Anglo-Saxons in Byzantium – a snippet of history (2)

Παρασκευή, 28 Αυγούστου, 2015

Today I continue the snippets of history ‘series’,with the presence of Anglo-Saxons in Byzantium.

This is related to the Varangian Guard, and the ‘Swedes going South’, a previous post.

‘The formal date for the introduction of the Varangian Guard to the Byzantine military establishment is widely considered to be the year 988 . In that year, the Emperor Basil II was faced with the one of the most challenging tasks of his reign which was the suppression of a rebellion led by two of the most powerful families of Asia Minor, the Phokades and the Skleroi . With the rebel armies marching against him and in a desperate need for troops he turned to Prince Vladimir of Kiev, who agreed to send him 6,000 elite troops in exchange for the hand of a πορφυρογέννητη princess, Basil’s sister Anna.'(3, p.128)

Vasiliev Alexander Alexandrovich

Vasiliev Alexander Alexandrovich

Inevitably, behind every snippet there is a book. In today’s snippet it is the «History of the Byzantine Empire», written by the Russian historian Alexander Vasiliev.

Until the middle of the 11th century the Varangian Guard comprised almost exclusively Swedes and Scandinavians. This started changing after the conquest of England by the Normans under William the Conqueror in 1066.Many Anglo-Saxons, in despair, abandoned their fatherland. In the eighties of the eleventh century, at the beginning of the rule of Alexius Comnenus, as the English historian Freeman emphasized in his very well known work on the conquest of England by the Normans, some convincing indications of the Anglo-Saxon emigration into the Greek Empire were already evident.

The Anglo-Norman monk Orderic Vitalis, a western chronicler of the first half of the twelfth century wrote (5):

«And so the English groaned aloud for their lost liberty and plotted ceaselessly to find some way of shaking off a yoke that was so intolerable and unaccustomed. Some sent to Swegn, King of Denmark, and urged him to lay claim to the kingdom of England which his ancestors Swegn and Cnut had won by the sword. Others fled into voluntary exile so they might either find in banishment freedom from the Normans or secure foreign help and come back to fight a war of vengeance. Some of them who were still in the flower of youth travelled into remote lands and bravely offered their arms to Alexius, Emperor of Constantinople, a man of great wisdom and nobility.»

Alexius I Comnenus, Emperor of Byzantium (1081 - 1118)

Alexius I Comnenus, Emperor of Byzantium (1081 – 1118)

This was the beginning of the «Varangian-English» bodyguard which, in the history of Byzantium of the twelfth century, played an important part.

It is quite interesting that the young warriors went all the way from England to Constantinople, instead of settling of much nearer destinations like Denmark, or elsewhere in Western Europe. But the emigration has been confirmed by the Chronicon Laudunense, a 13th century world chronicle, written in Laon, France. It must have been common knowledge that the Byzantine army was in need of mercenaries.The English mercenaries were called «Εγκλινοβάραγγοι», which is a combination of the words «English» and ‘Varangian». (4)

Byzantine Coins  - Period of Alexius I Comnenus

Byzantine Coins – Period of Alexius I Comnenus

Alexius I Comnenus, also spelled Alexios I Komnenos, was crowned on April 4, 1081. After more than 50 years of ineffective or short-lived rulers, Alexius, in the words of Anna Comnena, his daughter and biographer, found the empire “at its last gasp,” but his military ability and diplomatic gifts enabled him to retrieve the situation. He drove back the south Italian Normans, headed by Robert Guiscard, who were invading western Greece (1081–82). This victory was achieved with the help of the «English-Varangian» Guard and with Venetian naval help, bought at the cost of granting Venice extensive trading privileges in the Byzantine Empire.(6)


1  Alexander Vasiliev, History of the Byzantine Empire, 324–1453, p.484.

2  Georgios Theotokis, The Norman Campaigns in the Balkans, 1081-1108, pp. 85-86.

3  Georgios Theotokis, Rus, Varangian and Frankish Mercenaries in the Service of the Byzantine Emperors (9th-11th C.), BYZANTINA ΣΥΜΜΕΙΚΤΑ 22 (2012) 125-156.

4. Krijna Nelly Ciggaar, Western Travellers to Constantinople: The West and Byzantium, 962-1204, p.140.

5. Seeking Revenge – The English Varangian Guard at the Battle of Dyrrhachium in 1081

6. Alexius I Comnenus, Britannica

Electoral workers prepare ballot boxes in a warehouse in Thessaloniki on July 2, 2015, ahead of a controversial bailout referendum. Greece's radical left government suggested it would resign if it fails to get its way in a make-or-break referendum July 5 that could decide the country's financial future.   AFP PHOTO / SAKIS MITROLIDIS        (Photo credit should read SAKIS MITROLIDIS/AFP/Getty Images)

Electoral workers prepare ballot boxes in a warehouse in Thessaloniki on July 2, 2015, ahead of a controversial bailout referendum. Greece’s radical left government suggested it would resign if it fails to get its way in a make-or-break referendum July 5 that could decide the country’s financial future. AFP PHOTO / SAKIS MITROLIDIS (Photo credit should read SAKIS MITROLIDIS/AFP/Getty Images)

On Sunday 5th July the Greek people will vote on a non – existing issue, whether we accept or not the proposal of the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the IMF, a proposal that is no longer on the table, as the framework for the agreement, the second agreement between Greece and her creditors, has expired on the 30th June 2015.

But absurdity is not the issue here. The issue is that we Greeks live in a society where discourse is dead. Democracy is also dead. The new government claims to be democratic, but I have serious doubts. The European Union claims to be democratic, but they do not convince me. Words no longer have meaning, it depends on what you are going to vote . Language is split, people are split. And this split is between good and bad, and this may not be a temporary split.


What follows is an imaginary dialogue of two Greek citizens, one is identified as a «YES» voter, and the other as a «NO» voter.

Bu there is a catch.

Each voter is not an individual, but a member of a set.

There are two sets.


Set A is the set of individuals who will vote  ‘YES’.

Set B is the set of individuals who will vote ‘NO’.

Therefore, in each turn of the dialogue, we may have different members of each set participating. I will not try to identify ‘who is who’. It does not make sense any way.

The format of the dialogue is very simple. Each set member (voter) in turn makes a statement. There are no interruptions. I will freely comment on the statements, using the identity of «CHORUS». This is the result of exercising some sort of a poetic license, and it therefore totally arbitrary. In addition, I claim to express my personal views and therefore I have the responsibility for these views. Unfortunately, in spite of my best efforts, I could not convince Moses to give me the secret of receiving instructions from God. I have climbed many mountains without success. At the same time, my recent trip to Delphi was also fruitless. No God was willing to speak to me, and the priestess on duty treated me with silence.


There is another catch.

There are various ghosts who participate in the dialogue. No one can prevent ghosts from intervening.

Political prisoners.

«CHORUS»: Even if Hellas does not fall the big fall today, she will remain dangerously close to the edge of the abyss for a long and unknown period of time.

«YES»: I will vote «YES».

«NO»: I will vote «NO».

«YES»: You are an  opportunist!

«NO»: You are a traitor!

Prime Minister Gounaris with other officials in Minor Asia, 1921. Gounaris was executed in Goudi, on the 15 November 1922.

Prime Minister Gounaris with other officials in Minor Asia, 1921. Gounaris was executed in Goudi, on the 15 November 1922.

CHORUS: Memories of the 1922 Minor Asia Disaster emerge. At that time traitors were the leaders of the Greek Government and Army and their supporters and followers, who were accused and executed as being responsible for the disaster that ended the presence of the Greeks in Minor Asia and Western Thrace. What remains from this period in the imagination of the Greek people is the word ‘Goudi’, the Athenian suburb where the ‘traitors’ were executed following a brief trial. You, Greek voters, you need to decide on who the traitor is! There can be no resolution of this conflict without a clearly identified traitor side! This can be resolved with the use of the State machinery, State is by definition coercion.


«YES»: You are a Communist Bandit! You are against the Nation!

«NO»: You are a Quisling! A cooperator of the Germans! A black marketeer!

«YES»: The Nazi party of ‘Golden Dawn’ is your partner in the ‘NO’ vote. What are you talking about?

«NO»: You cannot escape from grim reality: you are the new ‘partners’ of the modern Nazi, the Merkel – dominated European Union.

«CHORUS»: The statues are not the ruins—we are the ruins (Giorgos Seferis)

Τα κεφαλια του Βελουχιωτη και του Τζαβελα στην πλατεια των Τρικαλων το 1945

The heads of Aris Velouhiotis and his lieutenant Tzavellas, in the square of the city of Trikala, 1945

CHORUS: Memories of the 1945-1949 Civil War are still alive. Back then, it was the communists who formed an army, the Democratic Army, and took control of mountainous territories of Greece. Against them was the newly formed National Army, with English and American support. Whereas during the Occupation by Axis forces (Germans, Italians, Bulgarians) the Greeks were united, most of them under the umbrella of the National Liberating Front (EAM), including the communists, when the Civil War broke, the Communists became isolated. People who fought the Germans under the wings of EAM, joined the National Army and fought against the Communists.The Communists were expecting – or their leadership had said so – support and help from the Soviet Union, which never materialized. Stalin remained faithful to the Yalta accord and abandoned the Greek Communists.


«NO»: I want justice.

«YES»: Get real! Justice exists only among equals! Fight for something you can achieve!

«CHORUS»: How easy it is for desperate people to follow the leaders who promise to them everything they do not have, only to be bitterly disappointed later.


«YES»: We must find a way to work with the Europeans. They are the best option for Greece. Who else? Putin?

«NO»: We must show them that we do not succumb to blackmail.

«CHORUS»: When you have a knife on the table and instead of slicing your steak you stick it into your guts like Mishima did, you get a sense of belonging to the «beyond», verging on megalomania (George Veltsos).

Kader Attia, Ghosts, 2007

Kader Attia, Ghosts, 2007

«Ghost1»: Greek people, vote «YES»!

«YES»: George Papandreou, you are one of the people who brought the country where we are today. How dare you?

«Ghost2»: Greek people, vote «YES»!

«YES»: Kostas Karamanlis, you are one of the people who brought the country where we are today. How dare you?

«Ghost3»: Greek people, vote «YES»!

«NO»: With this wonderful show of ghosts we have secured the win!

«CHORUS»: Ghosts, Ghosts, we live in a country full of Ghosts!!! Not only they are still alive, they do not let the living take positions in the political process. The ghosts keep the political process hostage. The ghosts occupy vital space. We need to get rid of the ghosts! But how!


«YES»: The SYRIZA government and Tsipras have failed the country. They are incompetent and have totally screwed up the negotiations. For five months they were just fucking about, playing the «catch me» game with the creditors. Shocking and childish. People who voted for SYRIZA in January 2015 are now voting «YES».

«NO»: The government and Tsipras stood their line. What you say is propaganda of the power mongers and the rich.

«CHORUS»: There is no longer discourse in the country of Socrates. People do not speak, they make announcements. People do not listen to what the other is saying. They only listen to the echo of their own words.


«YES»: If we win, and we will win, Tsipras and his government must resign on Monday and a National Unity Government should be formed.

«NO»: You are the agents of anomaly! The Tsipras government were elected in January 2015 and they will stay in office for 4 years.

«YES»: This would be the case, if they were not totally incompetent. Now that they have almost destroyed the country, they must leave.

«NO»: Dream on! Political anomaly will not be allowed!

«CHORUS»: How sad one feels to see that people cling on to power without regard for the implications of their actions.


«NO»: We will win!

«YES»: We will win!

«CHORUS»: «Win win» as the Americans call it, but how good a win is, when society is full of hatred? How good a win is, when the country continues to be run and represented by the guard that brought it up in flames? When the hope of January 2015, Mr. Tsipras failed miserably in his first (and may be the last) major challenge?








on razor’s edge…

Δευτέρα, 15 Ιουνίου, 2015

athens-flag_1538667i επί ξυρού ακμής = στην κόψη του ξυραφιού…

on razor’s edge…

Greece is on razor’s edge.

The fact that Greece is bankrupt is not only the result of the «hubris» of the Greek State, the Greek politicians and, inevitably, Greek society. No matter how much they wanted to borrow money in order to spend and spend and spend, they would have not been able to do so unless someone lent them the money.


