Greece

Aristotle’s advice for young protestors

In his Art of Rhetoric, Aristotle (384-322 bc) sets about identifying the various headings under which you can be persuasive about any topic. One of the topics is the nature of the young, and as today’s students pick up their loud hailers to make demands about events more than 2,000 miles away in alien cultures which despise most of them, there is much of interest in the similarities and differences. In general, Aristotle says, the young, not having lived long, are inevitably ignorant and lack experience. So they are inclined to do whatever they feel like doing, and are easily satisfied because their wants are not overwhelming. They also lack

Were the Greeks right about justice?

The Sentencing Council, consisting of various legal authorities, has told judges and magistrates to consider, when sentencing the young, their ‘difficult and/or deprived backgrounds or personal circumstances’. To what end? To induct the young into proper moral behaviour, Aristotle thought that family discipline should go hand in hand with the community’s laws, customs and education. But it was also possible for the young to receive bad training, on which Aristotle thundered: ‘It makes no small difference whether we form habits of one kind or another from our very youth; it makes a very great difference, or rather, it makes all the difference.’ Aristotle took this view because he thought it

Conrad Black adheres firmly to the ‘great man’ view of history

George Orwell has a story that when Sir Walter Raleigh published the first volume of his projected history of the world while in prison, he witnessed a brawl outside his rooms in the Bloody Tower which resulted in the death of a workman. Despite diligent enquiries, Raleigh was unable to discover the cause of the quarrel. Reasoning that if he could not even ascertain the facts behind what he had observed he could hardly accurately report what had happened in distant lands centuries earlier, he burned his notes for the second volume and abandoned the entire project. No such doubts assail the 79-year-old Conrad Black, sometime proprietor of The Spectator,

Rich, beautiful and vital: John Craxton, at Pallant House Gallery, reviewed

The sensuality of the light in John Craxton’s painting ‘Two Figures and Setting Sun’ (1952-67) has to be seen to be believed. Viewing this large work in Pallant House, you feel its full force. Craxton was concerned with a scene’s essence, rather than simply its appearance and here he achieves not merely an effect but affect. In spite of most of the light being painted in yellows and oranges rather than white, the contrast and refraction of the rays produce a blinding sensation much like staring into the sun on a hot day.   It was as a chorister at Chichester Cathedral that Craxton’s daily encounter with two 12th-century Romanesque

The day I have dreaded has finally arrived: my birthday

Coronis Trafficking in enchantment, I sailed west to Coronis, the most perfect private isle on this planet. At times I think I’m in the realm of fantasy, such is the beauty of the place, the perfection of its function, yet a nouveau riche, Bezos or Zuckerberg, say, would most likely find it not up to par because of its understatement. The island is greener than green, with olive trees and pines and vegetable gardens all planted by the owners, stone bungalows hidden from view, a great main house even more hidden from view, a discreet beach clubhouse, all in a wholesome, nostalgic setting poignantly evocative of a time before Succession-tinged

Why on earth did The Spectator support Brexit?

The temperature has hit 40°C in Crete, where I am writing this, and although there have been no fires, nothing is quite how it ought to be. I can’t work out whether this is a great opportunity to get a tan or, effectively, the end of the world. My 60-year-old taxi driver tells me that unfeasibly hot summers were a regular occurrence when he was young and that there’s nothing to worry about. But, he adds, he’ll be dead soon anyway so why should he care? Right or wrong, this is the paradox at the heart of the climate change debate. Older people, who could be held responsible for the

Greece’s age-old obsession with fire

Patmos While green Rhodes and greener Corfu burn away, arid Patmos remains fireproof because rock and soil do not a bonfire make. The Almighty granted some islands plenty of water, and other ones no H2O whatsoever. Most of the Cycladic isles lug in drinking water from the mainland, and make do with treated unsalted seawater for planting. The Ionian isles have springs and rivers and also fires, some of them started by firebugs who hope to gain – I have never figured this one out – from the blaze. It’s all very confusing, especially as the temperatures are rising and the energy to party diminishes by the hour. Everything was

Why I chose virtue over vice

Patmos A funny thing happened on my way to this beautiful place, an island without druggies, nightclub creeps, clip joints or hookers. I stopped in Athens for about five hours in order to look over old haunts and just walk around places I’d known as a youth, when I noticed something incredible: none of the youngsters I encountered were texting, nor were they glued to their mobiles and bumping into people. Sure, some were on their phones, but the majority of them were talking and gesticulating like normal humans used to do before the technology curse rained down on us. Well, as they say, nothing lasts for ever, and once

Where to find a taste of Greece in London

Last time I visited Toronto, Canada, I stayed in Greektown, home to one of the largest Greek communities in North America. Several scenes from My Big Fat Greek Wedding were filmed here, and street signs are in Greek as well as English. On the day I arrived, jetlagged and disorientated, I happened upon a restaurant that was so authentically Greek I imagined I could smell the pine trees and hear the soft chirp of crickets. A couple of elderly men sat drinking ouzo at the bar, and rather than being led to a table I was taken into the kitchen where Maria (reader, that was her name, what can I do?) was

Will The Parthenon Project seize the Elgin Marbles?

