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The beautiful and the good in Greek civilization

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I studied Greek history in college. However, unexpected changes in my student life diverted me from my goal of teaching about the Greeks. However, I kept reading the Greek texts. I also wrote two Greek history books.

In America, 1961

Moving from Greece to the United States in 1961 was shocking. The startling contrast was that of size. In my village and high school town in the island of Cephalonia nearly everything was human-sized. Landing at Chicago’s giant O’Hare Αirport was exciting and frightening. I had never seen so many people and so many stores and buildings vainly trying to reach the heavens.

My uncle George picked me up from the airport. He drove through downtown Chicago. I noticed a tremendous contrast between the glamorous stores of downtown Chicago and the tiny stores and homes lining the streets leading to Oak Lawn, a suburb in south Chicago where my uncle lived.

On our way to Oak Lawn, I started seeing electrified large glass crosses, headed with large glass letters reading “Jesus Saves.” I thought these crosses were more than an appeal to Jesus. They looked to me as if they carried some kind of a secret message. Such crosses were all over south Chicago. What did they mean?

These peculiar crosses became my introduction to a divided America. Whites and blacks had their own societies right next to each other. Whites had the power and wealth. Blacks had very little, save for a living memory of slavery. They protested white oppression and struggled for integration within the large white society. But in 1961, things looked frozen. Trouble was in the air.

Being eighteen years old, with rudimentary English and starting college removed the injustice of America from my mind. I could not handle it. My instinct led me eventually to the Greeks. The choice had something to do in helping me cope with my new environment – strange, silent, threatening, difficult to decode.

Moral decline

After several years at the University of Illinois and University of Wisconsin, I earned a doctorate in history. I followed that with postdoctoral studies in the history of science at Harvard. Later, I worked on Capitol Hill and the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). My unpleasant and often bitter experience in these institutions partly reflects my disappointment with the lax ethical standards and corrupt science prevailing in political Washington and industrialized America.

Greek architecture shaped the Library of Congress, the Supreme Court, and congressional buildings. In fact, in a dreamy moment I compared the congressional neighborhood of Washington DC, to Athens. I thought I was walking in fifth century BCE Athens.

I went to work thinking that some of this Hellenic affection of America must have been more than a fake imitation of Greek architecture. So I began my professional career thinking about how to improve human life and protect the natural world from the myriad gadgets and poisons industry had been churning out for decades.

Once my delusions about America faded, I embraced the Greek achievement even more. I felt good and secure in those imaginary and real realms of Greek literature, philosophy, science, gods and heroes.

The Antikythera Mechanism

My Greek journey took a new turn about ten years ago with my study of the Antikythera Mechanism, a gear-based computer and scientific masterpiece which the Greeks created in the second century BCE.

In 2006, I saw for the first time the fragments of this sophisticated astronomical device in the National Archaeological Museum in Athens. I looked carefully at these fragile fragments and examined dozens of x-ray pictures of the largest fragments, which revealed the intricate and interlocking gear trains inside the computer. This immersion in the technology and beauty of the astronomical device brought me closer to understanding why the Greeks invented and manufactured this machine, without a doubt the greatest achievement of their civilization.

Ancient Greeks put their modern-like science and engineering skills and virtues to work in this computer in order to open another window to the heavens, a cosmos of order and beauty. This device accurately followed the movement of the sun, moon and the planets, and predicted solar and lunar eclipses. It was also an accurate calendar.

The expansion of the Greeks to Egypt and the Middle East after the death of Alexander the Great in late fourth century BCE set the foundations for the modern world. The Greek kings of Egypt created the Mouseion, a university of sciences and humanities, and a library. They funded the exploration of the natural world and the heavens and the study and editing of the poets and writers of ancient Greek civilization. The Italian scholar of the Alexandrian age, Lucio Russo, said the result of this intellectual activity at the Mouseion and Library was an explosion of scientific knowledge about the world. The Antikythera Mechanism came out of the scientific institutions and Library of Alexandria.

