Why 'philhellenes'? A note on terminology

Statue of Lord Byron in Athens, Greece.

The term ‘philhellenes’, which been adopted to characterize this site and its contributors, is used here in its literal (and ancient) sense for lovers of Greece and Greek culture. The aim is not to align the site closely with the aims and values of nineteenth-century philhellenism, a movement which divides opinion. Though Western philhellenes certainly cared passionately about Greece and played an important role in the fight for Greek independence, it can be argued that they espoused a highly selective view of Greece that ignored large tracts of Greek history and culture (in particular, the influence of Orthodox Christianity), and some Greeks regard philhellenism as a burden rather than a blessing (see for example, Nikos Dimou’s book The Misfortune to be Greek). There are complex historical and political debates here, on which I do not wish to take sides.

Why then do I use the term ‘philhellenes’? There are […]

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Ochi Day, 2012

Cartoon showing Mussolini asking Hitler for help in the war with Greece

The 28th of October is a public holiday in Greece, known as Ochi Day. It commemorates the day in 1940 when Mussolini’s ambassador gave an ultimatum to Greek Prime Minister Ioannis Metaxas: allow Italian troops to occupy regions of Greece or face war. The reply was, “Alors, c’est la guerre” or, in the popular version, “Ochi” (No) — a reply which brought Greece into the Second World War on the side of the Allies.

The following Greco-Italian war lasted five months and did not go as Mussolini planned. The Hellenic Army repelled the invasion and went on the offensive, occupying large areas of Albania (then under Italian control) and tying down hundreds of thousands of Italian troops. The stalemate forced Hitler to intervene, diverting large numbers of troops to the invasion of Greece. British troops came to Greece’s aid, but the Allied forces were massively outnumbered and outgunned, and mainland […]

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Shakespeare on the crisis in Greece

The School of European Education in Heraklion, Crete, Greece, belongs to the European Schools network, and provides primary and secondary education in both English and Greek. Its students come from a variety of European backgrounds, and one of the aims of the school is to give pupils confidence in their own cultural identity, as the bedrock for their development as European citizens. Earlier this summer, the fifth grade class of the English section, and their teacher Maria Kasmirli, produced the following short video interpreting Shylock’s famous monologue from The Merchant of Venice in the light of the current crisis in Greece. The project brought together the class’s work on language, literature, ethics, and European studies, and their discussions of issues of prejudice and social exclusion. I repost the video here because I feel it offers an interesting perspective on the events in Greece from young people of a variety of […]

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A note on malaria in Greece

In a piece in yesterday’s Guardian newspaper Jon Henley reports on how cutbacks to Greek health services have led to a sharp rise in communicable diseases in the country. It’s a sobering piece, and I recommend all philhellenes to read it and to consider donating to Médecins sans Frontières Greece or other medical agencies working here. However, I also want to add a word of reassurance for those considering visiting Greece this year. The article says that malaria has become endemic in Greece — which seems pretty frightening. But, while true, the claim isn’t as scary as it sounds. ‘Endemic’ simply means that cases of the disease have been contracted in the country, rather than carried in from abroad; it doesn’t mean that the disease is running riot. In fact, there have been very few cases of malaria in Greece, and most of them have been confined to a farming […]

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