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November 25, 2019


Wonderfully detailed and thoughtful report,Beth. You have a real flair for journalism as well as great visual observation.

Some years ago when I first went to Greece (but only to Aegina) I resolved to learn Greek when I got back. I signed up for classes taught by a marvellous Greek teacher (who became a friend) and kept at it for about a year. Alas, the project dissolved because I couldn't give enough attention to it. I often overestimate my capacity for muli-tasking. I wonder if you've attempted to learn the language?

If Socrates was alive today he would be in utter despair at the state of our 'civilization'.

All those world famous authors I have never read, all those works that have remained unseen. Why did I choose the route of pig ignorance? Perhaps because in my youth Hellenists were so lofty, so mystically absorbed that I saw them as part of the Establishment I was seeking to avoid. Those who told me I should do things "for your (ie, my) own good". And when, finally, the curtain lifted a little, thanks in no small part to James Joyce, it was too late; what little I know about Mediterranean culture is as broken and as scattered as the many ruins of that civilisation.

But your references to Greece's post-war troubles evoked a vivid moment in the early seventies with Costa-Grivas' polemical movie, Z, starring Yves Montand. (Best Foreign Film Oscar; it should have been simply Best Film). The cruelty of those times. The Colonels were no joke and yet C-G used humour in a way Hannah Arendt applied that strange noun (banality) to the phenomenon of evil.

The way these puffed-up Army officers uttered their denunciations and then, to escape questioning, more than once left the confrontation by the wrong exit and found themselves up against a locked door. Furiously rattling the door-knob. And when, finally, the press caught up with the leader and asked him if the death of Z (left-wing subversive) might prove to be the Colonels' equivalent of the Dreyfus Case, the leader - sweating in his unsuitable uniform and pop-eyed with rage - turned to his tormenter and shrieked "Dreyfus! Dreyfus!! He was guilty!!!" European history condensed into five words. Greece continues to educate us.

Thanks, Natalie. I'm working on modern Greek now. We'll see whether I stick to it or not! And yes, I agree about what Socrates would think.

Robbie, you're anything but ignorant. It's unfortunate how ancient classical study has been presented, especially in Britain -- it seems absolutely elitist, as well as only recently open to divergent views from those whose background and cultural heritage does not derive in a straight line from the Greeks and Romans, as we were led to believe. how I ended up there is a long story, but I've certainly never considered it made me superior in any way. In fact, studying Greek made me feel quite stupid at times, compared to those for whom it was apparently easy.

Thanks for reminding me about the movie Z, which I saw during college -- I should definitely revisit it, all these years later! It made little sense tome at the time, but I seem to remember that I was under the influence of something when I saw that movie! It was the 60s/early 70s, after all.

"under the influence of something" - proof you weren't on the side of the Colonels. Good on yer, as the Australians say.

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Who was Cassandra?

  • In the Iliad, she is described as the loveliest of the daughters of Priam (King of Troy), and gifted with prophecy. The god Apollo loved her, but she spurned him. As a punishment, he decreed that no one would ever believe her. So when she told her fellow Trojans that the Greeks were hiding inside the wooden horse...well, you know what happened.