Greek Art

My research and interest in this explosion of enlightenment in the Greek world led me to Greek art – the material remains of Greek civilization and the images Greeks made of themselves and their world. They decorated everything, including the humble ceramic cups they used for drinking water and wine. They painted the walls of their homes and those of public buildings, including the Parthenon.

Mosaics, paintings, ceramic vessels, jewelry, coins, statues, altars, stadia, theaters and temples told the story of their makers. The end was a mixture of science, craftsmanship, beauty and goodness. It’s in that combination that you can see a reflection of the ancient Greek world.

The surviving art shows the Greeks no different than the characters coming through the pages of poets like Homer, Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides and Aristophanes; philosophers like Plato and Aristotle; and the writers of the Alexandrian era. Art was philosophy.

Naked athletes

Of course, the Greeks were not perfect; they knew that well. Their literature aimed at enlightenment, not perfection. They aimed at eudaimonia, the enjoyment of the good and examined life. They left perfection to gods and, possibly, heroes.

The athletes competed naked in order to erase any sign of inequality among them. In addition, nakedness revealed beauty. And looking at a naked athlete, god or hero you also thought of the good and beautiful embedded in that nakedness.

Seeing is believing

I borrowed images from museums, books and Wikipedia. I also take my own pictures. I use photos for the illustration of Greek history. Pictures give life to the Antikythera Mechanism, Greek traditions from the second millennium BCE to mid-twentieth century, the Olympics and other Pan-Hellenic games, the Iliad and Odyssey of Homer, mythology and Greek medieval and modern civilization.

These images bring me slightly closer to ancient Greeks who gave us so much of our civilization: political theory and the warnings of Plato and Galen, the great Greek physician of the second century, to not put money and wealth ahead of science; the Parthenon; the biology of Aristotle; the geometry of Euclid and abstract mathematics; the geometry and engineering of Archimedes; mathematical astronomy and gears for computers.

Greeks are especially relevant today

We need Greek wisdom right now, especially science uncontaminated by money and lobbyists.

I know that I live in revolutionary times. The United States and other countries devoted to the commercialization and militarization of science and technology are posing a threat to civilization and the world.

Second, in 2018, the United States is falling apart. President Trump is consolidating the power of the rich, pushing America to plutocracy. The Republicans and Trump lowered the taxes of corporations and the rich, handing them something like a trillion-and-a-half dollars.

This inequity, which in 1961 troubled me, has become a gigantic gangster-like force undermining democracy and civilization. The conflict between Republicans and Democrats may lead to civil war. Trump’s attack against public and environmental health is an onslaught against each one of us and the natural world. Honeybees are on the verge of extinction. The very institution I worked for twenty-five years, the EPA, is openly licensing corporations and factories to pollute.

The Greeks did not need an EPA. The natural world was sacred to them. But they went through political schisms and civil wars. Reading them sheds light on the roots of America’s breakdown.

The Greeks thought plutocracy was a bad government. It still remains the worst form of government.

Opinions are those of the author alone and may not reflect the opinions and viewpoints of Hellenic Insider, its publisher, its editors, or its staff, writers, and contributors.

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‘Hell on Earth’: MSF doctor tells RT of rape, violence, inhumane conditions in Lesbos refugee camp

One toilet for over 70 people, rape, and mental health issues – a doctor from Doctors Without Borders (MSF) and an aid worker told RT about the dire conditions in the overcrowded Moria refugee camp in Greece.

Alex Christoforou

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Via RT


One toilet for over 70 people, rape, and mental health issues – a doctor from Doctors Without Borders (MSF) and an aid worker told RT about the dire conditions in the overcrowded Moria refugee camp in Greece.

The overcrowded camp on the island of Lesbos, built to accommodate 3,100, houses around 9,000 people. “It’s a kind of hell on Earth in Europe,” Dr. Alessandro Barberio, an MSF clinical psychiatrist, said, adding that people in the camp suffer from lack of water and medical care. “It is impossible to stay there,” he said.

According to Barberio, asylum seekers are subjected to violence “during night and day.””There is also sexual violence”which leads to “mental health issues,” he said, adding that all categories of people at the camp may be subjected to it. “There is rape against men, women and children,” and the victims of sexual violence in the camp often have nightmares and hallucinations, Barberio told RT.

