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Saturday, 19 January 2008

"...and it seems that the name of the Greeks..."

Of course I had read this many times - this quotation from Isocrates - but with what pleasure I came, by luck, across the web address of Katerina Sarri who gives the orator's famous words a special freshness with her own translation and comment:
...καὶ τὸ τῶν Ἑλλήνων ὄνομα πεποίηκε μηκέτι τοῦ γένους ἀλλὰ τής διανοίας δοκεῖν εἶναι, καὶ μᾶλλον Ἕλληνας καλεῖσθαι τοὺς τής παιδεύσεως τής ἡμετέρας ἢ τοὺς τής κοινής φύσεως μετέχοντας (Ἰσοκράτης. Πανηγυρικός. 50.)

Katerina's translation: ...and it seems that the name of the Greeks is no longer denoting a race, but a mentality, and one should call 'greeks' rather the ones who participate in our education, than those who share our common nature [DNA]. (Isocrates. Panegyricus. 50.)

Isocrates: Athenian orator 436-338 B.C.E. The Panegyricus (Celebrating Speech) circulated during the summer of 380 BCE (between July and September). It is certain, that Isocrates has been working on it for more than ten years. Most of the speech is a praise of the Athenian history and culture against everything non Athenian, whether greek or the so-called barbaric. But with this one phrase, Isocrates demolishes his own hatred of foreigners
Apart from my feelings about this phrase (did he guess how his words would endure?) I like Katerina Sarri's idea of Isocrates making a speech, worked on for a decade, that praised his cuture and history while scouring himself of xenophobia. This exemplifies the Classical ideal of achieving a fine balance between oppositions - to be passionate for one's country while welcoming those not of it. The other evening, before Christmas, it gave me pleasure to see that one of my young Greek relatives has struck a strong relationship with a beautiful raven haired young woman from Byzantium, from Constantinople, from İstanbul.

Equally close to home and as immediate are Ll's words to me by e-mail from Corfu on 10 December last year:
The issue about foreign people staying at Korakiana is surely a serious one. I believe that in ten years very few Greek families will be there - but this is not negative (this is my opinion) since the new residents more or less become a bit...Greek in lifestyle, though not in culture; you can't change culture and traditions, but still I believe that all is subject to change - life is a constant change and...recycling.
I think and hope she's right but in part whether she's right or wrong depends on us becoming 'a bit...Greek in lifestyle', as Isocrates proposed, ‘... if a man should partake of our culture, let him be called Hellene!’

Me and my half-brother George Pericles

I've been looking at the challenge for the ideals of Wikipedia to stabilise its entry on the subject of the Greco-Turkish War of 1919-1922. Of great interest is the discussion, far lengthier than the actual article, that runs beside a heavily contested narrative.
* * *
Today from Athens, bought on eBay when I couldn't find it anywhere else, comes the DVD of Πέτρινα Χρόνια - Pantelis Voulgaris' film 'The Stone Years'. It frightens me in a way because it has no English sub-titles.

[Note: Why does της appear as τ῞ς on so many Greek websites, including KS's, using Classical Greece? Is there a Greek fonts software problem?]

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