Identification. Greece, the English name for the Hellenic Republic, derives from an ancient Latin word for that area. "Hellenic" derives from the word ancient Greeks used to refer themselves, while "Romeic" comes from the medieval or Byzantine Greek term. Although Romeic was the most common self-designation early in the nineteenth century, it has declined in favor of Hellenic since that time.
The words "Greek," "Hellenic," and "Romeic" refer not only to the country but also to the majority ethnic group. Greek culture and identity reflect the shared history and common expectations of all members of the nation-state, but they also reflect an ethnic history and culture that predate the nation-state and extend to Greek people outside the country's borders. Since 98 percent of the country's citizens are ethnically Greek, ethnic Greek culture has become almost synonymous with that of the nation-state. However, recent migration patterns may lead to a resurgence of other ethnic groups in the population.
Location and Geography. The Hellenic Republic is in southeastern Europe at the point where the Balkan peninsula juts into the Mediterranean Sea and forms a land-based connection to Anatolia and the Middle East. Initially restricted to the southern mainland and a few islands, Greece grew with the addition of the Dodecanese Islands in 1948. The country is bordered by Albania, the former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia, Bulgaria, Turkey, and the Aegean, Ionian, and Cretan seas.
Greece encompasses 50,935 square miles (131,957 square kilometers). The terrain is 80 percent mountainous, with its highest point, at Mount Olympus. Only 25 percent of the land surface is arable, and another 40 percent serves as pasture. There are more than 2,000 islands, 170 of which are inhabited, and a long coastline.
The climate is predominantly Mediterranean. Hot, dry summers alternate with cold, rainy winters.
There are nine recognized regions: Thrace, Macedonia, Epirus, Thessaly, Central Greece, the Peloponnesos, the Ionian Islands, the Aegean Islands, and Crete. Although these regions sometimes operated as separate entities in the past, they have been integrated into the state and their cultural distinctions are diminishing.
Demography. The population rose from slightly over 750,000 in 1836 to 10,264,156 in 1991, reflecting the expansion of national boundaries and the return of ethnic Greeks from the eastern Mediterranean. An even greater increase was prevented by emigration and a declining birth rate.
In the ninteenth and early twentieth centuries, Turks, Bulgarians, and others who were not ethnically Greek left the country in a steady stream that was formalized by the treaties that ended World War I. There has also been a continuing emigration of ethnic Greeks seeking employment and opportunity abroad since the mid-nineteenth century. This emigration was initially aimed at the eastern Mediterranean but was redirected toward the United States, Canada, and Australia by the late nineteenth century. The industrial nations of Western Europe joined the list of destinations in the 1960s.
Birth rates have declined since the early twentieth century. The proportion of elderly people is the highest in Europe at over 20 percent, and the overall rate of natural increase is among the lowest.
Albanians, Armenians, Bulgarians, Slavic Macedonians, Pomaks (Bulgarian Muslims), Turks, Jews, Roma (Gypsies), Vlachs, Sarakatsanoi, and several other groups have long been part of the country's cultural mosaic, although their numbers have decreased. The 1990s witnessed an unexpected influx of immigrants as refugees and labor migrants entered from Eastern Europe, the Middle East, North Africa, and the Philippines. These newcomers, especially the Albanians, estimated at between one-half million and one million, have placed minority issues at the forefront of public discussion.
Linguistic Affiliation. Greek is the official language and is spoken by nearly all the citizens. It is an Indo-European language that has been used in this area since the second millenium B.C.E. , although it has undergone considerable change. A major division exists between the ordinary spoken language known as demotic and a formal version known as katharevousa, which was developed in the eighteenth century to revive elements of ancient Greek and develop a national language that did not favor any regional dialect. Katharevousa spread quickly among political leaders and the intelligentsia. Writers initially embraced it, although most turned back to demotic Greek by the twentieth century. Katharevousa was used for most state documents, in many newspapers, and in secondary school instruction until the 1970s but has been displaced by demotic Greek since that time.
Church services are conducted in koine, a later form of ancient Greek in which the New Testament is written. There are also regional dialects, of which Pontic Greek may be the most distinctive.
Most minority groups are bilingual; Arvanitika (an Albanian dialect), Ladino (a Jewish dialect), Turkish, Slavic Macedonian, Vlach (a Romanian dialect), Romani (a Gypsy language), Bulgarian, and Pomak are still spoken. Most of the population also is familiar with other European languages, most commonly English and French.
Symbolism. Several widely recognized images and celebrations invoke the identity of the republic. The country is seen as the restoration of an independent Greek civilization, and many symbols establish a strong link between past and present, between larger Greek history and the modern nation-state. National holidays stress the struggle to establish and maintain an independent country in the face of conquest and oppression. The national anthem, "Hymn to Liberty," praises those who fought in the War of Independence. The flag displays a cross symbolizing the Greek Orthodox religion on a field of blue and white stripes that depict the sunlit waves of the seas that surround the nation. Statues of war heroes abound, as do the artistic motifs of antiquity and Orthodox Christianity.
Themes of cultural continuity and endurance, the direct connection to classical antiquity and Orthodox Byzantium, the language, the Mediterranean landscape, democracy, and a history of struggle against domination are central in this imagery. The Aegean area is characterized as a national homeland, and rural villages and ancient ruins are symbolic of long-standing ties to the region. Certain foods, architectural styles, arts, crafts, music, dances, and theatrical performances also evoke the national identity.
History and Ethnic Relations
Emergence of the Nation. A strong sense of a common ethnic identity emerged among Greek speakers of the independent city-states of the Aegean area in the Bronze Age and characterized the city-states of the classical period and their colonies in the Mediterranean and Black Sea regions. It endured over two millennia as these lands were ruled by the Hellenistic, Roman, Byzantine, Frankish, Venetian, and Ottoman empires, and as the area became ethnically heterogeneous.
The last of these empires was run by the Ottoman Turks, who established control over much of Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean after conquering Constantinople in 1453. By the late eighteenth century, the Ottoman Empire was losing ground. A military defeat at Vienna and the growing commercial power of Western Europe led Turkish overlords to institute harsher tactics toward the peasants on their agricultural estates. Increasing discontent in the countryside was matched by difficulty in keeping administrative structures functional. Several regions in which Greeks were numerically dominant developed strong local leadership, while entrepreneurial Greek merchants, sailors, and craftspeople acted as intermediaries between the expanding economies of Western Europe and the declining ones of the empire. Enlightenment ideals of ethnic self-determination were embraced by the merchant diaspora and resonated with the desire of all Greeks to end Ottoman control.
A series of rebellions against the empire led to a full-scale revolution in 1821. The War of Independence aimed at an independent, ethnically based state modeled after the nationalist political philosophies of western Europe. With the aid of armed contingents from Europe and the United States, fighting ended in 1828, when the Turks agreed to cede some lands in which Greeks formed the majority.
The shape and structure of the new country were uncertain and contentious. The desire for a parliamentary form of government was thwarted when the first president was assassinated in 1831. The foreign nations that negotiated the final treaty with the Ottomans then established an absolute monarchy monitored by England, France, and Russia. Otto, the son of Ludwig I of Bavaria, was named the first king. The boundaries of the new state were much smaller than had been hoped. Only the Peloponnesos, central Greece, and some of the Aegean Islands were included.
An 1843 coup resulted in a constitutional monarchy, and another coup in 1862 led to expanded
Houses in Santorini, Greece. Much Greek housing has traditionally been small and owner-built, and a high value is placed on home ownership.
The territorial constriction of the original state was attacked through pursuit of the Megali Idea: the belief that the country should eventually encompass all lands in which Greeks were a majority, including Constantinople and western Anatolia. Through a series of wars, treaties, and agreements, most of modern Greece had been transferred by World War I. Greece fought on the side of Allies during the war. In the negotiations that followed, the possibility of allowing the Greek-majority population around Smyrna to vote on union with Greece was discussed. Greek forces were allowed to occupy the area. As Turkish nationalism arose from the ashes of the defeated Ottoman Empire, however, a revived Turkish army routed the Greek troops and destroyed the city. The Anatolian Greeks who survived the conflict fled the area. Although the Dodecanese Islands were granted to Greece after World War II, ideas of a larger state were ended by this event, which is known as the Catastrophe of 1922.
The nation also has been shaped by efforts to limit foreign involvement in its internal affairs. The direct role the original treaty granted to England, France, and Russia faded by the end of the nineteenth century, but the twentieth century was marked by the invasions that accompanied the Balkan Wars and World Wars I and II, including the German occupation of 1941–1944. The Greek Civil War of 1946– 1949 saw the forces of the left and right backed by their counterparts in the nations soon to face each other in the Cold War. The outcome of this conflict led to Greece's alignment with the West, its entry into NATO in 1951, massive American aid, and continued foreign involvement in national affairs. Public sentiment against such interference combined with the waning of the Cold War in the 1980s to limit direct foreign intervention.
