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DEMO C RA C Y
SE P TE M B ER 2 0 1 6
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INSP IRAT ION
WH IL E IN ATH EN S
While the lessons we can learn from ancient democracy may not provide direct solutions to today’s political challenges, they can offer valuable insights for understanding them.
From the urban landscapes we live in to the way we create or even experience art, democracy is everywhere. It informs, excites and ignites the human spirit.
A collection of articles inspired by the agenda of the 4th Athens Democracy Forum: religion, the refugee crisis, terrorism, despotism, corporate money and the “export” of democratic values.
Essential sight-seeing; the season’s best exhibitions and cultural events; ten authentic experiences, from dining by the sea to sipping cocktails with the hip crowd.
A longstanding partner of the community
The neoclassical Head Office and Central Branch of National Bank of Greece overlooking Kotzia Sq. in Athens is among the buildings that will be lit up in blue on the UN International Day of Democracy (September 15th). Built next to the remains of the ancient city walls, it stands above the route that led in classical times to the center of the city where Democracy was born 2,500 years ago.
The Big Challenge B Y G I O R G O S K A M I N I S , M AY O R O F AT H E N S
The challenge of not succumbing to populism, of not being vulnerable to extremism, is constant; here, in the city that gave birth to democracy, it has been evident since ancient times.
For a fourth consecutive year, the Greek capital welcomes the Athens Democracy Forum, a prime opportunity for a meaningful and multifaceted discussion on the crucial issues of democracy, civil rights and governance. New threats and challenges – including the unprecedented influx of refugees, migrants and fugitives, the deadly terrorist attacks at the heart of Europe, the rise of extremism and the protracted economic crisis that is increasing the gap between rich and poor worldwide – constitute clear and urgent warnings that post-war western democracies, which we have more or less taken for granted, are at a critical juncture. The gravity of the situation is underscored by the upcoming elections in France, Germany and Austria, the referendum in Italy over constitutional reform and, of course, the presidential elections in the United States in November. Western democracies are at a turning point, a moment that calls for vigilance and an open-minded approach to the strengthening of civil society and the establishment of new channels of citizen participation in public discourse – something that, today more than ever, is possible, thanks to social media. Democracy has a responsibility to win back its credibility and to attract younger generations, to inspire their participation in the public sphere. At the same time, however, it needs to confirm the adaptability and sustainability of traditional institutions of political representation. I refer mainly to safeguarding the role of parliaments and other elected bodies, which is being constantly undercut by the apparently global allure of direct “plebiscitary” democracy. The results of such a so-called “unmediated” relationship between the people and the leadership were felt deeply in Greece in the summer of 2015, when the people were asked to decide whether the country should remain in the eurozone in
a text that had no legal basis and was not even rendered in Greek. We also, however, saw how easily a “no” vote from 60 percent of the population was transformed overnight into a “yes.” Such blatant disdain for democratic principles would never have been allowed to pass – at least not with such ease – by a parliament that was even elementarily worthy of its mission. The challenge of not succumbing to populism, of not being vulnerable to extremism, is constant; here, in the city that gave birth to democracy, it has been evident since ancient times. In the past few years – despite and perhaps even to some degree because of the crisis – Athens has emerged as a hive of ideas, creative solutions, innovation and empowerment of civil society. Like so many other metropolises, it is gradually evolving into a hub of pluralism and diversity, with aspirations to forge a collective identity and safeguard social cohesion – creating a sense of community that strives to shield the city and democracy against the key challenges of the present, with strategic planning, knowledge and effectiveness. Starting this year, the City of Athens has established the Athens Democracy Award, a distinction that will be bestowed on individuals or organizations with international standing and recognition, whose actions, work and moral integrity show them to be steadfastly and actively committed to the defense of democracy. The award, which is an integral part of the Athens Democracy Forum, will be delivered annually on 15 September, the International Day of Democracy. This year’s honor goes to Kenneth Roth for his widely acknowledged efforts in defending human rights around the world. This is a cause to which he has dedicated his life, while at the same time contributing decisively to broadening the appeal, the scope and the influence of Human Rights Watch, the organization he heads. GREECE IS
DEMOCR ACY 2016
CONTENTS Greece Is - Democracy, September 2016, First Edition WELCOME
44. Boeotians, Achaeans and
Despotism: How democracy can easily
6. Dignity for Αll... UN Secretary-
Europeans: What the EU could learn
lead to tyranny.
General Ban Ki-moon’s message to the 4th Athens Democracy Forum.
from the ancient Greek federations.
106. Riding the Wave of Discontent:
50. Lessons of Demopolis: The
A gallery of not-so-democratic democrats
8. Moving Forward Together by
differences between democracy and
around the world.
Annika Savill, Executive Head of the UN Democracy Fund.
116. Humanity’s Crisis: An enlightening
60. The Democratic Paradox: Why
conversation on the plight of refugees.
10. Committed to Strengthening
direct democracy is more of an elective
124. Democracy for Non-Westerners:
Democracy by Achilles Tsaltas, Vice President, International Conferences, The New York Times
12. Contributors 14. Timeline: Milestones of democracy from ancient times to the modern era.
128. Can Religion and Democracy 64. If the Statues Could Tell Their Story: “Interviewing” the masterpieces of the Acropolis Museum.
78. Democracy in the Making: The
ORIGINS 18. Equal Justice to All: Extract from Pericles’ Funeral Oration.
22. Understanding the Agora: The institutions and functions of the ancient Athenian democracy.
32. Playing to the Crowd: Demagoguery in classical Greece.
38. Power to the People? Athenian lessons in direct democracy.
How easy is it to “export” it?
inside story on the internationally
132. Under Threat: Do terrorist attacks justify granting security forces greater powers?
138. What Went Wrong? The Greek crisis explained.
acclaimed graphic novel.
142. Priced Out of Politics: The
84. Agora, Garden, Monument: The
influence of big corporate money on
politics of architecture and public space.
92. Perfection of Form: Behind the scene of three of Athens’ neoclassical jewels.
FORUM 102. The Timeless Temptation of
WHILE IN ATHENS 146. Essential Sightseeing 152. Ten Authentic Experiences, from dining by the sea to cocktail sipping with the in crowd.
132 greece is - democracy september 2016, first edition
Published by: Exerevnitis - Explorer SA, Ethnarchou Makariou & 2 Falireos St, Athens, 18547, Greece ISSN: 2459-041X Editor-in-chief: Giorgos Tsiros (firstname.lastname@example.org) Commercial director: Natasha Bouterakou (email@example.com) Creative director: Thodoris Lalangas / www.youandi.gr Creative consultant: Costas Coutayar Deputy editor: Natasha Blatsiou Art director: Ria Staveri Editorial consultants: Dimitris Tsoumplekas, Vassilis Minakakis Translations/Editing: Don Domonkos, George Kolyvas, John Leonard, Alexia Liakounakou, Damian Mac Con Uladh, Stephen Stafford, Danae Seemann, Christine Sturmey Proof-reading: John Leonard, Christine Sturmey Photo editors: Maria Konstantopoulou, Marika Tsouderou Photoshop: Christos Maritsas, Michalis Tzannetakis, Stelios Vazourakis Advertising: Sophia Tsepa (firstname.lastname@example.org) Advertising department: Tel. (+30) 210.480.82.27 Head of public relations: Lefki Vardikou GREECE IS - DEMOCRACY is a yearly edition, published on the occasion of the International Day of Democracy and the Athens Democracy Forum. Contact us: email@example.com It is illegal to reproduce any part of this publication without the written permission of the publisher.
ON THE C OVER Athena, Clesthenes and Athenian Democracy’s friends and foes. An original illustration by the artists of the internationally acclaimed graphic novel “Democracy”, Alecos Papadatos and Annie di Donna.
“Eradicate poverty and promote dignity for all...” U n i t e d N at i o n s S e c r e ta r y- G e n e r a l B a n K i - M o o n ’ s m e s s a g e t o t h e F O U RTH At h e n s D e m o c r a c y F o r um
I send warm wishes to the Athens Democracy Forum. Let me commend you for coming together again in the birthplace of democracy to observe this International Day, in cooperation with the United Nations Democracy Fund. In too many places, democracy is in recession. Authoritarian rule has deepened. Civil society and media are coming under attack, with increasing restrictions across every continent. In some cases, calls for rights and freedom have produced the opposite result. At the same time, the world confronts profound challenges, from a massive refugee crisis to rising violent extremism and unacceptable gaps between rich and poor. We also need to work with speed and resolve to meet the new Sustainable Development Goals that will guide our shared work over the next 15 years to eradicate poverty and promote dignity for all on a healthy planet. This requires us to deploy all the fundamental components of democracy - rule of law, accountable institutions, independent media, a strong civil society and the freedoms of expression and assembly. I thank all of you for using your creativity and influence as you discuss how to turn the democratic tide. On this International Day of Democracy, I look to you to give life to our shared mission.
Moving Forward Together By A nnik a S av il l E x e c u t i v e H ea d , The U n i t e d Nat i o n s De m o c r a c y F u n d
People want to be able to trust their governments and global, national and local institutions. They want full respect for their human rights and they are rightly demanding a greater say in the decisions that affect their lives.
As we gather for the fourth annual Athens Democracy Forum, it seems appropriate to look back to the most fundamental of democratic principles, as enshrined here in this city by Pericles, who explained: “It is called democracy, because power rests not in the hands of the few but of the many.” Two and a half thousand years later, what do the many want? The answer is not so complicated, and not so different from Pericles’ time. People want food and shelter; education and health care and more economic opportunity. They want to live without fear. They want to be able to trust their governments and global, national and local institutions. They want full respect for their human rights and they are rightly demanding a greater say in the decisions that affect their lives. A year ago, all the world’s governments recognized this by agreeing on an ambitious sustainable development agenda for the next 15 years. They recognized that this requires a transformation of how our economies and societies work. Each of the Sustainable Development Goals on its own is quite simple, reflecting fundamental desires shared by people everywhere. Yet together, the 17 Goals reflect the tapestry of challenges, choices and opportunities that people encounter in their everyday lives; delivering a better tomorrow will require a transformation of how we work to reflect this reality. We need integrated responses to interconnected challenges. Democratic principles run through the entire document like a golden thread, from universal access to public goods, health care and education through to safe places to live and decent work opportunities for all. Goal 16 also addresses democracy directly: it calls for inclusive and participatory societies and institutions. The Goals demonstrate an important dual dynamic: that effective democratic governance enhances the quality of life for all people; and that positive change is more likely to take hold if people are given a real say in their own governance, and a chance to share in the fruits of progress. To be truly inclusive, the agenda must reach those who are rarely seen or heard, who we still need to seek out, who have no voice or group to speak on their behalf. The implementation of the Goals must be underpinned by a strong and active civil society that includes the weak and the marginalized. We must defend civil society’s freedom to operate and do this job. On this International Day of Democracy, let us rededicate ourselves to this mission.
“Committed to protecting and strengthening democracy” B y A c h i l l e s T s a lta s V i c e P r e s i d e n t, I n t e r n at i o n a l C o n f e r e n c e s – T h e N e w Y o r k T i m e s
This edition of “Greece Is” is dedicated to democracy and to the fourth annual Athens Democracy Forum, convened in cooperation with the United Nations Democracy Fund, the City of Athens and Kathimerini. The Forum was established as an annual event dedicated to highlighting the political, economic and social challenges currently faced by liberal democratic societies. The aim was to create a community with a common mission to empower society through better governance. To this end, we naturally felt the Forum should be based here, in Greece, where democracy was born over 2,000 years ago. Despite the political turbulence of recent years, Greece’s significance as a valuable model of democratic governance and values has not diminished. When the Forum was first established, we aspired to recreate the ancient Greek agoras, or public squares, where diverse members of society would meet to trade, network and discuss the important issues of the day. The New York Times has achieved this by bringing together some of the most influential speakers from the worlds of politics, business, academia, journalism and the nonprofit sector, to identify and respond to the urgent challenges facing liberal democratic governments, institutions and societies. Its ambitious mission aims to strengthen this ancient governance and value system, and to ensure it continues to be relevant and beneficial to all of us. This year’s Forum will convene another influential array of experts to identify and respond to the most urgent flashpoints, including conflict-driven mass migration, religious zealotry, authoritarianism, and wrenching social change, as well as the role of business and entrepreneurship in facing these issues. Through debate panels, one-to-one conversations, briefings and keynote addresses over four days, the event will bring to life these important pressing issues that affect us all.
Despite the political turbulence of recent years, Greece’s significance as a valuable model of democratic governance and values has not diminished.
Freedom of expression and diversity of opinion are core values of The New York Times, and our Greek publishing partner Kathimerini, just as they are underlying principles of all liberal democracies and societies. This dynamic is pertinently captured in this special edition of “Greece Is,” with analyses and opinions contributed from myriad international and Greek experts and influencers. Informative, inspirational and occasionally provocative, they represent the plurality of views and voices that constitute a healthy, vibrant and engaged democratic civic society. We hope that your reading experience inspires further debate, gives you food for thought, and empowers you to join our growing community of like-minded citizens committed to protecting and strengthening democracy.
John McK. Camp II
An architect and writer based in Athens, Babasikas explores the connections between architecture, storytelling, media and public space. Founding partner of internationally award-winning architecture - urban design studio Drifting City; lecturer at the Department of Architecture, University of Patras; a co-curator and coordinator of the Depression Era Project. (“Agora, Garden, Monument,” p. 84)
Winifred Mary Beard, a wickedly subversive commentator on both the modern and the ancient world, is Professor of Classics at the University of Cambridge, classics editor of the Times Literary Supplement and author of the blog “A Don’s Life,” which appears in The Times as a regular column. She is widely regarded as “Britain’s bestknown classicist” (“Power to the People?” p. 38)
John Camp is Stavros Niarchos Foundation Professor of Classics at Randolph-Macon College, Virginia, Director of the Athenian Agora Excavations and author of many books on ancient Greece. His contribution to shedding light on Greece’s distinguished past spans nearly five decades. (“Understanding the Agora,” p. 22)
Professor and Associate Dean for Research at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver. An internationally recognized authority on political violence and its alternatives, she was ranked by Foreign Policy magazine among the Top 100 Global Thinkers in 2013 for her efforts to promote the empirical study of civil resistance. (“Under Threat,” p. 132)
Managing editor - columnist of the Greek daily newspaper Kathimerini, a contributing opinion writer for The International New York Times and the founding editor of Kathimerini English Edition, which since 1998 has been published as a supplement to the International New York Times (formerly International Herald Tribune) in Greece and Cyprus. (“The Timeless Temptation of Despotism,” p. 102)
Head of the foreign desk and columnist in the daily newspaper Kathimerini. She contributes reports to “Spiegel,” “Spiegel Online,” “Die Welt” and “the European.” She has co-authored the book «Η βία» (Violence) (Polis Editions, 2012) on political violence. In 2012, she was awarded the international press freedom prize “Premio Internationale Per La Liberta Di Stampa” in Florence. (“Yes, They’re All Democrats,” p. 106)
Nicholas C. Kyriazis is Professor at the University of Thessaly, Department of Economics. His co-author, Emmanouil M. L. Economou, holds a Ph.D. from University of Thessaly, Department of Economics. Τheir latest book, “Democracy and Economy,” was published in Greek by Enalios Publications. (“Boeotians, Achaeans and Europeans,” p. 44)
An archaeologist, journalist and teacher, whose professional and personal interests blend into one when it comes to Greek and Cypriot history, archaeology and exploring the ancient landscape, above and below the waterline. Since 2015, he is a staff writer and copy-editor of Greece Is print and digital editions. (“Playing to the Crowd,” p. 32)
A political philosopher, critical theorist and writer, specializing in the problem of violence. He is currently leading a series of articles and dialogues dedicated to the problem of violence for the Opinions section of The New York Times (The Stone). Currently serves as a Reader in Political Violence at the School of Sociology, Politics and International Studies, University of Bristol, UK. (“Humanity’s Crisis,” p. 116)
Omaira Gill grew up in Pakistan, moved with her family to the UK at 14 and has been living in Greece since 2006. She has a BA and MA in Journalism from Cardiff and Westminster Universities respectively and holds an Investment Management Certificate from the UK’s CFA Society. She writes about the refugee crisis, the Greek economy, gender politics and travel (“Democracy for Non-westerners,” p. 124)
Peter Jones was educated at Cambridge University and taught Classics at Cambridge and at Newcastle University, before retiring in 1997. He has written a regular column, “Ancient and Modern,” in the Spectator for many years and is the author of various books on the Classics, including the bestselling “Learn Latin” and “Learn Ancient Greek.” (“The Democratic Paradox,” p. 60)
Abraham Kawa, PhD, is an author, translator and culture theoritician. A researcher of graphic novels and genre fiction, he teaches Cultural Studies at the University of the Aegean. His book include “What Song the Sirens Sang?” (2004), a collection of fantasy and horror stories and “Screaming Silver” (2009). He is the co-creator of the graphic novel “Democracy,” with Alecos Papadatos and Annie di Donna. (“Democracy in the Making,” p. 78)
Paschos Mandravelis studied economics and media. He writes a daily column on politics, economics and institutions in Kathimerini newspaper. He is the author of two introductory books about computers, has compiled an anthology of humorous quotes and has contributed to several books on media, economy, violence and other social issues. (“When Democracy is Priced out of Politics,” p. 142)
Josiah Ober, Mitsotakis Professor in the School of Humanities and Science, Stanford University, works on historical institutionalism and political theory, focusing on the political thought and practice of the ancient Greek world and its contemporary relevance. His latest book is “The Rise and Fall of Classical Greece” (Princeton University Press) (“The Demopolis Experiment,” p. 50)
Babis Papadimitriou is a journalist, a columnist for the Kathimerini daily newspaper and a commentator on Skai TV and radio. He is a dedicated economist with a MA in Financial Economics from The University of Paris-X and an MSc in History from The School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences (EHESS). (“What Went Wrong?” p. 138)
An American history scholar, novelist and essayist, she has studied in Athens, Paris and New York. Her most recent essay, “Multiculturalism, Pluralism, Integration, Assimilation” was published in October 2015. Her forthcoming non-fiction book “Sparkling Fields“ will come out in October 2016. Ηer books have been translated into German, Italian, Catalan and Turkish. (“Can Religion and Democracy Co-exist?” p. 128)
G R E E C E IS
D E MO C R A C Y 2 0 1 5
A WORK IN PROGRESS
c. 930 Iceland
The Viking Age parliament – the Althing – is first established, constituting a more elaborate version of the early governing assemblies (Things) found throughout Northern Europe.
