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Olympic dreams: A Greek gift to humanity

The Olympics were more than just an athletic event: they were a means to develop the mind, preserve freedom, and promote unity.

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If you can escape the toxic vortex of the twenty-first century and dream of a time our world was being born, you would have to travel to ancient Greece.
Hellas
Hellenes (Greeks) have always called their country Hellas (Greece). However, Hellas was not one country but something like a couple of thousands small states spread all over mainland Greece and the Mediterranean. Hellas was the Greek United Nations: employing the diplomatic niceties of peace but perpetually bickering and, often, fighting border conflicts and, sometimes, real wars.
Yes, the Greeks of hundreds of states were one people with the same language, piety for the same Olympian gods, and similar traditions like reading Homer and investigating the natural world and the heavens.

Diskobolos of Myron, the thrower of the discus in the Olympics and other Panhellenic games. The marble statue dates to the fifth century BCE. Museo Nazionale Romano, Rome. Courtesy Wikipedia.


Athletics
The best of the Greeks, including Homer, embraced the education of the mind. But they also added athletics as an end and a means to an end: educating the Greeks to live well and preserve their freedom.
Athletics meant competing peacefully in sprint and long distance footraces, the throwing of discus and the javelin, jumping, wrestling, boxing and horse and chariot races in order to tame the violent in human nature while, at the same time, honoring the gods that made their athletic and other achievements possible.
The religious dimension of Greek athletics was ancient and powerful. It’s impossible to separate athletics from the worship of the gods. The Olympics celebrated Zeus; the games at Delphi honored Apollo; the Isthmian games in Corinth centered on Poseidon; in Nemea and Dodona in Epiros in northern Greece, Zeus was the divine sponsor of the games.
Pausanias, a Greek doctor from Asia who toured Greece in the second century, said that Greece was a land full of sights and memorable stories. But nothing in Greece did Zeus bless more than the Olympic Games (Guide to Greece 5.10.1).
The sibling to athletics was the cultivation of the mind with works of civilization: reading and writing, geometry, astronomy, philosophy, poetry, theater, sculpture, painting, architecture, and technology.
The Academy of Plato and the Lyceum of Aristotle included a palaistra (wrestling) school for the vigorous physical education of the students.
The Greeks knew they had to find a way out of strife and civil wars. Enemies surrounded most of their small poleis. If they failed to tone down their aggressive competitiveness, they were doomed.

Gold coin representing Zeus from Lampsakos, a polis in the Troad in northwestern Asia Minor (Greek Ionia). Coin dares to about 360 BCE. Courtesy Wikipedia.


Who founded the Olympics?
Herakles offered an alternative way to the politics of hubris. He was born in Thebes as the son of Zeus and a mortal mother, Alkmene. He was a powerful demigod with great virtues and tremendous courage and fortitude. He became the greatest hero of the Greeks through good works: killing monsters and evildoers. He served the common interest.
Pindar, 518-after 440 BCE, the Theban lyric poet, credits Herakles with the founding of the Olympics (Olympian 2.1-7). It’s quite possible he did. Among other honors, the Greeks thought of Herakles as the patron god of athletes.
Pelops
Another hero sharing with Herakles the honor of establishing the Olympics is Pelops, dating from the late second millennium BCE. Peloponnesos means the island of Pelops. This was a daring man. When he heard that Oinomeos, king of Pisa, challenged any one to compete with him in a chariot race, he volunteered. Pelops won the contest and killed Oinomeos. He then married a woman horse-tamer, Hippodameia, daughter of Oinomeos.
Achilles and the games honoring Patroklos
The third possible influence in the founding of the Olympics comes from Achilles, king of Phthia in Thessaly. His mother was Thetis, a sea-nymph daughter of the sea-god Nereus. Achilles was the greatest Greek hero in the Trojan War. His uncontrollable wrath shaped the ten-year conflict. The death of his best friend, Patroklos, shocked him so much he reentered the war and killed Hektor, a Trojan hero who had killed Patroklos.
Achilles honored Patroklos by sponsoring athletic competitions.
The prizes for the victors in the Patroklos funeral games go to the first, second and third winner – a tradition dropped in the Olympics that rewards only the first winner.
Achilles sponsored the following games: the chariot race, boxing, wrestling, footrace, close combat, discus and javelin throwing, and the bow and arrow competition. He was generous with the prizes, which included gold, iron, cauldrons, tripods, mixing bowls, a “silver-studded sword,” horses, mules, oxen, and “beautifully girdled women.” Achilles is proud for his solid-footed horses because they were immortal, gift of Poseidon to his father Peleus (Homer, Iliad 23.256-24.6).
Homer also briefly mentions athletics when Odysseus finally arrives in Phaiakia (Kerkyra), his last stop before arriving home at Ithaca. Young men of Phaiakia competed in jumping, running, boxing, wrestling, and the throwing of discus. In fact, one of those young me, Laodamas, invites Odysseus to try his hand at some sport. “There’s no greater fame a man earns in life than the glory he wins with his feet and hands,” Laodamas tells Odysseus.
Another young man, Euryalos, insults Odysseus, telling him he looked more like a captain of a ship rather than an athlete. This angers Odysseus. He grabs a discus and throws it further than any local. Then he tells the Phaialians he was the best in athletics among the Greeks at Troy (Odyssey 8.97-253).

