Friday, 9 March 2012

Eleni Glykatzi-Ahrweiler: When Greece is being wronged, it is a disgrace to keep quiet

Above is a wide-ranging interview from Greek TV given last October with the formidable Eleni Glykatzi-Ahrweiler, the renowned Byzantinologist and pedagogue, former president of Sorbonne university in Paris, in which she talks about the crisis affecting Greece and, like Georgios Babiniotis in the previous post, insists that the roots of it are not economic but political and cultural, the perennial Greek predilection for discord and division and the degeneration of paideia in the country.

Glykatzi says there has never been a time in Greek history when one half of the population has not hated the other half and she tells the following joke: when a Frenchman is asked what he wants most of all in the world, he says: the loveliest woman. A German asked the same question, answers: the finest gun; the Englishman, the best football, while the Greek, when he is asked what he desires most in the world, replies: that my neighbour’s donkey should die.

Glykatzi continues to bemoan this apparent Greek inability to act collectively or in solidarity with one another, drawing on many examples of discord in Greek history, including the cleavage, at the end of the Byzantine Empire, between religious purists who refused at any cost union with the Roman Catholic church and those – Westernisers or Europeanisers, in today’s terms – who were prepared to sacrifice a certain amount of ideology and identity to preserve a Greek state. (Throughout the interview, Glykatzi is quite scathing of the Greek church, and calls for church-state separation).

Greeks, Glykatzi says, are know-it-alls, who believe they are the best at everything, the bravest and most intelligent, the true and only heirs of Odysseus, Achilles, Miltiades, Leonidas, Plato, Aristotle and Pericles. When fortune has turned against them and they were subject to foreign rule, Greeks never considered themselves slaves, only hostages. In contemporary Greece, this egoism and sense of always being right has taken on a destructive pattern, in which one section of society acts without any consideration for the consequences of their actions on other parts of society. Glykatzi says this kind of selfish behaviour is not only anti-social, but also against civilised living.

Glykatzi goes on to draw parallels between later Byzantine emperors traipsing around the courts of Europe, like mendicants, asking for financial and military aid to preserve the last vestiges of the empire against the Turks, and today’s Greek politicians; and recalls that, in times of crisis, Byzantine governments would tackle financial difficulties by tapping into church wealth and ensuring any tax shortfalls caused by the inability of poorer citizens to pay their dues was made up by richer members of the community.

The most substantial part of the interview concerns the state of education in Greece, which Glykatzi suggests has degenerated to such an extent that it threatens to propel Greece towards barbarism. The major national issue facing Greece, Glykatzi says, isn’t the question of the territorial waters between Greece and Turkey, but paideia, education in its widest sense.

Glykatzi makes a distinction between παιδεία and εκπαίδευση. Ekpaideusis is education in the narrow sense, that which is taught at schools and universities. whereas paideia is the cultivation of the individual and involves the way a society forms and shapes individuals from the beginning of their lives. Paideia, Glykatzi insists, begins at home and the small rules we learn from our parents.

Glykatzi says that without paideia, there can be no society, and if there is no society, then soon enough there will be no Greek nation.

The interview continues with Glykatzi detecting a rising neo-Fallmerayerism in Europe, which questions the continuity of Greek identity, the links between modern and ancient Greece. She also disputes the well-known dictum that Greeks in the diaspora tend to love Greece more than the Greeks of Greece. Glykatzi urges Greeks who live abroad never to forget that they are Greeks and, above all, to learn Greek. If Greeks in the diaspora truly love Greece, then their first task should be to learn to speak Greek, she says.

Glykatzi concludes the interview as she began it, by quoting Demosthenes, from one of his orations against Philip of Macedon and his threat to subjugate the Greek city-states: Αισχρόν έστι σιγάν, της Ελλάδος πάσης αδικουμένης – When Greece is being wronged, it is a disgrace to keep quiet.


Anonymous said...

Didn't watch the video but read your post. A few comments off the top of my head. First hate the criticism of the so called Byzantine nation. First it was the most successful political entitiy in history. Criticizing the politics at the end of days when there was no solution should not be how the empire should be characterized. It was the most successful empire in dealing with issues politically. The office of the barbarians is well documented.Also it was not a dark era but one where the Greeks were the most advanced peoples on earth. Are identity is more "byzantine" than classical greece. Lets face it I am proud of ancient Greece but that was a long time ago. I am more proud of my eastern roman heritage.