Reflecting the ideas of Enlightenment philosopher John Locke, widely considered the “Father of Classical Liberalism”, the Bill of Rights further limits the powers of the monarch while firmly establishing the principle of regular parliaments, as well as of free elections and freedom of speech in Parliament.
French political thinker and historian Alexis de Tocqueville publishes the first two volumes of his extremely influential Democracy in America.
Women aged 30 or over win the right to vote. Ten years later, suffrage is extended to all women over the age of 21, finally giving them the right to vote on the same terms as men.
Rebellious barons force King John to sign the Magna Carta. For the first time, this “Great Charter” establishes the principle that everyone, including the king, was subject to the law, thus marking the start of Britain’s transition from absolute to constitutional monarchy.
The US Constitution establishes a federal system of government in which powers are separated. A system of checks and balances is introduced to prevent any single branch acquiring too much power. The Constitution guarantees certain basic rights for citizens, though slaves and women cannot vote.
The self-governing British colony becomes the first country to grant adult women the right to vote.
A constitutional amendment extends the right of suffrage to women.
Edward I convenes the “Model Parliament,” which brings together members of the clergy and the aristocracy, as well as representatives from the counties and boroughs. In doing so, he becomes the first king to call a parliament. Although Edward’s main goal is to raise funds for his military campaigns, the writ of summons to attend Parliament states that “... what touches all, should be approved by all...”.
The outbreak of the French Revolution is followed by a decade of social and political turmoil which sees the overthrow of King Louis XVI and the country’s transition from an absolute monarchy to a republic.
Social and political upheaval leads to the overthrow of the Tsarist autocracy, only to usher in seven decades of totalitarian communist rule.
India attains independence from the British Empire to become a republic and the world’s largest democracy by population.
Highlights in the 11-century adventure of democracy around the world
BY S T E P H E N S TA F F O R D
The Constituent Assembly adopts a democratic constitution, ending decades of dictatorship.
Congress passes the Freedom of Information Act, fostering greater accountability through transparency, which is vital to the functioning of a democratic society. The following year, President Lyndon B. Johnson signs the Civil Rights Act, providing for equal housing opportunities regardless of race, creed or origin.
While under house arrest in Myanmar, Aung San Suu Kyi is awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her courageous non-violent struggle for democracy and human rights in Burma.
Multi-party elections are held for the first time in half a century, resulting in the formation of a permanent 275-member National Assembly, despite numerous allegations of vote rigging.
Mikhail Gorbachev becomes General Secretary of the Communist Party. His efforts to democratize the country’s political system and reform the economy precipitate the end of the Cold War, the break-up of the Soviet Union and the collapse of communism in Europe.
The “Prague Spring” reform movement is crushed by Soviet tanks, but the non-violent resistance prefigures the transition to liberal democracy just over two decades later.
Student-led pro-democracy protests in Tiananmen Square are brutally suppressed by the military.
Chile General elections are held, ending 16 years of military rule. © GETTY IMAGES/IDEAL IMAGE, AP PHOTOS, VISUALHELLAS.GR
End of the Apartheid system of racial segregation which disenfranchised the country’s non-white population, with twothirds of white voters voting for its abolition in a referendum. Τhe following year, the country holds its first multi-racial elections and Nelson Mandela becomes the first democratically elected president.
A popular revolutionary wave of protests and armed rebellions begins to ripple across the Middle East and North Africa, driven by demands for greater democracy, political accountability and civil rights.
Salvador Allende becomes the first Marxist to be democratically elected as president of a Latin American country, though three years later he dies in a military coup.
The sevenyear military dictatorship collapses and democracy is restored.
Solidarity trade union leader Lech Walesa becomes the country’s new leader in its firstever direct presidential election, accelerating Poland’s transition from communist party rule to a Western-style liberal democracy.
Mohammed Karzai wins the country’s first-ever direct presidential election, though the process is marred by accusations of widespread fraud.
G R E E C E IS
Referendum fever: Greek “No” to more austerity measures ignored by the same government that encouraged it, British “Yes” to Brexit is reluctantly respected by theirs, while the upcoming constitutional referendum in Italy is expected to be a crucial stress test for Europe.
D E MO C R A C Y 2 0 1 6
STEPS TOWARDS DEMOCRACY Beginning 462/461 BC
Pericles and Ephialtes bring democratic reforms to Athens: powers of Areopagus Court and archons are transferred to Council of 500 (Boule) and people’s law courts; payment established for members of Boule; Council members now appointed by lot (Marble portrait bust of Pericles, British Museum).
508/507 BC Ca. 700 BC
Athens joins with the other towns and villages of Attica to form a single political unit, the Athenian city-state, centered around the Acropolis.
Democracy is restored and broadened; a democratic constitution drafted; Cleisthenes’ reforms enacted. Practice of ostracism established, which Pericles later exploits in his rise to power – having his chief rival Kimon ostracized in 461 BC (Ostrakon with Kimon’s name, Ancient Agora Museum).
Treasury of the Delian League transferred to exclusive Athenian control on the city’s Acropolis (where it was eventually stored in the Parthenon). Henceforth, Athens retains one mina from each talent (1/6th of a talent) of tribute paid by its allies, ostensibly as an offering to Athena, thus signaling another move by Athens toward an imperialistic foreign policy and ensuring greater prosperity at home.
Ca. 683 BC
An aristocratic republic, ruled by archons (serving 1-year terms), becomes fully established in Athens.
Solon institutes social and constitutional reforms in Athens (Marble bust of Solon (640 ca - 561 BC), Roman copy of Greek original from the 4th century BC, Naples National Archaeological Museum).
Archons no longer elected, now appointed by lot (north frieze, Block X. A procession of “Thallophoroi” marching or standing and conversing, Acropolis Museum).
Peisistratos seizes power in Athens as a “tyrant.”
Athenian citizenship restricted; Pericles elevates status of Athenian women by requiring a citizen to have both a native father and mother. Pay for jurors introduced. Pericles would also “democratize” Athens’ knighthood by offering subsidies to citizens aspiring to be knights but unable on their own to afford the necessary equipment. (Pictured, a white ground jug bearing a woman’s figure, made in Athens in the early 5th century BC, British Museum).
Persians overrun the Athenian Acropolis; later defeated by the Greeks at the Battle of Salamis (Painting by Wilhelm von Kaulbach, 1868).
The tyrant Hipparchos, Peisistratus’ youngest son, is slain by Harmodius and Aristogeiton, the “Tyrranicides” (Stamnos by the Syriskos Painter, Martin von Wagner Museum, University of Würzburg, Germany).
The tyrant Hippias, Peisistratus’ eldest son, is overthrown.
Athens takes the lead in forming the Delian League, an alliance of Greek city-states, to combat the Persian threat (Delos).
Start of Peloponnesian War; the year Pericles delivered his Funeral Oration (as transmitted by Thucydides) at the Athenian cemetery, the Kerameikos, in which he states that Athens considers citizens who do not participate in the operation of their government as useless; discussion among citizenry is no stumbling block to action, but an indispensable preliminary to any wise action; democratic Athens described as the “School of Hellas.”
Along an often arduous, twisting path, many ancient milestones mark the early stages of democracy.
BY John Leonard
An anti-tyranny law is passed in Athens, allowing the blameless killing of anyone who seeks to become a tyrant or who conspires to establish tyranny. Also the year Philip II is assassinated, Alexander the Great elevated to Macedonian throne.
Aristotle, Plato’s student, founds school (Lyceum) at Athens (Pictured, Aristotle by Justus of Ghent and Pedro Berruguete, 15th century, Louvre Museum, Paris).
Pericles perishes from plague (“Plague in an Ancient City,” Michiel Sweerts, circa 1652-1654, Los Angeles County Museum of Art).
End of Peloponnesian War; Athens surrenders to Sparta, led in victory by Lysander, a cunning naval strategist (“Lysander” by J. Chapman, 1807).
Total annual tribute paid by allies to Athens is recorded in an inscription at a level of more than 1460 talents. (Fragment of an inscription, ca. 425–424 BC, of a tribute list recording payments to Athens by members of the confederacy, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York).
Ca. 385 BC
The great philosopher Plato starts teaching in Athens (Athens University entrance).
406/ 405 BC Socrates serves on the Boule (Socrates bust, British Museum).
The death of Alexander the Great (Lithograph by Karl von Piloty, 1886).
Democracy overthrown by the Thirty Tyrants.
© GETTY IMAGES/IDEAL IMAGE, ACROPOLIS MUSEUM
Philip II becomes King of Macedon (Pictured here on silver tetradrachm, Cabinet des Médailles, Paris).
Demosthenes rallies Athenians against Philip II.
Thrasyboulos and fellow democratic freedomfighters occupy mountain deme of Phyle NW of Athens, which they use as a staging point to rally additional pro-democracy troops. After defeating a force sent against them by the Thirty Tyrants (mainly Spartan troops), Thrasyboulos’ army descend on Athens and Piraeus, defeat the Thirty, free Athens of military occupation and restore constitutional democracy. (Pictured, Thrasyboulos receiving an olive crown for his successful campaign against the Thirty Tyrants. From Andrea Alciato’s “Emblemata” (1531), a collection of short Latin verse texts and accompanying woodcuts).
Battle of Chaeronea; Athens and allies defeated by Philip, Macedonians become the imperial masters of Greece. (The Lion of Chaeronea, probably erected by the Thebans in memory of their dead).
Reestablishment of democracy by Demetrios Poliorketes (Pictured here on silver tetradrachm, Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York).
Corinth burned by invading Romans; Greece eventually becomes an imperial Roman province.
G R E E C E IS
D E MO C R A C Y 2 0 1 6
MILE S TONE
Equal Justice to All... An extract from Periclesâ€™ Funeral Oration (430 BC), a timeless statement on the value of democracy.
Pericles speaking on the Pnyx; wall painting by Philipp von Foltz (1860).
ur constitution does not copy the laws of neighboring states; we are rather a pattern to others than imitators ourselves. Its administration favors the many instead of the few; this is why it is called a democracy. If we look to the laws, they afford equal justice to all in their private differences; if to social standing, advancement in public life falls to reputation for capacity, class considerations not being allowed to interfere with merit; nor again does poverty bar the way, if a man is able to serve the state, he is not hindered by the obscurity of his condition. The freedom which we enjoy in our government extends also to our ordinary life. There, far from exercising a jealous surveillance over each other, we do not feel called upon to be angry with our neighbor for doing what he likes, or even to indulge in those injurious looks which cannot fail to be offensive, although they inflict no positive penalty. But all this ease in our private relations does not make us lawless as citizens. Against this fear is our chief safeguard, teaching us to obey the magistrates and the laws, particularly such as regard the protection of the injured, whether they are actually on the statute book, or belong to that code which, although unwritten, yet cannot be broken without acknowledged disgrace. Further, we provide plenty of means for the mind to refresh itself from busi-
ness. We celebrate games and sacrifices all the year round, and the elegance of our private establishments forms a daily source of pleasure and helps to banish the spleen; while the magnitude of our city draws the produce of the world into our harbor, so that to the Athenian the fruits of other countries are as familiar a luxury as those of his own. If we turn to our military policy, there also we differ from antagonists. We throw open our city to the world, and never by alien acts exclude foreigners from any opportunity of learning or observing, although the eyes of an enemy may occasionally profit by our liberality; trusting less in system and policy than to the native spirit of our citizens; while in education, where our rivals from their very cradles by a painful discipline seek after manliness, at Athens we live exactly as we please, and yet are just as ready to encounter every legitimate danger. In proof of this it may be noticed that the Lacedaemonians do not invade our country alone, but bring with them all their confederates; while we Athenians advance unsupported into the territory of a neighbor, and fighting upon a foreign soil usually vanquish with ease men who are defending their homes. Our united force was never yet encountered by any enemy, because we have at once to attend to our marine and to dispatch our citizens by land upon a hundred different services; so
“Our public men have, besides politics, their private affairs to attend to, and our ordinary citizens, though occupied with the pursuits of industry, are still fair judges of public matters.”
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Marble bust of Pericles; Roman copy of an original by Kresilas (Vatican Museums, Pius-Clementine Museum, Rome).
Scene of a departing warrior, detail of an Attic red-figure vase attributed to the Kleophon Painter (ca. 430 BC, State Collections of Antiquities in Munich).
Grave stele of Chairedemos and Lykeas, two young hoplites believed to have been killed in battle during the Peloponnesian War (420 BC, Piraeus Archaeological Museum).
that, wherever they engage with some such fraction of our strength, a success against a detachment is magnified into a victory over the nation, and a defeat into a reverse suffered at the hands of our entire people. And yet if with habits not of labor but of ease, and courage not of art but of nature, we are still willing to encounter danger, we have the double advantage of escaping the experience of hardships in anticipation and of facing them in the hour of need as fearlessly as those who are never free from them. Nor are these the only points in which our city is worthy of admiration. We cultivate refinement without extravagance and knowledge without effeminacy; wealth we employ more for use than for show, and place the real disgrace of poverty not in owning to the fact but in declining the struggle
against it. Our public men have, besides politics, their private affairs to attend to, and our ordinary citizens, though occupied with the pursuits of industry, are still fair judges of public matters; for, unlike any other nation, regarding him who takes no part in these duties not as unambitious but as useless, we Athenians are able to judge at all events if we cannot originate, and instead of looking on discussion as a stumbling-block in the way of action, we think it an indispensable preliminary to any wise action at all. Again, in our enterprises we present the singular spectacle of daring and deliberation, each carried to its highest point, and both united in the same persons; although usually decision is the fruit of ignorance, hesitation of reflection. But the palm of courage will surely be adjudged most justly to those, who
best know the difference between hardship and pleasure and yet are never tempted to shrink from danger. In generosity we are equally singular, acquiring our friends by conferring not by receiving favors. Yet, of course, the doer of the favor is the firmer friend of the two, in order by continued kindness to keep the recipient in his debt; while the debtor feels less keenly from the very consciousness that the return he makes will be a payment, not a free gift. And it is only the Athenians who, fearless of consequences, confer their benefits not from calculations of expediency, but in the confidence of liberality.”
Thucydides | “The History of the Peloponnesian War,” London, J. M. Dent; New York, E.P. Dutton. 1910.
INFO The winter of 430 BC marked the end of the first year of the Peloponnesian War (431-404 BC). As was their custom, the Athenians buried the war dead at public expense and asked Pericles to deliver the funeral speech. This speech, a passionate hymn to the Athenian state and democracy, was recorded by the Athenian historian Thucydides (c. 460 – c. 400 BC) in the second book of his “History of the Peloponnesian War” (2.35 to 2.44).
© Antiquities Western Attica, Piraeus and Islands/MINISTRY OF CULTURE AND SPORTS/ARCHAEOLOGICAL RESOURCES FUND
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Understanding the Agora The structure, the functions and the dynamics of the Athenian democracy in antiquity. BY John McK Camp II
© CLAIRY MOUSTAFELLOU
View of the Athenian Agora, center of the basic institutions of Athenian democracy, with the Acropolis in the background.
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et on gently sloping ground northwest of the Acropolis, the Agora, laid out in the 6th century BC, has been under excavation for 85 years by the American School of Classical Studies at Athens, under the supervision of the Hellenic Ministry of Culture. Here have been found the buildings which housed the first recorded democracy (magistrates’ offices, law courts and assembly places), along with the objects used every day to make sure the system worked as it should (laws and regulations inscribed on stone, allotment machines, water clocks and ballots). A visitor to the Agora in antiquity would have occasion to see all three branches of the government in action: executive, legislative and judicial.
EXECUTIVE: The Archons a nd the Royal Stoa Coming from the main city gate, our visitor entered the Agora at its northwest corner and immediately came upon the Royal Stoa (Stoa Basileus), seat of the King Archon. There were, of course, no monarchs in democratic Athens, but the second-in-command was known as the King Archon; he was a powerful individual, responsible for 24
A potsherd (ostrakon) used in ostracism and etched with the name of Themistocles, Athens’ triumphant leader at the Battle of Salamis, who became a candidate for ostracism in 480 BC and was ostracized in 472 BC.
religious matters and the laws. The stoa was his headquarters, in which he heard most of the cases brought before him. It was here, for instance, that he heard the charges of impiety laid against Socrates in 399 BC and determined that there was, in fact, sufficient evidence to send the matter to a full court of 500 jurors. The king also administered the annual oath of office to all incoming officials and magistrates, who swore to uphold the democracy and not take bribes, lest they pay a huge fine. The oath was performed at or on a massive unworked stone (lithos) which rested on the steps of the stoa. The building itself was lined with marble slabs recording in stone the constitution and laws of the city. Like most Athenian magistrates, the king was not elected; almost all were chosen by allotment rather than election. Only a handful of positions were elective, those that required real expertise and experience: the water commissioner and some of the treasurers, as well as the generals. These roles were too important to leave to the luck of the draw. Pericles, for instance, seems never to have served as a senior archon, but showed his influence by repeated election as general of his tribe. Whether elected or allotted, all
A ceramic clepsydra of the 5th century BC. Clepsydras were a type of simple water clock, used to calculate the time allotted for speeches in court proceedings.