National Identity. A strong sense of ethnic self-determination initially fueled the construction of the state, erased regional differences, and led to a citizenry largely composed of ethnic Greeks. Nation– state and ethnic group were seen as coterminous. Public consciousness is also characterized by the frustration of unfulfilled hopes, foreign interference, and consignment to marginal status within Europe.
The national identity generally is considered a matter of cultural continuity, with language, religion, democracy, an analytic approach to life, travel, entrepreneurship, cleverness, and personal honor and responsibility as core values that connect contemporary Greeks to the past. An intense relationship to the Mediterranean landscape also plays a role.
The War of Independence, the Catastrophe of 1922, the German occupation, and the civil war figure heavily in national memory. The relationship to the more distant past has, however, been shaped by the important symbolic place reserved for classical Greece in post-Renaissance Europe. While eighteenth-century Greeks called themselves Romeic and looked toward their Byzantine Orthodox heritage, the emphasis Western Europeans placed on classical Greek antiquity led nineteenth-century Greeks to stress European connections over Mediterranean and classical history over medieval. This shift was the source of literary and political debate in the twentieth century, with broader conceptions of Greek identity gradually emerging.
Ethnic Relations. The Balkan peninsula and the Anatolian coast were multiethnic at the start of the nineteenth century. Different groups lived side by side, and there was considerable intermingling and even intermarriage. The pursuit of ethnic nationalism over the last two centuries, however, resulted in increasing ethnic separation. The establishment of ethnically based nation-states led to warfare, territorial disputes, and massive migration. Greece became increasingly monoethnic as members of certain ethnic groups left while Greeks from outside the nation entered. Some sixty thousand of the country's seventy-five thousand Jews were executed or exiled during World War II. Recently, the influx of new immigrants since 1990 is once again creating greater ethnic diversity.
International tension over territorial boundaries and the treatment of minority populations remain high in the region, although the disintegration of Yugoslavia and the former Soviet bloc has unleashed a new dynamic. These tensions often take on an ethnic character. Relations are best with other Orthodox countries and most strained with Turkey, Albania, and the former Yugoslavian republic of Macedonia. The partitioning of Cyprus into Greek and Turkish sides in 1974 remains a bone of contention.
Urbanism, Architecture, and the Use of Space
The population historically has been mobile. Sailors, shepherds, and merchants traveled as a matter of occupation, while peasants frequently moved in response to wars, land tenure policies, and agricultural opportunities. Market towns such as Corinth and Athens have endured for millennia, but smaller settlements appeared and disappeared with regularity. Over the last century, internal migration has overwhelmingly been from mountains to plains, inland to coastal areas, and rural to urban settlements. In this process, hundreds of new villages were founded while others were abandoned, and some towns and cities grew greatly while others declined.
A strongly centralized settlement system revolving around the capital, Athens, has emerged from these moves. The population became predominantly urban after World War II, with only 25 percent living in rural settlements in 1991. The concentration of economic opportunities, international trade, governmental functions, and educational and health facilities in only a few cities has led to the decline of many regional centers and the growth of Athens as a primate city. In 1991, Greater Athens contained 3.1 million people, a third of the population, while the next largest city, Thessaloniki, contained 396,000.
There are distinctive regional architectural styles, such as the pitched roofs of the Arcadian mountains and the flat, rolled ones of the Cyclades. Until recently, much housing was small and owner-built from mud brick, stone, and ceramic tile. Over the last fifty years, the use of industrially produced materials and the construction of more elaborate dwellings has accompanied a dramatic increase in commercial building. International architectural movements have also been influential.
Rural settlements are still characterized by single-family houses, but urban areas contain apartment buildings of five to ten stories. A high value is placed on home ownership, and most urban apartments are owned, not rented. Families tend to buy or remodel homes only after saving the funds needed to do so.
There is a strong public-private distinction in spatial arrangements. Homes are considered private family spaces. Single-family houses often contain walled courtyards that have been replaced in urban apartments with tented balconies. Plazas, open-air markets, shops, churches, schools, coffeehouses, restaurants, and places of entertainment are the major public gathering spots.
An interior view of a home on Crete. Greek homes are private spaces, and hospitality is seen as both a pleasure and a responsibility.
Food and Economy
Food in Daily Life. Grain, grapes, and olives are central to the diet, supplemented with eggs, cheese, yogurt, fish, lamb, goat, chicken, rice, and fruits and vegetables. Certain foods are emblematic of the national identity, including moussaka, baklava, thick coffee, and resinated wine ( retsina ). Coffee-houses have long functioned as daily gathering places for men. Dining out has gained in popularity, with a corresponding increase in the number and variety of restaurants.
Food Customs at Ceremonial Occasions. Guests must always be offered refreshment, and all major ceremonies involve food. At funerals, mourners are given koliva (boiled wheat, sugar, and cinnamon), a special cake is baked on New Year's Day, and the midnight Easter service is followed by a feast, generally of lamb.
Basic Economy. Farming, herding, fishing, seafaring, commerce, and crafts were the historical mainstays of the economy. Before the establishment of the modern state, most people were poor, often landless peasants who worked on feudal-like estates controlled by Turkish overlords and Orthodox monasteries. As the Ottoman Empire faced competition from the economies of western Europe, some peasants began producing cash crops such as currants and lumber for sale to England and France, shipbuilders carried produce from the Black Sea to the Atlantic coast, and carpet makers and metal workers sold their wares throughout Eastern and Central Europe.
After the revolution, the nation was deeply in debt to foreign creditors and lacked the capital and infrastructure needed for economic development, nor could it compete with the increasingly industrial economies of western Europe. Families produced most of their own subsistence needs, from food to housing, while engaging in a variety of entrepreneurial activities, producing everything from sponges and currants to tobacco and cotton. The weakness of the economy and the unpredictability of foreign markets led to periods of economic crisis that sparked large-scale emigration by the late nineteenth century.
In the twentieth century, industry was strengthened by the influx of urban refugees after the Catastrophe of 1922 but remained a small sector of the economy. The growth spurred by foreign aid in the 1950s and 1960s was followed by high inflation rates in the 1970s and 1980s. Governmental efforts at economic stabilization and payments from the European Union brought inflation down to 4 percent by the late 1990s. Current economic efforts are focused on industrial development, effective taxation collection, downsizing of the civil service, keeping inflation in check, and resolving the national debt and dependence on European Union payments.
Land Tenure and Property. Through legislation that distributed large agricultural estates to peasant families, most farmland came to be owned by the people who worked it by the early twentieth century. Population growth and partible inheritance practices have produced small individual holdings, often scattered in several plots at a distance from each other. Much grazing land is publicly held, although herders pay fees and establish customary use rights over particular sections.
Commercial Activities. Familial economic strategies were integrated into a market economy and subsistence activities dwindled during the twentieth century. Handmade crafts are generally aimed at the tourist trade, farming is oriented toward sale, and some basic foodstuffs are imported. Family members engage in a variety of cash-producing activities, combining commercial farming with wage labor in canneries, the renting of rooms to tourists with construction work, and sailing in the merchant marine with driving a taxi. A high value is placed on economic flexibility, being one's own boss, and family-run enterprises.
The most common commercial activities are in construction, tourism, transportation, and small-scale shopkeeping. Major cash crops include tobacco, cotton, sugar beets, grains, vegetables, fruits, olives, and grapes. Herders produce meat, milk products, wool, hides, and dung for sale. Fishing contributes little to the GDP. Mining is focused on lignite, bauxite, asbestos, and marble.
Major Industries. Industrial manufacturing contributed 18 percent to the GDP in the 1990s and employed 19 percent of the labor force. The major products are textiles, clothing, shoes, processed food and tobacco, beverages, chemicals, construction materials, transportation equipment, and metals. Small enterprises dominate.
Trade. The international balance of trade has long been negative. The country exports manufactured products (50 percent of exports), agricultural goods (30 percent), and fuels and ores (8 percent), and imports manufactured products (40 percent of imports), food (14 percent), fuels and ores (25 percent), and equipment (21 percent). In the 1990s, trade increasingly focused on European Union countries, with the major partners being Germany, Italy, France, and Britain, followed by the United States.
The negative trade balance is offset by "invisible" sources of foreign currency such as shipping, tourism, remittances from Greeks living abroad, and European Union payments for infrastructure development, job training, and economic initiatives. The merchant fleet is the largest in the world and tourism involves up to eleven million foreign visitors a year.
Division of Labor. The primary sector (farming, herding, and fishing) contributes over 8 percent to the gross domestic product (GDP), the secondary (mining, manufacturing, energy, and construction) sector contributes over 23 percent, and the tertiary sector (trade, finance, transport, health, and education) contributes 68 percent. The primary sector employs 22 percent of workers, the secondary sector 28 percent, and the tertiary sector 50 percent. Immigrants constitute 5 to 10 percent of the labor force.
