Top Famous Women of Greece

Fabulous Females of Greece

Dora Bakoyannis
••• Dora Bakoyannis. City of Athens Mayor's Office
Greece has no end of remarkable women - here is a look at just a few of the amazing Greek women who have affected history and the arts, and, often, both at once.
  • 01 of 08

    Penelope of Ithaca

    Faithful Penelope, wife of wandering Odysseus, is renowned as the epitome of feminine fidelity. But that shortchanges this beautiful Greek queen, who raised her son Telemachus alone, ran an island nation, dealt with a chronically depressed father-in-law, and fended off a slew of suitors more than ready to declare her a widow - while forced by the customs of hospitality to keep them fed and bedded far away from her own tree-adorned chamber. She held up against some fearsome female competition, including Calypso and Circe. All was well in the end, when wandering Odysseus finally made it home, but don't sell short Penelope's achievements.
  • 02 of 08

    Dora Bakoyannis

    Dora Bakoyannis
    ••• Dora Bakoyannis. City of Athens Mayor's Office

    A personal victim of terrorism (her first husband was assassinated,) then-Mayor Dora Bakoyannis promised the world that her city of Athens would be a safe haven during the 2004 Olympics - and she came through. Now, having served as Greece's first woman Foreign Minister, she is coping on a global level with increasingly complicated issues while attempting to return to political power.

    Dora Bakoyannis :

    Dora Bakoyannis was appointed Greece's first Foreign Minister in 2006. She began work on February 15th, 2006.

    Duties of the Foreign Minister of Greece:

    The Foreign Minister of Greece meets with visiting heads of state and makes official visits to other countries. The Foreign Minister also helps to create the foreign policy of Greece.

    Dora Bakoyannis - Early Life:

    Dora Bakoyannis was born in 1954, the eldest child of Constantine Mitsotakis who served as Prime Minister of Greece from 1990 to 1993. During the military junta in the 1970s, she and her family lived in exile in Paris.

    Dora...MORE Bakoyannis - More on Her Life:

    Dora attended the University of Athens, where she studied political science and public law. She married to Pavlo Bakoyannis, a journalist and deputy member of Parliament. They had two children, Alexia and Costas. Pavlo Bakoyannis was killed in a terrorist attack in 1989. She ran for his seat in Parliament and was elected, firmly launching her political career.

    In 1998, she married again, this time to Greek businessman Isidoros Kouvelos.

    Dora Bakoyannis - Other Political Experience:

    Dora Bakoyannis handled many roles for the New Democracy political party and served as Chief of Staff for her father and as Minister of Culture. She was elected to Parliament and then was elected Mayor of Athens, Greece in 2002 and presided over preparing her city for the 2004 Summer Olympic Games in Athens.

    Dora Bakoyannis - Assassination Attempt:

    In December, 2002, shortly before taking office as mayor of Athens, assassins attempted to kill Dora Bakoyannis. She was wounded but survived.

    Dora Meets Condoleeza:

    In April, 2006, shortly after taking office, Dora Bakoyannis greeted Condoleeza Rice, the Secretary of State of the United States, during an official visit. Protestors against U.S. policies filled the streets and vigorously made their views known during the meetings of the U.S. envoy with Greek political leaders.

    Dora Bakoyannis and the Arts:

    While Mayor of Athens, Bakoyannis expanded the city's public arts and sponsored a series of concerts and other artistic events. These free events drew acclaim from both Greeks and foreign visitors. Previously, she was also in charge of the program to link up Athens' archaeological sites by pleasant public pathways, making it easier to visit them and revitalizing the areas in between the major monuments.

    Dora Bakoyannis - A 21st Century Woman Politician:

    Overcoming the trauma of exile from her home country as a child and the assassination of her husband, Dora Bakoyannis became Greece's first woman Foreign Minister in 2006. After receiving wide praise for her successful management of Athens' preparations to host the 2004 Summer Olympic Games, she enjoyed the highest approval rating of any Greek politician up to that point. In her new role as Foreign Minister, observers expect her to be tough on terrorism but to focus on increasing Greece's positive profile abroad. During the chaotic days leading up to the evacuation of Beirut, Greek ships were among the first on the scene to help evacuate the city, and the United States thanked Greece for safely removing a number of U.S. citizens.

  • 03 of 08

    Helen of Troy

    With the "Face that Launched a Thousand Ships", revisionists insist that the Trojan War was not fought over a "mere" woman, but for economic reasons. Personally, I still favor the old-fashioned view. In any case, Helen's legendary beauty made a great excuse. By the way, she was also an excellent weaver, renowned for her fine handiwork, something she shared with long-suffering Penelope of Ithaca, but no one ever talks about that.
  • 04 of 08


    Called 'The Tenth Muse' by Plato, Sappho's love poetry has persisted through the millennia. She was admired for her fine mind and monumental poetry during her lifetime, but it is her celebration of the beauty of the female form that tantalizes modern readers.
    Continue to 5 of 8 below.
  • 05 of 08

    Melina Mercouri

    Speak of Melina Mercouri in Greece and the Greeks around you will nod sadly and say "Ah, Melina!" softly. She won hearts as an actress, and minds and souls as the voice demanding the repatriation of the Parthenon Marbles during her stint as Minister of Culture. The movie "Never on Sunday" remains a modern Greek classic.