Athenian officials were subject to an official, regular opportunity for the populace to remove a problem in the political system through a serious application of term limits known as ostracism. Once a year the Athenians gathered in the Agora and took a simple vote: is anyone aiming at a tyranny, is anyone a threat to the democracy? If a simple majority voted yes, the people gathered again several weeks later. On this second occasion, they brought with them a potsherd (ostrakon), on which they had inscribed the name of the individual they thought was a problem. The man with the most votes lost and he was exiled for 10 years. Many Athenian politicians took one of these extended vacations, courtesy of the Athenian people; the votes, scratched onto sherds, were readily discarded and have been found by the hundreds throughout the excavations.
A fragment of a marble kleroterion, a device that served in the selection of judges and jurors, which was placed at the entrances to the courts (all artifacts on this page: Agora Museum).
© EPHORATE OF ANTIQUITIES OF ATHENS, ANCIENT AGORA MUSEUM, ASKSA ARCHIVE/HELLENIC MINISTRY OF CULTURE, EDUCATION AND RELIGIOUS AFFAIRS/ARCHAEOLOGICAL RESOURCES FUND, VISUALHELLAS.GR
Bronze juror’s ballot of the 4th century BC. If the cylindrical shaft protruding from the center had perforated (open) ends, the vote was “guilty”.
Elaborate allotment machines assigned the jurors to the courts so there was no way to influence an Athenian jury without bribing all of the literally thousands of citizens eligible for jury duty each year.
LEGISL ATIVE: The Boule a nd the Bouleuterion Moving south from the Royal Stoa, the visitor would pass several buildings dedicated to gods (Zeus, Apollo and the Mother of the Gods) before arriving at the next government building, the bouleuterion. This was the meeting-place of the Boule, a council made up of 500 Athenians, chosen by lot. This may at first seem odd, but when one considers the cost, corruption, inefficiency and poor results of many modern democratic elections, it seems we could do far worse than the random choice of 500 individuals. Members of the boule served for a single year and they met 26
most days, except during festivals, to consider and propose legislation. Once a decision had been made, the proposal was written up and posted on the face of a long statue base, the Monument of the Eponymous Heroes, which lay within the square itself, just to the east. All proposals had to be displayed for at least three days, so the citizens would have ample opportunity to read the proposal and discuss its merits. Every 10 days or so, the full citizen body met in assembly (Ekklesia) on the Pnyx, a large theatral area on the ridge to the southwest of the Agora. Here they would debate the proposal and then either approve it or vote it down. This dual passage of leg-
islation is reflected in the opening of all Athenian laws inscribed on stone: “Approved by the boule and people (demos) of Athens”... The Boule was managed by tribal contingents (prytaneis) of 50 councilors, who served in rotation for a month, acting as an executive committee. During their month in office, the prytaneis had as their headquarters the tholos, a round building just south of the bouleuterion. The prytaneis were fed at public expense and the tholos was their dining room. Cups and pitchers have been found all over the area, carrying the ligature ΔΕ, which stood for “demosion” (public property) to make sure
© CLAIRY MOUSTAFELLOU
1. Panathenaic Way 2. Painted Stoa (Stoa Poikile) 3. Basilica 4. Stoa of Attalos 5. Library of Pantainos 6. Temple 7. Nymphaion 8. S. E. Fountain House (Enneakrounos) 9. South Stoa II 10. Middle Stoa 11. Odeon of Agrippa 12. Temple of Ares 13. Orchestra area of the Agora 14. Altar of Zeus Agoraios 15. Eponymous Heroes monument 16. Tholos 17. Bouleuterion 18. Metroon 19. Temple of Apollo Patroos 20. Stoa of Zeus Eleutherios 21. Altar of the Twelve Gods 22. Hellenistic Building 23. Temple of Hephaistos
Pillars decorated with Triton figures, from the rebuilding (mid-2nd c. AD) of the Odeon of Agrippa (late 1st c. BC) in the middle of the Athenian Agora.
the prytaneis did not walk away with the state-owned crockery at the end of the meal. The fact that most of the vessels found were for wine suggests that perhaps the legislators were not always fully sober when they deliberated. In addition to dining in the tholos, at least 17 prytaneis were expected to sleep there overnight. If some emergency arose, any messenger could go directly to the tholos to find 17 citizens serving as councilors, on duty and ready to deal with any issue. In this sense, the building represents the functional heart of the Athenian democracy, a symbolism not lost on the Thirty Tyrants who, during their brief reign in 404/403 BC, used the tholos as their headquarters.
JUDICIARY: The Law Courts The bedrock of democracy is the legal system. Only an independent judiciary can guarantee the rights of all individuals and prevent abuses by the more powerful and privileged segments of society. The formation of the Athenian democracy was a process, not an event, and the first crucial step was taken by Solon in the 6th century BC, when he created “popular” courts, where individuals were tried by their fellow citizens, not just aristocrats or magistrates. The Athenians had many courts all over the city, at least one of which has been identified under the north end of the later Stoa of Attalos.
When one considers the cost, corruption, inefficiency and poor results of many modern democratic elections, it seems we could do far worse than the random choice of 500 individuals.
Because they were so essential, the courts were among the most regulated sectors of government. To ensure a fair hearing, the minimum Athenian jury was comprised of 200 citizens, while courts of 500 were not uncommon. Elaborate allotment machines assigned the jurors to the courts so there was no way to influence an Athenian jury without bribing all of the literally thousands of citizens eligible for jury duty each year. Clepsydras (terracotta water clocks) guaranteed that each side would have the same amount of time to argue the case. And jurors were provided with two bronze ballots — one for guilty, the other for acquittal — which allowed them to arrive at a verdict in secret. 28
Winged Nike (Victory), once an akroterion,or roof ornament, from the Stoa of Zeus Eleutherios (late 5th-early 4th century BC). An impressive sculpture, the garment suggests the figure’s movement, adhering to the body and clearly revealing its form (Agora Museum).
© EPHORATE OF ANTIQUITIES OF ATHENS/ANCIENT AGORA MUSEUM/HELLENIC MINISTRY OF CULTURE, EDUCATION AND RELIGIOUS AFFAIRS/ ARCHAEOLOGICAL RESOURCES FUND, GETTY IMAGES/IDEAL IMAGE
Uncovering the Past The American School of Classical Studies at Athens has been continuously excavating the Ancient Athenian Agora since 1931, uncovering temples, shopfronts, and all sorts of buildings and artifacts from the former center of the city. All these artifacts are now available to scholars in the Agora archives, and many are on display in the Stoa of Attalos II, reconstructed in 1953-1956. This summer, excavators were working across modern Adrianou Street, in the northwest corner of the ancient square. They believe they are uncovering what is known as the Painted Stoa, a sort of ancient art gallery dated to about 475- 470 BC. If you would like to participate in the ongoing work of recovery of all periods of Athens’ past, please contact the ASCSA at 6-8 Charlton St., Princeton, N.J. 08540 or go to: www.ascsa.edu.gr/index.php/giving.
WATCH THE VIDEOS What do these excavations look like through the eyes of an archaeologist? Plus, “A Life at the Athenian Agora”, a tribute video to John Camp.
A scene from the first excavations conducted by the American School of Classical Studies at Athens in the Athenian Agora, in the early 1930s.
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The Eternal Blue of Greece and Democr acy
Every year, on September 15th, the UN International Day of Democracy is celebrated. As part of the celebrations this year, the Athens Democracy Forum will be held for the second time in a row. And as part of the events, key historical buildings in the center of Athens that are associated with the establishment of the democratic system of government in modern Greece will be lit up in blue. Besides the buildings of the Hellenic Parliament and the City Hall of Athens, it was decided also to illuminate the neoclassical Head Office and Central Branch of National Bank of Greece overlooking Kotzia Sq. This choice of building was no accident: located in the center of the modern city, it is of great architectural interest and boasts a rich and significant history. Built next to the remains of the ancient city walls, it stands above the route (Acharnean Way) that led in classical times to the center of the city where Democracy was born 2,500 years ago.
On this site two separate buildings were originally constructed in the 1840s. Later, in 1899-1900, the two buildings were joined into a single edifice, and were fully renovated with a new exterior in neoclassical style. This new building served as the premises of the first bank of the independent Greek state, under its first governor Georgios Stavros in 1841. Furthermore, it was under his management that the first banknotes of the newly established Greek state were introduced and circulated as legal currency. NBG was virtually the only lender to the Greek state, which was largely isolated from international financial markets, and assisted effectively in helping the country
overcome economic difficulties. The building, which today has also administrative functions, has served as Head Office and Central Branch of National Bank of Greece throughout its long life, while the Bank always stood by the state and society in their endeavours to modernize. 175 years later, NBG continues to lead the way, playing a frontline role in the economic and social progress of the country. Recognizing the buildingâ€™s historical significance, the Bank has included its image in its official logo, as being inextricably linked with the Bankâ€™s history as well as that of the country in general.
The Bank always stood by the state and Greek society in their endeavors to modernize the country.
On September 15th this year, taking part in the Blue Athens Initiative, the building will be lit up in blue on the UN International Day of Democracy. For its illumination, latest generation rgb technology will be used so as to show off in the best way possible the buildingâ€™s refined architecture while also highlighting the colours of Greece and Democracy.
Central reception area
Detail of the buildingâ€™s interior
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Playing to the Crowd BY John Leonard I L L U S T R A T I O N ANNA T Z OR T Z I
Before drawing a straight comparative line between Classical Greek demagogues and today’s flamboyant political figures, we should consider the nature of democracy in ancient Athens and what changes – both good and bad – they brought.
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We tend to think of the Periclean period as an apex in ancient Greek culture, but it was more the beginning of a great democratic experiment, still ongoing today.
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s ancient Athens moved away from kingship and Archaic-era tyranny during the 6th c. BC, formerly monarchial powers and duties were taken on by public magistrates, whose ranks eventually swelled to more than a thousand by the Classical 5th and 4th c. BC. Nevertheless, through family or tribe connections, political associations (hetaireiai) and social networking, often at symposia (upper-class dinner/drinking parties), the Athenian aristocracy maintained its hold on power. In the face of rising popular anger over oppressive debt, increasing prices, inadequate representation and other perceived injustices, Solon proposed reforms in 594/593 BC that addressed all these issues and defined four classes of citizens (based on annual cereal production): the Pentakosiomedimnoi (500-measures), Knights, (300 measures), Zeugitai (200 measures) and Thetes (everyone else). He called for all citizens to participate in the Assembly (Ekklesia) and may have created the Council of 400 (Boule). A second reformer, Cleisthenes, reorganized Attica in 508/507 BC into 10 geographically-based tribes, rather than four family-based tribes. He also increased the Boule to 500 members, 50 from each tribe, and established a more objective system of sortition for filling government positions and jury panels. To combat tyranny, Cleisthenes instituted ostracism. The Ekklesia met on the Pnyx Hill, where speakers stood on an elevated bema to address a gathering of citizens that usually numbered at least 6,000 and may on occasion have reached tens of thousands. As Classical Athensâ€™ prosperity and population expand-
ed, along with its domestic and imperial administration, the lowest class (thetes) became increasingly necessary (e.g., as naval rowers and sailors) and thus potentially powerful. Pericles and other 5th-c. BC politicians understood this and frequently took steps to appease these ordinary citizens, often through largesse. Final decisions in Athens’ direct democracy were made by The People (Demos) in the Ekklesia — where some politicians saw the jostling crowd, with its evolving role and collective desire to be courted and entertained, as their own opportunity. Pericles and the Rise of Demagoguery The golden era of Athens, from the mid-5th c. BC, was a time of artistic, intellectual and social achievement, but also of political backlash and fresh perspectives. We tend to think of the Periclean period as an apex in ancient Greek culture, but it was more the beginning of a great democratic experiment, still ongoing today. Pericles represented a transitional, somewhat ambiguous figure, according to historian W. R. Connor*, who combined a traditional political approach with characteristics or methods more fully developed by the radical demagogues that followed him. After the outbreak of the Peloponnesian War (431 BC) and Pericles’ untimely death (429 BC), civic problems multiplied; the popular Ekklesia resembled more and more a boisterous mob; and the sharp rise of demagoguery accentuated a range of long-festering, as well as relatively newfound, Athenian political and social conflicts: aristocrats vs working-class; rich vs poor; privileged vs less advantaged; old reputable families,
networked together vs The People; the “chrestoi” (useful, well-born citizens) vs the “phauloi” (simple people, lacking in politically influential friends); oligarchs vs democrats. In the late 5th c. BC, there also appeared questions of old money vs nouveaux riches and, in particular, traditional vs “new” politicians. Pericles, although a wealthy aristocrat, followed in the pro-People/democracy footsteps of his great-uncle Cleisthenes. Like Solon, too, he profoundly changed the social, political and economic life of the average Athenian citizen. In the 450s and 40s BC, he further weakened the supreme Areopagus court; brought more citizens into the state’s political and judicial processes by introducing payment for service; made the two lowest classes eligible for the archonship; subsidized poorer citizens that wished to be knights; reduced unemployment by hiring statepaid workers; constructed an odeon (music hall); and gave every citizen two obols annually, to spend on public entertainment and festivals. Pericles also elevated the status of Athenian women; encouraged intellectual and artistic achievement; and beautified the Acropolis with new temples and a monumental gateway — a measure described by Plutarch (1st/2nd c. AD) as “the one… which…gave the greatest pleasure to the Athenians, adorned their city and created amazement among the rest of mankind…” Under Pericles, the courtship of the Athenian Demos had begun. In 424 BC, the Old Comedy playwright Aristophanes (Knights, 1340) alludes to the use of love terminology by Cleon, Pericles’ successor and the first true demagogue, during addresses to the
In the late 5th century BC, there also appeared questions of old money vs nouveaux riches and, in particular, traditional vs “new” politicians.
Ekklesia in which he proclaims: “Oh, Demos, I am your ‘erastes’ [lover]…” Such erotic vocabulary was indeed utilized by Athenian orators, writes Victoria Wohl**, especially by demagogues, but Pericles had already hinted at the practice in his famous funeral oration (431/430 BC) when he directed the assembly to “daily gaze upon the city’s power and become lovers [erastai] of it” (Thucydides 2.43.1). Exploiting the Power of The People Athens in the late 5th c. BC was a city at war. And wars, as we know too well today, bring change and encourage extremism. Troubled times also offer opportunities and can lead to more overt demonstrations of the power (and weakness) of The People. Ambitious Athenian politicians, Connor argues, many of them young and seeking a fast way to the top, understood that “the reward would be great if means could be found to activate and organize the
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Clever rhetoric and shocking conduct saved demagogues from having to spend years establishing respectable records of reliable military and political service, as Themistocles, Cimon, Ephialtes and Pericles had all done.
phauloi, the ‘unpretentious’ citizenry. Herein is the origin of a new kind of democracy, a new pattern of politics that was to become increasingly conspicuous…” A host of flamboyant, “new” politicians appeared in the post-Periclean era, including Cleon, Alcibiades, Cleophon, Syracosius, Hyperbolus and Anytus. If Old Comedy is to be believed, the demagogues were often known by colorful nicknames such as Bleary Eyes, Smoky, Hempy or Quail. In reflection of their livelihoods, Cleon was The Tanner, Cleophon The Lyre-maker, Lysicles The Cattle-dealer and Eucrates The Flax-merchant. Anytus, one of Socrates’ accusers, was also a leather-tanner. Alcibiades was admired for his charm and striking handsomeness. Sometimes their very names became proverbial expressions: “Beyond Hyperbolus” implied someone extremely litigious. To make their rhetorical points, demagogues often used inflammatory language and theatrical behavior. Aristotle reports that Cleophon “made a dramatic entrance into the assembly with a speech ready against peace negotiations and his breastplate girded on…” The more obscure Syracosius is portrayed in Eupolis’ comedy as “running about the bema yelping like a hound dog.” Demagogues made grand shows of emotion and empathy, so as to connect with ordinary citizens on a visceral level, and won additional favor acting as The People’s governmental informants. Through their outrageous language
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and behavior the demagogues broke away from traditional, conservative ways. They renounced the usual political ties (as Cleon showily did; Pericles more discreetly before him) and may not have objected much to comedic, occupation-related epithets (or accusations), as they would have benefited from appearing more working-class. In reality, many demagogues were highborn and affluent. Alcibiades, Plutarch observes, had everything necessary to be an Old School politician, but preferred to be a demagogue. Fame and Fortune The primary incentive for adopting a demagogic approach was the political shortcut it provided to fame and fortune. Clever rhetoric and shocking conduct saved demagogues from having to spend years establishing respectable records of reliable military and political service, as Themistocles, Cimon, Ephialtes and Pericles had all done. In the demagogic era, Nicias and Alcibiades were also generals, perhaps also Cleophon and Hyperbolus, but Cleon had to be publicly cornered before he would take command (aided by a real general) and deal with the Spartans trapped on Sphacteria Island in 425 BC. Many demagogues were prosperous businessmen who viewed government and popular politics as a means to further increase their wealth. Isocrates writes, “these men…dare to say that their concern for public affairs prevents them from attending to their own business; but it appears that their ‘ne-
glected’ affairs have made greater gains than they would have ever thought to pray for.” a bad reputation well deserved? Athenian demagogues received a lot of “bad press” but was the heavy criticism deserved and accurate? In an increasingly elaborate and divisive government, notes Connor, Athenians “needed…a new breed of specialized, semi-professional politicians, who could master and explain the complex details of their city’s business.” Competent, well informed demagogues such as Hyperbolus helped the common citizenry to see behind the oligarchic curtain of traditional politics. Aristotle accuses Cleon of shouting and dressing improperly, but in conservative Athens even his use of hand gestures while speaking was considered unorthodox and vulgar. Thucydides and Aristophanes were also sharp critics, but the historian was an ardent Pericles supporter and both men had previously suffered prosecution by Cleon. Besides, as today, politicians were fair game for writers of parody and satire. Aristotle writes “As long as Pericles was the leader of the people, the state was still in a fairly good condition, but after his death everything became much worse. For then the people first chose a leader who was not in good repute with the better people…” However, in present-day terms, late-5th c. BC Athenians seem to have intentionally embraced leaders who were not “Wash-
ington Insiders” and not “owned” by traditional political groups. The crime of many demagogues appears to have been that they came from the “wrong” families, those not traditionally connected or politically active. In the end, demagoguery — ancient or modern — is all about exploitation, and therefore must be guarded against. The ancient demagogues were a sordid group that thrived on turmoil and social division. Cleon openly sowed distrust of intellect, claiming that “states are better governed by the man in the street than by intellectuals…who… want to appear wiser than the laws… and…often bring ruin on their country.” Demagoguery in Athens was also risky and vengeful. Hyperbolus was ostracized ca. 416 BC; Cleophon was ultimately removed from power and executed in 404 BC on a trumped up charge; and Anytus was likely motivated by Socrates’ personal attacks when he contributed to the philosopher’s prosecution and death in 399 BC. Positive and negative lessons can be learned from ancient democracy, especially today when democracy internationally is again under attack — with a decline in the free press, often violent suppression of dissenting voices and a troublingly widespread return to the worst sort of demagoguery.
