There are a couple of blogs by fellow Cypriots I’d like to recommend.
Nostos: A Journey to Ithaca is a bi-lingual blog, which, though occasionally straying into the Arab and Iranian worlds, largely explores the history and folklore of Cyprus, providing fascinating accounts of the island’s culture and traditions.
(Nostos – a very important concept in Greek culture, the root of the word Nostalgia – refers to the journey of a returning hero or the returning hero himself, who leaves ‘behind the wondrous and terrible lands of the Beyond, unknown and unsought [to come] home to a familiar reality’.
The classic nostos is, of course, Odysseus; and his attempt to get home from Troy, to the ‘familiar reality’ of Ithaca, is the most well-known journey in the nostos tradition).
A recent post on the Nostos blog which I liked a lot tells the story of St George the Neo-Martyr, who started out as a tall, handsome, athletic Cypriot who emigrates to Palestine in the 1750s and finds himself accused by a malicious gang of Turkish women sexually attracted to him of trying to seduce a young Muslim woman. George is brutally assailed by the women before being brought before an Ottoman judge who demands George convert to Islam. George, a devout Christian, refuses to abandon his religion and is executed.
The story of St George the Neo-Martyr can be read as a straightforward tale of Christian fortitude in the face of Islamic intolerance and Ottoman depredation; or a tale of a physically and intellectually superior immigrant who, in the land of the barbarians, refuses to conform, to compromise his inherited culture and destroys himself in the process; and, in the story, there is even something of the sexual and religious mania evident in Euripides’ Bacchae, in which Pentheus, who refuses to acknowledge the god Dionysos, is ripped to pieces by the deity’s frenzied female devotees; although, actually, if anything, comparing Pentheus with St George the Neo-Martyr reveals the significant differences between Greek and Christian aesthetics, between Greek and Christian tragedy.
Whereas Christian tragedy insists on a simple distinction between good and evil, right and wrong belief; in Greek tragedy, good and evil, right and wrong belief are never clear cut, existing simultaneously not just in opposing consciousnesses and discourses but also in the same consciousness and discourse.
In the story of the martyr, George is good, the Turks evil, Christianity the right belief, Islam the wrong one; but in Greek tragedy, Pentheus is both good and evil – as are Dionysos and the Bacchic women – and those who believe in the god and those who don’t believe in him are neither entirely right nor entirely wrong, but right and wrong and everything in between.
In general, Greek culture thrives on ambiguity, whereas Christian and, to an even uglier and disastrous extent, Judaic and Islamic culture, deal in dogma, infallibility and certitude.
I’d also like to mention Constantine Markides’ blog, Fourth Night. Markides, despite some unacceptable political associations, is a talented writer and his post this month on Seeking the Eiffel Tower in London is extremely funny and deserving of a wider readership.