Classes and Castes. Despite income differences in the population and a small upper stratum of established families in the larger cities, the class system has been marked by mobility since the establishment of the modern state. Former bases of wealth and power disappeared with the departure of the Ottomans and the dismantling of agricultural estates. A fluid class system fits the strongly egalitarian emphasis of the culture. The degree to which minority groups receive the rights and opportunities of Greeks is a topic of public discussion.
Social status is not coterminous with economic class but results from a combination of wealth, education, occupation, and what is referred to as honor or love of honor ( philotimo ). While sometimes understood only as a source of posturing and argumentation, this concept refers to one's sense of social responsibility, esteem within the community, and attention to proper behavior and public decorum.
Symbols of Social Stratification. The fluidity of class and status means that symbols of social stratification are changeable and diverse, although the trappings of wealth convey a high position, as do urban residence, the use of katharevousa, fluent English and French, and the adoption of Western styles.
A narrow street in the Old Town section of Mykonos, Greece.
Government. Greece is a parliamentary republic modeled after the French system. The redrawn constitution of 1975 established a single legislative body with three hundred seats. The president serves as the ceremonial head of state, while the prime minister is the head of government. Suffrage is universal for those over eighteen years of age. A large civil service bureaucracy administers a host of national, provincial, and local agencies. Governmental functioning often is described as hierarchical and centralized. A municipal reorganization in 1998 combined smaller communities into larger ones in an effort to strengthen the power of local government.
Leadership and Political Officials. Greek political history has been marked by frequent moments of uncertainty, and there have been several military coups and dictatorships, the last being the junta that reigned from 1967 to 1974. Since the end of the junta, two major parties have alternated in power: New Democracy, which controlled parliament from 1974 to 1981 and from 1989 to 1993 and the Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK), which controlled it from 1981 to 1989 and from 1993 to the present.
Citizens maintain a wary skepticism toward politicians and authority figures. Support in national elections often was garnered through patronage, extensive networks of ritual kin, and personal ties in the nineteenth century. The rise of the early twentieth-century politician Eleftherios Venizelos initiated a gradual shift toward ideology and policy as the basis of support.
Local-level politics operate differently from politics on the national level. Municipalities elect leaders more on the basis of personal qualities than political affiliation, and candidates for local office often do not run on a party ticket.
Dealing with the large civil service bureaucracy is seen as a matter for creativity, persistence, and even subtle deception. Individuals often are sent from office to office before their affairs are settled. Those who are most successful operate through networks of personal connections.
Social Problems and Control. The legal system is based on modified Roman law, with strong protection for the rights of the accused. There are criminal, civil, and administrative courts, and since 1984, the police force, which previously was divided into urban and rural units, has operated as a single force. There is little violent crime. Tax evasion often is considered the most serious legal concern. Peer pressure, gossip, belief in forces such as the evil eye, and the strong sense of proper behavior and social responsibility engendered by philotimo operate as informal mechanisms of social control.
Military Activity. Continuing disputes and past wars are important parts of social memory, but since the Civil War there has been a different climate, especially since the end of the Cold War and the removal of most foreign troops. The country stills spends a high percentage of its budget on defense. The Hellenic Armed Forces are divided into an army, an air force, and a navy. There is a universal draft of all males at age twenty for eighteen to twenty-one months of service, with some deferments and exemptions. There are 160,000 soldiers on active duty and over 400,000 reservists.
Social Welfare and Change Programs
There is a nationalized health care system and a state-directed system of disability and pension payments. There are over 650 different pension programs, with membership depending on type of work. The government also has a system of earthquake and other disaster compensation. Banks have been established to support particular sectors of the economy. Caring for the personal needs of the elderly, infirm, and orphaned is considered a family responsibility.
Nongovernmental Organizations and Other Associations
Voluntary organizations include hobby clubs, scouts, sports organizations, performance ensembles, environmental groups, craft cooperatives, and political pressure groups. Among the most common are urban-based organizations formed by people from the same rural area. These associations enroll as much as one-quarter of the Athenian population and raise funds and exert political pressure on behalf of their areas of origin. Agricultural cooperatives are widespread, enabling family-based farmers to buy and sell in bulk. Trade unions are less well established.
Gender Roles and Statuses
Division of Labor by Gender. Rural men and women traditionally shared agricultural tasks, doing some jointly and dividing others by gender. Land and property have long been owned by both men and women, with husbands and wives contributing fields to the family. As the population became urbanized, this pattern shifted. Among families that operated small shops and workshops, both men and women remained economically active. Among those who sought employment outside the home, women were more likely to work at lower-paid positions and to stop working when they had children. Open access to education and evolving child care arrangements are changing this situation, and women now constitute 45 percent of the paid workforce.
The Relative Status of Women and Men. Gender roles were relatively differentiated and male-dominant until recently. Traditionally, men were associated with public spaces and women with private, with the major exception of the role played by women in attending, cleaning, and maintaining churches. There were nevertheless many arenas in which women asserted power or operated in a female-centered world. Their economic role in the family; ownership of property; position as mother; wife, and daughter; maintenance of the household; religious activities; and artistic expression through dancing, music, and crafts all worked in this direction.
There has been a dramatic decline in gender differentiation in the last few decades. Women received full voting rights in 1956, and the Family Law of 1983 established legal gender equality in family relationships and decision making. A majority (53 percent) of students in universities are women, and the percentage of women in public office has increased. Women are now fully present in public spaces, including restaurants, nightclubs, beaches, stores, and public plazas.
Marriage, Family, and Kinship
Marriage. Families are fundamental units of support and identity, and marriage is considered the normal condition of adulthood. With the exception of monastic orders and the upper echelons of the clergy, nearly all people marry. Arranged marriages in which parents negotiated spouses, dowries, and inheritance for their children were once common but have declined. Marriages are monogamous, and the average age at marriage is the late twenties for women and the mid-thirties for men. The divorce rate is among the lowest in Europe. Until 1982, all marriages occurred in churches, but civil marriages have been legal since that time.
Domestic Unit. Although nuclear family households are the most common, stem, joint, and other forms of extended kin arrangements also exist. Postmarital residence patterns are predominantly neolocal, but rural and urban neighborhoods often contain clusters of matrilineally or patrilineally related households, depending on regional traditions and family dynamics. It is common for elderly parents to join the household of one of their adult children.
Inheritance. Equal partible inheritance is the norm by both law and custom. Sons and daughters receive roughly equivalent shares of their parents' wealth in the form of fields, housing, money, higher education, and household effects. Daughters generally received their portion at marriage, but the Family Law of 1983 made the formal institution of the dowry illegal. However, there continues to be considerable transfer of property from parents to children when the children marry.
Kin Groups. The family-based household unit is the most important kinship group. Bilateral kindreds (loose networks of kin on the mother's and father's sides) provide a larger but less cohesive source of identity and support. Ritual kin in the form of godparents and wedding sponsors retain a special relationship throughout a person's life.
A festival on Skiros, Sporades. Nearly all Greek festivals have a religious component as 98 percent of Greeks are Orthodox Christians.
Infant Care. Midwives were common until the mid-twentieth century, but most babies are now born in hospitals. Babies are showered with overt displays of affection by male and female relatives. There is special concern over feeding and a belief that children need to be coaxed into eating. The central ceremony of infancy is baptism, which ideally occurs between forty days and a year after birth. This ceremony initiates the baby into the Orthodox community and is the moment at which a baby's name is officially conferred.
Child Rearing and Education. The successful establishment of one's children is a driving goal. Parents willingly sacrifice for children, and there is a continuing emotional bond between parents and children. Both parents are actively involved in child rearing, along with grandparents and other relatives. Adults give children freedom to explore and play, cultivate their abilities to converse and perform, and participate in social occasions. Parents also stress the value of education. The public school system was established in 1833, and 95 percent of the population is literate. Schooling is compulsory and free for the first nine years and optional and free for the next three. Over 90 percent of students attend public schools.
Higher Education. Higher education is strongly valued. There is a state run university, technical, and vocational school system whose capacity is short of demand. Entrance is achieved by nationwide examinations, and many secondary school students attend private afternoon schools to prepare for these tests. In the 1990s, 140,000 students annually vied for 20,000 university seats and 20,000 technical college seats. Many ultimately seek an education abroad.
Much social life takes place within a close circle of family and friends. Group activities revolve around eating, drinking, playing games, listening to music, dancing, and animated debate and conversation. These gatherings often aim at the achievement of kefi, a sense of high spirits and relaxation that arises when one is happily transported by the moment and the company. Drinking may contribute to the attainment of kefi, but becoming drunk is considered disgraceful.