The Greek State, the Greek politicians, and the Greek society at large did not build a creditworthy profile on their own. Greece became a member of the Eurozone on 1st January 2002.  Without this membership there would have not been any of the huge loans made to the country.

Back in 2009, one of the architects of this mess, Kostas Karamanlis, had the courage to announce that he fucked up and that the country is in deep trouble. Nobody listened. The paramount issue in the other politicians’ minds was to capitalize on this rare instance of honesty and directness.

George Papandreou won the 2009 elections and propelled the already bankrupt country into receivership.

The problem is that Papandreou did not have the guts to find a solution. He found the easy way out. Complete surrender to the IMF, the European Union, and the European Central Bank.
watermarked-amr_diab_nammos_mykonos_18-8-2013_065-600x359The so called troika came to Greece and implemented an austerity program that could not have worked even in a healthy economy.

Five years later, Greece is a destroyed country. And there is no future in sight.

There is a new government in Greece, led by SYRIZA, a left-wing party. But since they were elected in January 2015, they have done very little to give even an indication of a solution in sight.


Instead they have wasted huge amounts of time trying to arrive at a «honorable» compromise with Greece’s creditors.

Greece has no future as things are today. The debt cannot be paid back. The economy is in shambles. The State is a huge mechanism that spends money and produces very little. The tax regime is flawed and discourages any investment. The judicial system is antiquated and ineffective.

It is not only the economy. It is a lot more.

The problem with Syriza is the key problem of the Greek society.


They want to use a magic wand to rectify the problems of the past without paying any price. The price in this case is the Greek State. Ironically enough, the Greek State, the edifice built by the Americans after the Greek Civil War of 1945-1949, has been the primary instrument of the populist governments which ruled Greece. An instrument of power, control, and absolute neglect of any rules of an open economy. In this respect, Greece has never had capitalism. Greece always had (since 1945) State Capitalism.

We all know that in real life there is not magic wand.


Syriza are so much dazed by the vision of the rejuvenation of the corrupt and inefficient State, that they forgot to try and find a solution to the Greek problem.

They have been repating the non-sensical statement that Greece belongs to Europe, but have not elaborated a policy to address the crisis of the country.

Today we find ourselves yet again on razor’s edge, with the creditors trying to push Syriza in a corner «take it or leave it». More taxes will be applied if the creditors have it their say, taxes to be paid by the usual suspects, the pensioners and the salaried citizens, who have no ability to paid all these additional taxes, let alone the ones already in place.

Replicating George Papandreou’s lazy approach (let the others do the work, I only bring them in), Syriza have discovered that this only lets the fox in with the chickens.


Too little too late.

The irony is that it is not only Syriza who have no plan whatsoever for Greece to recover. The same applies to all the other political parties. Firstly and mostly New Democracy, led by Mr. Samaras, who today screams that Greece is going back to the Drachma. The fallacy of accepting the Euro as a given is the capital offence committed by Mr. Samaras. Of course he is not the only one.


And the people?

We have reinvented «Deus ex machina» and named her «Pride».

No more than that.

Just so that I do not give to the reader the impression of criticism without any view on what to do, I believe that Greece does not belong to the Eurozone and we should get out. The sooner the better.

One might ask «what is the plan? are you prepared?» and so on.

Given what has already happened in the country, both as a result of the creditors plans and the plans of the local politicians, one might be tempted to follow the well-established Pirandello plan.

«Tonight we improvise!»

But this would be unnecessary. The potential pitfalls and risks are known. It does not take a genius to put things together. All that is needed, is something we have not had in the last 40 years. The desire and determination to achieve a collective goal that will eventually improve our situation, without having unreal expectations.



Aphrodite Kallipygos, National Archaelogical Museum, Naples, Italy

«ήν καλλιπύγων ζεύγος εν Συρακούσαις»

Ήταν στις Συρακούσες ένα ζευγάρι κοπελιές μ’ ωραία πισινά»

«There was in Syracuse a pair of girls with beautiful buttocks»

Athinaeos, Deipnosophistae, 554d, Vol. 12

Athinaeos wrote a wonderful story about culture and dining in the Greco-Roman world of the 3rd century AD. His masterpiece is considered to be the first cookbook, but it is a lot more.

He tells a story about two girls with beautiful buttocks and concludes by referring to a temple in Syracuse, dedicated to Aphrodite Kallipygos.

Kallipygos is a composite Greek word, meaning the one who has beautiful buttocks.

Kalos = beauty

pygos = buttock, or behind, or arse

Aphrodite Kallipygos, National Archaelogical Museum, Naples, Italy

Aphrodite Kallipygos, National Archaelogical Museum, Naples, Italy

The statue of Aphrodite Kallipygos in the National Archaeological Museum of Naples is a Roman copy of the Greek original, dating back to the 1st century BC (1).

The woman lifts her dress and turns to see her buttocks reflected in the water of a pond or something like that.

She may be one of the two sisters mentioned by Athinaeos, but we will never know.

The original sculpture is attributed to 2nd century BC, and thus belongs to the Hellenistic period.

The attribution of a work to a period (Classical Greek or Hellenistic) is indicative. A lot of the information on the original sculpture is questionable, and the resemblance of the copy to the original is also subject to scrutiny. It is well known that the Roman copiers had quite an eclectic attitude towards making copies.

Aphrodite Cnidus, Glyptothek, Munich

Aphrodite Braschi, Glyptothek, Munich (Photo by Panathinaeos)

The works included in the post contain a representation of the female nude.

I use the word «nude» rather than «naked», in reference to a distinction that originated in Kenneth Clark’s «The Nude» (2).

According to Clark, the «nude» is an invention of the Greeks, an «idealization». The «naked» is the ordinary, the mundane.

I will use the term «nude» differently, to imply a multiplicity of layers of sense and representation, compared and contrasted to the «naked» that has a single layer, the physical / instinctual.

The first Greek sculpture depicting a female in full nudity was most likely Praxiteles’ Aphrodite.

It was the middle of 4th century BC when the Greek sculptor Praxiteles was commissioned by the island of Kos to produce a sculpture of goddess Aphrodite.

He produced two, one fully clothed, and another fully nude.

The citizens of Kos were too conservative to accept the nude sculpture, and it was purchased by the city of Knidos, on the Minor Asia peninsula just south of Kos.

Aphrodite Braschi, back, Glyptothek Munich

Aphrodite Braschi, back, Glyptothek Munich. (Photo by Panathinaeos)

The Aphrodite of the Glyptothek in Munich is one of the many copies of Praxiteles’ Knidian Aphrodite, made in the Roman period.(3)

It shows Aphrodite placing her drape on top of a «hydria» (water jar), as she is ready to take her bath. Her right hand (broken) covers her pubic area.

Until the depiction of the fully nude female by Praxiteles, Greek Art was only depicting full male nudity.

Even after the Aphrodite of Knidos, the dominant theme in nudity was male, be it athletes, warriors, gods, deities, and so on.

The Three Graces Roman copy of a Greek work of the second century B.C. Marble. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

The Three Graces
Roman copy of a Greek work of the second century B.C.
Marble. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

The impact of the Knidian Aphrodite on the Greek world was huge.

The three graces, surviving today as a Roman copy of the 2nd century B.C. Greek original, is a good example of the impact. The original belongs to the «Hellenistic» period. Its distinctive feature is that instead of one female figure we have a group of three in harmony.

The Hellenistic period was a «lighter» period compared to the «classical», during which the artists celebrated the joy of life and emphasized earthly, hedonistic aspects of the human existence. They also depicted vices (e.g. The Drunken Woman) It is as if the classical period landed on earth.

The Three Graces Roman copy of a Greek work of the second century B.C. Marble. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

The Three Graces
Roman copy of a Greek work of the second century B.C.
Marble. Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

We have three female figures, more relaxed compared to the rather uncomfortable Aphrodite of Knidos, ready to take their baths, as their towels indicate, enjoying the moment.

Notice that they do not attempt to cover their body. Their hands rest elegantly on the other graces’ shoulders.

The Roman copy sculpture was placed in a garden or  a public building like a bath.

The Broghese Hermaphrodite, Louvre, PAris, France.

The Borghese Hermaphrodite – front, Louvre, Paris, France.

Hermaphroditus was the son of Aphrodite and Hermes.

The marble sculpture that reclines on a marble mattress sculpted by Bernini in 1620 was discovered in the Church of Santa Maria della Vittoria in Rome. It is an early Roman Empire copy of a bronze sculpture created by Greek sculptor Polycles around the middle of the 2nd century BC.

The sculpture was sold to Napoleon and thus it found itself in the Louvre.

Another copy is displayed today in Villa Borghese of Rome.


The Borghese Hermaphrodite – back, Louvre, Paris, France.

This is a highly sensual sculpture.

The hermaphrodite is seemingly asleep, but there is expectation all over.

The breasts and male genitals are visible, leaving no doubt as to the hybrid nature of the creature, man and woman bound together.

A 18th century visitor commented: «This is the only happy couple that I have seen».


1. The National Archaeological Museum of Naples. Electa Napoli, 1996.

2. Kenneth Clark. The Nude: A Study in Ideal Form.

3. Raimund Wuensche. Glyptothek, Munich.  C.H. Beck. Verlag, Munich 2007.

Greece, April 2015: What are SYRIZA going to do?

Δευτέρα, 27 Απριλίου, 2015

A group of refugees leave the Samanli-Dag Peninsula, on a boat they boarded with the help of the Turkish Red Crescent. © ICRC

A group of refugees leave the Samanli-Dag Peninsula, on a boat they boarded with the help of the Turkish Red Crescent.

The issues

I look outside my balcony and I see flowers, I see greens of all sorts, Spring is finally coming to Marathon and it is beautiful. This symphony of colors and smells however, does not take my mind away from the current political and economic situation in Greece.  Since SYRIZA became the leading party in the new Greek Government in January 2015, we have not seen any results in the negotiations with Greece’s creditors. Uncertainty rules the situation of Greece.

SYRIZA won the January 2015 parliamentary elections and formed a government with the ANEL extreme-right nationalist party. Since then they have started negotiations with Greece’s creditors, that have not been concluded to date and have not progressed much thus far. There are two major issues to consider.

The first issue is the conclusion of the current (second) memorandum between Greece and her creditors. The current agreement expires at the end of June 2015. A final payment of Euro 7.2 billion is pending.

The second issue has to do with reaching a new agreement for the future of Greece. The future needs of Greece have been – moderately – estimated at Euro 30 billions. The new agreement must be approved by the Greek Parliament.

Alexis Tsipras

Alexis Tsipras. the Prime Minister of Greece

The ongoing negotiations testify that there still is a gap between the creditors and SYRIZA. There are two potential outcomes.

1. SYRIZA and the creditors agree on a plan to continue the funding of the Greek State and formalize it as a new agreement.

If SYRIZA agree with Greece’s creditors, they must submit it to the Greek Parliament for approval. This means that it must be an agreement that is compatible with the electoral platform of SYRIZA, or is presented to the public to be so.

2. SYRIZA and the creditors do not reach an agreement.

If on the other hand SYRIZA were to choose not to reach an agreement with the creditors, they run the risk of the country entering into a twilight zone.

It seems to me that one way or another SYRIZA will need to agree with the creditors and either present the agreement to the Greek Parliament and People as compatible with their political platform, or seek another means to legitimize it.

What is going to happen?

Time is running out for SYRIZA and for Greece. The end of June is the latest an agreement must be reached. Otherwise, Greece will face bankruptcy.

In order to understand how SYRIZA are negotiating it is important to revisit the primary political objective.

The end of the Greek Civil War, Summer of 1949

The end of the Greek Civil War, Summer of 1949

The primary objective in politics

At this point it is necessary to remind ourselves what politics is all about. We hear from SYRIZA and ANEL all sorts of things these days, most of them populist nonsense.

Some examples will help the reader understand what I am talking about.

«We are restoring Greek pride»

«We will save the country»

«We will rescue the poor»

Let us return to reality.

The number one objective in politics has been and will always be to have power and to govern.