Asylum seekers in Moria “are in constant fear of violence,” and these fears are not groundless, the psychiatrist said. “Such cases [of violence] take place every week.”

There is “one toilet for 72 people, one shower for 84 people. The sanitation is bad. People are suffering from bad conditions,” Michael Raeber, an aid worker at the camp, told RT. They suffer from mental health problems because they are kept for a long time in the camp, according to Raeber.

“There is no perspective, they don’t know how their case will go on, when they will ever be able to leave the island.” The camp is a “place where there is no rule of law,” with rampant violence and drug addiction among the inhabitants, Raeber said.

In its latest report, MSF, which has been working near Moria since late 2017, criticized the unprecedented health crisis in the camp – one of the biggest in Greece. About a third of the camp population consists of children, and many of them have harmed themselves, and have thought about or attempted suicide, according to the group.

Barberio was behind an MSF open letter on the state of emergency in Moria, released on Monday, in which he writes that he has never “witnessed such overwhelming numbers of people suffering from serious mental health conditions.”

Calling the camp an “island prison,” he insisted that many of his patients in the camp are unable to perform basic everyday functions, “such as sleeping, eating well, maintaining personal hygiene, and communicating.”

A number of human rights groups have strongly criticized the conditions at the camp and Greece’s “containment policy”regarding asylum seekers.

Christina Kalogirou, the regional governor of the North Aegean, which includes Lesbos, has repeatedly threatened to shut down the facility unless the government improves the conditions. On Tuesday, government spokesman Dimitris Tzanakopoulos said that Greece will move 2,000 asylum seekers out of the severely overcrowded camp and send them to the mainland by the end of September.

Greece, like other EU states, is experiencing the worst refugee crisis since WWII. According to International Organization for Migration estimates, 22,000 asylum seekers have arrived in Greece since the start of this year alone.

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Greece: “Humanitarian Aid” Organization’s People-Smuggling

Greek NGO evidently received 2,000 euros from each illegal immigrant it helped to enter Greece.

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Authored by Maria Polizoidou of Gatestone Institute:


  • Emergency Response Centre International (ERCI) describes itself as a “Greek nonprofit organization that provides emergency response and humanitarian aid in times of crisis….” It has reportedly abetted the illegal entry into Greece of 70,000 immigrants since 2015, providing the “nonprofit” with half a billion euros per year.
  • ECRI evidently received 2,000 euros from each illegal immigrant it helped to enter Greece. In addition, its members created a business for “integrating refugees” into Greek society, granting it 5,000 euros per immigrant per year from various government programs (in education, housing and nutrition).
  • With the government of Greece seemingly at a loss as to how to handle its refugee crisis and safeguard the security of its citizens, it is particularly dismaying to discover that the major NGO whose mandate is to provide humanitarian aid to immigrants is instead profiting from smuggling them.

Migrants arrive at a beach on the Greek island of Kos after crossing part of the Aegean sea from Turkey in a rubber dinghy, on August 15, 2015. (Photo by Milos Bicanski/Getty Images)

On August 28, thirty members of the Greek NGO Emergency Response Centre International (ERCI) were arrested for their involvement in a people-smuggling network that has been operating on the island of Lesbos since 2015. According to a statement released by Greek police, as a result of the investigation that led to the arrests, “The activities of an organised criminal network that systematically facilitated the illegal entry of foreigners were fully exposed.”

Among the activities uncovered were forgery, espionage and the illegal monitoring of both the Greek coastguard and the EU border agency, Frontex, for the purpose of gleaning confidential information about Turkish refugee flows. The investigation also led to the discovery of an additional six Greeks and 24 foreign nationals implicated in the case.

ERCI describes itself as:

“[A] Greek nonprofit organization that provides emergency response and humanitarian aid in times of crisis. ERCI’s philosophy is to identify the gaps of humanitarian aid and step in to assist in the most efficient and impactful manner. Currently ERCI has 4 active programs working with refugees in Greece in the areas of Search and Rescue, Medical, Education and Refugee Camp Coordination.”

