It often proves difficult to talk about modern Greece. Not just because of the relentless stream of news coming at us this past decade in relation to the crisis; but also because Greece, both its ancestry and its more recent passions, can mean quite different things to different people. It’s a history universally revered in its ancient glory, commonly ignored in its millennium-spanning Byzantine imperial expression and often maligned in its modern incarnation as a nation state.
Small in both geographical and financial terms, the Hellenic Republic has attracted more attention than is perhaps justified, often for all the wrong reasons. But do we truly understand Greece beyond the headlines? And let’s be honest, does it matter if we do or not?
For Roderick Beaton, professor of modern Greek and Byzantine history, language and literature at King’s College, who has held the Koraes Chair since 1988, the answer is straightforward: ‘I believe — indeed with a passion — that Greece and the modern history of the Greek nation matter far beyond the bounds of the worldwide Greek community’, as he states early on in Greece: Biography of a Modern Nation.