Greek postage stamp honoring the first modern Olympics in Athens, Greece, 1896.


The Olympics
The very ancient religious-athletic traditions of the Greeks finally found a formal expression in the Olympics in Olympia, located in northwestern Peloponnesos. This is early eighth century BCE – a time of troubles for Greece.
Pausanias reported that Iphitos started the Olympics. Iphitos, a prince from Elis, a polis about forty kilometers north of Olympia, consulted the Oracle of Apollo at Delphi. The priestess of Apollo told him he and the people of Elis should revive the Olympics, including the Olympic Truce or ekecheiria (holding of hands) (Guide to Greece 5.4.5-6).
Iphytos did that and the first Olympiad took place in 776 BCE. The only game in the first Olympiad was the stadion, a sprint footrace of about 200 meters.
The people of Elis administered the Olympics for centuries. They built the infrastructure for the quadrennial games. The magnificent temple of Zeus was at the center of the Olympics. In early fifth century BCE, Pheidias sculpted the statue of Zeus from gold and ivory (chryselephantine). On his right hand, the seated god held a two-meter statue of Nike, goddess of victory.
Every four years, Greek athletes and thousands of spectators gathered at Olympia for a truly great athletic competition and a magnificent festival of food, entertainment, and renewal of the Greek identity — Hellenism. Writers read their work. Politicians spread their ideas. Dancers and musicians produced shows. Greeks from one polis met Greeks from all over Greece and the Mediterranean. They talked about the athletes and their hopes and fears. The Olympics became a meeting place for understanding and fixing Greece.
The Olympic Truce, the holding of hands, forbade conflict around the time for a new Olympiad. Yes, the ekecheiria was a small step, but it helped in building a more cohesive and civilized country.

Zeus Nikephoros (Zeus holding Nike, goddess of victory). Alexandrian Age, 2nd-1st centuries, BCE. Courtesy Wikipedia.


Were the athletes evil?
Not every Greek loved the Olympics. In late fifth century BCE, the poet Euripides denounced the festival as a waste of time and the athletes as evil, being slaves to their jaws and servants to their belies. Instead of watching athletes and taking part in useless pleasures, Euripides urged the Greeks to honor good and virtuous men governing poleis and other men with good ideas for the abolition of strife and war (Autolykos, fragment 282).
Seven hundred years after Euripides, Galen, the greatest Greek physician since Hippokrates, associated athletes with pigs, force-feeding themselves flesh and blood (Galen, Exhortation for Medicine 9-14).
Athletics and civilization
Euripides and Galen missed the significance of the Olympics. Like dozens of Panhellenic athletic and religious festivals, the Olympics gave meaning of what it was to be Greek. They were laboratories searching for the magic of what keeps people civilized.
Pausanias tells us that athletes learned that not money but swiftness of foot or strength of body win Olympic victories. In addition, Pausanias reports that athletes and their fathers, brothers and coaches took an oath in front of a bronze statue of Zeus of Oaths (Zeus Horkios). Zeus was holding a silver-plated thunderbolt in each hand. The athletes and their supporters and trainers stood in front of the statue and slices of meat from a boar sacrificed in honor of Zeus. They swore not to shame the Olympics by bribes or other unethical conduct (Guide to Greece 5.21.2-4; 5.24.9-10)