In present-day terms, late-5th c. BC Athenians seem to have intentionally embraced leaders who were not “Washington Insiders” and not “owned” by traditional political groups.
* “The New Politicians of Fifth-Century Athens” (Princeton University Press,1971) ** “Love Among the Ruins: The Erotics of Democracy in Classical Athens” (Princeton University Press, 2002)
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DIRECT DE MOCR ACY
While Îąncient Athens is far too different from our world to make direct comparisons, it can help us look harder at ourselves.
BY Mary Beard
© BRIDGEMAN IMAGES
“Ballots” in ancient Athens were pieces of broken pottery on which ancient Athenians scratched the name of a politician, in this case Themistocles, whom they saw as a threat to democracy. (Agora Museum)
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DIRECT DE MOCR ACY
ne of the most curious subplots that emerged on the day of Britain’s referendum was what quickly and predictably became known on social media as “pen-gate.” Groups of Brexit campaigners started to hand out pens in polling stations to replace the government-issued pencils with which voters are usually asked to make their cross. Their worry was that, somewhere along the electoral line, a penciled cross in the “Leave” box could easily be erased by those working on behalf of “the establishment,” and replaced with a vote for “Remain.” Police were apparently called to one polling station to investigate this potentially disruptive distribution of alternative voting instruments. There is a tiny glimpse here of the edgy anxieties of Western democracy. It seems inconceivable to most of us that “our” leaders should stoop to the tactics of the world’s worst pseudo-democratic dictators, people who would go to almost any lengths, the less ingenious
the better, to claim a popular mandate (for what it’s worth, in my view, it is inconceivable). Yet, at the same time, it is hard to banish entirely the suspicion that our own complacency could actually be blinding us to what those in power might be doing to get their way. There is, in addition, a very long pedigree to these anxieties about how far you can trust what the voters are supposed to have written on their ballot papers. Electoral fraud of that kind is as old as democracy itself, and was an issue even in the famous ancient Athenian institution of “ostracism” – usually taken to be a handy system for keeping the elite in check, and certainly a far more radical
Schoolroom scenes from the exterior of an Attic red-figure kylix, signed by the vase painter Douris (485-480 BC, Altes Museum, Berlin).
deployment of popular power than any modern referendum. Modern historians have found in ostracism one of the most appealing inventions of 5th c. BC politics. It involved the Athenian citizens getting together and deciding which politician they wanted to send away from their city into honorable exile for 10 years. Each man wrote the name of his chosen victim on a small piece of broken pottery (an ostrakon, hence “ostracism”), chucked it into a voting urn – and, with a few safeguards such as a quorum of 6,000 – whoever got the most votes was banished for a decade. It is not surprising that ostracism has become such a modern favorite. “Just imagine,” the argument goes, “being able to get rid of some loudmouth politician you didn’t like, simply by voting him out.” Boris Johnson has been a particularly enthusiastic supporter, seemingly unaware of his own vulnerability. “That was people power,” he once said; it only needed enough citizens to show up and
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vote, and “...kerpow, you were spending the next 10 years twiddling your thumbs in Bulgaria... Imagine the exhilaration of catapulting someone off like that.” The system was not, in fact, quite so straightforward – nor was it quite so clear who exactly was behind the catapulting. One of the most curious archaeological finds of the last century was a cache of 190 ostraka, each with the name of Themistocles (who was in fact ostracized in 472 BC) scratched on it, in just 14 different styles of handwriting. It does not take much imagination to see what must have been going on: an ancient plot not so very far from what the pen-gate Brexiters suspected. Presumably, some of Themistocles’ powerful enemies prepared a huge pile of ready-inscribed ostraka (the 190 are only the left-overs) and handed them out to the mostly illiterate voters, perhaps not even revealing whose name was actually on the ostraka. You can get away with a lot
if the electorate can’t read: in this case, it was more popular manipulation than popular power. A different version of manipulation put an end to the whole system. Despite its modern fame, ostracism only lasted about 70 years and fewer than 15 people were ever sent into exile this way. The last was an unlucky character named Hyperbolus, who is supposed to have been the victim of a stitch-up in 416 BC, when two rival establishment figures, Nikias and Alcibiades, both major candidates for exile, decided to do a deal and get their own supporters to turn their votes against a third party. It was Hyperbolus who was sent away, while the pre-vote favorites to lose escaped scot-free. No one could have failed to spot what had gone on. The glaringly obvious exercise of establishment control as evidenced by that self-interested trade-off destroyed any myth of people power. Ostracism was never used again. It’s hard not to catch an echo here of
The Athenians were concerned with political education. You did not need to go to the undemocratic lengths of Plato, who would have restricted governance to an elite cadre of philosophers, to realize that “the people” could only exercise their political power properly if they had been trained to do so.
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It is not surprising that ostracism has become such a modern favorite. “Just imagine,” the argument goes, “being able to get rid of some loudmouth politician you didn’t like, simply by voting him out.”
ginalized the ordinary citizen. As the stories of ostracism hint, Athenian politics was not quite so egalitarian in practice as that rosy modern image suggests. The ordinary Athenian citizens never got a foothold in those few powerful elected offices that still remained when most were chosen by lot (and even when any of the nouveaux riches did manage to secure election to any of these posts, they faced the scorn of the old aristocrats). Political initiative always remained firmly with the elite. What’s more, the level of popular participation in decision-making was not always high. By the end of the fifth century, low turn-outs had led to the introduction of payment just for showing up at the voting assemblies. That said, the crucially important principle remained: each individual decision of the democratic state required the sanction of the citizen body as a whole. The Athenians had some concerns about how this principle operated, concerns that may be relevant to us and our own awkward experiments with referenda. First, they worried about lying politicians. How, they asked, could the people make a responsible decision if they were not told the truth? That is a theme hinted at in Aristophanes’ comedy Clouds, where the dangers of clever but deceptive rhetoric are highlighted in a spoof contest between the comic personifications of “Superior Argument” and “Inferior Argument.” It is partly a wry comment on the anxieties about decision-making in Athens that
“Inferior Argument,” with all its lies, bribes and blandishments, wins. It is not hard to guess what Aristophanes would have made of some of the less than half-truths told about the EU over recent months. Neither side has been entirely innocent, but the £350 million figure, the threats of invasion by Turkish criminals, the mythical EU cabbage directive and the equally non-existent ban on children blowing up balloons belong firmly in the repertoire of “Inferior Argument.” The Athenians were also concerned with political education. You did not need to go to the rabidly undemocratic lengths of Plato, who would have restricted governance to an elite cadre of philosophers, to realize that “the people” (rich or poor, privileged or unprivileged) could only exercise their political power properly if they had been trained to do so. Many Athenian democrats would have argued that people must learn how to do politics and how to be citizens; it is not something that comes naturally. Much of the Athenian political system was about that process of learning. Below the level of the city institutions themselves, there was a whole series of local government committees and talking shops, where the Athenians practiced the art of politics. The use of random selection for political office had an important role to play, too. We now tend to treat the Athenian use of lot as if it was simply a way of ensuring that every citizen had an equal chance of serving as one of the 500
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some of the grubby politics and the elite back-stabbing that lie behind our own recent exercise in supposedly popular control. But how far was this typical of the Athenian political system as a whole? Fifth-century Athens was ostensibly committed to direct democratic power, from top to bottom: all decisions of state – on everything from going to war to the administration of temple estates – were taken in mass meetings, by every citizen entitled to vote who bothered to turn out. Did it really deliver direct people power, and to what effect? That is not as easy a question to answer as we might imagine. The whole issue is clouded by the almost universal hostility to democracy of surviving ancient commentators and the almost universal admiration of modern historians. Plato was not the only writer to see the Athenian electorate as an undisciplined, uneducated and fickle mob, swayed by unscrupulous demagogues; and he was not quite as wrong as one might hope. On one notorious occasion, the people assembled and voted to put to death the entire male population of the town of Mytilene on the island of Lesbos, as punishment for revolting against Athenian imperial control. The next day, they held a second vote - the ancient equivalent of a second referendum - and opted instead for leniency. A desperate race ensued, as the ship taking news of the change of heart rowed furiously to catch up with the first one already dispatched. It made it just in time, and the would-be victims were spared. Since the early 19th century, modern judgements have generally been very different. For many Western political pundits, the Athenian system not only represents a shining example of how the people could really take charge of a city (right down to the use of random selection by lot for most political offices); it has also been a useful stick with which to beat our own representative versions of democracy, which have always mar-
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annual members of the City Council (the Boule) or as one of many other administrative officials. In part, it was just that; indeed, some modern idealists have even thought it might be one way for us to solve the democratic deficit in the British House of Lords. But choice by lot had another equally important, structural part to play in the Athenian system. It also ensured that practical political experience was spread widely across the citizen body. Leaving aside all other offices for a moment, a rough estimate indicates that something like 70 per cent of the citizens would have served on the Council at least once during their lifetime, with all the responsibilities that involved; preparing business for the full assembly, dealing with day-to-day crises as they arose, receiving and interrogating representatives from other cities and countries, and more. There was no equivalent of a civil service in classical Athens. Serving on the Council was a practical course in political administration and argument. Even so, Aristophanes was still doubtful about the Athenians’ ability to tell the “Inferior Argument” from its “Superior” rival. One can only imagine how he would have satirized our own recent venture in committing
a major, irrevocable constitutional decision to a citizen body that is used to exercising its vote every few years, and in relatively small numbers, to elect representatives who are often proposing policies that are barely distinguishable from one another. I am not suggesting that there is a direct lesson here that we can simply apply across the millennia. Ancient Athens is far too different from our world for that: for a start, its citizen body was no larger than the size of some modern university student unions and was completely “woman-free.” But Athens can help us to look harder at ourselves. Handing us a referendum once every 20 years or so, largely depriving us of accurate information in a fog of slogans and rhetoric, and allowing us all, on both sides, to vent our various discontents and prejudices in a yes/no vote is not a way to reach a responsible decision. Nor is it a way to re-empower a disempowered electorate. That, as Athenian democrats would have seen, needs something much more radical, and it has to happen not twice in a lifetime but in the day-to-day practice of political life.
Handing us a referendum once every 20 years or so, largely depriving us of accurate information in a fog of slogans and rhetoric, and allowing us to vent our various discontents and prejudices in a yes/no vote is not a way to reach a responsible decision. Nor is it a way to re-empower a disempowered electorate.
© Mary Beard/TLS/News Syndication
Athenian officials in the Panathenaic procession. Block X from the Parthenon’s north frieze (Acropolis Museum, Athens).
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Boeotians, Achaeans and Europeans Just like direct democracy, the idea of federations emerged in ancient Greece. What can we learn from looking at how these alliances worked? BY Nicholas C. Kyriazis & Emmanouil M. L . Economou
Â© NUMISMATIC MUSEUM OF ATHENS/MINISTRY OF CULTURE AND SPORTS/ARCHAEOLOGICAL RESOURCES FUND/EPHORATE OF BOEOTIA
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t is well known and generally accepted that direct democracy emerged in ancient Greece at the end of the 6th c. BC. Ancient historical sources mention at least 18 democratic city-states by the beginning of the 5th c. BC. What is less known is that the idea of federations also emerged in ancient Greece (they were already present during the 5th c. BC); most notably the Boeotian Federation but also others, including the Chalkidean (in Macedonia), Aetolian (in Central Greece) and Achaean (in the Peloponnese). Many of the American “founding fathers,” including John Adams, James Madison and Thomas Jefferson, were aware of this through their readings of Polybius, Plutarch and Livy, as attested by the Federalist Papers. The Boeotian Federation, comprised of 11 regions containing about 31 city-states, featured a number of federal institutions. At the city-state level, there were local “parliaments” which consisted of three or four “committees”
(Left) Silver didrachm of the Boeotian Koinon, with the head of Dionysus on the reverse (ca. 510 BC, Numismatic Museum, Athens). (Right) Silver tetradrachm of the Chalcidice Alliance, with the head of its protector Apollo on the obverse (ca. 364-361 BC, Numismatic Museum, Athens).
charged with various administrative tasks. This organizational model was later revived in the late medieval era by the Old Swiss Confederacy at the end of the 13th c. and continued by the United Provinces (Dutch Republic) from the end of the 16th c. to the end of the 18th c. The Dutch federation consisted of seven Provinces, including about 52 semi-independent cities. Each Boeotian region was represented at the federal level by a “boeotarch” who was that region’s political and military leader. The eleven boeotarchs were elected for a period of one year by the citizens’ assemblies
of the city-states in each region. Any abuse of this one-year term of office by a boeotarch was punishable by death. The meeting place of the boeotarchs was Thebes, the federal capital, and its citadel, the Kadmeia. The Federation was, on the whole, successful, because it functioned as a counter-force to the power of both neighboring Athens during the 5th c. BC (as a major ally of Sparta and the Peloponnesian League) and to that of Sparta (as an ally of Athens) during the 4th c. BC. But it had a serious internal flaw: among its constituent city-states, Thebes was too powerful. This strong disparity of power stemmed mainly from Thebes’ large population, and thus from its military and economic-political strength. Consequently, the Boeotian Federation became de facto a Theban sovereignty – a development similar to the Delian League becoming an Athenian empire. Thebes demonstrated that it would not tolerate other city-states not following its lead, and would not accept the G R E E C E IS
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What is the exact meaning of solidarity and its relation to the federation’s responsibility towards its members?
defection of any city-states that might wish to leave the federation, something seen also in the American Civil War. Secession without conflict was not an option for Boetian city-states, just as it was not for the 19th c. American Confederate States. Thebes destroyed Plataea, for example, which did not want to participate in the federation because it was always a staunch ally of Athens – fighting with the Athenians at Marathon in 490 BC, and later at Thespiai and Orchomenos, the latter being the only Boeotian city strong enough to challenge Theban hegemony. In the long run, this policy proved catastrophic. When Thebes revolted against Macedonian occupation in 335 BC, it did so without support, because none of its supposed Boeotian allies wished to fall again under Theban hegemony, preferring instead the more distant Macedonia. Some Boeotian city-states even actively participated in the war against Thebes and in its besiegement by the Macedonians. The result was the destruction of the Theban city-state by Alexander the Great. Other Greek federations – the Aetolian and Achaean, but also a revived Boetian federation during the 3rd c. BC – learned their lesson and strove to be fully democratic, preserving the equality of all their members. Are there lessons to be learned by the European Union (EU) from the ancient federations? What is the exact meaning of solidarity and its relation to the federation’s responsibility towards its members? The term “Union” seems to indicate an ideal, the goal of the EU to become a true federation, which it has not yet achieved. The ancient federations, like the modern ones, were based on solidarity, 46
trust and a perception of common interest. Since 2000, particularly within the European Monetary Union (EMU), the EU appears in praxis to have been governed by its stronger members, especially Germany, which impose their will and the mix of policy measures they deem appropriate without taking into account sufficiently (some would say not at all) the interests of the smaller and economically weaker member-states, just as Thebes did to its own detriment more than two millennia ago. This power imbalance has led to a similar reaction by the citizens of the EU’s less robust member-states (Greece, Cyprus, Italy, Spain and Portugal), who perceive that policy measures are being imposed on them which they have never approved and which operate against their own interests. Increasingly, these member-states see a lack of solidarity and a democratic deficit. As in the ancient example, this imposition of power by a stronger over weaker member-states is leading in the long run to anti-German sentiment, failing cohesion and the danger of EU breakdown. Recent developments such as the immigration problem, with the reaction of the Visegrad Group (Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia), the erection of frontier walls or fences within the EU, and Brexit are indications of these trends. How can such trends be reversed? Let us illustrate through an age-old case how solidarity was understood by the ancient federations, and what lessons we may draw today from this understanding. Polybius records that the federal Achaean administration offered tax immunity for three years to its member-state of Messene, so as to help the
city’s economy recover after the serious damage inflicted on its infrastructure by the so-called Social War of 220–217 BC, when the Achaean Federation was engaged in warfare with the neighboring Aetolian Federation. For some reason that the ancient sources do not sufficiently explain, the federal army was not ready in time to defend Messene, as was the federation’s obligation and responsibility. Consequently, Messene had to hire the services of mercenaries to increase its own military force, and to pay them through its own financial means. The federation’s government, elected by the assembly of its citizens, the supreme decision–making body, accepted that they had failed to fulfill their obligations and responsibilities under the solidarity provision towards Messene. Thus, they decided that the federation owed compensation to Messene; this took the form of federal tax immunity for three years. Polybius (Hist. 24.2.3; 23.15.1–3) describes the characteristic doctrine that the Achaean federal administration adopted: “…that the destruction of the territory of Messene [would] harm the Achaeans [as a whole] no less than the Messenians”.
