The Spirit of Greece Naslov: Rebellious, Pensive and Loyal -The First Thinkers and the First Democrats

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Text: Žikica Milošević

They say that the Serbs are bound a great feature: we can survive everything, we can endure anything. we are, supposedly, resilient. But we have somehow lost our primary trait – rebelliousness. Well, the Greeks have not. They are the most rebellious people of all. They were the first to oppose autocracy, thousands of years ago, and the first to smash the city if they didn’t like, say, austerity measures of the IMF.

ATHENS, GREECE - 2016/07/05: Greek leftists demonstrate to commemorate the one year anniversary of the 5-July-2015 referendum when the people voted not to accept the bailout conditions and demanded that the government respect the 'no' decision. (Photo by George Panagakis/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)

ATHENS, GREECE – 2016/07/05: Greek leftists demonstrate to commemorate the one year anniversary of the 5-July-2015 referendum when the people voted not to accept the bailout conditions and demanded that the government respect the ‘no’ decision. (Photo by George Panagakis/Pacific Press/LightRocket via Getty Images)

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ATHENS, GREECE - MAY 31:  A man smokes a cigarette before entering a betting shop on May 31, 2011 in Pireas, the port of Athens, Greece. The Greek government is trying to implement a further round of severe austerity measures after EU finance officials have argued that the country, which is already struggling to meet the terms of an international euro110 billion bailout, could require even more help.  (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)

ATHENS, GREECE – MAY 31: A man smokes a cigarette before entering a betting shop on May 31, 2011 in Pireas, the port of Athens, Greece. The Greek government is trying to implement a further round of severe austerity measures after EU finance officials have argued that the country, which is already struggling to meet the terms of an international euro110 billion bailout, could require even more help. (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)

Mykonos, Greece. (Photo by Education Images/UIG via Getty Images)

Mykonos, Greece. (Photo by Education Images/UIG via Getty Images)

Greece. Mykonos. Agios Giannis. A Restaurant On The Beach. (Photo by: Giuseppe Masci/AGF/UIG via Getty Images)

Greece. Mykonos. Agios Giannis. A Restaurant On The Beach. (Photo by: Giuseppe Masci/AGF/UIG via Getty Images)

Pandeleimonos monastery on Mount Athos (Photo by: Godong/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

Pandeleimonos monastery on Mount Athos (Photo by: Godong/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

Rebel, Rebel

It is funny how history changes. We were the first in the Balkans to rebel against the Ottomans, back in 1804, and then the Greeks followed. The Serbs were also rebellious 16 years ago, with one of the first “coloured revolutions”, although no colour was mentioned on the 5th of October. But, when it comes to a rebellion against their own material deprivation and poverty, no one can parry the Greeks! They are very much into democracy, egalitarian principle derived from Christianity. Moreover, alongside the French in the West, the Greeks are somehow the fiercest freedom fighters in the European Union. Forget slavery of the Ancient Greece; forget obedience to the Byzantine Emperor. After 500 yeas of subjugation to foreign powers and a huge accumulation of national pride afterwards, it is really hard to believe that the Greeks will be subdued again. They were the first to elect an anti-austerity party with charismatic and rebellious leaders such as Alexis Tsipras and Yannis Varoufakis. The latter sparked an outrage in the financial circles and a craze among German women, with his superstar outfit, a motorcycle and a sound reasoning about why Greece doesn’t want to be subdued to the current financial oligarchy and why it all should be radically changed. They proudly voted “OXI” in a referendum about the austerity measures, and Athens was frequently in flames. There’s no rebel like a Greek rebel.

The First to Say: Let Us Think About It

The Greeks were the first to think, and to discuss things. They were the first to realise that something is not an exclusive right of the king, as opposed to the Egyptian pharaohs or the Persian kings or shahs. They used to meet at agoras and discuss issues for hours, fuelled with ever-inspiring wine. They developed opposing philosophical schools; they had the philosophers who mocked and fought each other, like Diogenes and Epicurus, whose verbal duels and anecdotes were phenomenally popular. Then there were the Spartans, who fought their egalitarian brothers and despised wealth, Diogenes who despised everything material, stoics, and finally, the lavish followers of eudaimonia, who moderately enjoyed, although their ‘moderation’ was a bit too much for some. They were the first to engage in sport activities – not as a preparation for war, but… as a hobby, or to keep fit. They even invented sports competitions, known as the Olympic Games. They practically invented pretty much everything that we now take for granted. But it all wouldn’t have been possible without the Greek spirit.

Some say that Greek philosophy was the predecessor of Christianity, and it’s probably not far from truth. Classical Athens entertained the same religious ideas that would later be welcomed by Christianity, such as Aristotle’s invocation of a perfect God, and Heraclitus’ Logos. Plato used to think that there were rewards for the virtuous in heaven and punishment for the wicked on earth; the soul was valued more highly than the material body, and the material world was understood to be imperfect and not totally real (illustrated in Socrates’s allegory of the cave). Some later Christian philosophers claimed that Plato would make a fine Christian. So, even this major monotheistic religion wouldn’t have been the same without the Greeks.

 

Modernity

Modern Greek is quite “Balkanic”. It took many centuries to transform the Byzantine society full of pious people, monasteries and horse races, gold and trade into an impoverished Ottoman province of Rum. And it took less than 2 centuries to transform the backwards Balkan vilayet into a modern state, with a king and the somewhat artificial language of Katherevousa, and then into a republic with a new language, a mixture of Dhimotiki, the popular speech, and the more academic Katherevousa. It all merged into one. The military junta fell; Greece joined the European Union, but lost the 1996 Olympics to Atlanta and corporate spirit, but got the medal back in 2004. Greece became a cultural superpower, with rich religious and national heritage that attract many foreigners. Tzatziki, white houses with blue elements, islands and seafood, numerous beaches and ancient temples, Orthodox monasteries… they all contributed to somehow schizoid sense of Greek national pride where Zeus and Athena mingle with Christ the Pantocrator. But, are we any different? Are theIrish any different? The Pagan folk tales and traces of the old religion always linger somehow. Perhaps some of the traditions like chain-smoking, sarma, gyros, coffee or souvlaki were imported from the Orient (or, perhaps, exported there from Greece?), but they fit perfectly into the modern Greek identity. They are pensive and cultural like the Ancient Greeks, loyal and religious like the Byzantine Greeks, enjoying little sins and pleasures like Orientals, fighting for freedom like in 1821.

 

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