Europe: Human Geography

Greek gods and goddesses were representations of the physical elements that made up the local landscape. The volcanoes on the island of Sicily were believed to be the forges of Hephaestus, the Greek god of fire. A volcano’s violent nature came from the anger of imprisoned gods.

Greece’s many earthquakes, and the tsunamis they caused, were connected to the sea god Poseidon. As sea trade and exploration developed, the gods could reward or punish travelers and traders with changing sea and wind conditions.

The Sami culture of Scandinavia was deeply connected to the indigenous reindeer herds of the Arctic. The Sami followed these herds during their grazing cycle. During the harsh winter, the Sami ate all parts of the animal. They made clothing and tents from reindeer hides, sewing together the cloth with twine made from the animal’s tendons. Reindeer were also the main method of transporting goods during the Sami’s nomadic journeys.

The Alps region developed into a unique crossroads for Europe’s dominant languages. Switzerland has four official languages: German, French, Italian, and Romansch. Roman conquerors took over present-day southern Switzerland. Latin, the language of Rome, evolved into French in the western region, and Italian in the south. Swiss-Italian is different from Italian. Romansch survives in Switzerland because of the remote location of its native speakers, who number less than a million people.

With many nationalities living in such a small area, Europe supports individual cultural identities. The European Union has 23 official languages, and the continent has more than 60 native languages. A 2006 European study showed that 53 percent of respondents could speak a second language, while 28 percent could speak two foreign languages.

Source: Europe: Human Geography
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