Silver coin (triovolo) of the Aetolian Alliance, with the head of Aetolia or Atalante on the obverse (ca. 220-189 BC, Numismatic Museum, Athens).
Zeus chasing a fleeing maiden. Detail of a red-figure lekythos decorated by a Boeotian vase painter (424 BC, Archaeological Museum of Thebes).
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oday’s federations offer comparable examples of federal-level mistakes affecting member-states. Under the EU’s solidarity provisions, from 2010 onwards, Greece received EU and International Monetary Fund (IMF) loans totaling €240 billion in order to avoid bankruptcy and to repay its debts. The loans were linked to certain policy measures specified in EU memoranda. The problem, however, was that the policy measures were wrongly specified and wrongly applied, due to a mistaken estimation of the negative multiplier, i.e., the effect on GDP from cuts in public spending. The actual multiplier was almost double the one calculated by the IMF, leading to a much deeper recession than originally estimated. This mistake was recognized both by the IMF’s chief economist, Olivier Blanchard, and IMF director Christine Lagarde, who publicly apologized. The question raised here (for the first time, as far as we know), inspired by the ancient, analogous case of Messene, is whether the EU, being responsible for damage done to one of its member-states due to its own (and not the member’s) mistake, is liable to provide compensation. The order of magnitude of that damage can be estimated: the difference between the multipliers being double, the recession of the Greek economy in 2010-2011 was actually -10% of GDP, as opposed to the wrongly estimated -5% of GDP. Taking into account that Greece’s GDP in 2009 was €230 billion, the difference of 5% amounts to a magnitude of damage, due to the application of the wrong policy measures package, of about 11 to 12 billion euros. Has Greece the right to claim compensation for this damage, which was done to its economy through an EU/IMF mistake? We suggest this is an important point that should be taken 48
into account during negotiations for the alleviation of Greece’s debt. Another issue that diminishes the perception by EU citizens that their common interests are being served is the EU’s substantial democratic deficit. The EU represents the least democratic political body among both ancient and contemporary federations, as measured by the participation level of its citizens in decision-making. Unlike the ancient Greek federations mentioned above – where all institutional positions (including the “general” who was the political and military leader, the finance ministers and the officials (vouletai) responsible for preparing the agendas for the dis-
Unlike the ancient Greek federations, in the modern EU, the major positions of authority are appointed after negotiations between member governments and are not open to all EU citizens.
Cartoon by Andrzej Krauze/ Guardian News & Media
cussions in the national assemblies) were filled through direct democratic procedures – in the modern EU, the major positions of authority, including the President, the “foreign minister” and the President of the EU Commission, are appointed after negotiations between member governments and are not open to all EU citizens. The only elected body is the European Parliament, which has the least consequence of any of the EU’s federal institutions. Is it any wonder, then, that European citizens feel mistrustful of their federal government? It is a clear case of EU authorities “deciding for us without us.” We believe that EU leaders can learn from ancient federations, just as
the American founding fathers did. We propose that the EU’s main positions (including President of the EU as well as President and Members of the EU Commission) should be open to all citizens and filled through European elections. As a second step toward greater democratization, we propose the introduction of popular initiatives leading to obligatory referenda with binding outcomes at the European level, based on the model of certain modern federations and countries, including Switzerland, Uruguay, New Zealand, some US states (including California), German federal states and many European cities (e.g., Vienna). Combined, these two steps would
give European citizens a greater feeling of participation in a common European future. We reject the argument that these citizens are still too immature to be burdened with such decision-making. This is a dangerous and deeply anti-democratic argument, because it implies that EU citizens, unable to make correct choices, cannot be trusted with the election of candidates. If so, why democracy at all? On the contrary, we believe that increased participation educates citizens politically – as it did in ancient democracies and federations and as it does so again today in some political systems – and makes them feel as though they have a stake in their common European political future. G R E E C E IS
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THE DEMOPOLIS EXPERIMENT
Wisdom from classical Greece: democracy and liberalism are both better off if we understand the difference between them.
BY Josiah Ober E d i t ed by S a m H a s e l b y
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Liberty Leading the People, painting by Eugène Delacroix commemorating the Paris Uprising, July 28, 1830, c.1830-31 (Louvre Museum, Paris).
Liberal but not democratic? The history of citizen self-government in the Greek city-states clarifies what democracy is – and what it does (and does not) deliver. Ancient Athens, like some other Greek city-states, was a democracy, not a liberal democracy. Ancient Athenians neither embraced human rights nor separated religion from coercive state authority. Liberalism is a moral ideal born of the 18th-c. Enlightenment and centered on the value of individual autonomy. Liberalism offers reasons why rights should be regarded as universal, as inhering in each individual human being, and why a coercive state must be neutral in regard to religion. A political regime might be liberal but not democratic – the 19th c. Austro-Hungarian empire, for example. Musharaff’s naysaying aside, democracy today has almost no forthright opponents. Even neo-Nazis in Germany dub their political party National Democrats (rather than National Socialists). Chinese autocrats describe their authoritarian regime as a democracy. The constitutions of post-revolutionary states, the foreign policies of major powers and the missions of international agencies all actively hold out democracy as their goal. So what, then? What is the problem if democracy becomes indistinguishable from liberalism, if collective self-government is equated with human rights and secular governments? More than majority rule If democracy is so important, meriting the marshalling of immense effort and resources, people ought to have some clear idea about what it is. At least some of the human misery in the past quarter-century of purported democracy-building efforts has resulted from
the fact that the political class had no clear idea of the components of the liberal democracy package. If democracy is worth fighting for, it is important to grasp the basics. When scholars use the term democracy in a narrow sense, it is generally taken to mean simple “majority rule, full stop,” as opposed to the rule of law. For those who, like James Madison, the principal author of the US Constitution, fear the spectre of mob rule, democracy without liberalism risks majoritarian tyranny. Ancient Greek democracies
quarter-century ago, the American political scientist Francis Fukuyama announced that history had ended. The long search for the best possible political order had come to a close. Liberal democracy – defined as popular sovereignty plus individual autonomy and human rights – was the answer. Today, in an age of terrorism, enduring war and resurgent autocracies, history has returned with a vengeance. Fukuyama, however, has recently reiterated in impressive detail his basic point that liberal democracy is the highest form of political development, a view that is widely shared. The cognitive scientist Steven Pinker contrasts liberal democracies with regimes based on demonizing, utopian ideologies, concluding that: “democracies are vastly less murderous than alternative forms of government.” Like other modern writers, Pinker uses “democracy” as shorthand for “liberal democracy,” meaning a grab-bag of favored conditions: popular sovereignty, rule of law, voting rights, human rights, free speech, equal opportunity, separation of church and state, distributive justice, and a market-based economy. To its ancient Greek inventors, democracy meant simply collective self-government by citizens. The liberal democracy package is so widely admired today, and so seldom scrutinized, that people tend to forget that it is, in fact, a package. Even skeptics lump democracy together with liberalism: in early 2008, the then President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan called on Western governments to stop obsessing about democracy, by which he meant: stop focusing on human rights. When Fukuyama, Pinker or Musharraf use “democracy” to refer to a commitment to universal rights or the separation of church and state, few stop to ask questions. But let’s do just that. Democracy and liberalism both contain much of value, but they’re not the same thing. They can be conjoined in a successful political order, but their marriage is not inevitable.
social order based on free choices of self-interested individuals. In order to produce social stability, contemporary liberalism needs either democracy or autocracy as its political foundation. What Cleisthenes realized There are two ways to arrive at the core meaning of democracy. One is by looking back to the ancient Greek society that invented democracy. For them, it meant the power of an extensive body of citizens to do things: to make and execute public policy. But why should citizens of the 21st century care what a bunch of slave-owning men, who denied political participation rights to women and immigrants, thought democracy meant? The answer is that we still aspire to their basic concept of democracy.
Ancient Athens, like some other Greek citystates, was a democracy, not a liberal democracy. Ancient Athenians neither embraced human rights nor separated religion from coercive state authority.
show that imagining democracy as nothing more than majority rule is an error. Democracy, even before it is liberal democracy, is actually more than majority rule. Reducing democracy to majoritarianism legitimizes the concept of elite rule. Plato, with his plan for “philosopher kings,” was an early proponent of such elitism. He believed that good government requires keeping most people away from active participation in politics. Plato’s goal in restricting government to a few was the promotion
of virtue. The modern world also has influential political theorists, for example the late Ronald Dworkin, who urge that ordinary people must be kept at bay in the name of defending the liberal moral values of autonomy, rights, and distributive justice. However well-intentioned, the elitist approach to government is dangerous (as well as undemocratic) because moral commitment is not enough to guide the day-to-day behavior of most people most of the time. Liberal morality alone cannot produce a stable
The word “democracy” arose in the city-state of Athens following the Athenian Revolution of 508 BCE. In that revolution, the people of Athens overthrew a foreign-backed political leader who exiled his opponents and tried to impose a repressive government staffed by cronies. In the aftermath of the revolution, the victorious Athenians recalled from exile Cleisthenes, their preferred leader. Cleisthenes realised it was not possible to simply return to a system of rule by tyrants and narrow coalitions of aristocrats. The people G R E E C E IS
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of Athens would now be the collective author and guarantor of a new constitutional order. The revolution had brought the Athenian people onto the stage of history. The experimental system devised by Cleisthenes in conditions of crisis proved extraordinarily successful. With their new government in place, the Athenians rose to prominence in the Greek world. Newly enfranchised working-class citizens provided Athens with large and highly motivated armed forces. They voted to use fiscal windfalls for public purposes. Freed from fear that tyrants would seize the profits of their initiative, Athenians invested in their society. Arts and crafts flourished. Manufacturing and trade soared. Athens joined with its rival Sparta to defeat a massive invasion by the mighty Persian Empire, then built an Aegean empire, survived a catastrophic war with Sparta, and drove two centuries of Greek economic growth. The rise and vitality of classical Athenian democracy helped to lay the cultural groundwork for Western civilization. The anger of the “excellent few” The Athenians named their new government “democracy,” or demokratia in Greek, which combines demos (the people) and kratos (power). So democracy is “people power” – but specifically demos in the sense of “all citizens,” and kratos in the sense of “the capacity to do things.” The new name asserted both an ideal and a practical fact. First, the word proclaimed that the citizens as a collectivity, rather than a tyrant or a small gang of aristocrats, ought to rule their own state: the people were the most legitimate public authority. The ideal of democracy also held that the people were morally and intellectually capable of governing themselves. They were fallible, but competent to pursue public interests in a rational manner. The people ruled by using the new institutions of their democratic govern54
ment to make and execute policy, without a boss. Citizens from all walks of life deliberated on matters of policy in ways at once cooperative and competitive. They pooled information and knowledge to devise innovative solutions to problems. The best argument, rather than the loudest voice, had a good chance of carrying the day. In an annual lottery, the Athenians chose the 500 citizen-members of a democratic Council. The Councilmen consulted experts, debated policy, and set the agenda for frequent meetings of an Assembly open to all citizens. A typical Assembly meeting in the age of Aristotle drew between 6,000-8,000 voting citizens. Some resented the power of the people. Disgruntled aristocrats, furious at losing their political monopoly, scorned the new government as the domination of a self-interested majority over a leisured and educated minority. How, they asked, could ordinary men – farmers, potters, retail traders, shoemakers – know anything about important affairs of state? How did they differ from hard-working slaves? For angry aristocrats, demos became a pejorative term, limited to those citizens who had to work for a living. For the rejectionists, the working-class majority illegitimately held power over the “excellent few,” the men who believed they ought to rule on the strength of their superior wealth, education and birth. Having rejected democracy, Greek aristocrats made up a fiction that it really meant “lawless majoritarian tyranny.” A comparison with other Greek words referring to ruling (aristocracy, oligarchy, monarchy, etc) makes it clear that in fact democracy first appeared as a positive term, originally used by those who embraced the state as a common possession of all citizens. For Athenian democrats, the demos included everyone who could be imagined to be capable of actively exercising political authority within a bounded state territory. The ancient Greek cultural imagination of “who could be a citizen” privileged those “free, adult [over
18] males, who are either of native birth or who had proven their loyalty to the state.” In historical perspective, their imagination was expansive because it included all native males, without a property or educational qualification. The ancient Athenian level of inclusive citizenship remained unequaled until at least the 18th c. Age of Revolution. “Majoritarian tyr anny” no more Of course, in the 21st century, the ancient Greek cultural imagination of who could be a participatory citizen appears so bounded as to be illegitimate. It excluded women, slaves and most foreign-born residents of Athenian territory. Some students of Greek history therefore assert that Athens was not democratic. But what they actually mean is that Athens was not a liberal democracy, in that the Athenians did not recognize the human rights of slaves, women and long-term foreign residents. Indeed, Athens was not a liberal democracy, but it was a democracy – that is, it was governed by its citizens. The end of the 5th c. BCE saw the most important constitutional change in the history of Athenian democracy. New rules, adopted by the citizens of Athens in the aftermath of a harrowing period of external war, plague and civil
Democratic citizens can choose the rule of law as a constitutional principle, and they can do so without invoking the mystical notion that it is the laws that do the ruling. Democracy need not be a majoritarian train wreck.
The Unveiling of the Statue of Liberty, Enlightening the World, 1886 (oil on canvas), by Edward Moran (1829-1901).
© GETTY IMAGES/IDEAL IMAGE
war, clarified the relationship between policy decrees and the underlying principles of constitutional law. The new rules made decrees passed in the Assembly of citizens subject to legal challenge. Legal review could invalidate any decree. This check on the power of direct democracy stabilized Athenian society after the civil war, by ensuring that the wealthy and the poor alike had recommitted to sharing their community. The new rules were a refinement of democracy, not a 180-degree turnaround from majoritarian tyranny to constitutional rule of law. The Athenians had in fact established limits on the power of the Assembly at the inception of the democratic era. The rule governing the practice of ostracism provides a telling example of a limit on the Assembly’s legislative authority – a limit that was democratic but not liberal. Each year, at a meeting of the Assembly, the Athenians voted on whether to hold an ostracism. Usually they voted “no.” On 15 known occasions, they voted “yes.” Then they held a second meeting, in the public square, to which each citizen brought a fragment of pottery (ostrakon) on which he (or a literate friend) scratched the name of the man he thought most deserved to be exiled from Athens for 10 years. The plurality winner of this “unpopularity contest” was thus expelled. There was no trial, and no appeal. Ostracism traduced the individual rights that would come to be the core of liberalism. But it was certainly democratic, and the Athenians narrowly defined its scope. The rules restricted the option to hold an ostracism to once each year. The vote on whom to expel was held only at the second meeting. With the ostracism law, Athenians constitutionally limited their own legislative authority in the immediate aftermath of their democratic revolution. The later legal reforms formalized and extended a principle of legislative limitation that had existed from the beginning. This is an important point because many people today suppose that limit56
Why should citizens of the 21st century care what a bunch of slave-owning men, who denied political participation rights to women and immigrants, thought democracy meant? The answer is that we still aspire to their basic concept of democracy.
Universal Democratic and Social Republic, 1848 (litho), Sorrieu, Frederic (1807-c.1861).
ing the power of government is a modern, explicitly liberal innovation. It is not. A democracy that is not liberal can impose limits upon itself. Democratic citizens can choose the rule of law as a constitutional principle, and they can do so without invoking the mystical notion that it is the laws that do the ruling. Democracy need not be a majoritarian train wreck.
The imaginary Demopolis Mature ancient Greek democracy consisted of limited and collective self-government by citizens. Is that still the essence of democracy today? The question can be answered philosophically. Imagine a large modern population, inhabiting a defined territory; call it Demopolis. The diverse population of Demopolis contains rich and poor. The
citizens of Demopolis come from different ethnic backgrounds. Some are liberals, others are libertarians, republicans and religious believers of various faiths. The people of Demopolis are self-interested in the usual ways that people are, and no more naturally cooperative than other people. But they do agree on three things: they want to create a state that is 1) stable and secure, 2) prosperous enough to compete with rival states, and 3) non-tyrannical â€“ it is not ruled by a powerful individual or coalition. The people of Demopolis can create new constitutional rules for their state, but, if the new order is to succeed, they must limit those rules to those that its diverse population will actively support. Demopolisâ€™ constitution-writers do not presume that they are setting up a system that will be universally best for all people, everywhere. Rather, they seek a government that will allow the people of Demopolis to gain the three goals of security, prosperity and non-tyranny. They will pay some costs in the form of time and taxes to live without a boss, but they do not intend to devote their entire lives to governing. The hypothetical constitution-writers of Demopolis are collectively responsible for making sensible and sustainable rules for themselves and for future generations. The rules must enable the citizens and their descendants collectively to enforce and, when necessary, change those self-same rules. The citizens must, therefore, be willing and able to engage in joint action, as a collective agent. In order to achieve their three goals, the people of Demopolis need to establish basic rules. The first rule requires participation in making and enforcing the rules. The participation requirement means that all those persons culturally imagined as potential citizens are actual citizens. Because this is modernity, that includes all native adult men and women, and at least some naturalized foreigners. The participation rule also means that all share the costs of government. All citizens G R E E C E IS
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have a duty to help make and enforce the rules. They have a corresponding duty to sanction anyone who fails in her duty of participation. The participation rule is necessary to reduce free-riding. Each citizen, insofar as she is rationally self-interested, can choose to enjoy the goods of security, prosperity and non-tyranny without contributing to the effort of maintaining them. But the state will not long remain secure and prosperous if it is beset by free-riders. The second rule concerns how decisions will be made. Non-tyranny means that no defined faction of the demos can legitimately rule, as a collective autocrat, over the rest of the demos. Participation plus non-tyranny implies that each citizen must have an equal vote, and an equal opportunity to join in making legislation and taking on whatever other political roles are created in the course of establishing the rules. Moreover, legislative policy must aim not only at non-tyrannical process, but also at efficiency. If they are to achieve the end of security in a dangerous and mutable environment, governing decisions made by the citizens must be better than “coin-flip” random choices. To make better decisions, the citizens therefore also require freedom of thought, speech and assembly. A third rule sets limits on collective authority: the legislative, policy-making process must restrict citizens’ collective ability to make rules threatening the functional equality or freedom of citizens. Strong protections are needed because political freedom and civic equality are necessary to secure the basic purposes for which the state exists. Because the citizens agree that they want a state that is secure, prosperous and non-tyrannical, the citizens – as legislators – recognize that they must not make any rule that would be likely to make the state insecure, impoverished or autocratic. In brief, the rules must meet a constitutional standard: the rule forbidding legislation that threatens the three ends of security, prosperity and non-tyranny must be legally entrenched and enforced. 58
Both democracy and liberalism offer laudable features for a modern society. But we must not underestimate how hard it is to sustain collective self-governance by citizens while protecting and advancing liberal rights.