A major occasion on which people open their homes to a wide range of visitors is the day honoring the saint for whom a person is named. On those days, it is permissible to call on anyone bearing that saint's name. Guests generally bring sweets or liquor,
The Parthenon sits above an industrialized Athens, decaying from the exhaust-fouled air.
Hospitality is seen as both a pleasure and a responsibility. Hosts are generous, and guests are expected to accept what is offered with only token protests. Hospitality is often extended to foreigners, but the deluge of travelers, ambivalence about the impact of tourism, and the improper or condescending behavior of some tourists complicate the situation.
Religious Beliefs. Close to 98 percent of the people are Orthodox Christians, just over 1 percent are Muslims, and there are small numbers of Jews, Seventh Day Adventists, Roman Catholics, and members of Protestant denominations. Greeks became involved in Christianity very early. After the Roman Emperor Constantine embraced the new religion, he moved his capital to Constantinople in 330 C.E. The new center grew into the Greek-dominated Eastern Roman or Byzantine Empire. Tension between the Christian patriarchs of Constantinople and Rome ultimately led to the Schism of 1054, which divided the religion into Orthodoxy and Catholicism. The Orthodox church represented and supported the Christian population of Eastern Europe after the Ottoman conquest. In 1833, after the revolution, the Orthodox Church of Greece became the first of several national Orthodox churches in the region, each autonomous while recognizing the spiritual leadership of the patriarch in Constantinople. Today there are sixteen separate Orthodox churches and patriarchates. The Orthodox Church of Greece is officially designated the religion of the nation, its officials exert some influence in state matters, and it receives state funds.
Religious Practitioners. The Orthodox Church of Greece is overseen by the Holy Synod, whose president is the archbishop of Athens. Under this synod are regional bishops as well as monks, nuns, and priests who run specific churches and monastic institutions. Local priests are encouraged to marry, but other members of the clergy may not. Care of local churches is the responsibility of the community of worshipers, and priests are assisted by deacons, chanters, and local women who clean the buildings and bake bread for communion.
Rituals and Holy Places. Orthodoxy includes a series of daily, weekly, and annual rites, including the Sunday liturgy and the Twelve Great Feasts, of which the most important is Easter and the Holy Week that precedes it. Twenty to 25 percent of the population attends weekly services, while many more people are present at annual ones. There are four periods of fasting and saint's days in honor of the three hundred Orthodox saints. There are also rites associated with key events in the life cycle, such as funerals, weddings, and baptisms. Many people integrate religious practice into their daily lives, crossing themselves while passing a church or entering to light a candle, pray, or meditate.
Larger Orthodox churches are often constructed in a cross in-square configuration, and all contain an icon screen separating the sanctuary where communion bread and wine are sanctified from the rest of the building. Icons are pictorial representations of saints in paint or mosaic that serve as symbols of holiness. In many homes, there is a niche where icons and holy oil are displayed. Some churches and monasteries have become national sites of pilgrimage because of their association with miracles and historical events.
Death and the Afterlife. In Orthodox belief, at the time of death, a person's soul begins a journey toward judgment by God, after which the soul is consigned to paradise or hell. Relatives wash and prepare the body for the funeral, which is held in a church within twenty-four hours of death. The body is buried, not cremated, for decomposition is considered part of the process by which a person's sins are forgiven and the soul travels to paradise. The next forty days are a precarious time, at the end of which the soul is judged. Visits are paid to the relatives of the deceased, and additional rituals are held, some with open displays of grief and singing of laments. Three to seven years after burial, the bones of the deceased are exhumed and placed in a family vault or a communal ossuary. The degree to which the body has decomposed and the bones have turned white is seen as evidence of the extent to which the person's sins have been forgiven and the soul has entered a blissful state.
Medicine and Health Care
The state-run National Health Service, a network of hospitals, clinics, and insurance organizations, was established in 1983. The service provides basic health care even in remote areas, but there is an over concentration of hospital facilities, doctors, and nurses in Athens and other major cities. Private health care facilities are used by those who can afford them. The health status of Greek citizens is roughly equivalent to that of Western Europe. Western concepts of biomedicine are well accepted but are supplemented for some individuals by longstanding cultural conceptions concerning the impact that certain foods, the wind, hot and cold temperatures, envy, and anxiety have on health.
Nearly all celebrations have a religious component, and all major rites of the Orthodox church are public holidays. Among celebrations with a predominantly secular orientation are Ochi Day (28 October), commemorating the occasion when Greek leaders refused Mussolini's demand to surrender in 1940; Independence Day (25 March), when Bishop Germanos of Patras raised the flag of revolt against the Ottomans near Kalavryta in 1821; New Year's Day, when people gather, play cards, and cut a special cake that contains a lucky coin; and, Labor Day (1 May), a time for picnics and excursions to the country.
The Arts and Humanities
Support for the Arts. The Ministry of Culture supports all the arts in terms of production, education, publicity, festivals, and national centers, such as the Greek Film Center. There are provincial and municipal theaters, folklore institutes, orchestras, conservatories, dance centers, art workshops, and literary groups.
Literature. Oral poetry and folk songs thrived even under Ottoman domination and developed into more formal, written forms as the nation-state emerged. Poets and novelists have brought contemporary national themes into alignment with the major movements in Western literature. There have been two Greek Nobel laureates: George Seferis and Odysseas Elytis.
Graphic Arts. Long-standing traditions of pottery, metalworking, rugmaking, woodcarving, and textile production have been carried forward by artisan and craft cooperatives. Many sculptors and painters are in the vanguard of contemporary European art, while others continue the tradition of Orthodox icon painting.
Performance Arts. Music and dance are major forms of group and self-expression, and genres vary from Byzantine chants to the music of the urban working class known as rebetika . Distinctively Greek styles of music, dance, and instrumentation have not been displaced by the popularity of Western European and American music. Some of the most commonly used instruments are the bouzouki, santouri (hammer dulcimer), lauto (mandolin-type lute), clarinet, violin, guitar, tsambouna (bagpipe), and lyra (a-stringed Cretan instrument), many of which function as symbols of national or regional identity. The popular composers Mikis Theodorakis and Manos Hadjidakis have achieved international fame.
Shadow puppet plays revolving around the wily character known as Karagiozis were very popular in the late Ottoman period. Dozens of theater companies in Athens, Thessaloniki, and other areas, perform contemporary works and ancient dramas in modern Greek. Films are a popular form of entertainment, and several Greek filmmakers and production companies have produced a body of melodramas, comedies, musicals, and art films.
State of the Physical and Social Sciences
The University of Athens was established in 1837, with faculties in theology, law, medicine, and the arts (which included applied sciences and mathematics). The national system has expanded to nearly twenty public universities and technical schools that offer a full range of academic and applied subjects. There are several state-funded research centers, such as the National Centre for Scientific Research, the National Centre for Social Research, and the Center for Programming and Economic Research. The social sciences suffered under some governments in the past but are now flourishing.
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Danforth, Loring. The Macedonian Conflict: Ethnic Nationalism in a Transnational World, 1995.
Dubisch, Jill, ed. Gender and Power in Rural Greece, 1986.
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Gougouris, Stathis. Dream Nation: Enlightenment, Colonization, and the Institution of Modern Greece, 1996.
Herzfeld, Michael. Ours Once More: Folklore, Ideology, and the Making of Modern Greece, 1982.
Karakasidou, Anastasia. Fields of Wheat, Hills of Blood: Passages to Nationhood in Greek Macedonia, 1997.
Leontis, Artemis. Topographies of Hellenism, 1995.
Loizos, Peter, and Evthymios Papataxiarchis, eds. Contested Identities: Gender and Kinship in Modern Greece, 1991.
Mouzelis, Nicos. Modern Greece: Facets of Underdevelopment, 1978.
Panourgia, Neni. Fragments of Death, Fables of Identity: An Athenian Anthropography, 1995.
Seremetakis, C. Nadia. The Last Word: Women, Death, and Divination in Inner Mani, 1991.
Stewart, Charles. Demons and the Devil: Moral Imagination in Modern Greek Culture, 1991.
Sutton, Susan Buck, ed. Contingent Countryside: Settlement, Economy, and Land Use in the Southern Argolid Since 1700, 2000.
