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The terms used to define Greekness have varied throughout history but were never limited or completely identified with membership to a Greek state.[90] By Western standards, the term Greeks has traditionally referred to any native speakers of the Greek language, whether Mycenaean, Byzantine or modern Greek.[38][91] Byzantine Greeks called themselves Romioi and considered themselves the political heirs of Rome, but at least by the 12th century a growing number of those educated, deemed themselves the heirs of ancient Greece as well, although for most of the Greek speakers, "Hellene" still meant pagan.[92] On the eve of the Fall of Constantinople the Last Emperor urged his soldiers to remember that they were the descendants of Greeks and Romans.[93]

Before the establishment of the Modern Greek state, the link between ancient and modern Greeks was emphasized by the scholars of Greek Enlightenment especially by Rigas Feraios. In his "Political Constitution", he addresses to the nation as "the people descendant of the Greeks".[94]

The Greeks today are a nation in the meaning of an ethnos, defined by possessing Greek culture and having a Greek mother tongue, not by citizenship, race, and religion or by being subjects of any particular state.[95] In ancient and medieval times and to a lesser extent today the Greek term was genos, which also indicates a common ancestry.[96][97]


Throughout the centuries, Greeks and Greek speakers have been known by a number of names, including:

  • Hellenes Homer is referring originally to Hellenes,as a relatively small tribe settled in Thessalic Phthia,with its warriors under the command of Achilleus.[98] In the Parian Chronicle is mentioned that Phthia was the homeland of Hellenes and that this name was given to those previously called Greeks (Γραικοί).[99] In Greek mythology, Hellen, the patriarch of Hellenes, was son of Deucalion who ruled around Phthia and Pyrrha, the only survivors after the great deluge.[100]Aristotle names Ancient Hellas an area in Epirus between Dodona and the Achelous river, the location of the great deluge of Deucalion, a land occupied by the Selloi and the "Greeks" who later became to be known as "Hellenes".[101] Selloi were the priests of Dodonian Zeus [102] and the word probably means "sacrificers" (to Goth. saljan: present,sacrifice ). There is currently no satisfactory etymology of the name Hellenes. Some scholars assert that the name Selloi changed to Sellanes (as Akarnanes) and then to Hellanes-Hellenes.[103](Compare PIE *s(e)wol :Gk.helios,Lt.sol,Sanskrit.suryah, Engl.sun)[104] The second part of the word Hellas (Hel-las) may be derived from Laos (people)[citation needed] which Apollodorus derived from laes(stones).[105] In this etymology it is unclear what the first part of the word Hel-las would stand for.

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