only 5 of the 28 NATO member nations spend their alliance goal of 2% of their GDP, among them Greece at 2.38 above Great Britain’s 2.21 and falling below US’s 3.61. Those were the top 3 followed by Estonian and Poland and the rest fell below the 2% mark. When countries purchase they do so via bilateral agreements. It’s geopolitically important to not only spend but also who you speak with and the US exported over $3.3 billion in weapons to Greece between 1990 – 2000. Last and most importantly when people talk about Greek national debt they should really do some research; it was not a result of irresponsible public spending – this derived from the Greek parliamentary committee on the truth of the Greek debt and their repot that showed: Greek sovereign debt (of which all countries have) was a result of high interest rates paid by the Greek state in the 1980s and 1990s to say nothing of derivative contracts. The report and its findings are all there for people to use a search engine and find it. We can’t allow misinformation and the “dumbing down” of events having economic and legal significance to lead us into believing lies. If you are going to publish content do so RESPONSIBLY.

  24. Forgot the role of Goldman Sachs on betting Greece's collapse and their politicians and choices they made as society.
    Greece's location between Asia and Europe also brings it wealth.
    Geography plays a role but it's not always the determining role.

  25. Singapore, Hong Kong, and Israel are hot places and yet very wealthy. The problem is in their economic development! The correlation between geography and wealth in your video is weak and absurd.

  26. Spain at it's largest expansion was also included some territories of Europe what are missing on the map as Holland and some time was together with Portugal, the king of Spain was algo Germany Emperor's

  27. Yeah sure, it’s MOUNTAINS that make tax collecting so hard in Greece and the dang military spending that sent them over the cliff. Not corruption, or socialistic programs and policies that did them in.

    I’m seeing a trend of political bias and just weird partially true perspectives. What even was the point of this video? Blaming their financial collapse on mountains and a prioritization of maintaining sovereignty over the Aegean? Really?

    I’m done with you Wendover Productions.

  28. Uff sorry bruv I generally like your video, but this one is just too full with inaccuracies and mistakes. "Greece is a poor country located in a relatively rich region" lol have you ever seen a map of the Balkan? If anything, Greece are the one doing the best in the region. This video really just felt like a weak excuse to make a video loosely related to Greece so you could get some money from Ubisoft, maybe that's not true but this is what I feel.

  29. " the more mountainous the country, the poorer it is financially compared to other EU countries. The exception being Switzerland, Norway, Sweden, etc… The richest and some of the most mountainous in Europe." Talk about grabbing a random fact and running with it. Greece's problem is huge taxes and tons of regulations that hinder business and economic growth.

  30. Greece's only problem is being stupid enough to fck with Turks non stop and relentlessly do anything possible to turn Turk into enemy for no logical reason with the bullshit of their Fascists/racist politicians those can only win the election with scaring Greeks with the imaginary Turkish fear, instead of collaborate with the Turks, increase their power and wealth 4 times more than it is, pay their debts to get rid of French/german/British etc. economic colonial exploitation over Greece, get rid of all security concerns so they do not have to vaste billions of dollars for buying weapons, keeping military etc. expenses (While they do not have any money to pay for it)….

  31. The Geographic Situation in Greece gave us many opportunities in past Wars to fight the Enemy or to keep the Enemy outside of the Greek Borders.
    Just think about the WW2,and the Sacrifice of the Greek Army during the Operation Marita on April 1941.From the Borders with Albania,up East until the Borders with Bulgaria it is Mountainous Terrain.Hard Mountainous Terrain.Not easy to pass with a Tank,very hard to transport Artillery and Heavy Guns.The Greco-Italo War have found Place on the Mountain of Pindos.The Result was,that the Mountain Bataillon of Greece to destroy the First Line of the Italian Infantry and to advance into Albanian Mountains.

  32. Stopped watching after 6 minutes as this guy has no idea what he is talking about and contradicts himself many times. And since when is a G7 country a second tier country? Another pseudo-academic posting BS on youtube to make money.

  33. My following statement is just a spur of the moment thought, but in regards to the snippet of information you relayed about the hotter and more mountains a region is equates to a lower gdp per capita could correspond with the fact that it’s much harder for humans to deal with the compounding harsh realities of arduous terrain coupled with already hot temperatures which ultimately could dissuade individuals from exerting their energies as frequently as those who live in a colder yet arduous terrain. Perhaps the colder mountain dwellers do exert themselves more often because exertion keeps them warm? 🤷‍♂️😂 just a thought

  34. Why is everyone validating Russia's invasion of Crimea by labeling the area as contested? Are they afraid of offending Russians? What about the people who were literally invaded?

  35. Correlating climate and terrain with wealth is like doing a machine learning exercise only to see how the code works but otherwise, results are trash.

  36. I can hardly believe what I'm seeing! I've been a fan of this channel, but this video was simply terrible. That mistake at 4:45 alone is enough to make this video unforgiveable.

  37. There is so many bullshit spoken in this video that I almost got confused. Greeks were massive traders at the time and they had colonies all around the Med. I don't think they had food problems.

  38. Thanks for this, I went to the Greek islands two years ago and remember thinking a lot of the same things, you people created democracy but he can’t create a toilet that can flush with toilet paper.

  39. oh yeah because norway and switzerland are not part of eu while being the richest and most mountainous countries in europe

  40. Cold countries could profit from their mountains year round. Hiking, camping in the summer and skiing in the winters.

  41. That flat land in Sweden is more than enough to sustain its small population. Latvia has a high population ti its flat land. Also, politics come into it in many cases of why a country is more prosperous than another.

  42. 1:15 Greece is one of the poorest in a very rich area? Dude, you better think twice before you say that the Balkans are a rich area

  43. You are confusing correlation with causation. This is common mistake among people lacking understanding of statistics.

    Just because two graphs overlap perfectly doesn’t mean the two things those graphs represent are linked in any way.
    Example: divorce rate in the state of Maine correlates with per capital consumption of margarine.

  44. Lol its sad watching italy and greece being ruled by the fourth reich. And also mamy other EU countries like romania and bulgaria have the same problems. What the 3rd reich failed to do was done with the help of the USA, UK and Freance. Asseting north EU dominance to smaller and less wealthy nations. Having them as puppets and using them in whatever Way they want. What Hilter did not did is done with the help of his former enemies. North europians enjoy this economic policy as long as it lasts
    Because as we see through history. Nothing lasts for ever
    Also the fourth reich is the EURO and the EU which are ruled by germans

  45. These videos are informative, but rely too heavily on stats in small datasets (EU-countries). Norway and Switzerland are European countries and it is arbitrary to leave them out of consideration for not being in EU.

  46. So…in less than 12 minutes I feel I have achieved a meaningful understanding of some of the fundamental demographic underpinnings of Greece. WHY IS THIS SO DIFFICULT TO FIND? Why is there only ONE Wendover Productions? What aren't news media producing comparable (or even better, given their resources) short information specials?

  47. I am from Greece and I totally agree with the video. Although, I thing you should mention that one of our major problems is the corruption of both the politicians and the citizens, as well. In my opinion this happens because we didn't have enlightenment like the hole Europe, we were under the ottomans empire.

  48. are you stupid or something? they are called dardanelia not strait of turkey

  49. Greek empire LFMAO the Greeks never had an empire they were just part of the population used by others to reproduce a new population

  50. Britain, I think got a better advantage in the empire game, better technology, Better time, much better geographic conditions, advanced marine technology so understandably even in its early days as a empire it was still a strong force

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