With the new Fallmerayerism, it is not only alive in well in Europe but amongst the diaspora. Its funny how fallmerayer was a fascist forerunner yet the neo marxists like what it says as it goes with what they believe that there is no such thing as identity as we are all made up of immigrants. I think its pseudo history. The vancouver consulate even had him qutoed on their website under Greek history with no rebuttal, as if it was fact. I was going to write a letter but they took the history section off their site.

Now on diaspora Greeks. I am one and proud of being Greek. My comment is some are very proud but not all in fact the opposite for most. Well I can only speak of diaspora in english speaking countries. But as overall history is no longer taught in the anglo countries and people are not longer educated in the traditional sense but indocrinated. Most people lack critical thinking and only no of Greece from stereotypes in the media that they don't question.

I find amongsth the diaspora especially those who are completely dependant on their parents through adulthood a sense of inferiority. Amongst these greeks I here the attacks on Greeks on how they are lazy. The more useless the diaspora Greek is the more likely they bash Greece. Its pathetic.


John Akritas said...

I don't think Glykatzi is having a pop at the Romaioi. My mistake if I gave that impression. She was asked if, given her knowledge of Byzantium, there were parallels with today's crisis in Greece and she said what she said about the emperors towards the end of the empire and their missions to the West. However, she does not appear to be enamoured with the church and seems to want to resist its efforts to usurp the entire Byzantine tradition for itself. Personally, I do find interesting the question of whether, in the 15th century, we sacrificed a Greek state for the sake of religious dogma; but I suspect that the Ottomans were so dominant at that time that no help from the West would have dislodged them or saved the City.

You're right about Fallmereyer. He argued for the preservation of the Ottoman empire as a bulwark against the Slavs and his anti-Greek rants have to be seen in this context, of warnings to the West not to get caught up in philhellenism and to preserve Turkey at all costs.

The Greeks are not really a diaspora as they were in Alexandria, etc, in the 19th and early 20th centuries. They are immigrant communities, subject to assimilation and, as you say, vulnerable to seeing Greece through the prejudiced and narrow views of their host societies. Even those of us who refuse to accept American/German/British/Canadian/Australian views of what it is to be Greek would be lying to ourselves if we pretended that the societies in which we born and grew up had no influence on shaping the way we see Greece. I suspect the reason a lot of us exposed to Anglo-Saxon societies have less sympathy with what Greeks are going through at the moment is because we've been more than a little imbued with Anglo-Saxon economic behaviour, which we regard, as something the Greeks need to learn from.

Oh, and I can hear Hermes saying not to make such a definitive distinction between the Byzantine and Classical Greek worlds. Where one begins and the other ends is impossible to determine. They seep into each other.

Hermes said...

It is quite certain that Ottoman Empire power was so overwhelming before 1453 that even if the Westernisers prevailed, Constantinople, Mystra and Trapezounda would have fallen. Interestingly, there were other factions such as Plethon and Gavriopoulos at Mystra who were anti-Western and were not religious purists. However, it seems this faction only had support amongst certain intellectuals circles. And if we did compromise with the Latins, are we sure they would have come to our assistance?

The real problem for Greeks came earlier when the Byzantine state fragemented into three smaller states and each competing; although less so for the Empire of Trebizond, for legitimacy as the true heir of the Empire.

Regarding the Greeks of the Diaspora, she is right. It is tedious to hear Greeks from the Diaspora; particularly, Greek Americans claim they are more Greeks than Greeks in Greece but can only say a few words in Greek. Truly ridiculous (Oh I can just imagine people saying, "How can I learn Greek when I am busy completing my MBA or something?" . I would argue you will never become an interesting businessmen, skilled in the subtle arts of negotiation, eloquence and argumentation without knowledge of your mother tongue). And only slightly less ridiculous, they listen to the Liturgy in English despite claiming they are so religious. Most Greek Americans do not realise they have internalised American earnestness and have directed this towards their Greekness, not realising that Greeks are one of the least earnest people in the world. We are Meditereneans! Hence, why we cannot understand the Germans and them us. Ted touches on something very important. With the downgrading of proper historical education in favour of "black narratives" and other malignacies, many people simply do not know history. Even worse, many Greeks simply do not know Greek history and they rely on urban myths and Hollywood to fill the gaps for them. Generally, the Diaspora is a complete mess.

Anonymous said...

(Sorry for straying from the topic:) I just thought you all might be interested in what looks like a very important book:

I have no idea what 'Ottoman Greeks' is supposed to mean though...


Hermes said...

