I’ve stayed far away from the new barbarians with their choppers, tank-like cars, home theatres on board, and fridge-shaped super yachts that terrorise sea life. In fact, dolphins escorted us in to Kyparissi, a tiny village on the eastern Peloponnese 60 kms from Sparta, my grandmother’s birthplace. German and Spartan; not a bad combination, especially if one thinks democracy is a biological contradiction, which I do. Just look at the Remoaners and you’ll see what I mean.
Back in the good old days, we Athenians knew how to practise real democracy. All Athenian males over 18, irrespective of wealth or status, had the right to attend the Assembly, which met every nine days and was where they decided how Athens should be run. War, peace, taxes, who remained in power and who was deprived of it were decided by vote. The strength of the system depended on the ferocity with which the Assembly punished anyone who let the side down. Hammond wouldn’t have lasted, and Corbyn would have been put to death at the start for high treason.
The system lasted from 508 BC to 322 BC, when the Macedonians ended it. Its magnificence, wisdom and fairness have never been replicated. But I’m not here to tell you about democracy, a sham if ever there was one. All one has to do is look at the EU, the most undemocratic institution since the Russian government under Lenin. People actually believe that by paying their taxes to Brussels they will have a say in what the bureaucrats over in that rainy little place decide. It reminds me of the kind of big lie practised by the New York Times, when its own columnists quote a fact invented by its own hacks. (The latest emetic vulgarity is the promotion of freak lifestyles.)
What ruined the greatest democratic experiment ever was the civil war between Athens and Sparta that lasted 27 years, from 431 BC to 404 BC. When I was a child, I rooted for Sparta, a military oligarchy of which both my teachers and family approved. The war was fought because Sparta feared Athenian imperialism and cultural dominance. Does this sound familiar? One could compare Athens to Uncle Sam, except the good uncle exports porn, celebrities, rap music, sci-fi horrors, and other useless mechanisms to keep the masses from thinking.
Athens showed hubris by lording it over islands and states not strong enough to defend themselves, just as America is inviting nemesis by trying to export her corrupted democracy to faraway places such as Afghanistan and Iraq, not to mention Syria. Victor Davis Hanson, an American military historian of great wisdom, compared 5th-century Athens to America in the 20th. He also compared the Peloponnesian war to the first world war. Both were needless conflicts that brought about great disasters and change for the worse. Athens suffered terribly from the war against Sparta. Pericles died of the plague that swept the city, which became overcrowded once the Spartans laid siege to its environs. One in four people perished. The splendour that was Athens disappeared, as did its extraordinary achievements — never since matched — in science, art, philosophy and the art of living.
When I was a child, I lived ancient history and stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Leonidas in Thermopylae, with fellow hoplites in Marathon, and with Alexander the Great in chasing the Persians. Those were the first westerners. I never imagined myself as an Egyptian fighting the Hyksos invaders or in combat alongside Sumerians against the Amorites. No siree, we Greeks were the first to share values of justice, the law and humanity; the rest were barbarians, and most of them have remained so. Heroism always took first place. The archers and javelin-throwers who launched their weapons from afar were not held in high esteem because they could kill with little risk to themselves. Eat your heart out, archers at Agincourt and snipers in Iraq. Only those who clashed with swords and spears, defying death and refusing to retreat, were considered honourable. Think of those great men, then spare a thought for the EU bureaucrooks and puke long and hard.
And what about women, you may ask. Well, what about them. We Greeks produced the first and greatest heroine of all time, Helen of Troy. Achilles and Odysseus aside, no figure from that age has won a more worshipful following than Helen. The queen of Sparta became a cult figure and continues to be one. She was Homer’s finest achievement, at a time when women were viewed in the same way Saudis see women today. The ancient Trojans, watching their sons being slaughtered by the Greeks from the safety of their towers, came upon Helen in her shimmering garments and whispered in awe: ‘Terrible is the likeness of her face to an immortal goddesses.’ They refused to blame her for the massacre because she was so special. Old Homer sure liked the fairer sex too.
So here we are, back to the present day. Greece is a tiny country living off loans from corrupt bureaucracies and Germany. Clowns are in power and daily face the Acropolis, where giants once stood. I look around me and see nice, hospitable people here in the Peloponnese. Churches are everywhere, which gives me hope. After all, Christianity is the only institution that can save mankind; not Silicon Valley, nor Hollywood. But try telling that to the DC crowd.