Defence Minister KAmmenos and the Greek Church Archbishop during the Greek Easter celebrations in Athens

Defence Minister KAmmenos and the Greek Church Archbishop during the Greek Easter celebrations in Athens

By definition, the pragmatists in SYRIZA have this prime objective, no matter what they say to the public and to Greece’s creditors. Recall that the definition of a pragmatist is:  «a politician who accepts that her primary objective in politics is to acquire, enhance and maintain power». Mr. Tsipras, the Prime Minister, is a pragmatist.

But there are not only pragmatists SYRIZA.

There are idealists, the so-called «left wing» of the party, led by Mr. Lafazanis. Recall that an idealist in politics is primarily interested in maintaining the purity of their political ideas, regardless of what the implications are. To understand «the idealism of the left» in Greece, it is useful to remind the reader that the left in Greece have suffered a humiliating sweeping defeat in 1946-1949.

Greek Communist Party Headquarters, December 1944

Greek Communist Party Headquarters, December 1944

It would be wrong though, to restrict the discussion to SYRIZA, as the block of power today in Greece is much more complex.

The vote of the Greek people in January 2015 was not necessarily a vote in favor of the left.

It was a vote against the creditors and the political parties that have supported the agreements with the creditors.

It is interesting to note that a big percentage of  the extreme right is now supporting SYRIZA. It is not an accident that ANEL, an extreme-right party is in the governing alliance.

To summarize, SYRIZA have been elected by a heterogeneous political base which may have difficulty accepting a «honorable» compromise with the creditors.

Given the difficult position of SYRIZA in the context of the negotiations, the question that arises is what will SYRIZA eventually do in order to retain political power.

Nicolo Machiavelli

Nicolo Machiavelli

How is SYRIZA going to retain its political power?

One of the cardinal rules  of political power and legitimization is that in order to maintain power you need to build and sustain alliances.

In doing so, you must dominate the internal front of your party.

Another rule is that legitimization is a key requirement when a political community is going through a difficult period.

A third rule requires that you weaken the opposition, so that there is no clear and strong alternative to you.

If we apply these rules to today’s SYRIZA, we need to discuss the following:

  • The alliances that SYRIZA is building in Greece
  • What is happening and will happen in the political opposition in Greece
  • What is happening internally in SYRIZA
  • The mechanisms of legitimization that are available
Mr Kostas Karamanlis with Mr Prokopis Pavlopoulos when Mr Karamanlis was Prime Minister

Mr Kostas Karamanlis with Mr Prokopis Pavlopoulos when Mr Karamanlis was Prime Minister

The SYRIZA alliances in Greece

The first alliance that SYRIZA have built is the one with ANEL. One can safely assume that this alliance was built before the January 2015 elections, and was formalized with the formation of the new government. The leader of ANEL, Mr Kammenos, is the Minister of Armed Forces.

The second alliance of SYRIZA is with Mr Kostas Karamanlis, who served as Prime Minister from 2004 to 2009 and was succeeded by Mr George Papandreou in 2009. Mr Pavlopoulos, one of the closest politicians to Mr Karamanlis has been elected as the new President of the Hellenic Republic. This is not just an opening to the «right». In my view it signifies the intention of SYRIZA to strengthen its alliance with Mr Kostas Karamanlis, thus also weakening Mr Samaras, the Prime Minister who lost the January 2015 elections to SYRIZA.

Another publicly visible alliance SYRIZA are building is with the Greek Orthodox Church. Contrary to initial impressions, the relationships between SYRIZA and the Church are excellent.

Prominent leaders of the Church are publicly praising the new Government, and Mr Tsipras has frequent meetings with the Archbishop, Ieronymos. The Church appeals to the most conservative part of Greek society, which basically is positioned to the right and the extreme right of the political spectrum.

From the above one can conclude that SYRIZA’s alliance with the extreme right is very strong, through ANEL and the Church, while their alliance with the center-right are developing, through the alliance with Mr Kostas Karamanlis. The gap that currently exists is in the center – left of the political spectrum. This is where SYRIZA is relatively weak.

Alexis de Tocqueville

Alexis de Tocqueville

The political opposition in Greece

When it comes to the opposition, SYRIZA is openly trying to undermine the unity of New Democracy, by strengthening their alliance with Mr Kostas Karamanlis. They aim to reduce New Democracy to a party of the hard-core right.

There are movements inside New Democracy to challenge the leadership of Mr Samaras, who is charged as having led the party to the hard-core right,but they are rather subdued. A catalyst is missing, and New Democracy is trailing SYRIZA by more than 10% in recent polls.

All indicators point to a weak, heavy political body that does not have the vitality and strength to respond to the defeat of January 2015.

PASOK has almost disappeared from the political map following the January 2015 elections. Recent polls give less than 4% to a party that governed Greece for most of the period from 1981 to 2014. It is no accident therefore, that SYRIZA do not consider PASOK a force worth dealing with.

The new centrist cocktail party POTAMI, led by journalist Mr Theodorakis, is a different story. Recent polls give it 7%, which is slightly above what they received in the January 2015 elections. POTAMI (The River) are a vibrant political force, but it is too early to say whether they will survive or not. Their existence is due to the political dead ends that have occurred in the political middle ground of Greece, with the majority of the PASOK electorate moving to SYRIZA, but a significant component remaining unconvinced.

SYRIZA are hostile to POTAMI, which they consider a clear threat. Until now POTAMI are afloat and may play a significant role in the immediate future. This role may determine whether they will survive in the long term or not.

The ice pick that killed Leo Trotsky

The ice pick that killed Leo Trotsky

The internal SYRIZA front 

In the internal front, SYRIZA are playing a safe game: propaganda coupled with damage limitation, laced with fireworks.

First of all, they do not reveal anything about their true negotiating with the creditors. This enables them to appear that until today they stand firm by their electoral commitments.

The references they make to a «honorable» compromise and a «plan for economic development» are generalities that lighten the load for the SYRIZA die hearts.

Unfortunately it is not only propaganda that SYRIZA deploys in the internal front.

In order to appease the SYRIZA extreme factions, the Government have passed a law allowing a jailed terrorist who has severe health problems to be at home. This shows how they plan to continue dealing with the internal front and opposition. This is a risky approach, as already USA have expressed their concern for the release from prison of a convicted terrorist and multiple murderer.

Historical Compromise in Italy: Enrico Berlinguer and Aldo Moro

Historical Compromise in Italy: Enrico Berlinguer and Aldo Moro


Anything in politics is as good as its acceptance by the public.

Any agreement with the creditors has to be approved by the Greek Parliament. Is this enough to make it politically legitimate? For simplicity, in what follows I refer to «agreement» as the «new» agreement that will be in effect after June 2015.

Given the severity of the situation, it is not.

SYRIZA must consider two additional legitimization options.

1. Referendum. The agreement will be the topic of a public referendum. If the Greek people approve the agreement, the government is legitimized to proceed with its implementation. If they do not, the government can go back to the creditors and ask for modifications. One has to be careful here, because the risk involved is significant. If the new agreement is rejected, and a precedent is created with the referendum, the process may end up in a vicious spiral, with new agreements being continuously rejected by the Greek Public in a «decathlon» of referenda, without a solution in sight. I assume that this was the reason that Mrs. Merkel and Mr Sarkozy asked Mr Papandreou to withdraw his recommendation to hold a referendum back in 2010.

2. General Elections. The Greeks will be asked to vote again in order to elect a new Parliament and Government. The elections are even more complicated than the referendum, and in a country that is almost bankrupt, there is no time allowance for this type of experimentation.

It appears that SYRIZA are now in a corner.

The best option for them is to present the new agreement as fulfilling their political promises. Hard to do, but they are good in propaganda.

Alternatively, they might proceed with a referendum, taking the risk, but at the same time «engineering» it in a way that almost ensures a positive result, i.e. the approval of the new agreement.

People queuing for food in modern Greece

People queuing for food in modern Greece


SYRIZA need to retain their political power. To loose it after a few months in office would be a disaster for them.

If this is their primary objective, and I believe it is, they will eventually reach an agreement with the creditors but may proceed to legitimize it with a public referendum.

Alternatively, they may decide to avoid the risks of the referendum, and take it on the chin.

Two major political factors are in their favor. Their alliances and the weakness of the opposition.

They can rely on the strong alliances they have built inside Greece to absorb any shocks after the agreement.

They may also take advantage of the fact that their opposition is at the moment very weak.

What remains open is the future of Greece.

I am afraid that even if an agreement is reached with the creditors, the damage to the Greek economy and society is so big that it will take a lot more than a creditors’ agreement to recover.

Interestingly enough, this recovery is not on the agenda in a pragmatic way.




Αυτό το άρθρο έχει θέμα του τον Επιτάφιο Λόγο του Περικλή, όπως αυτός παρατίθεται από τον Θουκυδίδη στην «Ιστορία του Πελοποννησιακού Πολέμου», Βιβλίο ΙΙ εδάφια 34-46.

Την έμπνευση για το άρθρο μου την έδωσε το τρίτομο έργο του Κορνήλιου Καστοριάδη, με την εκπληκτικής ζωντάνιας ανάγνωση του επιταφίου. Κυριολεκτικά «μου άνοιξε τα μάτια». Λίγο μετά ανακάλυψα στην βιβλιοθήκη μου τον «Περικλέους Επιτάφιο» του Ι.Θ. Κακριδή, κι έτσι «έδεσε το σιρόπι». Ο τόμος της «Εστίας» με τη μετάφραση του Αγγέλου Βλάχου περίμενε υπομονετικά στο βάθος για να πάρει τη θέση που του αξίζει.

Η Δομή του Επιταφίου (3, σ.36)

Ο Ι. Θ. Κακριδής διακρίνει τα ακόλουθα μέρη στον Επιτάφιο.

Α. Προοίμιο (εδάφιο 35)

Β. Έπαινος των προγόνων, των πατέρων, και της σύγχρονης γενιάς (εδάφιο 36). Για τις γενιές της αθηναϊκής ιστορίας, βλέπε παρακάτω.

Γ. Έπαινος της αθηναϊκής πολιτείας (εδάφια 37-41)

Δ. Έπαινος των νεκρών (εδάφια 41-42)

Ε. Παραινετικός λόγος (εδάφια 43-45)

Ζ. Επίλογος (εδάφιο 46)

Περνάω τώρα στην αναλυτική παρουσίαση του Επιταφίου, ανά εδάφιο.

Το πρωτότυπο κείμενο θα προηγείται σε πλαγιαστά γράμματα, και θα ακολουθεί η απόδοση και τα σχόλια. Σε κάποια σημεία η έμφαση θα είναι στη γλώσσα και την απόδοση του κειμένου, σε άλλα στο περιεχόμενο. Εξ άλλου γλώσσα (σημαίνον) και περιεχόμενο (σημαινόμενο) πάντοτε παίζουνε παιχνίδια.

Εδάφιο 36

Ο Ι.Θ. Κακριδής αναφέρει ότι οι τρεις αθηναϊκές γενιές ήσαν οι εξής (3, σ.6):

  • Πρόγονοι: από τη μυθική αρχή έως το τέλος των περσικών πολέμων το 479 π.Χ.
  • Πατέρες: έως τη συνθήκη των Αθηναίων με τους Λακεδαιμονίους το 445 π.Χ.
  • Σύγχρονη γενιά: «καθεστηκυία ηλικία». Ο Περικλής ήταν περίπου εξήντα ετών όταν εκφώνησε τον Επιτάφιο.

«τὴν γὰρ χώραν οἱ αὐτοὶ αἰεὶ οἰκοῦντες διαδοχῇ τῶν ἐπιγιγνομένων μέχρι τοῦδε»

«Γιατί έζησαν οι ίδιοι πάντα μια γενιά μετά την άλλη στη χώρα αυτή» (3, σ.7)

Εδώ ο Περικλής μνημονεύει την «πανάρχαια παρουσία των Αθηναίων στο ίδιο έδαφος, για την οποία ήταν εξαιρετικά υπερήφανοι, την αυτοχθονία τους.» (2, σ.176)

«ἐλευθέραν δι’ ἀρετὴν παρέδοσαν»

«…και με την παλικαριά τους μας την παράδωσαν ως τώρα λεύτερη» (3, σ.7)

Ο Άγγελος Βλάχος (1) αποδίδει την αρετή ως ανδρεία.