Food taboos are known from virtually all human societies. Most religions declare certain food items fit and others unfit for human consumption. Dietary rules and regulations may govern particular phases of the human life cycle and may be associated with special events such as menstrual period, pregnancy, childbirth, lactation, and – in traditional societies – preparation for the hunt, battle, wedding, funeral, etc. On a comparative basis many food taboos seem to make no sense at all, as to what may be declared unfit by one group may be perfectly acceptable to another. On the other hand, food taboos have a long history and one ought to expect a sound explanation for the existence (and persistence) of certain dietary customs in a given culture. Yet, this is a highly debated view and no single theory may explain why people employ special food taboos. This paper wants to revive interest in food taboo research and attempts a functionalist's explanation. However, to illustrate some of the complexity of possible reasons for food taboo five examples have been chosen, namely traditional food taboos in orthodox Jewish and Hindu societies as well as reports on aspects of dietary restrictions in communities with traditional lifestyles of Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, and Nigeria. An ecological or medical background is apparent for many, including some that are seen as religious or spiritual in origin. On the one hand food taboos can help utilizing a resource more efficiently; on the other food taboos can lead to the protection of a resource. Food taboos, whether scientifically correct or not, are often meant to protect the human individual and the observation, for example, that certain allergies and depression are associated with each other could have led to declaring food items taboo that were identified as causal agents for the allergies. Moreover, any food taboo, acknowledged by a particular group of people as part of its ways, aids in the cohesion of this group, helps that particular group maintain its identity in the face of others, and therefore creates a feeling of "belonging".
Years ago a student asked me the following question: "Why don't all animals eat the same kinds of food?" This may have sounded a stupid question, but it is not as trivial an enquiry as one might have thought initially. Afterall, to grow and survive, animals all need the same basic things: carbohydrates, protein, fats, some minerals and water." So, why do we have this diversity of food specialists on Earth? Why are there herbivores, carnivores, detritovores, insectivores, fungivores, coprophages, xylophages and many more?
Although it is true that all heterotrophic organisms need the same fundamental food stuffs, it is easy to understand that on account of their different sizes, different anatomies, and different habitats, different species must make use of different food sources to satisfy their needs. A cat would happily devour the meat of an antelope and a lion would not reject a mouse, but both are not built for these kinds of food items. A tree-dwelling leaf-eater does not graze on the ground and a grazer does not climb trees. Pond snails may love lettuce, but they can never leave their watery realm. Moreover, it is a "Law of Nature" that, where there is an underexploited resource, it usually does not take long before such a resource is 'discovered' and used by some organism. Yet, intense competition for one and the same kind of food by two species ultimately would lead to the extinction of one of them or it would result in the two species occupying different niches, either in connection with the food itself or the timing of feeding [1,2].
It is, thus, easy to understand why different species of animals with different anatomies and habitat preferences should use different food items, but food specialists within a species also occur and it is then less obvious why individuals of one and the same species should exploit different resources. It becomes really tricky, when some adults of the same gender, species, and overall physical built nevertheless vary in relation to their food preferences. Intraspecific competition may be involved, differences in hunting and/or collecting skills and strategies, acquired through learning or chance discovery, could be the reason, and there could even be an outwardly not visible physiological basis for such kinds of behaviour. Yet, no ecologist or zoologist would use the term "food taboo" to describe intraspecific food preferences of this kind in animals, but in connection with humans we do use the term "food taboo". We use it (or refer to "prohibitions") to distinguish the deliberate avoidance of a food item for reasons other than simple dislike from food preferences. In non-human mammals, dominant individuals may force weaker ones to accept less sought-after food items, and a possible liking for these originally reluctantly accepted food items may in turn develop [2,3]. Some aspect of this scenario may also apply to human societies, because food taboos can be imposed on individuals by outsiders, or by members of the kinship group to manifest themselves through instruction and example during upbringing .
Probably food taboos (as unwritten social rules) exist in one form or another in every society on Earth, for it is a fact that perhaps nowhere in the world, a people, a tribe, or an ethnic group, makes use of the full potential of edible items in its surroundings [5-10]. One of many examples, although an especially well-studied one, involves the Ache people, i.e., hunters and gatherers of the Paraguayan jungle. According to Hill and Hurtado , the tropical forests of the Ache habitat abound with several hundreds of edible mammalian, avian, reptilian, amphibian and piscine species, yet the Ache exploit only 50 of them. Turning to the plants, fruits, and insects the situation is no different, because only 40 of them are exploited. Ninety eight percent of the calories in the diet of the Ache are supplied by only seventeen different food sources.
Although mere avoidance of potential food (for whatever reason) does not in itself signify a food taboo, it is easy to see how regular avoidance can turn into a tradition and eventually end up as a food taboo [7,8,10]. But what is it that leads to the regular avoidance? Social anthropological research on eating and food taboos (cf., reviews [7-11]) has frequently invoked utilitarian [7-9] and magico-religious motives  or seen the dichotomy between positive and negative rites as a basis for food taboos [11,12]. A functionalist's explanation of food taboos as mechanisms for conserving resources as well as a person's health, have been less popular (cf., ), although there is good evidence in support of both [14-19]. Yet even rituals and taboos based on spiritual, religious, and magic ideation must have had a "history" and somehow 'got going' [7-11,20-23]. Therefore, given that food taboos can involve plants as well as animals, solids as well as liquids, hot as well as cold categories, wet and dry items, etc. [7-9,12-15], this review, rather than attempting to provide a complete list of food taboos operating in human societies, will instead present examples of food taboos in selected human groups that illustrate some of the wide spectrum of food taboo origins. The five examples chosen reflect the author's own cultural background (Jewish dietary laws), or are based on original field research by the author in Central Australia, Papua New Guinea, and India, or refer to other persons' published work (e.g., food taboos of the Orang Asli by ).
Based on the authors own experience, observations, recordings, and interactions with locals, examples of Jewish dietary laws and Hindu practices form the basis of examples 4 and 5. Research stays in India of 2 months (Meghalaya and Nagaland) and three weeks (Karnataka and Goa) during sabbaticals in 1990 and 2005 as well as a Brahmin Indian wife further helped gathering the necessary information for the section on Hindu food taboos.
Field work by the author in Papua Niugini of several weeks each in 1972 (Onabasulu and neighbouring tribes), 1998, 2002, and 2004 (Kiriwina), during which the author stayed with the locals in their villages or homesteads and then studied the locals' entomophagic practices as well as food taboos, forms the basis for the information given in example 2. Information in the field was always gathered from more than one informant (although it has to be mentioned that the informants were all males). Examples 1 and 3 (Orang Asli and Mid-West Nigerian food taboos) were chosen from the literature available, because they illustrated yet other aspects and reasons for food taboos, not covered in the earlier mentioned examples. Thus, the selection of the examples represents a mixture between emic experiences from within a culture and etic approaches, i.e., results of field work amongst cultures other than the author's own and research carried out by additional investigators on yet further cultural entities. The reason for the selection of the examples was twofold: to demonstrate the existence of very different possible food taboo reasons and to re-ignite interest in this important field of inter-disciplinary research.
Example 1: The Orang Asli food taboos
The term 'Orang Asli' describes a variety of aboriginal tribes, nowadays confined to the forests and forest fringes of West Malaysia. Food taboos amongst these people have been recorded by Bolton . In the context of this review, the Orang Asli were chosen as an example of a people, in which food taboos appear to serve a double-purpose: the spiritual well-being of individuals and resource partitioning.
Human flesh is never eaten and animals, which the Orang Asli have kept as pets or have reared, are also protected. They can be sold, though, or given away to others, who then would have no qualms of consuming them. An animal that is capable of feeding on a human being will not be eaten as it conceivably could contain some "humanness" in it.
Small lizards and leeches are considered to be unclean to the jungle Orang Asli. Should a leech, for example, accidentally drop into the cooking pot, all its contents will be regarded as contaminated and thrown away. Poisonous and harmful animals are also taboo, but the dangers that result from eating certain species are frequently less real or physiological than spiritual/psychological. Thus, the crow is thought to be poisonous and is rarely eaten. Likewise, any small, crawling animal living in or on the soil, is usually left alone for fear it might be dangerous.
Since all animals are considered to possess spirits, many Orang Asli will start their weaned children of more than 4 years of age on small animals: fish, frogs, toads, small birds and water snails. When the child gets a bit older, rats and mice can be added to the list of edible species.
At 20 years of age the human spirit is deemed to be strong enough to successfully compete with the spirits of small monkeys, bat species, cats, anteaters, deer, turtle, larger birds, and even the Malayan bear. Later in age snakes, gibbons, and bigger animals, including the elephant, no longer remain taboo.
Pregnant women have strict food taboos to observe and must restrict themselves to rats, squirrels, frogs, toads, smaller birds and fishes, that is animals which are small and thought to possess "weak" spirits. Moreover, rodents may be eaten only if caught by the pregnant woman's husband or a near relative and she must eat the whole rodent by herself. Fish must also be caught by a near relative (but never with a spear or with the help of explosives).
After childbirth, the mother normally eats gruel for a week and for 6 weeks thereafter has to eat on her own. She continues to observe food taboos, but her husband, who observed the same food restrictions as his pregnant wife, is then no longer bound by them. Special 6-day food taboos may be "prescribed" by a medicine man for any sick person that seeks his advice.