Further to the above, it is difficult to judge the so called religious purists of late Byzantium with 21st century eyes. Eleni Glykatzi should also be cautious about doing this. We probably cannot fathom, in this very secular age where science is encroaching on all philosophical and theological questions, what Orthodoxy meant to the people of Byzantium. Was it simply religious belief or was it tied with ethnic, state, racial identity? If it was the former, then we will not understand in our day and age when few people really profess Christian belief i.e. belief in the Incarnation, the Trinity etc, but just go through the motions. If it is the latter, then why would the Byzantines compromise themselves to the Latins? If Germany and the EU said to Greece today, if you change your language to English and remove the Parthenon, Knossos, Olympia and Vergina to Berlin, then we will forgive all your debt and retain your autonomy, would Greeks agree? Even most of the Greek unemployed would not agree to this. It is quite clear that Orthodox dogma meant quite a lot to the people of late Byzantium, whether we like it or not. And if people doubt that this was some elite defence, then there is ample evidence that the religious purists had widespread support amongst the people.

Anonymous said...

In fact Byzantium agreed to two unions of the Churches in order to secure military assistance from the Franks. In 1274 Michael VIII agreed to subjugate the Orthodox church to the Papacy in return for military assistance. Again in 1439 John VIII agreed to Papal primacy over the church.

On both occasions despite the Empire's humiliating subjection of the Church to Roman control the promised assistance was not forthcoming.

The Byzantium Greeks were abandoned by the West despite the Empire's preparedness-against the wishes of its people- to do what was asked of it by Rome.

Hermes said...

Agree. But on both occasions there was strong resistence internally within Romania, most notably from the great Markos Evgenikos.

However, Anonymous, you trigger another thought. When the Romans at that time were deciding on whether to subject themselves to the Latin Catholics or fight on, with the almost certain result being subjection to Turkdom, they were making that decision with the information and data which they had at that time. Let us remember that they remembered very well the sack of 1204 by the Latin Catholics. And they also remembered that the Latin West did not come to their aid later despite subjecting themselves to stupid Catholic dogma. Also, the Romans did not know at that time that Ottoman subjection would last for 400 years and would result in falling behind Western Europe, massacres, venal rule and so on. We only know now that Ottoman rule was a complete abomination. They did not, or, they did not know it fully.

Hermes said...

The new Turkish blockbuster, Fetih (Conquest) 1453 looks like it touches on the same issues. Obviously, with a Turko-Fascist slant.

John Akritas said...

The most expensive and successful Turkish film ever made, packing in the masses, and which the Turks have rolled out not only in Turkey – but in Bosnia, Skopje, Albania, Egypt and so on. It even opened here in London. Article below gives more detail. 'The Greeks drink and lounge with women in wispy outfits [and] when Mehmet finally enters the gates, he tells cowering Orthodox Christians that they are free to worship.'

davidkou said...

...Glykatzi urges Greeks abroad to learn Greek. and that this should be their first task...

I have a number of Greek language courses, books and audio tapes, but I have found something that really accelerates learning for me, which is to hear and read the daily news (in a
slightly simplifed form). I have been doing this while learning French using a free French Website service called "français facile" (easy french

I can hear the audio, then I read the script out aloud to myself. I look up unfamiliar words on
(which is multilingual and does Greek)

Does anyone know of a similar service offered by any one of the many Greek language news websites?

stavros said...

Hello all,

I quite agree that Greeks are "know it alls," selfish and unable to act collectively. Every catastrophe we have ever endured can be laid to some degree at the feet of these qualities. Luckily we have some redeeming attributes as well.

How one can talk of paidea and downplay the role of our Orthodox faith I fail to understand. Is that not one of the pillars that teaches us right fro wrong? We will certainly not learn from a corrupt and decadent society.

As for the Diaspora, it is where the human talent Greece so badly needs resides. Greece exiles its honorable children and elevates the grifters that own the country and suck it dry. Diasporan Greeks do have an idealized version of Greece that they love, one that no longer exists. Most of us try to preserve what we can and I think that we do a better job of it than our Helladic cousins, our accented poor Greek notwithstanding.

John Akritas said...

It's strange: Greeks have got a self-destructive streak – yet we've been around longer than anyone else. My theory is that we've been committing suicide for 4000 years.

Anonymous said...

Yes Rumours of our death are greatly exaggerated.The fact is that we are the world's greatest survivors. We should have perished millenia ago along with the Hittites,Scythians and the Pechenegs but we are still here and we are still uniquely queer.

You've got to truly love a nation that gave rise to a Themostocles only to banish him to the enemy after saving Athens. You also have to admire the pluck of the Greeks who voted out Venizelos in the midst of the (up till then) successful Anatolian campaign.

Yes we have always preferred the road less travelled; and I wouldn't have it any other way.