Ο Καστοριάδης από την άλλη μεριά, αποδίδει την αρετή με βάση την αρμονία. «Ένα άτομο έχει αρετήν αν είναι καλά προσαρμοσμένο ως προς αυτό που έχει αναλάβει να κάνει ή κατέχει την αρετήν απολύτως εάν βρίσκεται σε αρμονία με τον εαυτό του.» (2, σ. 176)

«ἀπὸ δὲ οἵας τε ἐπιτηδεύσεως ἤλθομεν ἐπ’ αὐτὰ καὶ μεθ’ οἵας πολιτείας καὶ τρόπων ἐξ οἵων μεγάλα ἐγένετο, ταῦτα δηλώσας πρῶτον εἶμι»

«Ποιος εστάθηκε ο δρόμος μας για να φτάσουμε σ’ εκείνα και με ποιάν πολιτεία κι’ από ποιους τρόπους ζωής έγιναν μεγάλα, αυτά θα δείξω πρώτα» (3, σ.9)

Ο Καστοριάδης αποδίδει τις λέξεις ως ακολούθως (2, σ. 177):

επιτήδευσις -> συνήθεια

πολιτεία -> θεσμοί και μέθοδοι διακυβέρνησης

τρόποι -> ήθη

Ο Καστοριάδης αναφέρεται στη συνέχεια στο νεωτερισμό της αντίληψης ως προς τι δημιουργεί την ισχύ μιας ανθρώπινης ομάδας. Στον Όμηρο, κάποιος θα κατακτήσει ή δεν θα κατακτήσει την αρχήν και τη νίκη επειδή είναι ή δεν είναι γενναίος, επειδή είναι ή δεν είναι αγαπητός στους θεούς. (2, σ. 179)

Εδάφιο 37

Στο εδάφιο αυτό αρχίζει ο έπαινος της Αθηναϊκής Πολιτείας, με αναφορές στο πολίτευμα και τους νόμους.

«Χρώμεθα γὰρ πολιτείᾳ οὐ ζηλούσῃ τοὺς τῶν πέλας νόμους, παράδειγμα δὲ μᾶλλοναὐτοὶ ὄντες τισὶν ἢ μιμούμενοι ἑτέρους

«Το πολίτευμα που έχομε σε τίποτε δεν αντιγράφει τα ξένα πολιτεύματα. Αντίθετα, είμαστε πολύ περισσότερο εμείς παράδειγμα για τους άλλους παρά μιμητές τους.» (1)

«Το πολίτευμα που έχουμε δε γυρεύει να πάρει τους νόμους του από τους ξένους. Πιο πολύ είμαστε εμείς το παράδειγμα σε μερικούς παρά που ξεσηκώνουμε ο,τι κάνουν οι άλλοι.» (3, σ.9)

«Έχουμε ένα πολιτικό καθεστώς που δεν φθονεί τους νόμους των άλλων και αντί να μιμείται τους άλλους, αποτελεί μάλλον υπόδειγμα γι’ αυτούς.» (2, σ. 180)

«καὶ ὄνομα μὲν διὰ τὸ μὴ ἐς ὀλίγους ἀλλἐς πλείονας οἰκεῖν δημοκρατία κέκληται·»

«Το Πολίτευμα μας λέγεται Δημοκρατία, επειδή την εξουσία δεν την ασκούν λίγοι πολίτες, αλλά όλος ο λαός.» (1)

«Το όνομα του (πολιτεύματος), επειδή δε ζούμε στηριγμένοι πάνω στους λίγους παρά στους περισσότερους, είναι κυριαρχία του δήμου, δημοκρατία.» (3. σ.9)

Ο Ι.Θ. Κακριδής σημειώνει ότι «σε μια πόλη δημοκρατία είναι οι ‘πλείονες’ μόνο, όχι όλοι οι πολίτες».

Ο Καστοριάδης επισημαίνει ότι «οικείν» σημαίνει κυριολεκτικά, τρόπος του κατοικείν, και μας θυμίζει την στροφή από το ποίημα του Friedrich  Hölderlin – In lieblicher Bläue 

«Voll Verdienst, doch dichterisch,wohnet der Mensch auf dieser Erde.» 

Εντελώς επάξια,αλλά ποιητικά κατοικεί ο άνθρωπος πάνω σ’ αυτήν τη γη

Εδώ στο βάθος προβάλλει και ο Martin Heidegger, αλλά δεν θα επεκταθώ.

«μέτεστι δὲ κατὰ μὲν τοὺς νόμους πρὸς τὰ ἴδια διάφορα πᾶσι τὸ ἴσον, κατὰ δὲ τὴν ἀξίωσιν,ὡς ἕκαστος ἔν τῳ εὐδοκιμεῖ, οὐκ ἀπὸ μέρους τὸ πλέον ἐς τὰ κοινὰ ἢ ἀπἀρετῆς προτιμᾶται, οὐδαὖ κατὰ πενίαν, ἔχων γέ τι ἀγαθὸν δρᾶσαι τὴν πόλιν, ἀξιώματος ἀφανείᾳ κεκώλυται»

«Όσον αφορά τα ίδια, τα ιδιωτικά ή τα ιδιαίτερα συμφέροντα, οι πολίτες αντιμετωπίζονται κατά ίσο τρόπο από τους νόμους. Όσον αφορά τη δημόσια αξιοσύνη ο καθένας αντιμετωπίζεται σύμφωνα με τον τρόπο με τον οποίο επιτυγχάνει σε αυτό που κάνει. Όσον αφορά τα κοινά, δηλαδή τα αξιώματα και τον πολιτικό ρόλο, δεν δείχνουμε προτίμηση σε κάποιον λόγω της καταγωγής του (από μέρους), αλλά με βάση την αρετή του.Ούτε κάποιος ο οποίος είναι φτωχός αλλά θα μπορούσε να κάνει κάτι για την πόλη , θα εμποδιστεί λόγω της κοινωνικής αφάνειας στην οποία βρίσκεται» (2, σ. 182)

Ο Ι.Θ. Κακριδής παρατηρεί ότι «η προτίμηση (των αρχόντων, των εχόντων δημόσιο αξίωμα) με βάση την αρετή» αποτελεί την αναβίωση του αριστοκρατικού αξιώματος, όπου την αρετή δεν την καθορίζει πια η καταγωγή, ή ο πλούτος, όπως στις γνήσιες αριστοκρατίες και ολιγαρχίες. (3, σ.50-51)

«ἀνεπαχθῶς δὲ τὰ ἴδια προσομιλοῦντες τὰ δημόσια διὰ δέος μάλιστα οὐ παρανομοῦμεν, τῶν τε αἰεὶ ἐν ἀρχῇ ὄντων ἀκροάσει καὶ τῶν νόμων, καὶ μάλιστα αὐτῶν ὅσοι τε ἐπὠφελίᾳ τῶν ἀδικουμένων κεῖνται καὶ ὅσοι ἄγραφοι ὄντες αἰσχύνην ὁμολογουμένην φέρουσιν

«Ενώ επιδεικνύουμε ανοχή στις ιδιωτικές μας σχέσεις, όσον αφορά τα δημόσια πράγματα δεν παραβαίνουμε το νόμο διότι μας εμποδίζει το δέος. Με αυτόν τον τρόπο δείχνουμε προσοχή τόσο σε αυτούς που κατέχουν εκ περιτροπής τα αξιώματα, όσο και στους νόμους. Κυρίως στους νόμους που είναι υπέρ εκείνων οι οποίοι υφίστανται την αδικία, καθώς και τους νόμους που, αν και άγραφοι, επιφέρουν ως ποινή το δημόσιο όνειδος.» (2, σ.182-183)

Είναι ενδιαφέρον ότι ο Καστοριάδης αποδίδει τους «αἰεὶ ἐν ἀρχῇ ὄντες» σαν «αυτούς που κατέχουν εκ περιτροπής τα αξιώματα», ενώ ο Άγγελος Βλάχος απλά ως «άρχοντες», ακριβώς όπως και ο Ι.Θ. Κακριδής, που σχολιάζει:

«Τον πολίτη τον κυβερνάει τώρα πια μια τόσο υψωμένη συνείδηση, ώστε να είναι απέναντι της πιο πολύ υπόλογος, αυτής το δέος να τον κρατάει να μην παρανομήσει, όχι κανένας εξωτερικός φραγμός, η τιμωρία του νόμου, είτε η διαταγή του άρχοντα. Σ’ αυτήν ακριβώς την πρόθυμη, αυτόβουλη  υποταγή του στο νόμο, προπαντός τον άγραφο, βρίσκει ο Αθηναίος την απόδειξη πως είναι λεύτερος.» (3, σ. 51)

Εδάφιο 38

Το εδάφιο αυτό είναι πιο «ελαφρύ» σε σχέση με το προηγούμενο, και αναφέρεται στους τρόπους και τους παράγοντες ξεκούρασης και απόλαυσης των Αθηναίων.

«Καὶ μὴν καὶ τῶν πόνων πλείστας ἀναπαύλας τῇ γνώμῃ ἐπορισάμεθα, ἀγῶσι μέν γε καὶ θυσίαις διετησίοις νομίζοντες, ἰδίαις δὲ κατασκευαῖς εὐπρεπέσιν, ὧν καθ’ ἡμέραν ἡ τέρψις τὸ λυπηρὸν ἐκπλήσσει.»

«Έχουμε εφοδιαστεί με πλήθος θεραπείες ή αντισταθμίσεις για τους μόχθους και τα έργα μας, τόσο μέσω των αγώνων και των θρησκευτικών μας τελετών, όσο επίσης και με τις ευπρεπείς ιδιωτικές κατασκευές. ενώ η ευχαρίστηση την οποία προσφέρουν καθημερινά διώχνει τις έγνοιες και τις αντιξοότητες.» (2, σ. 183)

Ο Καστοριάδης επισημαίνει ότι στο σημείο αυτό ο Περικλής και ο Θουκυδίδης φαίνεται να θεωρούν ότι οι συνθήκες στέγασης των Αθηναίων υπερέβαιναν τις καθαρά λειτουργικές απαιτήσεις και συνέβαλαν και αυτές στην άμβλυνση των προβλημάτων της ζωής.

«Επεσέρχεται δὲ διὰ μέγεθος τῆς πόλεως ἐκ πάσης γῆς τὰ πάντα, καὶ ξυμβαίνει ἡμῖν μηδὲν οἰκειοτέρᾳ τῇ ἀπολαύσει τὰ αὐτοῦ ἀγαθὰ γιγνόμενα καρποῦσθαι ἢ καὶ τὰ τῶν ἄλλων ἀνθρώπων»

«Λόγω της σπουδαιότητας της πόλης μας έρχονται σε αυτήν – εισάγουμε – όλα τα προϊόντα ολάκερης της γης. Και τα αγαθά που εμείς παράγουμε δεν μας είναι περισσότερο οικεία από τα αγαθά που παράγουν οι άλλοι άνθρωποι.” (2, σ. 184)

«Κι’ ακόμα μας έρχονται, έτσι μεγάλη που είναι η πόλη μας από την πάσα γη τα πάντα και φτάνουμε τα αγαθά που γίνονται εδώ να μην τα χαιρόμαστε καθόλου σαν πιο δικά μας απ’ ο,τι και των άλλων ανθρώπων.» (3. σ. 11)

Ο Ι.Θ. Κακριδής σχολιάζει ότι το εδάφιο αυτό δίνει μια εικόνα της ζωής στην Αθήνα που διαφέρει ριζικά από εκείνη της Σπάρτης, «που δεν επιτρέπει καμιά πολυτέλεια στον πολίτη της, στο φαΐ του, στο ντύσιμο του, στο σπίτι του.» (3, σ. 51)

Ο Καστοριάδης τονίζει την εισαγωγή προϊόντων που ανατρέπει τις προσεγγίσεις της «αυτάρκειας».

Εδάφιο 39

Το εδάφιο αυτό αναφέρεται στην στρατιωτική εκπαίδευση και προετοιμασία.

