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I don’t know if it’s still being taught in K-12, but I learned that ancient Greece was the cradle of Western Civilization - you know, the Parthenon, the original Democracy 101.

The Golden Age of Greek culture, known as Classical Greece, occured five hundred years before the birth of Christ.  The death of Alexander the Great in 323 BC marked the beginning of the Hellenistic period, which ended with the annexation of Greece by Rome in 146 BC.  

Greek culture conquered Rome, but the importance of "Greece proper" (that is, the territory of modern Greece) declined sharply. The great centers of Hellenistic culture were now Alexandria and Antioch, capitals of Ptolemaic Egypt and Seleucid Syria, their influence reaching as far as Afghanistan until the advent of Christianity

Roman rule marked the end of Greek political independence for centuries. After that came the Greek Byzantine Empire, which in turn was conquered by the Ottoman Turks whose rule lasted to the early nineteenth century. (Turkey ruled over all of Eastern Europe for 500 years, creating the economic lag that many in the West thought was the result of Postwar Soviet rule.)  

Following the Ottoman defeat, Greece had several interim governments, until the Kingdom of Greece was founded in 1832. It lasted until 1924, when it gave way to the second Hellenic Republic. Republican Greece was largely dominated by the revolutionary and statesman George Venizelos, known as the father of modern Greece.  After several premierships and revolts, he was exiled in 1935, and Greece again became a Kingdom.

When the Second World War broke out, the Greek King was allied with the Germans. As in many European countries, it was the Communist Party that organized the resistance, first against the Germans, then the Italians. The world war was succeeded by a civil war in Greece, as progressives fought for a republic, with the Communist Party remaining legal until 1948. With British—and later the US - help, the monarchy won the day. The Marshall Plan, enabled Greece to begin to develop. But in 1967 a military junta took power in a coup, ruling Greece until 1974.

From 1974 until the present, power has alternated between conservatives and socialists. Greece joined the European Union in 1981 and adopted the Euro in 2001. New infrastructure, funds from the EU, and growing revenues from tourism, shipping, and light industry brought Greeks an unprecedented standard of living.

During that period, left and right alternated in power.  But from 2004 to 2009, as the international financial crisis was building, Greece was led by the conservatives. The socialist George Papandreou took over a country deeply in trouble, and as in many countries across the globe, has not been able to satisfy both his people and international finance.

Whether or not the Greek crisis further imperils the Euro by spreading to Italy - a much larger economy - it marks the end of the civilization to which it gave birth.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (0+ / 0-)

    Otherjones. Insights and Ironies.

    by Deena Stryker on Wed Nov 09, 2011 at 11:30:47 AM PST

  •  One word for you (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:


    Education is a progressive discovery of our own ignorance.

    by Horace Boothroyd III on Wed Nov 09, 2011 at 11:41:05 AM PST

  •  The end of Greek civilization? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    FG, Neuroptimalian

    I think that's going a bit far. Economic disaster for Greece and probably the rest of Europe, sure.

    "But there's one thing that gives every Marine the willies, and anyone saying otherwise is a liar. Drop pods. That shit is terrifying, son."

    by Shaviv on Wed Nov 09, 2011 at 11:46:38 AM PST

  •  Minor quibbles (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    fizziks, FG

    You forgot the Venetian empire and their occupation of Greece. It's an important part of Greek history.

    King Otto was NOT Greek. The Greek kingdom was a puppet state of the great European powers, who were dealing with "the Ottoman problem" i.e. the collapse of the Ottoman empire and subsequent power vacuum.

    Greek culture did not "conquer" Rome. It was an influence, certainly, perhaps even a dominant influence. But not a conquering influence.

    Mesopotamia was the cradle of civilization. Plenty of l;arger and more important civilizations preceded Greece. The Greeks were living in caves when the Minoans had indoor plumbing. Perseus and the minotaur was a mythical explanation of a trade war between the proto-Greeks and the advanced Minoan civilization.  

    The whole reason the ancient Greek men had so much time to sit around and discuss politics and philosophy was that their civilization was built on slavery and exploitation of women.

    You are reading WAY to much into this crisis. It marks the end of nothing that actually existed.

  •  Some of the history is wrong (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    fizziks, mookins

    Greece was never allied with the Germans.

    First, the Italians invaded. Not the Germans.

    Second, after the Italians were thrust backward, then the Germans invaded and the Greeks resisted. But when the Germans won, that's when they instituted a quisling gov't in Greece,a  gov't that the Greeks resisted.

    And yes, the King was a German himself, from Bavarian royalty.

    There are two kinds of people in this world. The kind who divide the world into two kinds of people, and the kind who don't.

    by upstate NY on Wed Nov 09, 2011 at 01:04:13 PM PST

  •  Western Civ is more resilient than that (0+ / 0-)

    It survived the World wars, the depression, and the collapse of Rome.  the modern collapse of Greece is not going to put paid to Western civilization.

    We have no desire to offend you -- unless you are a twit!

    by ScrewySquirrel on Wed Nov 09, 2011 at 02:30:06 PM PST

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