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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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Paranoid Turkey Claims “Greece, Israel, & Egypt Are Part Of Khashoggi’s Murder Plot”

A new Turkish narrative has been launched claiming that Greece, Israel and Egypt are part of the murder plot of Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

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Via Zerohedge


As we noted previouslythe conflict over gas in the eastern Mediterranean is intensifying.

The dispute concerns gas blocks, with Turkey furious about the energy cooperation of these Greece, Cyprus, and Egypt in the East Mediterranean Sea. While Turkish warships have been active, it appears Turkey is taking a new approach to this hybrid war.

As KeepTalkingGreece.com reports,a new Turkish narrative, based on paranoia and conspiracy theories, has been launched claiming that Greece, Israel and Egypt are part of the murder plot of Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggipresumably in an effort to garner global opinion against their energy-hording neighbors.

This unbelievable allegation has been claimed by Erdogan’s close aide Yigit Bulut, who is famous for his delirium and ravings, during an appearance on state television of Turkey.

“Greece, Israel and Egypt are part of murder plot involving slain Saudi Arabia journalist Khashoggi in Istanbul,” Yigit Bulut said in TRT Television, where he is a frequent guest.

Enlisting the ‘good old traditional perception’ that Turkey is surrounded by enemies, KeepTalkingGreece notesthat Bulut said:

“a belt extending from Europe to Israel has always harbored hostility towards Turkey they never wanted Turks in this region. Europe even made Turks to fight unnecessary wars against Russia.”

It is worth noting that Russia and Turkey have come closer recently due to Syria, a cooperation sealed with armament sales to Ankara triggering the anger of US and the NATO of which Turkey is a member.

Bulut vowed that Turkey will continue oil and gas exploration in the East Mediterranean off-shore Cyprus.

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Turkey vows to make ‘sea bandits’ drilling gas off Cyprus pay, like ‘terrorists in Syria’ did

Ankara claims jurisdiction for offshore research in the East Mediterranean, an area thought to be rich with natural resources.

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Via RT


Ankara will not allow any “sea bandits” to roam free and tap the disputed natural gas reserves off Cyprus, Turkey’s president has vowed, while commissioning a new warship to challenge competitors militarily, should the need arise.

“We will not accept attempts to seize natural resources in the Eastern Mediterranean through the exclusion of Turkey and the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC),” Erdogan said Sunday, according to Daily Sabah. While claiming that Turkey has no ambitions to annex any “territories,” Ankara promised to protect “the rights of our country and of our brothers.”

“Those who thought that they could take steps in the Eastern Mediterranean or the Aegean despite [this] have begun to understand the magnitude of their mistake. We will not allow bandits in the seas to roam free just like we made the terrorists in Syria pay,” Erdogan said at a ceremony transferring the TCG Burgazada corvette to the Turkish Navy.

The exploration of hydrocarbon resources off the coast of the Republic of Cyprus has become a sensitive issue for the international community, ever since the first gas deposit discoveries were made off the coast in 2011. While the Republic of Cyprus belongs to the EU community and is recognized by the UN, TRNC, the northern third of the island, has been occupied by Turkey since 1974. As a result, Ankara continues to claim jurisdiction for offshore research in the East Mediterranean, an area thought to be rich with natural resources.

The region has recently witnessed an escalation in tensions, after the Turkish Navy intercepted a Greek frigate which tried to interfere with a Turkish research vessel’s seabed exploration on October 18. The incident prompted a diplomatic row with Greece, which traditionally supports the ethnically Greek government of the Republic of Cyprus. While Greece denied interfering with the Turkish research vessel, Ankara has cautioned its neighbor and longtime opponent not to stir trouble in the region.

To ease tensions, Cyprus’ President Nicos Anastasiades has offered Turkey on Friday to cooperate on exploiting the East Mediterranean’s potential oil and gas wealth, stressing that the ethnically split island nation should be reunified. All previous international efforts to unite the island have failed. To avoid any further intercommunal tensions and hostilities the United Nations continues to maintain a buffer zone there.

“We will continue with our goal of exercising the sovereign rights of the Republic of Cyprus, as an independent state – member of the European Union, proceeding seamlessly with our energy planning for the benefit of all the legitimate inhabitants of the country, Greek Cypriots and Turkish Cypriots,” the president noted.