» Διαφέρομεν δὲ καὶ ταῖς τῶν πολεμικῶν μελέταις τῶν ἐναντίων τοῖσδε. τήν τε γὰρ πόλιν κοινὴν παρέχομεν, καὶ οὐκ ἔστιν ὅτε ξενηλασίαις ἀπείργομέν τινα ἢ μαθήματος ἢ θεάματος, ὃ μὴ κρυφθὲν ἄν τις τῶν πολεμίων ἰδὼν ὠφεληθείη, πιστεύοντες οὐ ταῖς παρασκευαῖς τὸ πλέον καὶ ἀπάταις ἢ τῷ ἀφ’ ἡμῶν αὐτῶν ἐς τὰ ἔργα εὐψύχῳ»

«Και στη μελέτη των πολεμικών ξεχωρίζουμε από τους αντιπάλους μας σ’ αυτά τα σημεία.πρώτα πρώτα που την πόλη μας την κρατούμε ανοιχτή σε όλους και διώχνουμε ποτέ ξένο κανένα, για να τον εμποδίσουμε να μάθει ή να ιδεί κάτι, που άν δεν το κρύβαμε και το έβλεπε κάποιος από από τους εχτρούς μας θα μπορούσε τάχα να ωφεληθεί. Γιατί εμείς την πίστη μας τη στηρίζουμε όχι στις ετοιμασίες τόσο και στα ξεγελάσματα (χαρακτηριστικά της σπαρτιατικής μελέτης των στρατιωτικών), όσο στην ψυχική από εμάς τους ίδιους δύναμη, όταν είναι να ενεργήσουμε.» (3, σ. 11)

Ξενηλασία ήταν το δικαίωμα των εφόρων της Σπάρτης να διώχνουν όταν θέλουν τους ξένους από τη χώρα, ενώ σχετικός ήταν και ο αδιάκοπος φόβος των Σπαρτιατών μήπως προδοθούν τα μυστικά της πόλης.

Σημειώνω ότι είναι η πρώτη φορά στον Επιτάφιο που ο λόγος καθίσταται άμεσα αντιθετικός. Τα προσόντα των Αθηναίων παρουσιάζονται σε «έναντι» των αντιπάλων τους, που παρόλο ότι δεν κατονομάζονται, είναι οι Λακεδαιμόνιοι.

Επίσης η εμφατική αναφορά στην «Ανοικτή Πόλη» εν καιρώ πολέμου προαναγγέλλει την «Ανοικτή Κοινωνία» του Karl Popper.

Κλείνοντας το εδάφιο, ο Περικλής εγκωμιάζει την Αθήνα που θέλει να ζουν οι πολίτες της ελεύθεροι και ξένοιαστοι, ακόμη και ράθυμοι στον καιρό της ειρήνης, και να απολαμβάνουν τη ζωή, ώστε την ώρα του πολέμου να πολεμούν γιατί το θέλουν οι ίδιοι και όχι γιατί τους το επιβάλει κάποιος νόμος. Και ίσως αυτό τελικά να είναι η «ευψυχία».

Εδάφιο 40

«Φιλοκαλοῦμέν τε γὰρ μετεὐτελείας καὶ φιλοσοφοῦμεν ἄνευ μαλακίας· πλούτῳ τε ἔργου μᾶλλον καιρῷ ἢ λόγου κόμπῳ χρώμεθα, καὶ τὸ πένεσθαι οὐχ ὁμολογεῖν τινὶ αἰσχρόν, ἀλλὰ μὴ διαφεύγειν ἔργῳ αἴσχιον.«

«Αγαπούμε το ωραίο και μένουμε απλοί. Αγαπούμε τη θεωρία και δεν καταντούμε νωθροί. Ο πλούτος στέκει για μας πιο πολύ αφορμή για κάποιο έργο παρά για παινεψιές και λόγια. Και τη φτώχεια του να την παραδεχτεί κανείς, δεν είναι ντροπή. Ντροπή είναι να μην κοιτάξει δουλεύοντας να την ξεφύγει.» (3, σ.13-15)

«Αγαπούμε το ωραίο, αλλά μένομε απλοί και φιλοσοφούμε χωρίς να είμαστε νωθροί. Τον πλούτο μας τον έχομε για να τον χρησιμοποιούμε σε έργα και όχι για να καυχιόμαστε. Δεν θεωρούμε ντροπή την φτώχεια. Ντροπή είναι να μην την αποφεύγει κανείς δουλεύοντας.» (1)

Ο Καστοριάδης δεν παραμένει – όπως πάντα – σε μια απόδοση, αλλά διευρύνει το θέμα, ισχυριζόμενος ότι ο Περικλής λέει: «ασκούμε τη σοφία και την ομορφιά, αυτός είναι ο τρόπος ύπαρξης μας.» Και συνεχίζει: «αυτό σημαίνει να είσαι Αθηναίος: να φιλοσοφείς και να φιλοκαλείς… Εδώ ο Περικλής ενσωματώνει τη θεωρία με οργανικό τρόπο στη συνολική ζωή του ανθρώπινου όντος, ατομική και συλλογική, πολιτειακή και πολιτική – μια ζωή που είναι, εν πάση περιπτώσει, ζωή εντός και δια της πόλεως.» (4, σ. 247, 249)

Η τοποθέτηση του Καστοριάδη οδηγεί στο συμπέρασμα ότι «είναι δυνατό να ξεφύγουμε από τα ψεύτικα διλήμματα – άτομο ή συλλογικότητα, πολιτική κοινότητα ή κοινωνία των πολιτών – με τα οποία τρέφεται η πραγματικότητα που μπορούμε να ονομάσουμε νεωτερικό ατύχημα». (4, σ. 247)

Θέτει επίσης «εκτός πεδιάς» την πλατωνική και αριστοτελική αντίληψη που αναδεικνύει το «βίον θεωρητικόν» σε υπέρτατη μορφή της ζωής. (4, σ.249)

«ἔν τε τοῖς αὐτοῖς οἰκείων ἅμα καὶ πολιτικῶν ἐπιμέλεια, καὶ ἑτέροις πρὸς ἔργα τετραμμένοις τὰ πολιτικὰ μὴ ἐνδεῶς γνῶναι»

«Οι ίδιο εμείς, φροντίζομε και τις ιδιωτικές μας υποθέσεις και τα δημόσια πράγματα κ’ ενώ ο καθένας μας φροντίζει τις δουλειές του, τούτο δεν μας εμποδίζει να κατέχομε και τα πολιτικά.» (1)

«Και πάλι η φροντίδα αυτή του καθενός για τη δική του τη δουλειά και για το δικό του το σπίτι δεν τον κάνει αδιάφορο για της πολιτείας τα πράγματα.» (3, σ.53)

«Κι είμαστε οι ίδιοι που φροντίζουμε και για τα δικά μας και τα πολιτικά μαζί πράγματα, κι’ ενώ καθένας μας κοιτάζει τη δουλειά του, δεν κατέχουμε γι’ αυτό λιγότερο τα πολιτικά.» (3, σ.15)

«μόνοι γὰρ τόν τε μηδὲν τῶν δε μετέχοντα οὐκ ἀπράγμονα, ἀλλἀχρεῖον νομίζομεν»

«Μόνο εμείς θεωρούμε πως είναι όχι μόνον αδιάφορος, αλλά και άχρηστος εκείνος που δεν ενδιαφέρεται στα πολιτικά.» (1)

«Γιατί όποιον δεν θέλει να πάρει μέρος στα πολιτικά, στην Αθήνα τον βλέπουν σαν έναν άνθρωπο άχρηστο, όχι ήσυχο.» (3, σ.53)

Εδάφιο 41

«Ξυνελών τε λέγω τήν τε πᾶσαν πόλιν τῆς῾Ελλάδος παίδευσιν εἶναι καὶ καθἕκαστον δοκεῖν ἄν μοι τὸν αὐτὸν ἄνδρα παρἡμῶν ἐπὶπλεῖστἂν εἴδη καὶ μετὰ χαρίτων μάλιστἂν εὐτραπέλως τὸ σῶμα αὔταρκες παρέχεσθαι

«Με μια λέξη, τολμώ να πω ότι η Αθήνα είναι ο δάσκαλος των Ελλήνων και νομίζω πως ο κάθε μας πολίτης θα μπορούσε, με τη μεγαλύτερη ευκολία και χάρη, πολλά και άξια έργα να κάνη σε πολλές εκδηλώσεις της ζωής.» (1)

Ο Καστοριάδης αποδίδει και επεκτείνει:

«Η πόλη είναι παίδευσις, παιδεία και εκπαίδευση της Ελλάδας, και κάθε πολίτης ατομικά είναι ικανός να εκτελέσει μέσα σε αυτήν ένα μέγιστο αριθμό πραγμάτων, με τη μεγίστη διττή χάρη…. Ωστόσο αυτό που μοιάζει με παράλογη υπεροψία αποδείχτηκε σε τελική ανάλυση μια μάλλον μετριοπαθής εκτίμηση, διότι αυτή η συγκεκριμένη Αθήνα δεν υπήρξε μόνο η εκπαίδευση της Ελλάδας, αλλά και όλων όσοι δημιούργησαν αυτό που ονομάζουμε ελληνοδυτικό πολιτισμό.» (4, σ.250)

Ο ελληνοδυτικός πολιτισμός στηρίζεται στην διαδικασία του «κρίνειν και επιλέγειν». Ο πολίτης μπορεί με επιχειρήματα να απορρίψει τους θεσμούς της πολιτικής κοινότητας και να προτείνει καινούργιους, διαφορετικούς θεσμούς. Αναφέρομαι στον πολίτη επειδή η πολιτική λειτουργία και η θεσμοθέτηση της πολιτικής κοινότητας είναι κορυφαία διαδικασία και φαινόμενο, και καθορίζει όλα τα άλλα.

Ο Καστοριάδης προχωρά και σε μια άλλη πολύ ενδιαφέρουσα παρατήρηση, συγκρίνοντας αυτήν την αντίληψη του πολίτη με τον ορισμό του δίκαιου άνδρα και καλού πολίτη τον οποίο δίνει ο Πλάτων  στην Πολιτεία «τα εαυτού πράττειν και μη μη πολυπραγμονείν, να ασχολείται δηλαδή κανείς με τις δικές του υποθέσεις και να μην κάνει πολλά πράγματα… Πρόκειται προφανώς για τον ιδανικό πολίτη ενός αυταρχικού καθεστώτος.» (2, σ.191)

Ένα επίθετο που παρεξηγήθηκε από πολλούς είναι το «αύταρκες σώμα». Ο Ι.Θ. Κακριδής μάλιστα αντιπαραθέτει το σημείο αυτό με κάποιες ρήσεις του Σόλωνα όπως αυτές παρατίθενται από τον Ηρόδοτο: «Έτσι και ο ένας άνθρωπος δεν έχει καθόλου αυτάρκεια. Έχει το ένα, θα του λείπει το άλλο…». (3, σ.58)

Ο Καστοριάδης από την άλλη μεριά, αποδίδει το σημείο αυτό ως το επαρκές αποτέλεσμα στο οποίο μπορεί να φτάσει ένας άνθρωπος ως σώμα, ως μονάδα δηλαδή. Η ατομική ανάπτυξη και εξέλιξη είναι δυνατή στην πόλη της Αθήνας, και δεν θα ήταν δυνατή χωρίς την πόλη ή έξω από αυτήν. (2, σ.198)

Εδάφιο 42

«καὶ εἴρηται αὐτῆς τὰ μέγιστα· ἃ γὰρ τὴνπόλιν ὕμνησα, αἱ τῶν δε καὶ τῶν τοιῶν δε ἀρεταὶ ἐκόσμησαν, καὶ οὐκ ἂν πολλοῖς τῶν῾Ελλήνων ἰσόρροπος ὥσπερ τῶν δε ὁ λόγος τῶν ἔργων φανείη»

Καὶ εἶπα τὰ περισσότερα ποὺ εἴχα νὰ πῶ, γιατὶ αὐτῶν ποὺ κοίτονται ὲδῶ καὶ τῶν ὁμοίων τους ἡ ἀνδρεία ἐστόλισε τὴν πολιτεία μὲ ὅσα ἐγώ, ὑμνώντας την, εἶπα πὼς ἔχει. Λίγοι εἶναι οἱ Ἕλληνες ποὺ δὲν εἶναι, σὰν καὶ τοὺς γενναίους αὐτούς, κατώτεροι ἀπὸ τὸν ἔπαινο ποὺ τοὺς γίνεται. (1)

