Have you ever wondered what does the word “Hellas”, which you see in our travel agency’s name, mean?
‘Hellas’ is the name that we Hellenes (Héllēnes, Greeks) use when referring to our country; in simpler terms, ‘Hellas’ means ‘Greece’ in Hellenika (Greek language).
But how did we reach the point of using two completely different names for the same country? We have managed to gather information concerning the origin of the word “Greek”, using as main reference the Dictionary of Hellenic Language by professor G. Babiniotis, a renowned linguist and scholar.
The Hellenes were first called “Γραικοί” (“Graeki” with the letter “G” pronounced “Y” as in “Yard”) by the Illirians (present day Italians), when the former arrived in Italy from ancient Dodoni (city in Epirus, Greece) as colonists.
According to another source, these colonists named Γραίοι or Γραίκοι (“Graii” or “Graeci”), came to Italy from Γραία (“Graia”), an ancient town in Viotia, Greece (maybe contemporary Tanagra) and founded a new Hellenic Colony there with the name Nea Polis (which means New City, later to become known as Napoli, or Naples in English). This was the very first time that the Latins came close to the Hellenes (Greeks) and thus named them all “Graeci” after the citizens of Graia; and given that most modern European languages originate from Latin, the word “Graecus” became the root for all other respective names for Έλληνας and Ελλάς (Ελλάδα) (“Hellenas” and “Hellas” or “Hellada”), e.g. Greek-Greece, Grec-Grèce, Grieche-Griechenland.
Later on, during the first Christian centuries, the word “Έλληνες” (Hellenes) became a synonym to “heathen”, in order to distinguish the followers of old faith from those of the new -official- religion, and along with Ρωμιοί (“Romei”, originating from “Romans”) and Ελλαδικοί (=of Greece), the name Γραικοί (“Graeki”) stayed in use until the foundation of the new Hellenic state in 1832AC.
From that time on, the ancient terms ‘Hellas’ and ‘Hellenes’ are used primarily in the interior of this small peninsula and its islands in South-East Europe to identify the country and its inhabitants, while the ones originating from ‘Graeci’ remain in the vocabularies of the European languages.
So, each time you look at the name of our travel agency, you may think of it as “Dolphin Greece” although we prefer its more Hellenic name of Dolphin Hellas.