Although the food taboos of the Orang Asli are not totally absolute, men are always ready to remind the younger women and children of the dangers of breaking them and of eating meat of new and unfamiliar species.
Example 2: Food taboos of Papua New Guinea tribals
In Papua New Guinea ('Niugini" in Pidgin-English) with her multitude of peoples and cultures, food taboos are particularly varied. The example chosen illustrate that many food taboos are designed to protect humans from health hazards real and assumed. Yet, a tendency by some section of the society to safeguard exclusive rights to certain food items is also obvious.
Onabasulu and neighbouring tribes with institutionalized homosexuality, like the Kaluli and others, regard with great suspicion any organism that lives or burrows in the soil . Even harmless earthworms are detested. Illnesses are thought to frequently stem from the wrong food intake: stomach ache sufferers must avoid juicy fruits, such as watermelons, pawpaw, cabbage and the introduced pineapple.
Women are thought to be permanently in this 'sickly' and 'runny' state, because of recurring menstruations and are not allowed fresh meat, juicy bananas and all fruits of the forest of red colour. If a menstruating woman eats a fresh animal caught in a trap, it is thought that future traps will not fall; if the animal was caught with a dog, it is feared that the dog will lose its ability to find scent. Similarly, bananas and pandanus: if a menstruating woman happens to eat some of these fruits, it is believed that the trees will then cease to bear. A woman herself must leave the communal longhouse and move to a shack some distance away for the duration of her period. If she should cook or step over food, those who eat it, particularly her husband, will become "ill with cough and possibly die" . Mature women must not eat fish and when pregnant are not even permitted eggs. Young unmarried men receive the best food and have to obey the smallest number of food taboos. When married, they, like their wives, can no longer eat fresh, but only smoked meat.
In the Kiriwina (Trobriand) Islanders, pregnant women, too, have a considerable amount of food taboos to observe: fishes that lead a cryptic life or like to attach themselves to corals are not to be eaten by a pregnant woman, because this might cause her to have a complicated birth. Similar beliefs are attached to bananas, pawpaws, mango, and other fruits; they are thought to either cause a hydrocephalus, club-foot, distorted belly or give rise to other deformities in the newborn [27,28].
In addition to these food taboos, different ones, affecting men, also exist. If the men intend to go fishing for sharks, they not only have to abstain from sexual intercourse for a while, but they also have to fast (posuma) and drink a large quantity of saltwater beforehand. Flatfish, including soles and stingrays, as well as a considerable number of other species of fish are taboo, and during the turtle season no garden work is to be carried out.
Food unfit for human consumption in one village because of taboos, may, however, be traded for the permitted item from others, who observe other taboos. For example, the socially excluded inhabitants of the village of Boitalu are the only people on the Kiriwina Islands that can eat wild pig and wallaby (a small species of kangaroo).
Particularly strict taboos govern what chiefs are permitted to eat. In the northern part of Kiriwina they may eat only fried or roasted things, stewed and boiled food being banned. In the south, however, the village chiefs are the only ones allowed to violate against the flatfish and stingray taboo.
Example 3: Food taboos in Mid-West Nigeria
The continent of Africa, because of its size, presents an enormous variety of food taboos. In many parts fresh milk is avoided by adults, although for the Masai, Fulbe, Nuba and other East African groups this commodity is thought to represent a particularly wholesome food for young men and warriors . Observations on food taboos of the inhabitants of mid-west Nigeria were chosen as they represent a particularly good example of a people, in which food taboos appear to have been imposed on society mainly to serve the interests of the 'strongest' section, i.e., the reification of social hegemonies of the society: in particular the menfolk .
In the mid-west state of Nigeria, meat and eggs are not usually given to children, because parents believe it will make the children steal . Gizzards and thighs of ducks are eaten by the elderly; children can only have the lower legs or sometimes the head. Frequently coconut milk and liver is taboo for children, because it is believed that "the milk renders them unintelligent, whereas the liver causes abscesses in their lungs" .
In some parts of Ishan, Afemai, and Isoko Divisions pregnant women avoid snails, whereas pregnant women of the Asaba Division are neither allowed to eat eggs nor drink milk, "because it is feared the children may develop bad habits after birth" . Woen tribals of the Ika Division are forbidden to consume porcupine as that is thought to cause a delay in labour. Interestingly, the opposite (an easy delivery) is expected from some pregnant Urhobo women, who have consumed food leftovers from a rat. Following delivery, young mothers in parts of Benin and Ishan Divisions must not consume oil or fresh meat and in parts of Ishan, palmnut soup is forbidden for 30 days postpartum.
Men have fewer food taboos to observe, but nevertheless some also exist. Snail consumption may weaken a warrior's strength and to kill and eat some legendary animals that have helped a particular tribe in the past during intertribal warfare is totally forbidden. Thus, in some areas the partridge or bush fowl is not eaten; in others it is some water reptile or the porcupine or even the sheep that are protected by the food taboo. Beans are one of the plant species that are not eaten, because they are believed to cause stomach disorders.
Example 4: The Hindu food taboos
The Hindu food taboos were chosen as example nr. 4 to illustrate how, in this case, the spiritual aspect dominates all food taboos. The concept of re-incarnation and the sanctity of life lies at the root of these food taboos, but resource conservation and safe-guarding health play a role as well.
In the Vedic Hindu Society there is a subdivision into 4 castes on the basis of labour: Brahmin (priestly), Kshatriya (defence), Vaisya (agriculture and business), and Shudra (menial labour). Lord Krishna compared the community to a human body, in which the Brahmin caste represents the head, and the others the arms, legs and bowels. Brahmins never handle any meat, fish, or eggs let alone eat any of these foods. A Brahmin cannot even imagine bringing such foods into the house. Furthermore, many orthodox Brahmins abstain from cooking or eating onion and garlic as they are said to increase passions like anger and sex drive. Milk and milk products are consumed, but said to be very sacred as the cow is held in the highest regard as "a holy mother".
Although the people belonging to the three other castes sometimes partake in fish, eggs, and even meats (normally only chicken, goat, or mutton), these are never to be cooked or eaten during religious occasions, marriages, times of mourning, breaking religious fasts, pilgrimages, and similar times. Certain special religious festival days (as well as Mahatma Gandhi's Day) are declared by the Indian Government as "Meatless Days" when no meat is sold anywhere. In castes, in which meat-eating does occur, widows are tabooed from eating meat, fish, or eggs so as to keep their passions low. On the l1th day after New Moon and Full Moon (Ekadasi) many Hindus abstain from eating grain, which otherwise is their staple food. Pregnant women are restricted from eating pawpaw and jackfruit as substances in these fruits are feared to have abortive influences.
During any religious ceremony (and for a Brahmin, every day is governed by strict religious schedules) the offering of food to the gods always precedes food intake. Food, thus, becomes sanctified and is called 'Prasad' (i.e., God's Mercy), which is then partaken. This practice follows from the ancient scripture "Bhagavad Gita" , in which the Lord says: "If one offers Me with love and devotion a leaf, a flower, fruit, or water, I will accept it" (Text 26) and "...all that you do, all that you eat, all that you offer and give away as well as austerities that you may perform, should be done as an offering unto Me" (Text 27). "In this way you will be freed from all reactions to good and evil deeds and by this principle of renunciation you will be liberated and come to Me" .
Hindus do believe that plants also have life, though in a more sedate and sedentary form. The use of plants as food is considered less sinful than taking the lives of animals, but they must not be broken or harvested after dark. The saying "You are what you eat" is explicitly mentioned in the Bhagavad Gita (Chapter 17: ): "Foods in the mode of goodness increase the duration of life, purify one's existence and give strength, health, happiness and satisfaction. Such nourishing foods are sweet, juicy, fattening, and palatable. Foods that are too bitter, too sour, salty and pungent, dry and hot, are liked by people in the modes of passion. Such foods cause pain, distress, and disease. Food cooked more than three hours before being eaten, which is tasteless, stale, putrid, decomposed and unclean, is food liked by people in the mode of ignorance". Thus, although this powerful message does not contain precise instructions to "do" or "not to do", it describes the effects of different kinds of food and leaves the final choice to the individual. The non-selected foods may therefore be declared food taboos by society.
The Situation with regard to liquids is fairly similar. Intoxicants are plainly said to put a person's mind off the natural course and, hence, puts the person into more passion and ignorance. Alcohol and narcotics are, therefore, forbidden and will not enter the household of a traditional Hindu family.
Example 5: The Jewish dietary laws
Jewish dietary laws, containing some of the sentiments found also in the Hindu food taboos, have been chosen to illustrate how food taboos with origins steeped in religion, promotion of health, and protection of life combine to create a set of rules that foremost and for all unite a people and create group-cohesion.