«τὴν δὲ τῶν ἐναντίων τιμωρίαν ποθεινοτέραν αὐτῶν λαβόντες καὶ κινδύνων ἅμα τόνδε κάλλιστον νομίσαντες ἐβουλήθησαν μεταὐτοῦ τοὺς μὲν τιμωρεῖσθαι, τῶν δὲ ἐφίεσθαι, ἐλπίδι μὲν τὸ ἀφανὲς τοῦ κατορθώσειν ἐπιτρέψαντες,ἔργῳ δὲ περὶ τοῦ ἤδη ὁρωμένου σφίσιν αὐτοῖς ἀξιοῦντες πεποιθέναι, καὶ ἐν αὐτῷ τῷ ἀμύνεσθαι καὶ παθεῖν μᾶλλον ἡγησάμενοι ἢ [τὸ] ἐνδόντες σῴζεσθαι, τὸ μὲν αἰσχρὸν τοῦ λόγου ἔφυγον, τὸ δἔργον τῷ σώματι ὑπέμειναν καὶ διἐλαχίστου καιροῦ τύχης ἅμα ἀκμῇ τῆς δόξης μᾶλλον ἢ τοῦ δέους ἀπηλλάγησαν

Λογαριάζοντας πὼς ἀνώτερο ἀπ’ ὅλα εἶναι νὰ τιμωρήσουν τὸν ἐχθρὸ καὶ πὼς ἀπ’ ὅλους τοὺς κινδύνους αὐτός τὸν ὁποῖο ἀντίκρυζαν ἦταν ὁ ἐνδοξότερος, τὸν ἀντιμετώπισαν γιὰ νὰ ἐκδικηθοῦν τοὺς πολεμίους. Μὴ ξέροντας ἄν θά ἐπιτύχουν, βασίστηκαν στὴν ἐλπίδα, στὴν μάχη, ὅμως, ἀπάνω δεν στηρίχθηκαν παρὰ στον ἐαυτό τους γιὰ νὰ πολεμήσουν. Προτίμησαν ν’ ἀντισταθοῦν καὶ νὰ πεθάνουν παρὰ νὰ δειλιάσουν καὶ νὰ ζήσουν κι ἀπόφυγαν ἔτσι τὴν ντροπὴ τῆς καταλαλιάς, θυσιάζοντας τὴν ζωή τους γιὰ τὸ ἔργο ποὺ εἴχαν ἀναλάβει. Ἡ στιγμὴ ποὺ τοὺς βρῆκε τὸ χτύπημα τῆς μοίρας δὲν ἦταν γι’ αὐτοὺς στιγμὴ φόβου, ἀλλὰ δόξας. (1)

Εδάφιο 43

«Καὶ οἵδε μὲν προσηκόντως τῇ πόλει τοι οίδε ἐγένοντο·»

Οι άνθρωποι αυτοί ενήργησαν προσηκόντως, κατά τρόπον αντάξιο της πόλεως. (2, σ.199)

Στάθηκαν ἀντάξιοι τῆς πολιτείας ποὺ τοὺς ἀνάθρεψε. (1)

«ἀλλὰ μᾶλλον τὴν τῆς πόλεως δύναμιν καθ’ ἡμέραν ἔργῳ θεωμένους καὶ ἐραστὰς γιγνομένους αὐτῆς, καὶ ὅταν ὑμῖν μεγάλη δόξῃ εἶναι, ἐνθυμουμένους ὅτι τολμῶντες καὶ γιγνώσκοντες τὰ δέοντα καὶ ἐν τοῖς ἔργοις αἰσχυνόμενοι ἄνδρες αὐτὰ ἐκτήσαντο, καὶ ὁπότε καὶ πείρᾳ του σφαλεῖεν, οὐκ οὖν καὶ τὴν πόλιν γε τῆς σφετέρας ἀρετῆς ἀξιοῦντες στερίσκειν, κάλλιστον δὲ ἔρανον αὐτῇ προϊέμενοι.»

Πρέπει νὰ βλέπετε τὸ μεγαλεῖο τῆς πολιτείας στὶς καθημερινὲς της ἐκδηλώσεις καὶ να συλλογίζεστε πὼς τῆς τὸ ἔδωσαν ἄνδρες γενναῖοι ποὺ εἶχαν τὸ αἴσθημα τοῦ καθήκοντος καὶ μεγάλη φιλοτιμία σὲ κάθε ἔργο ποὺ ἀναλάμβαναν. Ἄν, καμιά φορά, ἀτυχοῦσαν σὲ κάποιο ἐγχείρημα, δὲν στεροῦσαν ὅμως τὴν πατρίδα ἀπ’ τὴν ἀνδρεία τους, γιατὶ θεωροῦσαν πὼς ἡ ὡραιότερη κοινὴ προσφορὰ ἦταν νὰ θυσιαστοῦν γι’ αὐτήν. (1)

Οι άντρες που έδωσαν στην πόλη τη δύναμη της το έκαναν όντας θαρραλέοι, γνωρίζοντας αυτό που έπρεπε να κάνουν και δρώντας με αιδώ. (2, σ.199)

Ο Καστοριάδης ισχυρίζεται ότι οι τρεις παραπάνω όροι είναι η θεωρία των τριών ιδιοτήτων της ψυχής και των τριών βασικών αρετών που θα αναπτύξει στη συνέχεια ο Πλάτων στην Πολιτεία (ΙV, 436).

Η τόλμη και το θάρρος αντιστοιχεί στο θυμό, το μέρος της ψυχής που μπορεί να θυμώσει, η αισχύνη έχει σχέση με την επιθυμία, ενώ η γνώση παραπέμπει στο λογιστικό, και τη σοφία.(2, σ.200)

«ἀνδρῶν γὰρ ἐπιφανῶν πᾶσα γῆ τάφος, καὶ οὐ στηλῶν μόνον ἐν τῇ οἰκείᾳ σημαίνει ἐπιγραφή, ἀλλὰ καὶ ἐν τῇ μὴ προσηκούσῃ ἄγραφος μνήμη παρ’ ἑκάστῳ τῆς γνώμης μᾶλλον ἢ τοῦ ἔργου ἐνδιαιτᾶται»

Γιατί των ανθρώπων των ξεχωριστών τάφος είναι η γη ολόκληρη. Και δεν φανερώνει το όνομα τους μιας στήλης η επιγραφή στην πατρική τους χώρα μόνο. Και στα ξένα μέρη σε καθενός την ψυχή μέσα φωλιάζει άγραφη η θύμηση, όχι τόσο για το έργο που έκαμαν, πιο πολύ για το φρόνημα τους. (3,σ.23)

«γιατὶ τάφος τῶν μεγάλων εἶναι ἡ πᾶσα γῆ καὶ δὲν φανερώνεται ἀπὸ τὴν ὲπιγραφὴ μιὰς στήλης στὴν πατρική τους χώρα. Καὶ στὰ πιὸ μακρινὰ μέρη, ἡ μνήμη τους, ἄγραφη, μένει ζωηρότερη μέσα στὶς ψυχές, περισσότερο γιὰ τὴν ἀνδρεία τους παρὰ γιὰ τὸ ἔργο ποὺ ἔκαναν.» (1)

Ο Καστοριάδης σημειώνει ότι αυτή η μνήμη, αυτή η ανάμνηση που φωλιάζει στον καθένα, είναι ανάμνηση όχι του έργου τους, αλλά της «γνώμης» τους, που και αυτός αποδίδει ως φρόνημα, όπως και ο Ι.Θ. Κακριδής. (2, σ.201)

«οὓς νῦν ὑμεῖς ζηλώσαντες καὶ τὸ εὔδαιμον τὸ ἐλεύθερον, τὸ δ’ ἐλεύθερον τὸ εὔψυχον κρίναντες μὴ περιορᾶσθε τοὺς πολεμικοὺς κινδύνους»

Ἔχοντας αὐτοὺς γιὰ παράδειγμα καὶ ξέροντας πὼς εὐτυχία θὰ πῆ ἐλευθερία καὶ ὲλευθερία σημαίνει ἀνδρεία, δὲν πρέπει νὰ δειλιάζετε μπροστὰ στοὺς κινδύνους τοῦ πολέμου.(1)

Ο Καστοριάδης παραπέμπει στην ρήση του Rousseau «πρέπει να επιλέξουμε την ελευθερία ή την ανάπαυση». (2, σ.202)

«ἀλγεινοτέρα γὰρ ἀνδρί γε φρόνημα ἔχοντι ἡ μετὰ τοῦ [ἐν τῷ] μαλακισθῆναι κάκωσις ἢ ὁ μετὰ ῥώμης καὶ κοινῆς ἐλπίδος ἅμα γιγνόμενος ἀναίσθητος θάνατος.«

Γιὰ τοὺς ἀνδρείους ὁ ἐξευτελισμὸς τῆς δειλίας εἶναι χειρότερος ἀπ’ τὸν γενναῖο κι ἀναπάντεχο θάνατο.(1)

Εδάφιο 44

«Δι’ ὅπερ καὶ τοὺς τῶνδε νῦν τοκέας, ὅσοι πάρεστε, οὐκ ὀλοφύρομαι μᾶλλον ἢπαραμυθήσομαι. ἐν πολυτρόποις γὰρ ξυμφοραῖς ἐπίστανται τραφέντες· τὸ δ’ εὐτυχές, ο῏ ἂν τῆς εὐπρεπεστάτης λάχωσιν,ὥσπερ οἵδε μὲν νῦν, τελευτῆς, ὑμεῖς δὲ λύπης, καὶ οἷς ἐνευδαιμονῆσαί τε ὁ βίος ὁμοίως καὶ ἐντελευτῆσαι ξυνεμετρήθη»

Γι’ αὐτὸ καὶ τοὺς γονεῖς ποὺ ἦρθαν στὴν τελετὴ δὲν τοὺς κλαίω τόσο ὅσο θέλω νὰ τοὺς παρηγορήσω. Ξέρουν πώς ἀνδρώθηκαν γιά ν’ ἀντικρύσουν τὶς πολλὲς τροπὲς τῆς ζωῆς. Ἀλλά εἶναι τύχη τὸ νὰ βρῆ κανεὶς ἕνα δοξασμένο τέλος. (1)

«…δεν θέλω να κλάψω μαζί σας, αλλά μάλλον να σας παρηγορήσω. Γνωρίζω ότι η ζωή είναι φτιαγμένη από ποικίλες μεταπτώσεις (μεταφράζει η Jaqueline de Romilly). Πρόκειται κυριολεκτικά για «δύσκολες συγκυρίες».Μας έρχεται στο νου η φράση του Σόλωνα στον Κροίσο, την οποία μας μεταφέρει ο Ηρόδοτος¨όλα τα ανθρώπινα πράγματα είναι ξυμφοραί – απρόβλεπτες και ανορθολογικές, όσον αφορά τις επιθυμίες του ατόμου, αλληλουχίες γεγονότων.» (2, σ. 2013)

Ο Καστοριάδης καταλήγει με την επισήμανση ότι ο Περικλής λέει τότε κάτι το εκπληκτικό που καταδεικνύει την ελληνική αντίληψη για τη ζωή του ανθρώπου: η ευτυχία, η καλή τύχη, είναι να τύχει να βρει κανείς τον πιο ευγενή θάνατο ή το πένθος του να έχει ευγενή αιτία, να βρει σε τελευταία ανάλυση ότι ευτυχία και ζωή είχαν ως κοινό μέτρο τον θάνατο.

«ὅσοι δ’ αὖπαρηβήκατε, τόν τε πλέονα κέρδος ὃν ηὐτυχεῖτε βίον ἡγεῖσθε καὶ τόνδε βραχὺν ἔσεσθαι, καὶ τῇ τῶν δε εὐκλείᾳ κουφίζεσθε. τὸ γὰρ φιλότιμον ἀγήρων μόνον, καὶ οὐκ ἐν τῷ ἀχρείῳ τῆς ἡλικίας τὸ κερδαίνειν, ὥσπερ τινές φασι, μᾶλλον τέρπει, ἀλλὰ τὸ τιμᾶσθαι.»