In spite of its stated mission and non-profit profile, however, ECRI — according to Greek authorities, has earned considerable sums of money from its serving as a conduit for illegal activities. ECRI evidently received 2,000 euros from each illegal immigrant it helped to enter Greece. In addition, its members created a business for “integrating refugees” into Greek society, granting it 5,000 euros per immigrant per year from various government programs (in education, housing and nutrition). ERCI has reportedly abetted the illegal entry into Greece of 70,000 immigrants since 2015, providing the “non-profit” with half a billion euros per year.

This revelation, however, does not begin to cover the extent of the illegal activities surrounding the entry of migrants into Greece. In 2017, for instance, Greek authorities arrested 1,399 people-smugglers, some under the cover of “humanitarian” operations; and during the first four months of 2018, authorities arrested 25,594 illegal immigrants.

More worrisome than the literally steep price paid to people-smugglers by the immigrants themselves — or that doled out by the Greek government in the form of integration subsidies — is the toll the situation is taking on Greek society as a whole.

According to Greek police statistics, there were 75,707 robberies and burglaries reported in 2017. Of these cases only 15,048 were solved, and 4,207 were committed by aliens. In addition, the police estimate that more than 40% of serious crimes were committed by illegal immigrants. (Legal and illegal immigrants in Greece make up 10-15% of the total population.)

In 2016, Greek prisons reportedly contained 4,246 Greeks and 5,221 foreigners convicted of serious crimes: 336 for homicide; 101 for attempted homicide; 77 for rape; and 635 for robbery. In addition, thousands of cases are still pending trial.

In a recent heart-wrenching case on August 15, a 25-year-old college student from Athens — on a visit home from his studies at a university in Scotland — was murdered by three illegal immigrants while he was out touring the city with a female friend from Portugal.

The three perpetrators, two Pakistanis and an Iraqi ranging in age from 17 to 28, told police that they first attacked the young woman, stealing money, credit cards, a passport and a cell phone from her purse, but when they realized that her phone was “old,” they went for the young man’s phone, threatening him with a knife. When he tried to fend them off, they said in their confession, they shoved him and he fell off a cliff to his death. After the interrogation, it transpired that the three killers were wanted for 10 additional robberies in the area.

In an angry letter to Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, members of parliament and the mayor of Athens, the mother of the victim accused Tsipras of “criminal negligence” and “complicity” in her son’s murder.

“Instead of welcoming and providing “land and water” to every criminal and dangerous individual with savage instincts,” she wrote, “should the state not think first of the safety of its own citizens, whose blood it drinks daily [economically]? [Should the state] abandon [its citizens] to ravenous gangs, for whom the worth of a human life has less meaning than the value of a cell phone or a gold chain?”

Although those were the words of a grieving mother, they are sentiments widely felt and expressed throughout Greece, where such incidents are increasingly common.

On August 29, two weeks after that murder, six immigrants in northern Greece verbally assaulted a 52-year-old man on the street, apparently for no reason. When he ignored them and kept walking, one of them stabbed him in the shoulder blade with a 24-cm (9.4-inch) knife, landing him in the hospital.

Two days earlier, on August 27, approximately 100 immigrants, protesting the living conditions in their camp in Malakasa, blocked the National Highway for more than three hours. Drivers stuck on the road said that some of the protestors went on a rampage, bashing cars with blocks of wood. To make matters worse, police on the scene said that they had not received instructions from the Ministry of Citizen Protection to clear the highway or protect the victims. Gatestone was told upon further queries, that there was no official statement from the police or the ministry, just the drivers’ statements.

With the government of Greece seemingly at a loss as to how to handle its migrant crisis and safeguard the security of its citizens, it is particularly dismaying to discover that the major NGO whose mandate is to provide humanitarian aid to immigrants is instead profiting from smuggling them. The recent arrest of ERCI members underscores the need to scrutinize all such organizations.

Maria Polizoidou, a reporter, broadcast journalist, and consultant on international and foreign affairs, is based in Greece. She has a post-graduate degree in “Geopolitics and Security Issues in the Islamic complex of Turkey and Middle East” from the University of Athens.