US-based ExxonMobil and Qatar Petroleum have already been licensed by the Cypriot government to undertake seabed exploration of Block 10. Last month, Nicosia also invited France’s Total, Italy’s ENI and ExxonMobil to explore Block 7. ExxonMobil’s Stena IceMax drillship is scheduled to arrive in Cyprus on November 12. Turkey, meanwhile, started conducting its first deep-sea drilling off Antalya’s shores on its Mediterranean coast this week.

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After Embarrassing Defeat, NATO, EU and the West Try to Alter Reality in Macedonia

Amidst all the faux cheer and public displays of confidence of the pro-NATO/EU crowd, a palpable sense of unease hangs in the air.

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Authored by Aleksandar Pavic via The Strategic Culture Foundation:


Although the September 30, 2018 name-change referendum in Macedonia, which was supposed to set that ex-Yugoslav federal republic on a path to (certain) NATO and (blithely promised but much less certain) EU membership, failed miserably, with only 36.91% of the voters turning out, well short of the 50% + 1 necessary for it to be valid – one would never know it from the reactions of its Western proponents and impatient beneficiaries. Indeed, a new term may be needed to adequately describe the reactions of the key pillars representing the reliquiae reliquiarum of the Western-led post-Cold War unipolar moment. Fake news simply doesn’t do them justice. Fake reality anyone?

The US State Department was firmly in denial, releasing the following statement“The United States welcomes the results of the Republic of Macedonia’s September 30 referendum, in which citizens expressed their support for NATO and European Union (EU) membership by accepting the Prespa Agreement between Macedonia and Greece. The United States strongly supports the Agreement’s full implementation, which will allow Macedonia to take its rightful place in NATO and the EU, contributing to regional stability, security, and prosperity. As Macedonia’s parliament now begins deliberation on constitutional changes, we urge leaders to rise above partisan politics and seize this historic opportunity to secure a brighter future for the country as a full participant in Western institutions.”

EU Commissioner for European Neighborhood and Enlargement Negotiations Johannes Hahn wasn’t to be outdone in his contempt for the 63% of the Macedonian “deplorables” who stayed home in order to voice their disagreement with renouncing their perceived national identity and country name (it was to become “Northern Macedonia”) in exchange for the double joy of a) becoming NATO’s cannon-fodder in its increasingly hazardous game of chicken with Russia and b) the EU’s newest debt-serfs: “Referendum in Macedonia: I congratulate those citizens who voted in today’s consultative referendum and made use of their democratic freedoms. With the very significant “yes” vote, there is broad support to the #Prespa Agreement + to the country’s #Euroatlantic path. I now expect all political leaders to respect this decision and take it forward with utmost responsibility and unity across party lines, in the interest of the country.” He was seconded the following day, in a joint statement, by Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice President of the EU Commission.

Understandably, as the most direct public stakeholder, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg was particularly (hyper)active. As the disappointing results began to roll in, Stoltenberg went into immediate damage control, tweeting“I welcome the yes vote in Macedonia referendum. I urge all political leaders & parties to engage constructively & responsibly to seize this historic opportunity. #NATO’s door is open, but all national procedures have to be completed.” He reinforced his delusional missive the next day, releasing a similar statement co-signed by EU President Donald Tusk. And the day after, during a news conference, Stoltenberg even offered lightning-quick NATO accession to the unwilling Macedonians – January 2019, to be exact – if they would just be so kind as to urgently implement the very agreement that they had just so emphatically rejected. When NATO says it promotes democratic values – it means it!

But that wasn’t the end of the “democracy mongering” surrounding what may well prove to be NATO’s, the EU’s and the rest of the end-of-history West’s Balkan Waterloo. For example, the EU Parliament’s Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats, although “regretting that the turnout was less than 50%,” nevertheless hailed the referendum’s results and “call(ed) on the opposition to respect the expressed will of the majority [sic] of voters.” The Group’s leader, Udo Bullmann, while also maintaining that, somehow, a voter turnout of under 37% still represented a “majority,” additionally used the occasion to chastise Macedonia’s President for having the nerve to call for a boycott of the referendum (he committed the crimethink of referring to it as “historical suicide” during his UN General Assembly address), as well as to decry – what else? – “reports about Russian interference in the electoral process.” It goes without saying that Bullmann offered absolutely zero proof for his assertion. On the other hand, according to numerous media reports, as September 30 approached, while no high Russian official was to be seen anywhere in the vicinity, a veritable procession of Western political bigwigs made the pilgrimage to Skopje in order to reveal to the natives their “true” best interests: Sebastian Kurz“Mad Dog” Mattis, the indefatigable StoltenbergFederica MogheriniJohannes HahnAngela Merkel. No meddling there, obviously…