The three basic rules – requiring participation in making and enforcing the rules, establishing procedures for shared and effective decision-making, and forbidding legislation that would threaten the conditions necessary for making and carrying out decisions – yield a basic government for the imaginary Demopolis. That government has core features identical to those of actual ancient Greek democracy: collective and limited self-government by a large and diverse body of politically free and equal citizens. That government is not liberal, in the contemporary sense of guaranteeing universal human rights, but neither is it majoritarian tyranny. It is, in fact, democracy. Demopolis is just a thought experiment, but it has close analogies in the real world. In the past quarter-century, many people have sought to create new state governments that would be non-tyrannical, secure and prosperous – recall the Arab Spring and the Eastern European ‘color revolutions’. Like the real ancient Athenians and the citizens of imaginary Demopolis, they aimed at democracy, as collective self-government. But not all of them embraced liberalism. For some liberals, that must be seen as a moral failure. The anarchy and autocracy that have so often followed what were supposed to be democratic transitions, however, point to a more fundamental political failure. That failure can be attributed in part to the fact that basic democracy, without liberalism, was never on the international policy menu. There are many reasons that the Arab Spring and other recent revolutionary movements have not resulted
in stable, prosperous and non-autocratic states. But the modern tendency to conflate democracy with liberalism has made it harder to implement a successful democratic but non-liberal regime. Such a regime falls short of what liberal democrats hope for: it might not support human rights, might impose religious conformity, might distribute material goods less than justly. But a non-liberal democratic regime can be stable and need not devolve into majoritarian tyranny. It should provide political equality along with basic political freedoms for citizens. When the alternatives are repressive autocracy or anarchy, democracy – as collective self-government – is a worthy goal. Democracy can provide a sturdy foundation for political order. It might even lead to liberal democracy. Both democracy and liberalism offer laudable features for a modern society. But we must not underestimate how hard it is to sustain collective self-governance by citizens while protecting and advancing liberal rights. That difficulty is manifest in the 21st-century US, as the country struggles with global and domestic terrorism, political polarization, new and old forms of discrimination and group identity, and growing economic inequality. The prospects of both democracy and liberalism, at home and abroad, will be much improved if people understand the difference between them.
This article was originally published by Aeon Media (www.aeon.co) Follow them on Twitter at @aeonmag.
O R L A N D O Director: Io Voulgaraki
from September 30, 2016
SKROW THEATER “Which is the greater ecstasy? The man’s or the woman’s? And are they not perhaps the same?” Following the very successful performance of “Intolerance” at the Onassis Cultural Centre, Io Voulgaraki is now adapting and directing Virginia Woolf’s masterpiece “Orlando”, starring Amalia Kavali. A being, free from the shared human restrictions of ageing and death, begins its life as an English nobleman in the Elizabethan era and ends up as an emancipated woman in the 20th century. Throughout this journey, it goes through countless experiences, both as a man and as a woman, drinking life with rabid thirst in constant search for a profound human connection; that “voice answering a voice”. But can people truly connect?
Niketas Siniossoglou Adaptation - Direction:
Io Voulgaraki Stage and Costume design:
Magdalene Avgerinou Stage Lighting:
Karol Jarek Hair designer:
Alex Scissors Make-up designer:
Marina Stat Programme & Poster Photographs by:
Kiki Papadopoulou Teaser-Trailer:
Sebastian Fragopoulos Performer:
This performance shows us Orlando in the present, in her “here and now” as she tells us of the greatest moments of her life in her ultimate endeavor to achieve human contact. Through the process of recollection, she faces her most extreme experiences, at times earthly and natural and at others transcendental. She begins her narration from the start, as we always do when facing death or the unknown.
With the support of the British Council
September 30, 2016, 21:00 Shows:
September 30 – December 4, 2016 Dates & times:
Friday - Saturday - Sunday at 21:00 Running Time:
70 minutes Tickets:
€12 general admission, €8 concessions Address:
5 Arhellaou Street, Pagrati Reservations:
210.723.5842 (11:00 a.m - 14:00 p.m. and 17:00 p.m. - 20:30 p.m.) Contact:
Maria Tsolaki 697.476.7890, 210.762.7966 firstname.lastname@example.org
RE PRE SENTATION
The Democratic Paradox Aristotle would have called Western democracy an “elective oligarchy,” and he would have been right. BY Peter Jones
he problem that politicians have with democracy is well illustrated by the extreme left-wing leader of the British Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn. He was b(r)ought to power by the votes of the Labour party’s membership, many of whom had paid for the right to choose the leader. At the time, the membership numbered over 420,000, of whom 251,000 voted for Mr Corbyn. On the strength of this result, Mr Corbyn affirmed that it was his “democratic” duty to allow all his decisions to be controlled by the membership. But the size of the British electorate is about 45 million. At the 2015 general election, approximately 11 million voted for the Tories, 9 million for Labour. What about them? Will they have no say? Is Labour policy to be controlled by 250,000 members? If it is, then whatever else Mr Corbyn is, he is no democrat, unless by “democrat” he means “one who does what his paid-up supporters tell him to.” Most people would call such a politician a puppet on the strings of a cabal. In classical Athens, all male citizens over age 18 were automatic members of the assembly and any one of 60
Prespes, 2009 Courtesy of the artist Panos Kokkinias and Xippas Gallery
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RE PRE SENTATION
them could, in principle, propose a motion for the assembly to debate. But first the motion had to go through the assembly’s steering committee – the boule, a body serving for one year and consisting of 500 citizens over age 30 drawn from the whole of Attica. Only then could it be placed on the assembly’s agenda to be debated by speakers supporting it or opposing it, and a decision reached by majority verdict. The success or failure of the motion depended purely on a combination of the interests of all the people and the persuasiveness of the arguments. The idea that a small, unrepresentative coterie run by a single man could compel the whole assembly to adopt this or that policy would have struck the Greeks as laughable, the equivalent of tyranny, rendering the very principle of direct democracy meaningless. That is the extreme left (and right) for you. Yet one can see why the Corbyn experiment is so appealing to people. The fact is that the “man in the street” across Europe feels more and more that he is powerless to effect change or even make his voice heard. Politicians at the national level are felt by some to be working not as public servants, but for their own interests; on the grand scale, the EU is a totally undemocratic institution, running a master project designed to create a United States of Europe, enormously appealing to those at the top table but over which the “man in the street” will have even less say. But there is a paradox here: for all their direct democracy, even ancient
The fact is that the “man in the street” across Europe feels more and more that he is powerless to effect change or even make his voice heard.
Greeks “in the street” felt powerless to effect change, if the great comic playwright Aristophanes is anything to go by. In his Acharnês, for example, Aristophanes imagines a farmer, Dikaiopolis, exasperated by the war against the Spartans, making a Universal Declaration of Independence, establishing a personal peace-treaty with Sparta and opening up his farm to trade with anyone who wants to deal. In Lysistrata, the women take action, going on a sexstrike and taking control of the money supply on the Acropolis to force the men to make peace. For Aristophanes, it is all about the proudly independent little man or woman taking on the state for the good of everyone, and winning. Unfortunately, Aristophanes was just a comedian, inhabiting a heroically glorious fantasy world, into which he lured, for an hour or so, his willing audience, for laughs. However, that proud individual heroism is burnt into the Greek soul. The Greek PM Alexis Tsipras, for example, inspired by that same Aristophanic vision rightly shared by many Greeks, adopted the Dikaiopolis role in an equally heroic effort to take on the EU. But the real world (alas) turned out not to do ancient Greek comedy, and he was forced to yield. Some people, however, would argue that the world does do ancient Greek comedy – it happens when the people are offered a referendum, the only occasion when real democracy is given its head. The recent British referendum, however, which took the nation not out of the continent of 500 million disparate people which is Europe, but out of the overweening bureaucracy which is the European Union, certainly had its comic elements. But for many, it seemed more like tragedy. The whole episode was characterized by two striking features. The first was the nature of the debate leading up to the vote: freed from the responsibilities, constraints and conventions of parliament, politicians turned into unscrupulous demagogues, telling outright lies (mostly on the “Leave” side), and making wild, unsustainable threats
(on the “Remain” side). The contempt that politicians showed for us-the-people was reciprocated by us in full. The second was the sheer outrage of the losers. It demonstrated once and for all that, although people may say they want more democratic control, once they get it, they cannot accept the possibility that others may think and vote differently. It was especially striking that the greatest outrage was from those who see themselves as the ultimate defenders of individual freedoms, the liberal intellectuals. Clearly what they meant by “freedom” was freedom for themselves. One such individual felt so deeply insulted by the result that he proposed in the left-wing newspaper The Guardian (where else?) that the EU should inflict the maximum pain on Britain in the exit negotiations: only thus would British democracy be “cleansed” and “reinvented.” But reinvented as what? Presumably a democracy ruled by no one but liberal intellectuals. Imagine the fun Aristophanes would have had with that! This brings us to the nub of the issue. Western democracy is not and never has been truly democratic. Consequently, we find real democracy (like referendums) very hard to handle. We are simply not attuned to them. What we are attuned to is a system Aristotle would have correctly called an “elective oligarchy.” There is nothing wrong with that system; indeed Aristotle might well have approved of it as combining the best of both worlds – the presumed expertise of an oligarchy of politicians elected to get on with the job of politics, with the freedom of the people to choose (every few years or so) who those politicians should be. In fact, calling our system “democracy” is the real problem. It simply gives people inflated ideas of what they feel it is their “right” to control. It would help if we abandoned that term, and rather called our system what it is – elective oligarchy. At least that would show us where we-the-people stand – in the hands of our elected representatives. After all, we did elect them.
‘Roads of Tension’ on the Road to Recognition A G r e e k a u t h o r ’ s s o c i a l n o v e l c a n n o w r e a c h a n i n t e r n at i o n a l a u d i e n c e a f t e r i t s r e c e n t t r a n s l at i o n i n t o E n g l i s h
At only 39 years of age, author and journalist Giannis Ziotis is on his way to international recognition; his latest novel Roads of Tension has been translated into English, making him one of the few Greek authors of his generation to represent the social novel genre outside Greek borders. Ziotis, born on the island of Andros, fell in love with the written word at a very young age. The favorite author of his youth, and the one who nourished him with his words, was the famous Greek author of the post-world war generation Antonis Samarakis, whose novels of social protest – translated into more than 30 languages – have been Ziotis’ inspiration, making him a vigilant reader and writer, always ready to take a stance regarding social issues. Ziotis studied journalism and worked as a journalist for some years, but in 2000 his life changed when he encountered his “teacher“ Samarakis for the first time. Their meeting and consequent friendship gave him the impetus to set out on his writing career and publish his first novel With the Glance of My Youth, which Samarakis acknowledged as “a marvelous work written by an author with a strong talent, sensitivity and humanity.”
ROADS OF TENSION Synopsis (in the author’s own words): The adventure begins in 1945 and ends today. Back then, need and hunger were on the prowl, directly threatening whole populations with extinction. Some people, deeply desppondent because of their poverty, opened their arms wide in the narrow alleys in order to touch the encroaching walls, which would keep them company. Back then, there was so much more vitality inside people, inversely proportional to the modern era…History, nowadays, seems to long for an update…When the night falls, heroes seek some hope to hold on to as they fight a losing battle on roads of tension, like a coin that, as it falls, strives to stay up on both sides.
available at: www.giannisziotis.com www.iWrite.gr Amazon www.iTunes.com www.cosmotebooks.gr
The Calf-Bearer, whose direct gaze and welcoming smile seem an open window into the soul of the Acropolis.
IF THE STATUES COULD TELL THEIR STORY In the spirit of democracy, eight of the Acropolis Museumâ€™s most significant statues take freedom of expression to a whole new level and excercise their right to speak for themselves! BY John Leonard P H O T OS D I M I T R I S T S O U M P L E K A S
Papposilenos LOOKS CAN BE DECEIVING...
Greece Is: Are you the mythical Silenus, the wise teacher and companion of the wine god Dionysus? Yes, but sometimes, when I look older, they like to call me Papposilenos.
We hear you’re fond of drunken revelries and often get carried home on a donkey. Is that appropriate for a figure of your stature? Well, I am a satyr – we love drinking, dancing, making music… and we’re known for our cheeky, lewd behavior. Plus, I’m the leader of Dionysus’ entourage and I have to set an example for the younger satyrs. We’re an unruly bunch, especially the maenads – those high-spirited women who dance 66
around in wine-induced ecstasy, usually working themselves into a violent frenzy!
Tutor, sidekick, chief satyr…what else can you tell us? Well, in this particular manifestation as a statue (along with little Dionysus here on my shoulders, holding a theatrical mask), I used to adorn the Theater of Dionysus. But I also became a much-beloved character in those bawdy, tragicomical “satyr” plays.
You satyrs were originally forest men, weren’t you, and typically sport the ears, legs and tail of a horse. What’s with your present look?
Nowadays, I do have an uncanny resemblance to the philosopher Socrates; but he was a familiar, colorful figure around here, well known to Aeschylus, Sophocles, Euripides and the other playwrights who presented satyr plays on the Acropolis slopes.
Ah, you’re from 5th-century BC, Periclean Athens? No, I’m not that old! My era is the 2nd century BC.
So, you’re actually a Roman copy, posing as a Classical Greek original? Something like that. Don’t forget, in ancient Greek mythology and art looks can be deceiving!
Seated Scribe THE POWER OF THE WORD
Who are you… there on your stool? I am an official Athenian scribe. I had quite an important job. Athens was a busy place in the 6th, 5th and 4th centuries BC! What with that ambitious tyrant Peisistratus, the pugnacious Persians, the First Athenian League, the Peloponnesian War and the Second Athenian League, there were always architects, builders, treasurers and other officials rushing about; generals and diplomats coming and going; politicians bustling between the Boule (Council) and the Ekklesia (People’s Assembly); and – for us scribes – plenty of state decisions, pronouncements and honorary decrees to be recorded…
How were Athenians kept informed of this official business? Once decisions had been proposed by the Boule and approved by the Ekklesia, we transcribed them onto a papyrus roll, or a wax-lined wooden tablet, using a sharp bronze or bone stylus. Then, they were inscribed on stone steles, erected in prominent public spaces – especially the Agora (central square) and the Acropolis.
My duties included documenting the leaders’ rulings and keeping accounts of public constructions, or the dedicatory treasure of Athena… So, these “notice boards” were a common sight on the Sacred Rock? Indeed; if you look just beside the visitors’ path as you ascend from the Propylaia, you’ll see slots in the bedrock that once held steles. People could read these documents as they passed.
What kinds of things did you record? I’m an older scribe (ca. 510-500 BC), so my duties included documenting the leaders’ rulings and keeping accounts of public constructions, or the dedicatory treasure of Athena and the other gods. Later scribes also registered democratic actions by the Demos (citizens), public supervisors’ annual reports, foreign alliances, and who was to be given honors, such as free meals at the Prytaneion (Tholos/Executive Council’s Mess), front-row theater seats, the title of Ambassador, or even Athenian citizenship! G R E E C E IS
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Is there a religious ceremony about to take place? My sister Caryatids and I are thought to be libation-bearers or attendants for Athens’ mythical king Cecrops. That’s probably why we adorn the Erechtheion’s South Porch – his tomb was located just below. We used to carry phialai (shallow libation bowls) in our hands; the tips of our knees pressing against our gowns indicate that we’re moving, perhaps rhythmically in a procession.
You’re also columns; is that unusual? No, caryatids had already appeared in the Siphnian Treasury at Delphi about 530-525 BC. We were installed on the Acropolis a century later. The Erechtheion may have been started as part of Pericles’ great building program on the Sacred Rock… or at least by 421 BC. It was mostly complete by 406 BC, but – as you can see, if you examine the molding just below our feet – some decorative details were left unfinished. Those final years of the Peloponnesian War were difficult.
Our sculptor…? That’s still a mystery. Some say we came from the workshop of Alkamenes, a student and collaborator of the great Pheidias.
Mnesikles, the architect of the Propylaia, may have designed the Erechtheion, but who was your particular sculptor? That’s still a mystery. Some say we came from the workshop of Alkamenes, a student and collaborator of the great Pheidias. Aren’t we enchanting, with our thick braided hair, clinging garments and unique, crown-like capitals resting on our heads? The vertical folds of our peploi recall the flutes of an actual column. We do carry a lot of weight on our heads.
Where does your name come from? One local myth claimed we represent girls from Karyai, in the Peloponnesian region of Laconia. Vitruvius, the Roman architect, wrote that we are Carian women from Asia Minor, who sided with the Persians and now bear the weight of our guilt on our heads… But these are apocryphal tales. We are Korai, elegant ladies of Athens!
But one of you is missing. Where is she? You are speaking of our sister, who is now in London. The people of Athens used to say they could hear us mourning for her at night, after she was taken by Lord Elgin.