On the day of the Atonement (Yom Kippur) no Jew will eat or drink anything for 24 hours (and on the ninth of the month of 'Av' many will fast again). During the first nine days of the month of 'Av', as an expression of mourning, no meat whatsoever is eaten. On Pessah (Passover) nothing that is leavened (in other words ordinary bread) is consumed or enters a Jewish home.
Certain kinds of food have become associated with particular seasons or festivals: the matzah has become the bread of affliction on Pessah; 'gefillte fish' is a common dish on the Shabbat eve; a Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year) without apples and honey is impossible to imagine, and hamantaschen and kreplach are foods symbolical of the feast of Purim . Yet, all through the year a Jew is conscious of his/her Jewishness through complex dietary laws, collectively termed 'kashrut'. Milk or milk-products (i.e., 'Milchiges' in Yiddish) must never be consumed together with meat (i.e., 'Fleischiges' in Yiddish). Plates, pots, cutlery, and other utensils used in connection with meat-containing foods must be kept separate at all times from those used with other foods.
To be classified as permitted (i.e., kosher), an animal must both chew the cud and have a cloven hoof, birds have to have wings, and aquatic organisms must possess both fins and scales . Shrimps, oysters, lobsters, creatures that creep on the ground, reptiles and worms found in fruits or vegetables are all prohibited. To ingest blood of any animal is strictly forbidden, and to be fit for consumption "beast and fowl must be slaughtered according to the law and if they are not of a domesticated species their blood must be covered with earth after slaughter" .
An animal that has died naturally is considered unfit for consumption as is a torn or mauled animal. Also prohibited is the sinew of the thigh (gid hanasheh) of any animal. The only permitted way of slaughter is with "an exceedingly sharp knife without the slightest notch so as to make the taking of a life as painless a procedure as possible" . Slaughtering an animal and its young on the same day is prohibited and there is also a requirement to release a parent bird before taking the chicks . As one of the seven Noachidic Laws, the prohibition to eat flesh of a living animal applies to Jew and non-Jew alike. The rabbinical attitude towards hunting animals for pleasure is entirely negative .
Interpreting the biblical record, mankind was not allowed to eat any meat at all until after "the Flood", although as part of the holy sacrifice of animals to God the consumption of kosher meat had been allowed [37,38]. Later, when the entire Jewish people became considered a "kingdom of priests", the priestly rules in relation to the consumption of "clean" (kosher) meat were extended to the whole community. Even then, only special persons can actually take an animal's life. It has to be a 'Shohet', the Jewish ritual slaughterer, whose appointment depends on the possession of a rabbinical certificate, and on Shabbat or other holy days no killing can take place.
Not always are the dietary laws clear and explicit and there is often room for interpretation, especially with regard to insects as food. Popularly considered 'trefah' (unfit for human consumption) locusts and scale insects are an exception and some Jewish scholars firmly believe that in the passage  "examine beast, fowl, locusts, and fish to determine whether they are permitted...", the term locusts stands for insects generally, while others apply it to just four species of locusts. Jewish dietary laws apply to everyone in the community, so that no exceptions for children, women or old folk are permitted, as long as a human life is not endangered. The protection of human life, however, overrides all dietary discipline and for priests and dealings with priests additional dietary rules apply.
Christian 'Seventh Day Adventists' have adopted many of the Jewish/Biblical dietary laws, but while to the Jew there is a place for wine, coffee, and tea (at least for those old enough to have been given complete religious responsibility), Seventh Day Adventists declare all intoxicating and addictive drinks prohibited. Gluttony and drunkenness are, of course, also forbidden to Jews.
Different workers have different opinions on what constitutes a "food taboo". Generally speaking, a taboo prohibits someone from doing something, e.g., "touching a sacred person, killing a certain animal, eating certain food, eating at certain times" . Taboos represent "unwritten social rules that regulate human behaviour"  and define the "in-group" . According to Barfield  there may be as many as 300 reasons for particular avoidances (amongst them not wanting to look like a food item, special place of food item in myth or history, food item perceived as dirty, predatory, humanlike etc.), which can magnify effects of seasonal or other restrictions on nutritional intake and may put women at nutritional risk during critical periods in their reproductive cycle.
If the avoidance of a certain food item provides the food avoider with an immediate result, for instance absence of an allergic reaction, we can assign a proximate cause to the food item in question. However, if the consequences of a food taboo are not immediately visible and may take months, years, or even generations to manifest themselves, we have to speak of ultimate causes. For researchers of food taboos, the often unsurmountable difficulty is that proximate and ultimate causes of food taboos may overlap  and, in fact, cannot always be separated.
It can be seen from these remarks that a discussion of food taboos is possible in a variety of ways with a variety of foci. By using the examples given above in this paper, the author wishes to highlight certain reasons, which seem to have been involved in the establishment of food taboos in those cultures examined (but may have been at the root of food taboos in other cultures as well). Discussing the examples in this way, a kind of classification results that might well be generally applicable to societies (not part of this investigation), in which food taboos exist.
Food taboos for certain members of the society and to highlight special events
Any interpretation of food taboos has to consider the region they operate in, the era or circumstances they came into existence, or, in other words, the food history of a people [7,8,41,42]. Desert locusts, having been common and sustained ancient Israelites in a dry land, are not taboo, but why should other insects be taboo? Rational explanations are not always possible and what to one group is strictly taboo, to another may be perfectly acceptable . Some food taboos evolved in connection with attempts to steer or control man's destiny  and attempts to put some "order" into the occurrence of and reason(s) behind food taboos must realize that food taboo categories are not clear-cut. Food taboos, based on religious beliefs for example, may have a health-related root and taboos restricting certain foods to men may be an expression of male dominance or differences in skills between the sexes.
Taking a look at the ubiquity of food taboos, we notice that sometimes taboos affect all sections of the population at all times: Jewish dietary laws  and the basic Hindu regulation of "no meat, no fish, no eggs" are cases in point. Occasionally, ubiquitous food taboos become suspended or are enforced periodically as with the Friday for the Catholic Christians, when no meat but fish only is to be consumed and the pre-Easter weeks of lent, when meat of warm-blooded animals should not be eaten. The annual Yom Kippur with its total ban of food and liquid intake as a periodical food taboo event (cf., definition of the word taboo ) also comes to mind, but this total stop of food and liquid intake is a special case.
Frequently, food taboos affect males or females, leaders or subjects, children or widows and widowers differently; in other words they are distributed unevenly. Food taboos, as we have seen in the examples of the Orang Asli in Malaysia , mid-west state Nigerians , or parts of the Congo , may change throughout a person's lifetime with age in a predictable manner, as accepted and expected by society.
Food taboos frequently accompany 'coming-of-age' or initiation ceremonies ; they can also be prescribed at times of drought, flooding or lunar and solar eclipses, and many more events. Thus, one of the aims of food taboos is to highlight particular happenings, making them memorable. In fact, the vast majority of all food taboos come under this group of "specific events" and one of its various sub-categories. Food taboos at menstruation, during and after pregnancies, on the sickbed in times of illness, in times of mourning, in preparation for a wedding, or before combat are commonly encountered . Persons of Asian descent traditionally perceive health in connection with the bodily balance of 'hot and cold' and, thus, when under the influence of disease or pregnancy, would avoid food items considered 'hot', which may even include iron tablets .
Food taboos to protect human health
When a particular taboo is regarded as God-given, as a form of instruction or command from the "Supreme" and thus play a role in the cultural or religious belief system , then it is usually seen as part of a 'package' to protect the believers, to safeguard them against evil [20-23]. To doubt, even to ask any questions about the reasons behind the taboo is seen as blasphemous. Likewise, in tribes with totem beliefs, it follows that it has to be taboo to eat the totem animal, as otherwise it could take revenge and adversely affect the whole tribe . However, irrespective of the God-given rules or advice, people must have noticed changes in the behaviour of persons that consumed certain food items. Such behavioural and/or emotional consequences of certain foods must have been recognizable not only to the consumer of the food, but also to her/his company and could have been the origin of such seemingly God-given guidelines. For instance, food items involved in IgE-mediated allergies (like, for instance, shrimp: ) should have been easily identifiable and then could first have led to their avoidance and, secondly, to a total ban of them.
Eating to regulate emotions has been listed as one of the five classes of "emotion-induced changes of eating" by Macht  and IgE-mediated atopic diseases are known to be associated with depression  and suicide rate . An increase of unsaturated fatty acids in the diet has been found to be correlated with decreased violent behaviour  and an exposure to sunflower seeds  and colorants derived from the fungus Monascus ruber  can cause asthma attacks. Finally, low glycaemic meals have been reported to improve memory and ability to sustain attention , features that might not have gone unnoticed by our forebears in earlier times and could have led to the avoidance or recommendation not to consume certain food items.