Ὅσοι ἀπὸ σᾶς εἴστε μεγάλης ἡλικίας, ἄς θεωρῆτε κέρδος τὴν ὥς τώρα εὐτυχισμένη σας ζωή καὶ ἄς εὔχεστε πὼς λίγα εἶναι τὰ χρόνια ποὺ σᾶς μένουν ἀκόμα νὰ ζήσετε μὲ παρηγοριὰ τὴ δόξα τῶν παιδιῶν σας. Μόνο ἡ ἀγάπη γιὰ τὶς τιμὲς δὲν φθείρεται. Στὸ γήρας, ἡ μεγαλύτερη εὐτυχία δὲν εἶναι, ὅπως λένε, τὰ χρήματα, ἀλλὰ οἱ τιμές.(1)

Ο Καστοριάδης υποσημειώνει ότι ο αστρονόμος Laplace παραπονιόταν, πεθαίνοντας, ότι ο άνθρωπος κυνηγά μόνον χίμαιρες.   Και πράγματι, μπροστά στον θάνατο η τιμή και η δόξα μπορεί να φαίνεται ότι δεν έχουν αρκετό βάρος. Ωστόσο, ο άνθρωπος είναι άνθρωπος ακριβώς επειδή κυνηγά χίμαιρες, ενώ τα πάντα, και η ίδια η δόξα, εξαρτώνται μυστηριωδώς από την ποιότητα και το περιεχόμενο αυτής της χίμαιρας. (2, σ. 212)


Αντί επιλόγου

Κλείνοντας αυτή την «ανάγνωση» του Επιταφίου, θα ήθελα σύντομα να αναφερθώ σε δύο αλληλένδετα ζητήματα που έχουν τεθεί.

Το πρώτο ζήτημα είναι εκείνο της «αυθεντικότητας», κατά πόσον δηλαδή ο αναγραφόμενος λόγος είναι πιστός στα όσα είπε ο Περικλής. Ο Ι.Θ. Κακριδής (3) ισχυρίζεται ότι ο λόγος είναι φτιαχτός, και είναι λόγος που θα ήθελε να ακούσει ο Θουκυδίδης για την αγαπημένη του Αθήνα. Ο Καστοριάδης πάλι (2) θεωρεί ότι ο Θουκυδίδης είναι κατά το δυνατόν πιστός στα όσα άκουσε από τον Περικλή.Όμως ο Καστοριάδης ξεπερνάει το θέμα της «περίκλειας» αυθεντικότητας. Αναφέρει χαρακτηριστικά: «Όπως ας πούμε δεν έχει σημασία άν την «Κριτική του Καθαρού Λόγου» την υπαγόρευσε στον Immanuel Kant ένας άγνωστος. ο οποίος τον επισκεπτόταν στις 5 το πρωί, ή άν είναι πράγματι έργο του Kant. Αυτό που έχει σίγουρα σημασία είναι ότι μεταξύ του 1770 και 1781, κάποιος άνθρωπος στη Γερμανία μπόρεσε να σκεφτεί αυτά που βρίσκουμε στην Κριτική, και ότι ένας Αθηναίος σκέφτηκε κι έγραψε αυτά τα πράγματα περί τα τέλη του 5ου αιώνα.» (2, σ. 200)

Το δεύτερο ζήτημα, αφορά τον χρόνο συγγραφής του Επιταφίου. Πότε συνέγραψε ο Θουκυδίδης τον Επιτάφιο; Στον πρώτο χρόνο του πολέμου,, ή στο τέλος του; Ή μήπως και στις δύο χρονικές στιγμές; Έγραψε δηλαδή τον Επιτάφιο τον πρώτο χρόνο του πολέμου, και μετά τον ξανάγραψε στο τέλος του. Ο Ι.Θ. Κακριδής θεωρεί ότι ο Επιτάφιος γράφτηκε δύο φορές. Ο Mark Toher στο άρθρο του «On «Thucydides’ Blunder»: 2.34.5″ θεωρεί πιθανά και τα δύο σενάρια. Να γράφτηκε μια εκδοχή του επιταφίου το 429 και μετά να ξαναγράφτηκε το 404, μετά το τέλος του πολέμου.

Ο γερασμένος και κουρασμένος από την εικοσαετία εξορία Θουκυδίδης, γυρνάει στην αγαπημένη του πόλη, και την βρίσκει ερειπωμένη και κατειλημμένη από τους Σπαρτιάτες.  Ο άνθρωπος που έγραψε «αντικειμενικά» την ιστορία του πολέμου, βρίσκεται μπροστά στην φρίκη της ηττημένης πόλης. Μιας πόλης που λάτρεψε και εξακολουθεί να λατρεύει. Δεν είναι παράλογο λοιπόν να υποθέσουμε ότι ξαναγράφει τον επιτάφιο του Περικλέους, αφού ο Περικλής ήταν ο άνθρωπος που πεθαίνοντας στον τρίτο χρόνο του πολέμου άφησε πίσω ένα κενό που δεν αποκαταστάθηκε ποτέ και – ίσως -οδήγησε στην τελική ήττα.  Ο ξαναγραμμένος Επιτάφιος αποτελεί ύμνο προς την Δημοκρατία, ύμνο προς τον Περικλή, ύμνο προς την Αθήνα που καταστράφηκε, αλλά παρόλα αυτά θα παραμείνει ζωντανή εις τους αιώνες.


1. Θουκυδίδου, Ιστορία του Πελοποννησιακού Πολέμου. Μετάφραση Αγγέλου Βλάχου. Βιβλιοπωλείο της Εστίας, Αθήνα 1998.

2. Κορνήλιος Καστοριάδης, Η Ελληνική Ιδιαιτερότητα, Τόμος Γ’, Θουκυδίδης, η ισχύς και το δίκαιο. Εκδόσεις Κριτική, Αθήνα 2011. Στον τόμο αυτό γίνεται εκτεταμένη αναφορά στον Επιτάφιο.

3. Ι.Θ. Κακριδή, Περικλέους Επιτάφιος. Κείμενο, Μετάφραση, Επιλεγόμενα. Αθήνα 1943. Εκτός από τη μετάφραση, ενδιαφέρον παρουσιάζουν και τα επιλεγόμενα του Ι.Θ. Κακριδή.

4. Κορνήλιος Καστοριάδης, Η Ελληνική Ιδιαιτερότητα, Τόμος Β’, Η Πόλις και οι Νόμοι. Εκδόσεις Κριτική, Αθήνα 2011. Στον τόμο αυτό γίνεται ανάλυση του εδαφίου 40 του Επιταφίου.

(Η αναφορά στις πηγές στο κείμενο γίνεται σε παρένθεση, με πρώτο τον αριθμό της πηγής, και στη συνέχεια την σελίδα.)

The battle of Marathon, 490 BC

Κυριακή, 17 Αυγούστου, 2014

The mountains look on Marathon,
And Marathon looks on the sea.
And musing there an hour alone,
I dreamed that Greece might still be free,
For standing on the Persian’s grave,
I could not deem myself a slave.
(Lord Byron, The Isles of Greece)

Marathon - Tumulus

Marathon – Tumulus

In his 1846 review of Grote’s «History of Greece», John Stuart Mill wrote:

“The interest of Grecian history is unexhausted and inexhaustible. As a mere story, hardly any other portion of authentic history can compete with it. Its characters, its situations, the very march of its incidents, are epic. It is an heroic poem, of which the personages are peoples. It is also, of all histories of which we know so much, the most abounding in consequences to us who now live. The true ancestors of the European nations (it has been well said) are not those from whose blood they are sprung, but those from whom they derive the richest portion of their inheritance. The battle of Marathon, even as an event in English history, is more important than the battle of Hastings. If the issue of that day had been different, the Britons and the Saxons might still have been wandering in the woods.”

Remnants of the Tropaion erected on the plain of Marathon after the battle.

Remnants of the Tropaion erected on the plain of Marathon after the battle. Archaelogical Museum of Marathon


The Battle of Marathon is important for many reasons. Lord Byron and John Stuart Mill stated some of the them in the passages quated above.

It also has many layers.

The military layer is one of them.

The other is Persians against Greeks.

There is also one though that is not apparent at first sight. Democracy against oligarchy and aristocracy.


The Pnyx in Athens

Democracy in Athens

One clarification is required at the outset. The Athenian Polis included all of Attica, not only the geographic area of Athens.

Marathon is one of the areas of Attica, and thus was part of the Athenian Polis.

Most historians agree that Democracy in Athens was established by Cleisthenes in 508/507.

In 510 BC, with the help of the Spartans, Cleisthenes overthrew Hippias, the ruler of Athens, son of tyrant Peisistratos, who ruled the City until 528 BC.

But he did not rule straight away, because the Spartans favoured his rival, Isagoras, and they expelled Cleisthenes from the city.

After returning to power, Cleisthenes made some significant reforms that strengthened democratic rule (8):

  • He established legislative bodies run by individuals chosen by lottery, a true test of real democracy, rather than kinship or heredity.
  • He reorganized the Boule, created with 400 members under Solon, so that it had 500 members, 50 from each tribe.
  • He also introduced the bouletic oath, «To advise according to the laws what was best for the people».
  • The court system (Dikasteria — law courts) was reorganized and had from 201–5001 jurors selected each day, up to 500 from each tribe.

It was the role of the Boule to propose laws to the assembly of voters, who convened in Athens around forty times a year for this purpose. The bills proposed could be rejected, passed or returned for amendments by the assembly.

It is important to stress that Democracy did not arrive in Athens suddenly. The wheels were set in motion in the 7th century. It just so happens that it all came together when Cleisthenes ruled.

Given the nature of direct democratic rule in Athens, it comes as no surprise that Hippias did not fit in. It was nothing personal. Athenian democracy was incompatible with oligarchy and monarchy. Hippias had no chance to rule Athens again, if this was left to the Athenians to decide.

For this reason during the Ionian Revolt, which I will briefly discuss in the next section, he decided to join the Persians and return to Athens as a victor with the Persian army and navy.

The Old Bouleuterion, about SOO B.C. Model by Fetros Demetriades and Kostas Papoulias. Athens, Agora Museum. Excavations have revealed the foundations of a nearly square building (23.30 m. X 23.80 m.), with a cross wall dividing the structure into a main chamber and entrance vestibule. The main room probably had five supports, although the foundations for only three have been found. There is no trace of seats, but they might be restored as rectilinear tiers of wooden benches on three sides.

The Old Bouleuterion, about 500 B.C. Model by Fetros Demetriades and Kostas Papoulias. Athens, Agora Museum. Excavations have revealed the foundations of a nearly square building (23.30 m. X 23.80 m.), with a cross wall dividing the structure into a main chamber and entrance vestibule. The main room probably had five supports, although the foundations for only three have been found. There is no trace of seats, but they might be restored as rectilinear tiers of wooden benches on three sides. (

The Ionian Revolt (499-493 BC)

The Ionian Revolt is the precursor of the Greek-Persian Wars on Greek soil and sea.

By the time of Darius I, the Persian empire covered most of southwest Asia and Asia Minor, reaching as far as the easternmost boundaries of Europe. The Persians demanded tribute and respect from all they dominated. (7)

The Ionian revolt started at 499, when the Ionian cities of Minor Asia rebelled against the Persian King Darius.

The Athenians and Eretrians sent a task force of 25 triremes to Asia Minor to aid the revolt. (5)

From 499 to 494 there were a lot of campaigns without any decisive effect.

By 494, the Persian army and navy had regrouped and made straight for the rebellion epicentre at Miletus. (6)


Miletus Bay and Lade

The decisive confrontation took place at sea, off the small island of Lade. The Persians convinced the Samians to defect, leaving the Ionian navy exposed. Although the Ionians and their allies fought bravely, they lost to the Persians. This was the beginning of the end of the Ionian revolt.

During the revolt, the deposed tyrant of Athens Hippias, fled to the Persian Palace and became an «advisor» to the Persian King Darius I.

We will meet Hippias again in the battle of Marathon.

When it all ended, in 493, one thing was certain. Darius wanted revenge. The Athenians and Eretrians had to pay for their role in the Ionian Revolt.