Thirty-five years ago, the late Christopher Hitchens published a book about the Elgin Marbles. Unsurprisingly, it was a polemical work; he was passionately campaigning for the return of the sculptures to Athens. But that was not the reason why I wrote a scathing review of it for The Spectator. Parts of it were plagiarised, as I showed, from the classic book by William St Clair; and in some places Hitchens dealt with the awkward fact that the evidence did not fit his claims by abbreviating the quotations, filtering out the unwanted bits. Hitchens replied with a thunderously disdainful attack on me in the letters page. I said to the then

The curse of the jet-ski

An F. Scott Fitzgerald biographer by the name of David S. Brown refers to America’s promotion of deviancy (my words) as ‘the great post-Appomattox launch toward materialism’. I liked that line and was thinking about it as I left the boat in the early morning and walked into an almost perfect Greek village square for a coffee. There were some French people blabbing away with their usual hand gestures, Greeks discussing politics at high volume, and then an American couple, both quite attractive, each with a Mac in front of them and absolutely impervious to anyone or anything in their immediate surroundings. Talk about a launch towards materialism. The two

Why you should swap Mykonos for Milos

Choosing an island in the Cyclades is a familiar summer conundrum for those who love Greece. The array of choice is so dizzying that many opt for the safety of well-known options: Santorini and Mykonos. But if you’re seeking something off the beaten track, why not venture away from the tourist centrals? With a population of roughly 5,000, Milos strikes the perfect balance between adventure and unspoilt natural beauty. Situated between Piraeus and Crete, the 150km2 horseshoe-shaped island is the rising star of this group of well-trammelled islands. It gained significant attention from tourists in the last decade, with 2019 recognised as its best year before the inevitable shake-up of

In praise of Greek royalty

New York Prince Pavlos, heir to the Greek throne, turned 55 recently and I threw a small dinner for him. Pavlos is a hell of a prince, father, husband and businessman. He’s tall, good-looking, a gent in every way, intelligent, hard-working and has never put a foot wrong. Neither has any member of his immediate family. Compared with them, the rest of European royals seem wanting, but then I’m prejudiced. The Greek royals are Danes, and the oldest reigning clan of Europe. Unlike another royal family whose name escapes me – it is the Platinum Jubilee issue after all – the Hellenic one has had no divorces, no scandals, and

The tiny Greek island beloved by Athenians

Hydra is where well-heeled Athenians go for weekend breaks. It’s what Long Island is to New Yorkers, or Île de Ré to Parisians. For, while Corfu is a 12-hour ferry ride away and Santorini six, Hydra can be reached in as little as 1hr20 on the regular scheduled boats out of Athens. And – unless you own your own yacht – there’s no other way to get there: there’s no air or heliport, there aren’t even any cars. We tacked a day trip to Hydra onto a weekend city break that was otherwise full of the classical antiquity you’d associate with Athens. Greece’s capital has, in the Acropolis and sister sites, arguably the

Greece’s beauty masks untold poverty

I’ve long been drawn to sketchiness. In the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, I always preferred the dodgy and slightly dangerous old-town Piazza area to the trendy and sanitised Bole area next to the international airport. But even by my sketchy-embracing standards, it was hard not to find the grim state of Athens deflating. After all, this is the cradle of Western civilization. Now it appears to be the graffiti capital of the Western world. The luridly coloured scrawls are everywhere; Greek grannies air carpets over balconies marred by multi-coloured tags and swirls. The Parthenon temple still looks mighty grand atop the ancient Acropolis citadel dominating the skyline in the city centre,

America is a nation divided

New York Imagine a European country today in which a newspaper in its most populous city launches a mendacious project reinterpreting its past. The practice was perfected under the old communist system that ruled Romania, Hungary, Poland and the rest of the Soviet satellites. But it is no longer possible in that part of the world now that the old continent has rediscovered freedom. It is taking place elsewhere, though, right here in New York, marinated by the Bagel Times which has invented a nation predicated on racism and enforced racial inequality. The 1619 Project is based on delusion and is a sweeping assault on the American way of life

After a lifetime in nightclubs, now I party at home

New York   It’s party time in the Bagel, and it’s about time, too. Good restaurants and elegant nightclubs are now a thing of the past, at least here in New York, so it’s home sweet home for the poor little Greek boy, for dinner, drinks and even some dancing at times. Here in my Bagel house my proudest possessions are my three Oswald Birley pictures. One is enormous and covers the whole wall of the entrance hall. The other two are a self-portrait and one of a rather grand lady. They are masterfully executed portraits, with aesthetic as well as psychological realism, an extremely difficult goal for an artist

Is this Greece’s finest wine since Homer strummed his lyre?

We were in deepest Dorset, l’Angleterre profonde. The weather was also typically English: inundations followed by counter-attacks from the Indian summer. Despite those, and even under a still blue sky, it was just too nippy to eat outside — or at least, that was what the less well-insulated members of the party insisted. Fear no more the heat of the sun. It has gone south with the swallows. But there was mellow fruitfulness, in this season which offers a delicious choice between grouse and partridge (unless you are Nicholas Soames, and have both). When it came to accompanying bottles, we were eclectic. Our hosts are good friends of Giugi, Marchese

The real Greek: Lemonia reviewed

Lemonia lives in the old Chalk Farm Tavern in Primrose Hill, which is better known as the set of Paddington. It is not surrounded by fields filled with duellists under a hill of primroses these days, but it is still vast, pale and beautiful: a survivor in the sprawl. There has been a tavern on this site for so long — it was first recorded in 1678 when a corpse was carried to it — that it is possible John Keats drank here. I hope so. It is not a beaker of the warm south – it is slightly too near Camden and its stink of pigeon and bleach for

My roots burnt with Greece

On 11 March this year my father passed away from prostate cancer after several weeks in a hospital in central Athens. As we sat around his bed, I remember thinking that I was watching 3,000 years of Greek history slowly perish before my eyes. My father was an only child, and I am British. His line of Greeks is at an end. Now fires have ravaged Greece and the olive trees that stood in my ancestral village for centuries have burnt to the ground. This year has seen the almost literal burning away of my roots: because if I am British, I am also a Greek — of sorts. This