Thursday, September 29, 2011

Time to Kill the Hellenistic Myth

Essential article by Guy Sorman on the origins of the modern Greek state. He explains:
It all began with the Romantics, when Chateaubriand, great writer yet also wonderful fibber, then Lord Byron, thought they could retrieve in Greece the sources of occidental civilization. A misunderstanding for which we are now paying the price: if it is true that the Greek live on the same land as Aristotle and Pericles, there is no great continuation between the Hellenic civilization and modern Greece. The Byzantium line, from which modern Greeks proclaim they descend from, is a weak one. Mark Twain was more realistic: when visiting Athens in 1865, he admitted he had only met a few shepherds, whose sheep were grazing amid the ramshackle columns of the Parthenon. Those Greeks, actually, were a Christian tribe among others in the Ottoman Empire. Yet just as Don Quichotte dreamt that an ugly peasant girl was the love of his life, Europeans wanted all Greeks to be Hellenics. We cannot blame the Greeks for taking advantage of the situation: throughout the whole 19th century, the Greek state‘s finances were supported by the British, the French and the German.

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