The two countries have had formal diplomatic relations since 1861 when Italy was unified. During the Second World War the two countries were at war, however following the war realtions have improved considerably with both countries being part of NATO and the UN.
In around 700 BCE many Greeks began to leave their country and settle in southern Italy in the coastal areas around Sicily and the southern peninsula. The area became known as Magna Grecia. They bought with them the more advanced Greek culture and built cities and towns to replicate those they had left behind.
Magna Grecia was eventually absorbed into the Roman Empire and Rome in turn conquered Greece in 168 BCE. Much of Greece, however, was left to run itself and was neither colonised nor made to follow Roman cultural or political ways. During this time there was arguably more influence on Rome from Greece than the other way around. Greek slaves were sought out in Rome as educators and administrators for example; and many years earlier the Greek alphabet had been adapted for use with Latin.
During the Middle Ages the Greeks in southern Italy lost their "Greekness" and were aborbed into Italy. Howeveer, further waves of Greeks arrived during this time and especially during the decline of the Byzantine empire. This was followed by further waves during the Ottoman occupation of Greece when many Greeks left and came over to Italy.
During the rise of the city-states, Venice took over a number of Greek islands.
- See also the main article, Guerra di Grecia
In the early stages of the Second World War Mussolini asked the Greek prime minister if he could advance through the country to reach North Africa. It was, of course, an excuse to invade and the prime minister famously sent Mussolini a reply with the single word, 'Οχι (No). Italy responded with the invasion but this was strongly resisted by the Greeks and Italy pulled back.
In 1923 there was a boundary dispute between Greece and Albania which was taken to the League of Nations who organised a committee to look into the matter. This was headed by General Enrico Tellini from Italy whom the Greeks accussed of being biased towards Albania.
On 27th August 1923 Tellini and 3 assistants were murdered in Kakavia in Greece. Some sources claimed they were killed by Greek nationalists whilst the Greek government claimed they were killed by Albanian bandits (although none of the victims was robbed).
Italy sent an ultimatum to Greece demanding reparations and the execution of the killers. Greece was not able to identify the killers, so Italian forces bombarded and occupied the Greek island of Corfu killing at least 15 civilians. (The ulterior motive being Corfu's strategic position at the entrance of the Adriatic Sea.)
Greece appealed to the League of Nations, who condemned the Italian occupation. Following diplomatic arbitration Greece apologised and paid reparations and Italy withdrew.
The two countries have bilateral agreements on:
- economic cooperation (1949)
- education (1954)
- avoidance of double taxation (1964)
- delimitation of continental shelf boundaries (1977)
- protection of the Ionian Sea marine environment (1979)
- cooperation against terrorism, organised crime, and drug trafficking (1986)
- January 2006; state visit of President of the Hellenic Republic Mr. Karolos Papoulias to Rome.
- December 2006; visit of the Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi to Athens.
- March 2007; official visit of Greek Foreign Minister to Rome.
- Auguts 2007; visit of Greek Foreign Minister to Rome for talks with Italian counterpart Massimo D'Alema.
- September 2008; state visit of President of the Republic Giorgio Napolitano to Athens for talks with President and Prime Minister of Greece
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