The isles of Greece,
The isles of Greece!
Where burning Sappho loved and sung,
Where grew the arts of war and peace,
Where Delos rose, and Phoebus sprung!
Eternal summer gilds them yet,
But all, except their sun, has set.
~ Lord Byron
This just in, no more than a thousand years ago. Greece’s greatest days — millennia actually — are behind her. The country’s signature monument, the Parthenon itself, is so day-before-yesterday. Overdressed in reconstructive scaffolding to the extent that it has difficulty posing for a decent photograph, the Parthenon presides over everything, a dead god.
The country is like its most famous ruin. So many conflicting currents course through Greece now that it is not easy to form a clear picture of the country. Much of the scaffolding that covers Greece is provided by the European Union, which resents Greece and is in turn resented by the Greeks. Germany in particular has been hectoring the Greeks, and the Greeks hector right back. “The Germans give us forty euros in aid and take back sixty in trade,” an Athenian businessman who exports wool complained to me one morning as he ate something called galatopita, a kind of milk pie that he poured something like grape molasses on. “And yet,” he added enigmatically, “our problems are not recent but ancient.”
What do you want to believe about Greece? The Greeks, in my partisan view the warmest, most generous people in Europe, tell seductive stories about themselves. In these stories they are the fountainhead of western culture, the victims of northern countries that prey upon them, the victims of immigrants from Middle Eastern poverty and war - Greece is only one country away, troubled Turkey, from the internecine horror the United States helped to create in Iraq - the authors of their own problems, the people most perfectly poised to make a global comeback, and so on. They are the little nation that could. And did. Stories have always sustained the Greeks, going back to the time, at least 2,500 years ago, when history, myth, philosophy, religion, art, literature in the form of epic poetry and theater, if they were not identical, all fed from the same trough.
- patchwork of impressions from Greece by the filmmaker Peter Davies in Huffington Post. No simple thruths, but a lot of threads…