I’ve been reading the Greeks and about the Greeks for a decade now, but in the last 3 months I’ve intensified that reading in preparation for October’s Stones of Athens Tour.
Corona has thrown a small measure of doubt on the viability of the tour (Greece is in complete lockdown, but October IS 6 months away) but that hasn’t slowed down the reading. On the contrary, moreso than in times of normality—lockdown, quarantine, isolation, pandemic, covid-19—have accelerated the reading even further.
Nietzsche; Burckhardt, Hamilton; Fox; Homer—The Greeks & Greek Culture; The Classical World; The Greek Way; The Idea of Tragedy; The Iliad; The Preplatonic Philosophers!
At least 6 books open at all times, 2 hours devoted to each throughout alternate days. My reading notes now run to 15,000 words. But still I haven’t formed a full picture of who they were and what they meant, or what they might or should mean to us.
For the spiritual predecessor to Athens—my Stones of Venice Tour—I know that the 3 things which most combined to create Venice’s magnificent 13th century—its first brilliant flowering—were:
· Byzantine suzerainty.
· Geography (Venice is the furthest harbour into Western Europe).
· The 4th Crusade.
All of which gave to Venice a) Greek art, b) Catholicism & prosperity, then c) immediate & unimagined wealth.
So I now spend my days trying to figure out what made Classical Greece.
And while trying to reduce them and their civilisation to intelligibility, reading these Greeks has, in so short a time—and in great time for such intense and maddening isolation—given me a completely new outlook on life.
There’s a strange serenity to every word of The Greeks, an untarnished-ness to them: an optimism enveloped in fatalism, or fatalism enveloped in optimism (I haven’t yet decided which). They have bold calm amid eternity, joy in the face of nothingness, gratitude even for pain. They accept life with its countless miseries and never shrink from hinting—while living more fully than any people since—that it may have been better for us never to have been born.
Just read this from Aeschylus:
“God, whose law it is that he who learns must suffer. Even in our sleep pain that cannot forget, falls drop by drop upon the heart, and in our own despite, against our will, comes wisdom to us by the awful grace of God.”
The Greeks are an enthusiasm that I cannot help sharing with anyone who’s interested, in person or online—so I here include for your reading astonishment a collection of 30 pages from and about The Greeks.
200 quotations from 55 different poets, playwrights, historians, kings,
novelists, psychoanalysts, artists, & adventurers:
And later in the year, to get to know these Ancient Greeks IN Greece?
The Stones of Athens Tour.
A proper introduction to the history, the art, the architecture, the philosophy (O, the philosophy!), that still makes Ancient Greece the pinnacle of human achievement, and an example to live by, happily.
October 2020. Forging ahead as scheduled.