Death of Ladas by George Murray, 1899. The runner Ladas is dying while receiving the crown of victory at the Olympics. Courtesy Wikipedia.


We learn from Lucian, a second century Greek writer, that the spectator in the Olympics would probably find himself in the midst of huge cheering crowds. One could barely help but admire the virtues of the athletes: their physical beauty, dramatic skills and daring, enormous pride and unbeatable tenacity and passion for victory. It was not surprising that one could hardly stop cheering and applauding the athletes and the games (Anacharsis 9-14).
But the most exalted treatment of athletes was that of Pindar. He made a living by praising victorious athletes. He said an athletic victory brings beauty to a manly deed, lifting the mind above the “pursuit of money.” Man, Pindar said, is ephemeral. What is he and what is he not? Man is a dream of a shadow. Yet, when the gods bless men with a ray of sunshine, a brilliant light settles on them. Their lives become gentle (Pythian Ode 8.70-98).

Unearthed ruins of the temple of Zeus in Olympia. Courtesy Wikipedia.


The Olympics lasted for 1,167 years. In 393 of our common era, the Christian emperor Theodosius I brought them to an end.
A millennium-and-a-half later, Greek and French intellectuals revived them. The first modern Olympics took place in Athens in 1896.
The Olympics remain an indelible Greek gift to humanity. They are a tradition of enormous potential for the improvement of the human condition – especially making athletes and spectators of sport virtuous and diminishing men’s hunger for war.

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The Mediterranean Pipeline Wars Are Heating Up

The EastMed gas pipeline is expected to start some 170 kilometers off the southern coast of Cyprus and reach Otranto on the Puglian coast of Italy via the island of Crete and the Greek mainland.

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Authored by Viktor Katona via Oilprice.com:


Things have been quite active in the Eastern Mediterranean lately, with Israel, Cyprus and Greece pushing forward for the realization of the EastMed pipeline, a new gas conduit destined to diversify Europe’s natural gas sources and find a long-term reliable market outlet for all the recent Mediterranean gas discoveries. The three sides have reached an agreement in late November (roughly a year after signing the MoU) to lay the pipeline, the estimated cost of which hovers around $7 billion (roughly the same as rival TurkStream’s construction cost). Yet behind the brave facade, it is still very early to talk about EastMed as a viable and profitable project as it faces an uphill battle with traditionally difficult Levantine geopolitics, as well as field geology.

The EastMed gas pipeline is expected to start some 170 kilometers off the southern coast of Cyprus and reach Otranto on the Puglian coast of Italy via the island of Crete and the Greek mainland. Since most of its subsea section is projected to be laid at depths of 3-3.5 kilometer, in case it is built it would become the deepest subsea gas pipeline, most probably the longest, too, with an estimated length of 1900km. The countries involved proceed from the premise that the pipeline’s throughput capacity would be 20 BCM per year (706 BCf), although previous estimates were within the 12-16 BCm per year interval. According to Yuval Steinitz, the Israeli Energy Minister, the stakeholders would need a year to iron out all the remaining administrative issues and 4-5 years to build the pipeline, meaning it could come onstream not before 2025.