    Melina Mercuri - Birthdate and Death date:

    She was born Maria Amalia Mercouris. Her name is sometimes spelled Mercuri rather than Mercouri.

    Birthday: October 18th, 1925 (some sources give 1920) in Athens, Greece
    Died: March 6th, 1994, from lung cancer.

    Melina Mercouri's Major Roles:

    She scandalized some when she played a happy prostitute in "Never on Sunday" (Pote tin Kyriaki), still one of the best-known movies shot in Greece. The retelling of the "Phaedra" myth was another well-known role for her. She was also an accomplished popular singer and sang in some of her movies. Melina Mercouri was nominated for the Academy Award in 1960 but did...MORE not win.

    Melina Mercouri was married to director Jules Dassin, who directed several of her films.

    Madame Minister Melina Mercouri:

    Melina Mercouri was appointed the Greek Minister of Culture, a role which she played with all of her heart. Melina was instrumental in raising awareness of the plight of the Parthenon Marbles and actively lobbied for their return to Greece long before such "repatriation" of objects from any foreign museum was considered achievable.

    Melina Mercouri also founded the European intercultural exchange program called "The Cultural Capital of Europe" where different cities throughout Europe are given this designation annually.

    The Hellenic Ministry of Culture has a page dedicated to Melina.

    Melina Mercouri Day:

    In honor of Melina Mercouri's work, both on film and as an activist Minister of Culture, Greece declared March 6th Melina Mercuri Day. Each year, all museums in Greece have free admission in her honor on that day.

    Melina Mercouri - A Speech:

    Melina Mercouri gave a moving speech to launch the first voyage of the recreated ancient Greek ship the Kyrenia.

  • 06 of 08

    Queen Amalia

    Whether you've stayed at one of the numerous hotels in the chain named for her or not, you've benefited from the works of this virtuous Queen. Among other accomplishments, she is the one who designed the National Gardens, an oasis of green, air-purifying gardens in the heart of Athens.
  • 07 of 08

    Maria Callas

    Known both for her magnificent voice, tremendous acting skill, and her ultimately tragic love affair with shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis, Maria Callas graced the stage of the world's top opera houses, revolutionizing the standard by which opera stars are measured.
  • 08 of 08

    Helena Paparizou

    ••• Helena Paparizou.

    Not a queen except in the pop sense, beautiful and talented Helena Paparizou perfectly blended traditional Greek music and dance with an irresistible beat, winning Eurovision 2005 and putting modern Greek pop back on the map with her hit, "My Number One". A follow-up attempt at Eurovision failed to bring home the medal, but Greeks still adore her.

    Who is Helena Paparizou?:

    Helena Paparizou won the 2005 Eurovision Contest for Greece, performing her energetic song "My Number One". She's the top pop star in Greece and is becoming well-known throughout Europe.

    Helena Paparizou's Early Life:

    Helena Paparizou was born in Sweden to Greek parents. From an early age she pursued music, dancing, and acting.

    Helena Paparizou's First Group - Antique:

    At 17, Helena Paparizou founded the group "Antique" with her friend Niko. Their first hit was "Opa Opa". In 2003, they represented Greece in the Eurovision Song Contest, presenting their song "I would die for...MORE you".

    What's Helena Paparizou's Music Like?:

    Helena Paparizou's specialty is love songs, often with a theme of overwhelming or even obsessive love. Her interpretations are vigorous; "My Number One" makes dancers out of everyone.

    Helena Paparizou's Solo Career:

    Helena launched her solo career with a single called "Missed Calls" (Anapandeetes Klisis in Greek) which was a great success.

    This was followed by her first solo album, "Priorities" (Protereotita in Greek). This album went double platinum. She then released another single, "Mambo", which shot to the top of the Greek charts. "Mambo" and "My Number One" will be released by Nicky Kalliogis' Moda Records July 3rd, 2006.

    Why is a Greek singing star singing in English?:

    English is the official language of Eurovision. On her own albums, Helena includes both Greek and English versions of some songs.

    What is that Eurovision thing anyway?:

    Eurovision is an international song contest passionately followed by the rest of the world but largely ignored in the United States - sort of like soccer. The preliminary contests are like "American Idol" as each nation seeks a group to represent them in the final contest.

    Where to Get Helena's Music:

    Purchase and Download Helena Paparizou's "My Number One"

    Watch a video of Helena Paparizou performing "My Number One" at her Official Website. You can also listen to excerpts of some of her other songs.

    And this is the version of "My Number One" that won Helena Paparizou the Eurovision award.