Saturday, June 24, 2023

Greece 2023: Prologue

 My interest in Greece came late in my intellectual life.

(The Acropolis - Athens)

A child of the educational system of the 1970's and 1980's, my introduction to history beyond the basics (state history, US History) was minimal at best, largely because my "track" was not in history at that time.  Sure, I knew some about the High Middle Ages - but that was because I was playing Dungeons and Dragons (First edition, thank you very much) which was largely "set" in that period.  And even when I got into college, history remained something I took at interest and never really "clicked" with me beyond an interest in Japanese history (and all things Japanese in general).

Until a long plane ride and Thucydides.

The Parthenon- Athens

The plane ride was to visit The Director at his graduate program in Hawai'i; the book was The Peloponnesian War, which related the first 20 years of the great struggle between the Athenian Thalassocracy and the Spartan Alliance (431 A.D. to 404 A.D.) which led eventually to the catastrophic failure of the Greek City State and led to the rise of Macedon and Philip II and Alexander the Great who in 338 B.C. at the Battle of Charonea effectively co-opted all of Greece (except the Spartans) into a pan-Hellenic alliance under Macedon.

View from Edessa

If you have never read Thucydides I cannot recommend him enough; his observational powers were immense and his insights into human nature remain as relevant now as they were 2500 years ago when he wrote.  The folly of war, the corrosiveness of violence, the undermining of political systems and international relations all for "a good cause" - all is there, cleverly disguised as ancient history lesson.

Shrine of the relics of St. Demetrius - Thessaloniki

From this reading, I realized there was a fantastic gap in my historical and educational background, one that impinged on my understanding of history and indeed, Western Civilization.  My library began to grow as first Greek authors and then Latin ones joined my reading list:  Xenophon, Plato, Cicero, Plutarch. Caesar, Tacitus - all of this filled my bookshelves, as well as supplemental general histories.  I soon outgrew my local bookstore and library; to me the greatest thing about the InterWeb was that I could find books there I could find nowhere else.  And then I discovered the Loeb Classical Library, where books were published in their original tongue (Greek or Latin) as well as translated.  Suddenly the world expanded again and authors that were never covered in the Penguin books translations became available.

And yet, I still lacked any view of Greece beyond my books, pictures, and the occasional Greek festival.

Traveling from Igoumenitsa to the island of Corfu, looking North to Albania

For all my reading and all my acquired knowledge, there is still nothing likely actually going somewhere and seeing things.  Of walking where the historical figures I had read of had walked.  Of seeing the geography of the place and understanding how geography impacted everything in the Ancient and Medieval World in a way that is not readily felt in our modern world.

Temple of Apollo - Delphi

In 2022, we found ourselves with vouchers for airfare from a trip to Italy that did not happen.  The Ravishing Mrs. TB asked Nighean Dhonn where she wanted to go for her graduation trip.  "Greece", was her response.  She turned to me - Would I, she wondered, be interested in going?

Pedestal of a statue at Olympia.  2000 years later, we can still read the Greek.

Of course I would love to go.  When would we leave?

View from the Acropolis of Mycenae


  1. Nylon126:42 AM

    Freshman year at university took Ancient Civilizations, Egypt, Greece and Rome, professor was excellent and engaging, maybe why I majored in History. Looking forward to more TB!

    1. Nylon12 - I have to fill in a lot of back history on my own, partially because of my own failure to learn it and partially because the fact that even in the 70's and 80's, it was not emphasized the way it once was. Call me a late, enthusiastic convert.


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