Sunday, September 25, 2011

Graecii

In the histories of the world, apart from the besotted tales of the English and Romans (two world empires claiming the blessings of a third), it's interesting to see how much glory is given to Greece. The Greeks invented little, but parlayed what they did into the highest order of logic and literature.

And that is all we can remember them for, apart from a third thing: lying. They were very good at it, even proverbially so. Paradoxes, prevarication, and public relations were their strengths; Alexander, their prodigal heir, named at least a dozen cities after himself — look for all the places named 'Alexandria'. While running monarchies, dictatorships, tyrannies and all kinds of pseudo-republics, they gave a name to freedom (eleutheria) and the will of the people (demokratia).

They preferred to call themselves the Hellenes (and still do to this day), but the Romans called them the Grey Ones and their enemies called them worse. After 300 years of high achievement, they have left us only with Sophocles, Aristophanes, Aeschylus, Homer, Plato and a handful of others — and that only because of the aforementioned capacity for public relations. After all, Plato gave us his master Socrates and we know little else about him from other sources; Aristotle followed, and gave us his disciple Alexander of Macedon.

Why should we remember the Greeks? Ah, let us rememember the silver mines of Laureion outside Athens. Thus it was that Athens invented the central bank, and look where they are right now.

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