Speaking of Angela Merkel, she also joined her fellow Western democrats’ show of unanimous disdain for the Macedonian voters’ majority opinion, urging the country to “push ahead” with the implementation of the majority-rejected accord, citing voters’ “overwhelming support” [sic], and arguing through the mouth of her spokesman that the required 50% + 1 turnout was actually “very high,” as voter registers purportedly included many people who had long since left the country.

Coincidentally (?), the same argument was used by Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias, who opined that the “yes” votes cast in the referendum do, in fact, “represent the majority despite the low turnout because Macedonia does not have the 1.8 million voters entered into its electoral rolls but just 1.2 million since 300,000 people have left the country since the voter lists were last updated 20 years ago.” The fallacy of his reality-challenged claim is easily exposed if we just take a glance at the results of Macedonia’s last parliamentary elections (December 2016), in which voter turnout was just under 1.2 million (1,191,832 to be exact) or, officially, 66.79%. If we were to believe Kotzias and Merkel (who lodged no objections at the time), that would have meant that the turnout for the 2016 elections had been 99% – a figure that would make any totalitarian dictator blush with envy. On the other hand, since those elections did produce the “desired result,” enabling the current heavily pro-NATO/EU government led by Zoran Zaev to be formed, that automatically made them “valid” in the eyes of the high priests of democracy in Brussels, Berlin, London and Washington.

Needless to say, Zaev joined his Western patrons’ charade, hailing the referendum as a “democratic success,” and announcing that he would seek the Macedonian Parliament’s support to amend the constitution and get the agreement with Greece ratified (according to the so-called Prespa Agreement, the Macedonian Parliament must adopt the necessary constitutional amendments by the end of 2018) so that the Greek Parliament can do the same, which would seal the deal. However, Zaev and his Albanian political partners are currently well short of the necessary two-thirds majority (reportedly, they can count on 71 deputies, or 9 short of the needed 80), and will have to call early elections if they don’t soon succeed in securing it.

Yet, let it not go unsaid that Zaev was singing a rather different tune prior to the referendum, assuring that “citizens will make the decision,” and that Parliament would vote on the necessary constitutional changes only if the referendum is successful. But that was then, when confidence was still high that the usual combination of Western pressure, money and overwhelming domination of the media spectrum would get the job done. And then reality struck on September 30…

Still, amidst all the faux cheer and public displays of confidence of the pro-NATO/EU crowd, a palpable sense of unease hangs in the air. As a Deutsche Welle opinion piece put it, the “low voter turnout for Macedonia’s referendum is a bad starting point for the country’s future development.” And, according to DW in Serbian, a Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung commentary warned that “politicians who otherwise ceaselessly talk of democracy as a ‘special value’ should not call on the parliament in Skopje to accept the voting results.” In other words, Macedonia’s people (read – a large majority of the majority Slavic population) have “voted with their feet” and rejected the agreement, and no new parliamentary election, no matter the results, can change that unpleasant-but-immutable fact. That alone will delegitimize any Western-led effort to “manufacture consent” by ramming the agreement through the present or future Parliament – although, as we know, NATO doesn’t put too much stock in referenda anyway, while the EU is not averse to making citizens vote as many times as needed to obtain the “right” result.

But the West has lost more than just legitimacy in Macedonia – it has damaged its reputation, perhaps irretrievably. In the words of former presidential advisor Cvetin Chilimanov, “The West has humiliated us… Macedonians have rejected this media, psychological, political and propaganda aggression against the people, and that’s the tragedy of these days, that a large percentage of a people that had been genuinely oriented towards the West has changed its mind and stopped looking at the West as something democratic, something progressive and successful… That is the reason for the boycott. Pressure was applied against Macedonia, a country that had always been open to ties with the West, but which did not want to make this disgusting compromise and humiliate itself before the neighboring countries, before Western countries. We did not understand why that humiliation was needed so that we might become a member of Europe. What’s worst, perhaps that is now the thinking of a silent majority of the people, that they won’t forget this insult and this attack on Macedonia.”

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