The first Persian invasion of Greece (492 – 490 BC)

The Persians invaded Greece because they wanted to punish Athens and Eretria for their role in the Ionian Revolt. Darius I also wanted to expand his control of the Eastern Mediterranean.

There were two campaigns in the first Persian invasion of Greece.

The first in 492 under Mardonius, saw the Persians take over Thrace and Macedon. In 491, Darius sent ambassadors to all Greek Cities, demanding their submission. Almost all cities submitted, except Athens and Sparta. Darius knew that he had to proceed to the next campaign.

In 490, under the command of his nephew Artaphernes and the Median admiral Datis, this Persian armada allegedly consisted of 600 ships (troop and transport, provided and manned by subject allies) and an unspecified number of Persian infantry and cavalry, described by Herodotus as ‘powerful and well-equipped’.

Starting from the island of Naxos, the Persians captured a number of other Greek cities and islands en route, and besieged Eretria which succumbed after six days, weakened from within by party political strife and a pro-Persian faction which betrayed the city. A few days later, the Persians sailed for Attica, ‘in high spirits and confident’ (Herodotus). Marathon was selected as the best spot to invade, being closest to Eretria and also the most suitable for cavalry manoeuvres. At least, such was the advice of Hippias who was with this Persian force which he hoped would restore him to power. It was here that his father Pisistratus had landed in 546 for his successful bid for the tyranny in Athens. (1)

Greek hoplite and Persian warrior fighting each other. Depiction in ancient kylix. 5th c. B.C. National Archaelogical Museum, Athens

Greek hoplite and Persian warrior fighting each other. Depiction in ancient kylix. 5th c. B.C. National Archaelogical Museum, Athens

Liberty and Equality of civic rights are brave spirit stirring things, and they who, while under the yoke of a despot, had been no better men of war than any of their neighbours, as soon as they were free, became the foremost men of all. For each felt that in fighting for a free commonwealth, he fought for himself and whatever he took in hand he was willing to do the work thoroughly. Herodotus

Marathon - Tumulus

Marathon – Tumulus

The Athenian Army 

The army was managed by the polemarch, together with ten generals, one elected from each of the tribes. Starting with Kleisthenes, there were ten tribes in the Polis of Athens, therefore there were 10 generals, one elected from each tribe. In their attempt to ensure equality, the Athenians by the 5th century allotted most offices, even the highest archonships. Some positions, however, such as treasurers and the water commissioner, required «technical» knowledge and could not be left to the luck of the draw; these remained elective.

The generalships are the clearest example of this practice, of electing rather than allotting, and many of the leading statesmen of Athens held the position. Perikles, for instance, never served as eponymous archon-nominally the highest post in the state-but he was elected general of his tribe year after year, and from that position he guided Athenian affairs for decades.

The army was made of oplites (men bearing arms), who were Athenian citizens. All oplites were volunteers, and were providing for their arms and equipment. It was considered one of the highest honors to be able to fight for the Polis, as became known to the world with Pericles’ Funeral Oration.

At the time of the Marathon Battle, each tribe (phyle) nominated 1,000 oplites.

Contrary to the Athenian Army, the Persian Army consisted mostly of people who were conscripted from various occupied territories, including Ionia. Only the officers were Persians.

From a technical perspective, the Athenian Army had two major disadvantages compared to the Persian. The Athenians had no cavalry and no arch men.

Fragment of an Athenian (Attic) red-figure bell-krater (mixing bowl), Stb century B.C. H.: 0.12 7 m. Athens, Agora Museum P 15837. A warrior with helmet, sword in scabbard, spear and shield (device: snake) attacks an opponent to the left (now missing). (9)

Fragment of an Athenian (Attic) red-figure bell-krater (mixing bowl), Stb century B.C. H.: 0.12 7 m. Athens, Agora Museum P 15837. A warrior with helmet, sword in scabbard, spear and shield (device: snake) attacks an opponent to the left (now missing). (9)

The Battle

In overall charge of the Athenian Army was the War-Archon (polemarch), Callimachus, who had been elected by the whole citizen body. (5)

Initially there was a big disagreement among the generals. Should they go to Marathon and battle the Persians, or should they stay in Athens and protect the city?

The argument was won by Miltiades, who convinced Callimachus that they should battle the Persians in Marathon.

Militiades was one of the ten generals under the polemarch, but after the crucial decision was made, by the consensus of the generals he was placed in command. The win in Marathon is attributed to Miltiades’ genius by many historians.

The forces of the Athenians and the Plataeans totaled only 11,000 men (the column of the Plataeans was 1,000 strong) – the Persian force was perhaps 20-25,000 strong. (11)

While the two armies were facing each other on the Marathon plain, the Spartans were celebrating a period of peace and could not move to the aid of the Athenians before the pweriod was over, somewhere around the  middle of August 490.

Therefore, it appears to have been to the benefit of the Athenians to wait.

We do not know who attacked first. But the battle bagan before the Spartans even left their city to march to Athens.

Early in the morning of the batle, the Persians followed Hippias’ advice and sent most of their ships and cavalry to Phaleron, the port of Athens. They thus thought that after the battle in Marathon they could easily capture the city that was not defended, as all armed units were in Marathon. This journey from Marathon to Phaleron would take 6 to 8 hours.

The Athenians were informed by Ionian soldiers in the Persian Army that the fleet had sailed and Miltiades decidd to attack.

The battle started at arounf 05:30 in the morning and it was over in three hours.

At the time of the battle commencing there was only around one mile (1.5 kilometres) separating both armies.

The formation of the Greek army was one with the central armed forces having soldiers in rank of 4 while the flanking forces had soldiers in rank of 8. This formation then either marched or ran (most likely marched) the distance to the Persian forces and stopped some 200 metres short of the Persian army.

At this point the Greek army went into a mad run to the enemy. Upon battle commencing the Greek middle ranks of four were pushed back slightly, but the flanks routed the Persians flanks that then fled back to their ships.

After the battle was over, and decidely won by the Athenians, Miltiades left a small contingent to guard the area so that the Persians would not be able to land again in Marathon, and with the rest of the Army marched back to Athens. They made it on time, so that when the PErsian navy arrived in Phaleron, they found the Athenian Army ready to welcome them.

After an assessment of the situation, the Persians decided to abort the mission to conquer Athens and sailed back to their land.

Hippias is said to have died at Lemnos, on the journey back «home».


Herodotus on the Battle of Marathon (10)

112.  The lines were drawn up, and the sacrifices were favorable; so the Athenians were permitted to charge, and they advanced on the Persians at a run. There was not less than eight stades in the no man’s-land between the two armies. The Persians, seeing them coming at a run, made ready to receive them; but they believed that the Athenians were possessed by some very desperate madness, seeing their small numbers and their running to meet their enemies without support of cavalry or archers. That was what the barbarians thought; but the Athenians, when they came to hand-to-hand fighting, fought right worthily. They were the first Greeks we know of to charge their enemy at a run and the first to face the sight of the Median dress and the men who wore it. For till then the Greeks were terrified even to hear the names of the Medes.

113.  The fight at Marathon went on for a long time, and in the center the barbarians won, where the Persians themselves and the Sacae were stationed. At this point they won, and broke the Greeks, and pursued them inland. But on each wing the Athenians and the Plataeans were victorious, and, as they conquered, they let flee the part of the barbarian army they had routed, and, joining their two wings together, they fought the Persians who had broken their center; and then the Athenians won the day. As the Persians fled, the Greeks followed them, hacking at them, until they came to the sea. Then the Greeks called for fire and laid hold of the ships.


Helmet of Miltiades, Archaelogical Museum of Olympia, Greece

114.  At this point of the struggle the polemarch [Callimachus] was killed, having proved himself a good man and true, and, of the generals, there died Stesilaus, son of Thrasylaus. And Cynegirus, the son of Euphorion, gripped with his hand the poop of one of the ships and had his hand chopped off with an axe and so died, and many renowned Athenians also.

115.  In this fashion the Athenians captured seven of the ships. With the rest of the fleet, the barbarians, backing water, and taking from the island where they had left them the slaves from Eretria, rounded Cape Sunium, because they wished to get to Athens before the Athenians could reach it. There was a slander prevalent in Athens that they got this idea from a contrivance of the Alcmaeonidae, in accord with a covenant they had made with the Persians, showed a signal, the holding-up of a shield, for those barbarians who were on shipboard.

116.  They rounded Sunium, all right; but the Athenians, rushing with all speed to defend their city, reached it first, before the barbarians came, and encamped, moving from one sanctuary of Heracles – the one at Marathon – to another, the one at Cynosarges. The barbarians anchored off Phalerum – for in those days that was the harbor of Athens – and, after riding at anchor there for a while, they sailed back, off to Asia.

117.  In this battle of Marathon there died, of the barbarians, about six thousand four hundred men, and, of the Athenians, one hundred and ninety-two. Those were the numbers of the fallen on both sides. . . .

Marathon - Memorial Stele

Marathon – Memorial Stele

Aeschylus and Cavafy

One of Marathon’s more renowned combatants, the ancient Greek playwright Aeschylus, who ultimately was recognized as the ‘Father of Tragedy’ purportedly composed his own epitaph. An indication of the battle’s significance is that he did not mention any of the great works in his distinguished oeuvre, only of his exploits on this highly venerated battlefield.

Beneath this stone lies Aeschylus, son of Euphorion, the Athenian,
who perished in the wheat-bearing land of Gela;
of his noble prowess the grove of Marathon can speak,
or the long-haired Persian who knows it well

Αἰσχύλον Εὐφορίωνος Ἀθηναῖον τόδε κεύθει
μνῆμα καταφθίμενον πυροφόροιο Γέλας·
ἀλκὴν δ’ εὐδόκιμον Μαραθώνιον ἄλσος ἂν εἴποι
καὶ βαθυχαιτήεις Μῆδος ἐπιστάμενος

Bust of Aeschylus

Bust of Aeschylus

Ο Αισχύλος, ο Αθηναίος γιός του Ευφορίωνα βρισκεται σε τουτο το μνημα

Έκλεισε τα μάτια στη Γέλα, την εύφορη σε δημητριακά

Τη δοκιμασμένη του γενναιότητα μαρτυρεί το δάσος του Μαραθώνα

και ο πυκνόμαλλος Μήδος που τη γνώρισε καλά

The inscription on his graveyard signifies according to Castoriadis (4) the primary importance of «belonging to the City», of the solidarity that existed within the collective body of soldiers – citizens.

Castoriadis (4) also mentions the actor in Cavafy’s «The yound men of Sidon» who protests that the inscription on Aeschylus’ grave is unacceptable:

«…to set down for your memorial
merely that as an ordinary soldier, one of the herd,
you too fought against Datis and Artaphernis.”

(translation Edmund Keeley/Philip Sherrard)

Marathon Memorial Stele - Epigram by Simonides of Ceos

Marathon Memorial Stele – Epigram by Simonides of Ceos

Marathon Memorial Stele – Epigram by Simonides of Ceos

Ἑλλήνων προμαχοῦντες Ἀθηναῖοι Μαραθῶνι
χρυσοφόρων Μήδων ἐστόρεσαν δύναμιν
Fighting in the forefront of the Hellenes, the Athenians at Marathon
destroyed the might of the gold-bearing Medes.


(1) Re-running Marathon, Bruce Baldwin, History Today, 1998

(2) THE FIFTEEN DECISIVE BATTLES OF THE WORLD by Edward Shepherd Creasy 1851

(3) The Battle of Marathon, Written by Peter Fitzgerald

(4) Castoriadis, Cornelius. «What Makes Greece, 1. From Homer to Heraclitus.» (2004)

(5) Battle of Marathon,  Wikipedia

(6) Battle of Lade, Wikipedia

(7) Battle of Marathon, Historynet

(8) Cleisthenes. Wikipedia

(9) The Athenian Army

(10) The History of Herodotus, trans. David Grene, (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987), pp.454-456 (sourced from the «History Guide«).

(11) Lectures on Ancient and Medieval History. Lecture 7. The History Guild.


Ενημερωθείτε για κάθε νέα δημοσίευση στο email σας.

Μαζί με 97 ακόμα followers