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Turkey’s Latest Power Grab: A Naval Base In Cyprus?

“If Greek-Turkish tensions escalate, the possibility of another ill-timed military provocation could escalate with them… Moreover, such a conflict might open up an even greater opportunity for Russian interference.” — Lawrence A. Franklin.

The Duran

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Authored by Debalina Ghoshal via The Gatestone Institute:


  • The possibility of a Turkish naval base on Cyprus does not bode well for the chances of a Cyprus reunification deal, particularly after the breakdown of the July 2017 peace talks, which were suspended when “Turkey had refused to relinquish its intervention rights on Cyprus or the presence of troops on the island.” Turkey has 30,000 soldiers stationed on Cyprus, the northern part of which it has illegally occupied since 1974.

Turkey’s Naval Forces Command has “submitted a proposal to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs stating that Turkey should establish a naval base in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus,” according to Turkey’s strongly pro-Erdogan daily, Yeni Safak, which recently endorsed the proposal for the base in an article entitled, “Why Turkey should establish a naval base in Northern Cyprus.”

“The base will enable the protection of Northern Cyprus’ sovereignty as well as facilitate and fortify Turkey’s rights and interests in the Eastern Mediterranean, preventing the occupation of sea energy fields, and strengthening Turkey’s hand in the Cyprus peace process talks.”

Having a naval base in northern Cyprus would also strengthen the self-proclaimed “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus,” which is recognized only by Turkey. Cyprus is strategically important: a naval base there would give Turkey easier access to the Eastern Mediterranean’s international trade routes and greater control over the vast undersea energy resources around Cyprus. In the past, Turkey has blocked foreign vessels from drilling for these resources; in June, Turkey began its own exploration of the island’s waters for gas and oil.

This is not the first time that Turkey has set its sights on the area’s resources. In 2014, Ankara dispatched surveillance vessels and warships to Cyprus’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) to search for hydrocarbons. This incident took place just before the leaders of Greece, Cyprus and Egypt deepened their an energy-cooperation, “freezing Turkey out.” As soon as the accord was signed, Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades blasted “Turkey’s provocative actions,” saying that they “do not just compromise the peace talks [between Greek and Turkish Cypriots]… [but] also affect security in the eastern Mediterranean region.”

At the time, UN-brokered reunification negotiations, which had been renewed after a long hiatus, ended unsuccessfully yet again, as a result of Turkey’s search for hydrocarbons in the EEZ. According to a November 2014 report in the Guardian:

“Turkey’s decision to dispatch a research vessel into disputed waters last month not only resulted in talks being broken off but has exacerbated the row over drilling rights.”

The possibility of a Turkish naval base does not bode well for the chances of a Cyprus reunification deal, particularly after the breakdown of the July 2017 peace talks between Turkish-Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci and Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades. The talks were suspended when “Turkey had refused to relinquish its intervention rights on Cyprus or the presence of troops on the island.” Turkey has 30,000 soldiers stationed on Cyprus, the northern part of which it has illegally occupied since 1974.

Another factor that may be contributing to the Turkish Navy’s desire for a base in Cyprus is Israel. Aside from Ankara’s extremely rocky relations with Jerusalem, Israel and Cyprus have been working to forge an agreement to join their electricity grids and construct a pipeline to link their gas fields to mainland Europe. Although they are in a dispute over development rights of one of these gas fields, Aphrodite, they are invested in reaching a solution that will not damage their increasingly friendly relations.

Erdogan’s considerations should concern NATO, of which Turkey, surprisingly, is still a member, and the rest of the West. As Lawrence A. Franklin recently wrote for Gatestone:

“If Greek-Turkish tensions escalate, the possibility of another ill-timed military provocation could escalate with them. The ability of NATO to respond to other conflicts in the area could be affected, as well as NATO air and naval assets based in both countries. Moreover, such a conflict might open up an even greater opportunity for Russian interference.”

Debalina Ghoshal, an independent consultant specializing in nuclear and missile issues, is based in India.

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