As scientists we are obliged to probe, to scrutinize, to question and although many food taboos do not appear to have a health-related, 'rational' explanation, some clearly have become established, because of the aim to protect the health of an individual (and this would equally apply to Modena's recently suggested "anti-taboo" concept in choosing food denominations: ). Taboos of the Hindu related to collecting fruits and breaking plants after sunset go back to times when no artificial lighting was available and, therefore, it must have been outright dangerous to pick fruits at night. Consequently, it would make perfect sense to taboo the collecting of fruit after dark. Nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, cramps, and maybe death, whether rightly or wrongly, were frequently considered to be some of the after-effects of ingesting certain foods .
In some cases the threat to a person's health may be obvious and demonstrable with modern medical, chemical, and other analytical techniques, but of course it was not always like this. Amazon and coastal fishermen, for example, declare mostly carnivorous, especially piscivorous, fishes taboo: we know now that their place high in the food pyramid renders them particular rich in contaminants and toxins . Alcohol, another example, is an addictive poison and as such is taboo for children of most societies. Snakes and other venomous or dangerous creatures had better be left alone as the risk of procuring them for food can outweigh their nutritional value. A utilitarian reason to despise swine, as it competes with humans for food and water in dry lands, has been put forward by Harris , but pork is taboo to many people, because pigs tend to harbour masses of sickness-causing parasites. Moreover, it is claimed that pig meat contains substances, which have been linked to high blood pressure, atherosclerosis, rheumatism, arthritis, boils, asthma and eczema. Apparently, soldiers fighting in North Africa during World War II began to increasingly suffer from toxic ulcera of the legs as long as there was pork in their diet. When their food was pork-free, the ulcera disappeared .
Food taboos during pregnancy and food changes over the course of the menstrual cycle
Declaring certain foods taboo because they are thought to make a person sick, is also the basis for the many food taboos affecting pregnant women. Largely linked with the realms of mind and 'psyche', the taboos of not eating cryptic fish amongst the Trobriand Islanders or watermelon and other fruits amongst the Onabasulu are actually meant to protect the health of the pregnant woman and her offspring and thought to ease the process of birth-giving, even if modern nutritionists completely disagree. Likewise, the rule of the Orang Asli that young people can only cope with small animals like snails, mice and rats as food, because their spirits are also small and for that reason are not likely to do much harm to a small child's spirit, is designed to protect human life.
Yet, it is often pregnant and lactating women in various parts of the world that are forced to abstain from especially nutritious and beneficial foods (Mexico: ; Indonesia: ; Korea: Lee H.-I., pers. comm.). Although it is not clear why and how exactly these restrictions came to be accepted (see below), pregnant women do not always adhere to them. Amongst the Lese-women of the Ituri forest of Africa, women cope with these restrictions by either secretly discounting them or by eating prophylactic plants that supposedly prevent the consequences of eating the tabooed foods . Flaunting taboos has also been reported by Alvard , who then suggested that food taboos would be of little value to nature conservation (but see the evidence to the contrary by Colding and Folke ).
The fact that women throughout the world (with few exceptions) display a slightly but significantly reduced calorific intake around the time of ovulation has been noted for a long time and formed the topic of a recent review by Fessler . He used the term "periovulatory nadir" for the phenomenon and concluded that it was linked to increased locomotor activity, interest in wanderlust, "a desire to meet new people (particularly men)". Regrettably, it is not known if specific food items are being avoided, perhaps even subconsciously, at the time of the periovulatory nadir.
Food taboos as an ecological necessity to protect the resource
As hinted upon earlier and demonstrated in several studies, most notably [14-19], food taboos frequently seem to have an ecological background, which according to Harris  is based on utilitarian principles. On the one hand, they may lead to a fuller utilization of a resource and on the other they can lead to its protection. If North West American Inuit and Nootka Indians both hunt and eat the whale, it makes good ecological sense when the Tlingit Indians of the same region regard the giant sea mammal as taboo and look for food on land . Some ecological consequence can also be ascribed to the custom amongst the Ka'aor Indians of the northern Maranhao (Brazil) of allowing only menstruating women, pubescent girls, and parents of newborns to consume the meat of tortoises  and the fact that amongst the indigenous people of Ratanakiri (Cambodia) different food taboos operate even between neighbouring villages . Of 70 existing examples of species-specific taboos, identified and analysed by Colding and Folke , 30% were found to prohibit the use of species listed as threatened by the IUCN Red Data Book.
In the same vein, if women and children, as in the Orang Asli, eat only small animals while older people also consume bigger species, a measure like this would distribute ecological pressure more evenly across a greater number of consumable species. This can lead to a situation, in which females are only permitted plants and insects as food, while the menfolk are free to ingest meat, egg, and fish . The regulations amongst the Canadian Netsilik  that sea-mammal and terrestrial mammal must never be eaten on the same day and amongst Jews that milk and milk-containing foods cannot be consumed together with meat, have an ecological ring. Clearly, sustainability of a resource is served by the taboo not to eat the young and its parent and by the Hindu custom of not totally finishing a plate, so that there is always some plant material left over for Nature (e.g., seeds). To safeguard a resource for a time of crisis may be the reason, why certain fishes of the Amazon are not normally eaten, but spared .
Food taboos in order to monopolize a resource
Declaring a food item taboo for one section of the population, can of course, lead to a monopoly of the food in question by the remainder of the population . For purely egoistic reasons men may declare meat and other, to them, delicacies taboo "for others". That this is the main reason for some food taboos affecting mainly women and children, is suspected by . Traditional healers in Nigeria sometimes attribute childhood ailments to breaking the food norms  and in Senegal women and children, but not men, must avoid poultry products. That this can lead to a shortage of adequate supplies of essential nutrients especially in the most vulnerable group of the rural population is self-understood .
The fact that in many societies alcohol-drinking women are poorly respected (while for men alcohol consumption is regarded as normal), in essence, seems little different from the Australian aboriginal practice that native honey (a rare and sweet delicacy) is seen as something fit only for the old and wise men. Amongst the Bolivian Siriono, there are "hundreds of food taboos", but they apply only very loosely to the elderly, who can break the taboos. This ensures their welfare and survival when no longer able to hunt for the 'right food' .
Food taboos as an expression of empathy
Empathy, i.e., feeling for and with the poor animal that is to have its life terminated for the selfish reason of devouring it, is yet another powerful reason for certain food taboos to have come into existence. In many societies, pet animals enjoy a greater degree of protection and are more likely to be given "taboo" status than individuals that are unfamiliar and "unrelated". It is almost as if "humanness" rubs off and the pet becomes regarded as an "honorary human".
Hindu religious thought with its belief of re-incarnation even goes a step further and basically does not distinguish between human and animal with regard to their souls – only the packaging is seen to differ. It follows that by eating an animal, a Hindu could indeed, to put it bluntly, be eating a deceased relative. And that -with few exceptions where endocannibalism was the accepted practice and parts of a human corpse were ritually consumed as in certain tribes of Papua Niugini- is almost everywhere a taboo [73-75].
Food taboos as a factor in group-cohesion and group-identity
Finally, it ought to be mentioned that any food taboo, acknowledged by a particular group of people as part of its ways, aids in the cohesion of this group, helps that group stand out amongst others, assists that group to maintain its identity and creates a feeling of "belonging". Thus, food taboos can strengthen the confidence of a group by functioning as a demonstration of the uniqueness of the group in the face of others.
Food taboos and food habits can persist for a very long time and can be (and have been) made use of in identifying cultural and historical relationships between human populations [76,77]. It has, for instance, been suggested that the food taboos of both Jews and Hindus reflect not the nutritional needs, but the explicit concerns of the pastoral peoples' that they once were .
In our increasingly international world, it is essential that we know and understand food taboos of societies other than and in addition to our own. In a world, in which many persons still go hungry, it is important to realize that numerous societies impose restrictions on what is acceptable as food and that in most cases the full food potential of a given environment is not being made use of. Food restrictions can affect the nutritional status of a community or a subsection within it. There may be sound reasons for prohibiting certain food items as we have demonstrated in this paper, but declaring some food items taboo can equally well be a form of suppression by a more dominant sector of the society. To explore the operating food taboos from historic, hygienic, and social perspectives must be the aim of any study that deals with the problem of community food culture [10,14,79,80]. In the words of Drewnowski and Levine : "There is a need for further discussions of the economics of food choice".
The author declares that he has no competing interests.
The single author of this paper (VBM-R) is responsible for every aspect of the research, the conclusions, and the writing of the paper.
The author wishes to thank his companions, helpers, guides, and informants in the field as well as Dr. Sulochana D. Moro for expert information on Hinduism and Indian food taboos. Some of this research was made possible through grants from the Australian National University (Canberra, Australia) and the University of the West Indies (Kingston, Jamaica). Jacobs University Bremen kindly allowed the author time off from teaching for two brief research visits to Papua New Guinea in 2002 and 2004.
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