The idea of EastMed was first flaunted around 2009-2010 as the first more or less substantial gas discovery in the Eastern Mediterranean, the Tamar gas field in Israel’s offshore zone, paved the way for speculations about an impending gas boom. Then came the 535 BCm (18.9 TCf) Leviathan in 2010 and the 850 BCm (30 TCf) Zohr discovery in offshore Egypt five years later and suddenly it seemed that an Eastern Mediterranean gas expansion is inevitable. Yet over the years, the operators of Leviathan have already allocated part of their total gas volumes to domestic power generating companies and most notably NEPCO, the Jordanian electric power company (1.6-2BCm per year). Egypt has been concentrating on meeting domestic needs and getting rid of LNG imports, moreover once it bounces back to gas exporter status in 2019, it will only use its own 2 LNG terminals in Damietta and Idku.

Thus, a pertinent question arises – whose gas would be used to fill the EastMed pipeline? If the pipeline starts in offshore Cyprus, then it would be logical to expect that Cyprus’ gas bounty would be somehow utilized. Yet Cyprus has been lagging behind Egypt and Israel in its offshore endeavors and so far lacks a clear-cut giant field to base its supply future on. The two discoveries appraised heretofore, the 6-8 TCf Calypso operated by ENI and the 4.5 TCf Aphrodite operated by Noble Energy, are not enough to support the construction of a relatively expensive gas pipeline – all the more so as Noble has signed a provisional deal to send Aphrodite gas to Egypt’s Idku LNG terminal, most likely by means of a subsea gas pipeline. If we are to judge the viability of the EastMed on the current situation, there is only Calypso and Israel to fill the pipeline, as Greece’s gas export plans are close to zero on the probability scale.

The subsea section from Cyprus’ offshore zone to the island of Crete lies in depths of 3km and is stretched across a seismically active zone. But there is even more – should Turkey claim rights on Cyprus’ offshore hydrocarbon deposits (in February 2018 it sent warships to scare away ENI’s drilling rig that was on its way to xxx), the project is all but dead. This is far from an implausible scenario as President Erdogan stated that Turkey would never allow for the extortion of natural resources in the East Mediterranean by means of excluding Ankara and Northern Cyprus. Cognizant of the risks inherent in an East Mediterranean gas pipeline, there has been no interest from oil and gas majors to participate in the project. This is worrying as the $7 billion are expected to be financed from private investors, of which there is a palpable dearth – despite the EU’s 35 million funding to promote what it sees as a Project of Common Interest.

Yet even for the European Union, the EastMed gas pipeline presents a bit of a headache as its commissioning would render the Southern Gas Corridor, comprising so far only of Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) with a 10 BCm per year throughput capacity, irrelevant by creating a sort-of competitor. The price of the natural gas to be supplied via the EastMed pipeline might become the biggest obstacle of them all – if the cost of producing offshore Mediterranean gas turns out to be $4-5/MMBtu as expected, the addition of further transportation costs to it all would place EastMed supplied at the bottom range of European gas supply options (Russian gas supply is alleged to be profitable with price levels as low as $4/MMbtu). All this might change if any of the East Mediterranean countries were to discover a giant gas field, altering the economics of production or possibly even liquefaction.

In fact, 2019 will witness several key wells being drilled across Cyprus, Egypt and possibly even Israel. ExxonMobil’s testing of Block 10 in offshore Cyprus would largely point to the overall attractiveness of Cyprus as an oil and gas producing country – the drilling has already started, with results expected in Q1 2019. The ENI-operated Noor offshore field in Egypt, adjacent to Zohr, is a much hotter prospect with BP buying into it lately – most likely it will outshine all the other drilling sites in the Eastern Mediterranean, however, if a big discovery is confirmed, it would be most likely used for Egyptian purposes which run counter to the EastMed gas pipeline. Thus, EastMed’s only hope is that Israel 2nd international licensing round, results to be announced in July 2019, will elicit a couple of Leviathan-like finds that would make pipeline construction profitable. Until then, the prospects are rather bleak.

By Viktor Katona for Oilprice.com

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Turkey’s Threats against Greece

Erdogan believes that the Greek islands are occupied Turkish territory and must be reconquered.