Caryatid AN ELEGANT L ADY O F AT H E N S
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You must be The Calf-Bearer…? One of the eldest members of the statue community here in the Acropolis Museum? Yes, I was one of the first statues produced when the Attic sculpture workshops got started in the early 7th century BC. My creator is still unknown, but the experts think I was carved about 570 BC.
How do they know you’re such an early sculpture? For one thing, I’m made of white marble from Mount Hymettus, just outside Athens. In later years, Athenian sculptors largely switched to using finer-quality marble from the island of Paros. But I don’t feel old-fashioned; I’m an original… an icon! I’m in all the guidebooks and school texts!
You sound a little… supercilious. Who are you exactly? From my inscribed base, you’ll see I’m a dedication offered by Rhombos, son of Palos, who was probably a top Athenian aristocrat – a member of the 500-Measure social class, with the necessary means to make expensive gifts, such as me. Some say I’m Rhombos himself, bringing a calf to Athena as a sacrificial offering.
How else can we identify you as an early Archaic sculpture?
The Calf-Bearer A DEDICANT COMES TO WORSHIP
Well, look at my features – the distinctive “Archaic Smile,” almond-shaped eyes and stylized hair and anatomy. And check out these impressive “abs,” just above my button-like navel. I used to go to the gymnasium every day!
If you’re so old, how come you’re still in such great shape? It was those rascally Persians. When they ransacked the Acropolis in 480 BC, they knocked me down, along with some of my other colleagues here in this gallery. Later, the Athenians buried us, when they were tidying up. So, here we are! 70
I don’t feel old-fashioned; I’m an original… an icon! I’m in all the guidebooks and school texts!
… And you are the Peplos Kore, a work of that great Athenian sculptor whose name we do not know, but refer to as the “Rampin Master?” Yes; we korai first appeared on the Acropolis in the early 6th c BC. We’re all unique! I myself was sculpted around 530 BC. You can see that I’m a more recent figure – from my relaxed Archaic Smile, less stylized “Almond Eyes” and more naturalistic body.
The Peplos Kore A COLORFUL L ADY SMILES
You’re wearing a traditional Doric peplos (heavy woolen robe). Why is that? Well, firstly, we Acropolis ladies are more modest than those nude kouros boys! We prefer to appear fully dressed, in our finest clothes. My own style is conservative… they say I’m a goddess – perhaps Artemis – though, I seem to have lost my bow and arrows. Other korai hold small offerings: a pear, a flower, a dove…
They say I’m a goddess… but most of us Korai are likely priestesses, temple attendants, or young Athenian women typically seen at public celebrations or ceremonies… You korai are not all goddesses? No, most of us are likely priestesses, temple attendants, or young women typically seen at public celebrations or ceremonies. The more progressive ladies among us tend to wear lighter, sheerer fashions, like those of Ionia (western Asia Minor) and the Aegean islands. That is, a linen chiton (tunic) beneath a himation (mantle).
We understand from the museum’s conservators that you were all once much more colorful. Alas, our luxurious fabrics have indeed faded! Originally, our clothes, hair and faces gleamed with rich shades of blue, green, yellow and red. We looked very lifelike! My peplos was adorned with animal images and lovely palmettes, rosettes and running waves. We also wore painted or attached jewelry. I had a bronze wreath around my hair. Those metal fittings still visible on some korai’s heads weren’t so fashionable, but they kept pesky birds from landing and spoiling our appearance!
The Rider O N P A R A D E I N A N C I E N T AT H E N S
Those horses are a little frisky.
Where does that leave you?
They want the parade to begin! We’re getting them into formation for the dokimasia – the annual inspection of the Athenian cavalry. One of our commanders (hipparchoi) is just ahead, also trying to soothe his mount. He was likely carved by Pheidias himself, but most of us Parthenon figures were created (430s BC) by lesser sculptors of the master’s workshop.
We’re still cavalrymen. But now we’re participants in a sacrificial procession, held in honor of Erechtheus’ slain daughters. We riders accordingly belong to the king’s army, which, the myth says, defeated the invading forces of King Eumolpus of neighboring Eleusis. Athenian independence was thus divinely ensured, thanks to the sacrifice of Erechtheus’ offspring.
You’re members of the cavalry? Aren’t there new interpretations of the Parthenon frieze these days?
Which interpretation is correct?
The traditional view is that we’re all participants in a Greater Panathenaic procession in honor of Athena – during which a new peplos (robe) was presented to the goddess for her cult statue in the Erechtheion. Supposedly, the central scene over the Parthenon’s east entrance depicts the new garment’s presentation. In recent years, however, a fresh interpretation has been offered, in which the east frieze’s central scene is said instead to concern human sacrifice, involving the mythical Athenian king Erechtheus, his wife Praxithea and their three virgin daughters. It’s based on a familiar Athenian myth.
The specialists are still talking… But the new view fits the other decorative themes portrayed on the Parthenon and Acropolis– military victory; order over chaos; patriotism and self-sacrifice, all in the name of Athenian supremacy and freedom. In Pericles’ day, these were key issues, fueled by Persian invasions, imperial expansion and all-for-one, one-for-all democratic reforms.
Our sculptor…? That’s still a mystery. Some say we came from the workshop of Alkamenes, a student and collaborator of the great Pheidias.
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You’re a handsome fellow. You look quite distinct from the earlier statues around here. I’m what the art historians call a transitional figure. I represent an Athenian youth (ephebos), in the era after the Persian invasion of 480 BC. I was also preserved by the city’s clean-up/burial operation that followed the wartime destruction of the Acropolis. You’ll notice I have a very naturalistic appearance. No more stylized Archaic facial features. Instead, I’m portrayed as physically relaxed, mentally composed; still standing erect, but with my body weight predominantly on my left leg.
Is there still uncertainty concerning who carved you? Yes, but whoever he was he has masterfully demonstrated an artistic canon later embraced by famous sculptors including Polykleitos, Praxiteles and Lysippos. Through me, he shows that although the body has many different parts, it can be unified symmetrically, by applying a system of ideal mathematical proportions and balance. You could say that I’m the first “digital” statue!
Kritios Boy A C O M P O S E D AT H E N I A N TEENAGER
Your hips are narrower, with one side slightly higher than the other…
I’m a forerunner to the ‘artistic sensibilities’ of Classical Athens... My contribution to Greek art has been partly described as a newfound attitude of calm, post-war confidence...
That’s the “contrapposto” effect, where my back is beginning to curve like an “S”… one hip down and the opposite shoulder up. I’m named after my creator Kritios, the same sculptor who depicted those tyrant-slayers Harmodius and Aristogeiton.
Your humor is a little surprising, given that you appear so serious. My austere expression is characteristic. I’m perhaps the best known example of the “Severe Style,” a forerunner to the “artistic sensibilities” of Classical Athens’ Golden Age. My contribution to Greek art has been partly described as a newfound attitude of calm, post-war confidence; a harbinger of the Athenians’ blossoming ideological and visual emphasis on individualism, within their increasingly democratic society.
Pensive Athena INSIDE THE MIND OF A GODDESS
If we may intrude on your quiet reflection, aren’t you Athena, the divine patroness of ancient Athens? I initially had to compete for that role against the sea god Poseidon, but I prevailed… aided by a persuasive gift: the olive tree. That pivotal contest was commemorated in a sculptural scene in the Parthenon’s west pediment. My birth is featured in the opposite east pediment.
Would visitors have seen many tributes to you on the Acropolis? This prominent hill was the seat of my cult – the foremost religious sanctuary in a city named after me. The Athenians were always finding new ways to express their respect, and to remind other city-states what a powerful goddess I am!
…You often appeared on steles such as this one? My image regularly accompanied official steles. This relief (ca. 460 BC) may have been a boundary marker; or part of a treasury archive or solemn list of war dead. With my expression and heavy drapery folds, I represent the Severe Style, prior to the more idealized, fluid, lightly clad figures of the ensuing High Classical era.
My image regularly accompanied official steles. This relief may have been a boundary marker; or part of a treasury archive or solemn list of war dead
Where might we have seen larger images of you? The most visible was the colossal Bronze Athena, between the Erechtheion and the Propylaia. I was Athena Promachos, dressed in armor, holding a spear. This statue towered impressively over visitors as they emerged onto the Acropolis. It was so tall (at least 9m.) that sailors reputedly could see the tops of my helmet and spear as they approached from Sounion! With the sun flashing off my polished bronze, it must have been a glorious sight! Of course, the pièce de résistance was my gold and ivory cult statue, 10 meters tall, inside the cella of the Parthenon, created by the sculptor Pheidias!
Nike EVEN GODDESSES REMOVE THEIR SANDALS
May we ask, where you are going? Into a temple; but first I’m removing my sandals as a sign of respect. I represent victory, a familiar theme on the Acropolis, heralded by Pericles’ artists through their various decorative programs – as visual reminders of Athenian military might and success. The recurring association between Athena, patroness of Athens, and Nike, goddess of victory, was symbolic and propagandistic…
Where were Athena and Nike seen together? In the Parthenon, a Nike nearly 2 meters high stood in the open, upturned hand of Pheidias’ statue of Athena Parthenos – dwarfed by the enormous figure, which (with its base) was more than five times taller! Other Nike figures appeared in the temple’s pediments, on its metopes and even on its roof, adorning the building’s four corners. Affluent worshipers would have dedicated marble, bronze or gold Nike figures to Athena as votive offerings.
The balustrade was carved by at least six sculptors… There were about 50 Nikai…moving gracefully, clad in near-transparent drapery… offering sacrifices to Athena and erecting trophies… Where were you? The Sandalizomene relief was one of the marble slabs that formed a balustrade around the Athena Nike temple, built in the 430s and 420s BC. The balustrade itself was carved by at least six sculptors during the last decade or so of the Classical 5th century BC. There were about 50 Nikai depicted, moving gracefully, clad in near-transparent drapery. We are offering sacrifices to Athena and erecting trophies before and after battles.
Did Nikai appear on the temple itself? Ten gilded bronze Nikai adorned the roof. The temple’s overall decorative theme was the victory of Greeks, specifically Athenians, in battles against Persians or other Greeks. Pedimental sculptures portrayed the Gigantomachy and Amazonomachy; the frieze illustrated Marathon and other historical or mythical battles. This little sanctuary may itself have been a votive offering by the Athenians, in the last years of the Peloponnesian War. 76
THE ACROPOLIS MUSEUM At the Acropolis Museum, the small details hold the key… from the soaring modern architectural features of the building itself and the ruins of an ancient, once-crowded neighborhood visible outside, to the scenes of women’s rituals and ancient everyday life found on Classical vases inside in the Acropolis Slopes Gallery. One also has to look beyond polished marble surfaces and stunning sculptural forms, however, remembering what is now missing, before one can fully appreciate the soul of ancient Greece.
Traces of once-bright paint still cling to Archaic Kore (maiden) statues; striding Caryatid ladies and graceful Nike goddesses attend to their sacred rituals; intricately carved original panels from the Parthenon’s metopes and frieze stand ready for inspection beside casts of their brethren now in foreign museums; while the view to the Acropolis and surrounding city, framed within the top-floor gallery’s all-glass walls, provides an inspiring bonus display to the museum’s already superb exhibits. Take a moment also to appreciate the friendly staff, the well-stocked book/ souvenir shops and the excellent roof-top restaurant and café, offering delicious, freshly innovative fare.
Info 15 Dionysiou Areopagitou • Tel. (+30) 210.900.0900 • www.theacropolismuseum.gr G eneral admission €5 • O pening hours April 1 – October 31: Monday 8 a.m.-4 p.m.; Tuesday-Sunday 8 a.m.-8 p.m.; Friday 8 a.m.-10 p.m. November 1 – March 31: Monday-Thursday 9 a.m.-5 p.m.; Friday 9 a.m.-10 p.m.; Saturday & Sunday 9 a.m.-8 p.m.
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L ABOR PAINS
â€œDemocracyâ€? in the Making The inside story of how the internationally acclaimed graphic novel on the birth of democracy came to life. Words: Abr aham K awa P i c t u re s & H u e s : A l e c o s P apa d a t o s & Annie Di Donna
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“We’d get together in Athens and brainstorm over each chapter and scene before, during, and after its writing. We’d do it in the way that comes easiest to friends who are co-workers, over coffee or food and drink. It is the table, not the desk, where a collaboration is best forged.”
he goddess Athena, sprung fully grown from the split skull of her father Zeus, was literally a child of thought, much like the city under her patronage. Athens grew from an idea that Athenians had of themselves, an idea that made them different from citizens of other city-states. Democracy, the concept that changed the world, and our graphic novel of the same name (a novel which charts the story of the concept’s birth) are in their separate, yet interlinked ways, both children of thought as well. The serendipitous quality of this pattern grows more intricate when one bears in mind the fact that the novel originated with Alecos becoming intrigued by his daughter Io’s research for a school project on the reforms of Cleisthenes, and one considers, too, that so much of the story deals with fathers and their offspring (as well as with Athena herself). It all comes full circle with our decision to dedicate this “offspring” of ours to our fathers. It seems that what goddesses, cities, political systems and graphic novels share most of all is that they are birthed into being, and that the labor pains are never trifling. In a graphic novel, the work of a wordsmith, much like that of an artist, is wrought with the kind of loneliness experienced by gods and long distance runners. Alecos, Annie and I toiled alone at our tasks, separated from each other; in their case, it was by a table’s distance, in mine it was by some 300 kilometers or more. A graphic novel script, written in a manner similar to that of theatrical plays and film scripts, is crafted the same way gods create worlds and runners get through races: word after word and inch after inch, with a grandiose plan and painstaking perseverance, every detail and texture included, and with the end of the road always so far away. Abysmally imperfect for godhood and painfully out of shape for any serious athletic pursuit, the writer struggles towards the birth of the script, at which point suddenly another labor begins, that of the artist. Alecos and
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The creative process: an original illustration by Alecos Papadatos and Annie di Donna.
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The three of us have stated on numerous occasions how we believe democracy is still being created every day, with each decision, each forward step or backward fall its citizens take, and that belief dominates our graphic novel.
Annie had to hit the ground running, and decipher and interpret what I indicated, not just in terms of dialogue, milieu and action, but in mood, atmosphere and emotion as well. Imagine a cinematographer who has to double as a film’s director and editor and transcribe a flawed would-be-god’s gibberish into a flowing, coherent message (much like our Pythia in Delphi), all the while in a race to the finish line – the dreaded deadline. Oh, and add to this the exertions of research, from stacks upon stacks of books, articles, treatises and studies on every aspect of a world long gone to actual location scouting and photography – Delphi was Alecos’ assignment, the Acropolis was mine – and the degree of difficulty becomes clearer. However – and this is not just a trait of graphic novels, but of any collaborative storytelling worth its salt – the loneliness of these labors is preceded and interrupted throughout the long period of gestation by that most democratic of all concepts: dialogue. The telephone and the internet provide modern storytellers with a variety of ways to communicate and engage in hours of back-and-forth, but in the five-odd years from the book’s start to its finish, we’d also get together in Athens and brainstorm over each chapter and scene before, during, and after its writing. We’d do it in the way that comes easiest to friends who are co-workers, over coffee or food and drink. It is the table, not the desk, where a collaboration is best forged. At small cafés in Plaka, tavernas tucked away in the bystreets of Thiseio, or bookstore cafeterias a stone’s throw from Syntagma Square, 82
we’d break down the story, experiment with form and theme, and tussle with how to turn ideas – the storytelling kind as much as the grand philosophical kind – into narrative. All the time, the Acropolis was there in the background or just out of view, still with us after all these millennia, not just to link us bodily with Cleisthenes and Leander and the past, but to remind us of that other dialogue going on, the one between yesterday’s history and today’s interpretation. And this, gentle readers, turned out to be the most arduous and important aspect of this book’s birth. We had to do justice to what had happened then, respecting historical sources and facts and the differences of cultures separated by far more than just thousands of years, but we also had to fill in the dots and gaps, negotiate the variances in the interpretation of even the simplest facts, to make the events of then understandable to all of you living in the here and now. Our 21st century worldview filtered the politics of 510 BC. Our everyman protagonist, an artist and a storyteller, became the incarnation of not just us, but of the everyman of then, now, and all the ages in between, trying to fathom, react to, and survive the systems, policies and circumstances that turn individuals into pawns, twist ideals into propaganda and make the birth of something new into the death of a dream. This process which went into the making of the book became the book itself, in plot and theme, imagery and nuance. How well we achieved that is up to you to judge, but that was always our point. The three of us have stated on numerous occasions how we believe
democracy is still being created every day, with each decision, each forward step or backward fall its citizens take, and that belief dominates our graphic novel. It is all part of a society’s labor pains, to paraphrase our Cleisthenes. The hope of a successful birth encourages going forward with it, though the cost is often dear. For artists and storytellers, there is a measure of comfort in knowing it all comes to an end of sorts at least, when the book is finally taken off our hands by the goddess of deadlines – for it’s not quite ready, it’s never, never quite ready – and given to you, the readers, to engage with and judge and struggle over, to grapple, understand, misunderstand, cheer or rail against. But just as the end of our labors is the start of yours, so too for Leander, poised forever at the plain of Marathon, for Athens, still going on in the face of new adversity, and for democracy, whether abolished or upheld, evolved or twisted beyond recognition, it never really ends. Democracy, its story and its state, is always in the making.
INFO “Democracy” by Alecos Papadatos, Abraham Kawa and Annie Di Donna is published by Bloomsbury.
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Agora, Garden, Monument Great Athenian urban projects function as walkscapes. Walking is basic to Athenian democracy: a resilient, sustainable way to invent, discuss, cultivate, remember and represent ideas in, and about, the city. BY Petros Babasik as
1. Raphael, The School of Athens, (DETAIL) 1509–1511. The Agora is the space of oratory, gathering and exchange. It contains the people, the multitude. By walking and talking through it, one becomes a citizen, a guest or a migrant. There, opinions may be expressed, heard and mediated. 2. Hieronymus Bosch, The Garden of Earthly Delights, (DETAIL) 1490–1510 A garden cultivates identity, history, architecture, memory and innovation; it connects to the atmosphere and climate of a place. A garden is read through walking to clarify one’s place in the city and in the world. It is a place of orientation, disorientation, mediation and refuge.
