Alexander III of Macedon, known to history as Alexander the Great, took the disorganized city-states of Greece and forged them into the backbone of one of the largest empires of the ancient era. He brought the civilizations from the glittering Ionian Sea to to the rough mountains of the Himalayas under the heel of his boot (err, sandal), reshaping those lands in the Hellenistic ideal. This rise of Hellenistic traditions and ethics would reign unchecked, particularly in the East, for centuries. The conquering Romans, who replaced the Greeks and Macedons as the ruling power of Europe, embraced the culture of the Hellenes. When the Roman Empire split asunder, the Eastern Empire, dominated by Hellenistic culture and tradition, quickly eclipsed the Western Empire in both power and influence. Under the moniker of the Byzantine Empire, it would continue to survive almost a full century after the Western Roman Empire had been cut to pieces by barbarian hordes.
This tremendous feat, begun with a short-lived empire but grown into an enduring and almost universally present cultural contribution to human civil civilization, has been long relegated to history. The ascendancy of the Greeks (as well as most of Eastern Europe) was checked by military and financial titans in such nations as England, France, Russia and Germany. Until recently one would have been forgiven the thought that the Greeks no longer had it in them to do battle of the world stage, taking hostage lands long lost to them and once again conquering the hearts and minds of enemy and friend alike.
Of course, now we know better.
Little old Greece, a quiet-for-centuries land famous for agriculture and tourism, is rocking all of Europe and, by extension, the economy of the world.