The Duran

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Authored by Debalina Ghoshal via The Gatestne Institute:


  • The one issue on which Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his opposition are in “complete agreement” is the “conviction that the Greek islands are occupied Turkish territory and must be reconquered.”
  • “So strong is this determination that the leaders of both parties have openly threatened to invade the Aegean.” – Uzay Bulut, Turkish journalist.
  • Ankara’s ongoing challenges to Greek land and sea sovereignty are additional reasons to keep it from enjoying full acceptance in Europe and the rest of the West.

In April 2017, Turkish European Affairs Minister Omer Celik claimed in an interview that the Greek Aegean island of Agathonisi (pictured) was Turkish territory. (Image source: Hans-Heinrich Hoffmann/Wikimedia Commons)

Turkey’s “persistent policy of violating international law and breaching international rules and regulations” was called out in a November 14 letter to UN Secretary General António Guterres by Polly Ioannou, the deputy permanent representative of Cyprus to the UN.

Reproving Ankara for its repeated violations of Cypriot airspace and territorial waters, Ioannou wrote of Turkey’s policy:

“[it] is a constant threat to international peace and security, has a negative impact on regional stability, jeopardises the safety of international civil aviation, creates difficulties for air traffic over Cyprus and prevents the creation of an enabling environment in which to conduct the Cyprus peace process.”

The letter followed reports in August about Turkish violations of Greek airspace over the northeastern, central and southeastern parts of the Aegean Sea, and four instances of Turkey violating aviation norms by infringing on the Athens Flight Information Region (AFIR). Similar reports emerged in June of Turkey violating Greek AFIR by conducting unauthorized flights over the southern Aegean islets of Mavra, Levitha, Kinaros and Agathonisi.

In April 2017, Turkish European Affairs Minister Omer Celik claimed in an interview that Agathonisi was Turkish territory. A day earlier, a different Turkish minister announced that Turkey “would not allow Greece to establish a status of ‘fait accompli’ in the ‘disputed’ regions in the Aegean Sea.” In December 2017, Greek Deputy Minister of Shipping Nektarios Santonirios reportedly “presented a plan to populate a number of uninhabited eastern Aegean islands to deter Turkish claims to the land.”

According to a recent statement from Greece’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs:

“Greek-Turkish disputes over the Aegean continental shelf date back to November 1973, when the Turkish Government Gazette published a decision to grant the Turkish national petroleum company permits to conduct research in the Greek continental shelf west of Greek islands in the Eastern Aegean.

“Since then, the repeated Turkish attempts to violate Greece’s sovereign rights on the continental shelf have become a serious source of friction in the two countries’ bilateral relations, even bringing them close to war (1974, 1976, 1987).”

This friction has only increased with the authoritarian rule of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, particularly since, as Uzay Bulut notes:

There is one issue on which Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its main opposition, the Republican People’s Party (CHP), are in complete agreement: The conviction that the Greek islands are occupied Turkish territory and must be reconquered. So strong is this determination that the leaders of both parties have openly threatened to invade the Aegean.

The only conflict on this issue between the two parties is in competing to prove which is more powerful and patriotic, and which possesses the courage to carry out the threat against Greece. While the CHP is accusing President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s AKP party of enabling Greece to occupy Turkish lands, the AKP is attacking the CHP, Turkey’s founding party, for allowing Greece to take the islands through the 1924 Treaty of Lausanne, the 1932 Turkish-Italian Agreements, and the 1947 Paris Treaty, which recognized the islands of the Aegean as Greek territory.

This has been Turkish policy despite the fact that both Greece and Turkey have been members of NATO since 1952. Greece became a member of the European Union in 1981 — a status that Turkey has spent decades failing to achieve, mainly due to its human-rights violations.

Recently, EU and Turkish officials met in Brussels on November 30 to discuss an intelligence-sharing agreement between the European Police Service (Europol) and Ankara. Such an agreement is reportedly one of 72 requirements that Ankara would have to meet in order to receive visa-free travel to the Schengen zone.

Ankara’s ongoing challenges to Greek land and sea sovereignty are additional reasons to keep it from enjoying full acceptance in Europe and the rest of the West.

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

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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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