3. Rafael, The Marriage of the Virgin, (DETAIL) 1504 A monument builds identity, history, architecture, memory and innovation. It is the presence of the city, an embodiment of civitas. It is a landmark and an image, combining the sacred and the secular. A monument is designed.
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4. Masked Athena, 2011 Grafitti on Sculpture by Ioannis Krossos, Athena Crowned with the Acropolis, 1871. 5. Drawings, the Parthenonâ€™s east and west pediments The inner and outer layout of the Acropolis align and connect to secular and sacred sites and institutions, turning the Parthenon into an inner sanctum for the Attica Basin3; its artwork narrates the transformation of a mythic landscape into a city, through community, cultivation and human struggle. The different iterations, reconstructions and additions to the Athenian Agora, from Theseus and Solon to the Romans, stand opposite the Acropolis4 and grow organically5 in the urban landscape; they are diagonally bisected, organized and defined by the Panathenaic Dromos, a ceremonial route to the hinterland and to the water. 4
The city as form and matter Athens is a city repeatedly built on top of its ruins. Its historical development is discontinuous and unplanned, its vertical and horizontal growth rapid and violent. New buildings have risen and new areas formed through rifts, breaks, landfills and burials, schematically and destructively against the urban landscape, covering over its underlying hills, valleys and waterscapes. The urban fabric of Athens is a carpet of inertia. Disruptive private powers and perennial civic discontent resist change. And great construction drives often precede bankruptcies. Thus, building the Acropolis broke the coffers of the Delian League, twisted an alliance into a hegemony and ushered in an era of civil war. The 19th-century masterplan of Athens cleaned out Byzantine and medieval Athens and created rifts â€“ in civic form and national identity â€“ among Syntagma, Omonia and Kerameikos, and among the neoclassical, the alien and the demotic. Each of those rifts was followed by a credit event1. Post-war urbanization, licensed by a mercenary alliance of small contractors, plot owners and the state, demolished, deregulated and buried the 19th-century city under the viral, informal, self-interested, ubiquitous 86
polykatoikia (apartment buildings) at the expense of common and communal spaces2. Faliron Bay, landfilled with the debris of this construction boom to become a buttress for a coastal highway, remains a patchwork of disconnected and abandoned attempts at a public waterfront, blocking off and occasionally flooding local neighborhoods. A pattern of abrupt, oblivious and schismatic urbanism has repeated itself across Athens over time. The erection of the Long Walls, the first Ottoman expansion and the second fortification, the gradual burial of waterscapes under
a mirroring road network, the 19th and 21st-century Olympic venues and the millennium infrastructural projects were all realized under states of exception. Their works of architecture stand in conflict with the scale and landscape of the city. Public spaces remain perennially incomplete. Land and property regulation have been undermined. Families flourish as communities languish. Mediterranean sprawl diffuses diversity and openness into Balkan suburbia. Infrastructures are overdue and therefore dated. Long periods of inertia are punctuated by social, eco-
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nomic or natural disasters. A project’s inauguration is the beginning of its own ruin. (Figure 4) This portrait of Athens’ material undevelopment and urban deformation is partial to a fault. It links too easily with crisis narratives of unraveling Mediterranean cities in need of new investment, which often result in yet more abrupt, oblivious, schismatic and unsustainable developments. It also disregards a series of unique, inclusive, systematic, vibrant and resilient public projects – the unification of archaeological sites, the restoration of enclaves in the historic center, or the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center. The urban laboratory of Athens may yet shed light on global practices of sustainable urbanism as well as on the possibility and constitution of the democratic city. To do this, we need to read a unique genealogy of ideas and practices embedded in Athens’ public architecture; it is to be found not in the static, idiotic cycle of building, breaking and burying urban matter, but in the dynamic, public act of walking it.
6. The Kleanthis-Schaubert Plan, 1835 The first 19th-century masterplan for Athens re-envisions an open-air museum with civic buildings, agoras and residential quarters; its drawings and texts communicate the classical dialectic of the individual vs. public, human vs. land, natural vs. artificial, reconstructing a new ground for the city6. 7. Panathenaic Stadium, early 1900s The structures of the first modern Olympics are open, inclusive and embedded in the topography of a new civic garden; those of the 2004 Games form new gateways to the water or hinterland in a whitewashed, rebranded vision of an open, vibrant, global Mediterranean metropolis.
© DIMITRIS TSOUMPLEKAS, SHUTTERSTOCK
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The city as a persistent idea Landmarks, treasuries or ruins: the great Athenian urban projects are also containers and transmitters of information. They communicate variations of an open-ended story about, and addressed to, the city: the chthonic emergence of civitas, an open relationship among humans, history and the demos based on free will, fostered by cultivation and struggle; the reconstruction of the city as a public garden, a visible archipelago of agoras, civic monuments and institutions; the reinvention of citizenship; individual emancipation through technology; the fruitful movement from hinterland to water. This sequence of ideas is contained in the design of Athenian projects, in the blueprint for their construction and public function, and transmitted by their decoration, program or position, in their use as public media. (Figures 5, 6, 7, 8) The Acropolis, the Agora, Ottoman expansion, the 19th-century masterplan7, the polykatoikia urbanization, infrastructural and Olympic projects, pedestrian networks, the Acropolis Museum and the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center – all remember, restate and redraw a corpus of ideas against the schismatic and entropic urbanism of Athens, often as transmitted visions rather than built spaces. These projects broadcast what the city aspires to become. Their architecture is as much about projection as it is about reality – communicating and presenting the possibility of something else. Are Athens’ urban visions for a sustainable and democratic city any different from those of Alexandria, Monticello, Brasília or Chandigarh? Is there an aspect of these projects that is uniquely Athenian or fundamentally Mediterranean, not just a vision but a practice, embodied by architecture and performed by citizens in their everyday life? 88
8. Dimitris Pikionis, Filopappou Hill, Pavement, 1956 Pikionis’ design for the public spaces on the hills and at sites around the Acropolis presents a bricolage of architectural material histories, a network of views towards both ancient monuments and the contemporary city, and a new, strong signification of the ground. It communicates a handmade, hybrid east-west identity, both local and global. Subsequent projects for the unification of archaeological sites expand and complete the open-air museum vision, as Bernard Tschumi’s Acropolis Museum creates new urban picture windows framing the monuments and the city. Renzo Piano’s Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center mirrors and retransmits these ideas, from Faliron back to the city as its eighth and final hill and a gateway to a new, global waterfront.
9. FranCois Pouqueville, The Garden of Philosophers, 1835
10. T.E. Hansen, General Plan of the Public Buildings on Panepistimiou Street, Watercolor over Pencil, 185910 The monument of the Academy incorporates an agora in its dialectical assembly space that leads to a private garden11. Hansen and Ziller’s design for the Library, University, Academy, Hospital and Cathedral ensemble expands a similar agora-garden-monument relation from Panepistimiou Avenue to Syntagma Square and the Royal (now National) Gardens.
11. Friedrich Schmidt, Royal Garden, Athens, 1840 Kleanthis, Schaubert and von Klenze’s arrangement of the Palace, Gardens and Stadium in a monumental sequence is repeated in their excavation of the Agora as an outdoor museum park between the civic axes of the historic triangle and the Acropolis. 11
The city as embodied practice In his essay “Montage and Architecture,” Sergei Eisenstein identifies a 20th-century paradigm shift when architecture, which traditionally offered static presentations to a moving observer, was replaced by cinema, which offered moving representations to a static observer, as a dominant medium of civic expression. Architectural and cinematic storytelling are energized by movement – the artificial motion of images on film and the physical movement of an observer in front of buildings or artwork8. Eisenstein analyzes different buildings and elements of the Athenian Acropolis as a sequence of designed cinematic frames, each intentionally composed to communicate a different idea. Walking – the architectural promenade – actually enables artwork, buildings, spaces and the entire city to “speak.” All great Athenian urban projects are structured and made meaningful by a walk. The Acropolis, the Peripatos9, the Agora, the historic triangle in the city center, the ISAP train stations, Zappeion, Stadiou Street and the Panathenaic Stadium, the dense apartment-building neighborhoods, the landscapes and pedestrian walkways around the hills and archaeological sites, the 2004 Olympic complex, the Acropolis Museum and the Stavros Niarchos Cultural Center are all unique walkscapes – landscapes energized by walking as a cultural practice12. Each of them connects visually or physically to a number of significant routes – the Panathenaic Procession; the Sacred Way; the Kifisos and Ilisos Rivers; Athinas, Ermou and Pireos Streets; Syngrou and Mesogeion Avenues; the ancient and medieval city walls – that are natural and cultural causeways of fruitful movement among the hills and monuments of Attica. G R E E C E IS
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The evolving Athenian visions for a sustainable and democratic city, powered by human movement in architecture, landscape and public space, have established walking as a fundamental ingredient of Athenian democracy. What kinds of spaces evidence this connection? What corresponding, fundamental aspects of Mediterranean public space embody its democratic genealogy? What are the common denominators – uses, designs, typologies – present in all of the above? An archetypal triad stands out: Agora, garden, monument (Figures 1, 2, 3) The agoras, gardens and monuments of depression-era Athens are challenged by globalization. Contemporary public space is shrinking. Central urban spaces lack civitas, multitude and openness. Such attributes endure in temporary practices or fringe, premodern areas of negotiation, free association and diversity – open-air markets, archaeological sites, outdoor night clubs, communal gardens, academic cloisters, balconies and terraces and the beach. Other public spaces remain broken, dormant or generic. They only come to life as short or long sequences of agoras, gardens and monuments. In individual decline, they thrive as ensembles activated by walking. (Figure 9) Independently originating in the Levant and Mesopotamia, the relational, sequential, complex integration of the agora, garden and monument13 is uniquely Athenian. In the formation of the Agora under the Acropolis Rock, integrated with the Sacred Way to Elaionas14 and Eleusis; in the foundation of the Academy Garden across from the above; in the visible alignments among the Agora, the Pnyx, the Areios Pagos, the Peripatos, the groves of the Ilisos – from rock to hinterland to water – with the Parthenon’s foundation narratives; in the legacy of the peripatetic school, a deliberate spatial connection is made among cultivation, learning, negotiation, walking and democracy under the open sky. The walkscapes of Athens and causeways of Attica actuate a series of agora-garden-monument sequences or ensembles. These redefine the concept of public culture. Architects respond by 90
establishing, restating and integrating the triad in their designs. (Figures 10, 11, 12,13, 14) The democratic genealogy embodied by this threesome transforms public movement from a functional necessity in the architecture of the city to an intellectual and cultural practice. In Athens, walking remains an inherently resilient, sustainable and democratic way to invent, discuss, cultivate, remember and represent ideas in space13. An agora is in itself not necessarily democratic; a garden not sustainable; a monument not resilient; yet their combination is often all of the above, nurturing citizenship, diversity, negotiation, encounters and democracy as a complex collage. The triad’s integration may be critical for new projects in sustainable urbanism and the democratic city, not as a historicist revival, but as a way to connect with public space fundamentals and to participate, beyond crisis deadends, in the ongoing transformation of public culture that is currently brewing in Athens. In Eisenstein’s, Pikionis’ and Piano’s stead, the new agoras, gardens and monuments of the Mediterranean metropolis are spatial and virtual, local and global, physical and digital. The cultural practice of walking diachronically sustains and powers their urban design fictions. In their persistent integration, coincidence – the rudiment of public space – is probable.
N OTES 01. Τhe 1831 Kleanthes-Schaubert Masterplan for Athens, its 1834 revised implementation by Leo von Klenze; the bankruptcies of 1827, 1843, 1897. 02. The 1950-70s construction and expansion of Athens in response to interior migration from the countryside was enabled by the ‘antiparochi’ –a quid pro quo land-for-apartments exchange among plot owners and contractors – and a horizontal co-ownership system for new apartment buildings (polykatoikies), incorporating shared responsibility for their communal spaces. 03. Constantinos Doxiadis’ thesis on Architectural Space in Ancient Greece (Cambridge, MA 1972: MIT Press) argues that Greeks designed dynamic landscapes rather than solitary building objects along lines of sight and movement. 04. Paul Zucker, Town and Square: from the Agora to the Village Green, Cambridge, MA 1970: MIT Press, pp.29-31, 41-42. 05. John Travlos sees the difference between the Polis and the Asty exemplified in this opposition. The etymology of the Dromos as an integral element of the Agora is concurrent with the 566 BC foundation of the Panathinaia: a constantly reformed public space hosting major processions. (Ioannis Travlos, The Urban Development of Athens, Athens 1960: Kapon Editions pp.24, 29-30, 38-39. 06. Panayiotis Tournikiotis analyzes the formation, by Kleanthes and Schaubert, of the archaeological zones around the Acropolis as a new ground for Athens in Architecture and Antiquity: the Spaces Around the Acropolis (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tmu63Pi0NRY). 07. Tournikiotis (ibid) also analyzes the ideology of Kleanthes and Schaubert’s masterplan and its 20th Century antecedents. 08. Sergei Eisenstein, Yve-Alain Bois, Michael Gleny, Montage and Architecture, Assemblage No.10 (December 1989), pp.110-131. 09. According to Travlos the Peripatos route encircling the base of the slopes of the Acropolis predates most of its monuments and shrines, enunciating, since geometric times, their relationship to city and landscape (Travlos, pp.21). The route’s marble inscription on the Northeastern slope is the first, definitive record of the Greek for ‘Promenade.’ 10. “Museum”, Otto’s University, Sina’s Academy of Sciences, the Eye Hospital and the Cathedral (Roman Catholic Church) project. From Cassimatis, Marilena Z. - Panetsos, Georgios A., Hellenische Renaissance, The Architecture of Theophil Hansen (1813-1891), The Theocharakis Foundation, Athens 2014. 11. George Panetsos analyzes Hansen’s ‘dialectical’ assembly room plan in his lecture on Neoclassical Athens and the architectural ensemble of the National Library, University and Academy of Athens. 12. Michel De Certeau analyzes the articulation of urban space through everyday walking in The Practice of Everyday Life (Berkeley CA, 2011: University of California Press). Francesco Carreri’s presents a genealogy of nomadic movements and artistic derives in Walkscapes: Walking as an Aesthetic Practice (Barcelona, 2002: Gustavo Gili). 13. Zucker, pp.31-35. 14. The Olive Grove of Athens, growing along the banks of Kifissos River at the city’s Western edge. 15. Frances Yates treatise on The Art of Memory (London, 2001: Pimlico) represents walking as a mental exercise for accessing archives of ideas stored in imaginary structures – envisioning, organizing and recalling information.
12. Karl Friedrich Schinkel, Proposal for a Palace on the Acropolis, 1834 Schinkel’s proposal for a Royal Palace and Gardens on the Acropolis integrates new and ancient monuments, secular and sacred programs and a hippodrome with a hilltop garden.
13. Santiago Calatrava, Agora, Pool, Athens Olympic Sports Complex, 2004.
© YIORGIS YEROLYMBOS, VISUALHELLAS.GR
14. Renzo Piano, Garden, Library and Opera House, Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center, 2015.
Other public spaces remain broken, dormant or generic. They only come to life as short or long sequences of agoras, gardens and monuments.
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The Ionic prostyle portico of the Academy of Athens, designed by Danish architect Theophil Hansen.
The ATHENIAN Trilogy
Perfection of Form A rare look inside the three indisputable jewels of the capital’s neoclassical architecture. BY MARIA COVEOU P H O T OS D I M I T R I S T S O U M P L E K A S
n 1830, following 400 years of Ottoman rule and nine years of a revolutionary War of Independence, Greece was finally free. Four years later, the newly crowned King Otto moved its capital from Nafplio to Athens and began to transform the city, ordering the construction of monumental buildings in the neoclassical style prevalent at that time, a style that reminded one and all of Athens’ heyday in the 5th c. BC. Three of the most elegant of these buildings, comprising the world-famous Athenian Trilogy, still stand above the scramble of one of the city’s busiest thoroughfares, Panepistimiou Street. Designed by the Hansen brothers of Denmark, and completed with the help of benefactors and donors, these structures were built to house the
National Library, the University and the Academy, and constituted the city’s first public spaces, with a very “democratic” floor-plan of courtyards, gardens and meeting spaces that encouraged encounters, public dialogue and participation in public life. The buildings stood conveniently close to many of the city’s other institutions, including the first Parliament House, which is still nearby. The “Trilogy” buildings have seen it all. Either in their halls or outside on their grounds, they have played host to demonstrators, official guests and distinguished academics, migrants, students, drug addicts and sidewalk peddlers. Athenians may hardly cast them a glance, but their presence is a constant one, a consolation of historical continuity in an ever-shifting landscape.
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The University A union of vision
ur tour of the neoclassical Athenian trilogy begins in the forecourt of Athens University, the first of the three buildings to be constructed, in 1864, by the Danish architect Christian Hansen. It was this building that gave its name to one of the busiest streets in the city center, Panepistimiou (University street). Before I go in to view the famous Great Hall of Ceremonies, I look up to marvel at the colorful murals in the portico, one of its most impressive elements. Financed by wealthy benefactors Simon Sinas and Nikolaus Dumba, the mural was designed by Austrian artist Carl Rahl and executed after his death by Polish painter Eduard Lebiedzki. At its center it depicts King Otto, the building’s primary donor, surrounded by the arts
and sciences personified in classical attire. I take several steps back to appreciate the entire mural, all 45 meters of it, and the edifice’s relative simplicity, despite its neoclassical splendor, which shows Hansen’s attempt to adapt it to the Athenian landscape of the time. Athens, you see, was still a village in those days. I join a group of Japanese tourists who approach the building to take photos. They peek in with curiosity, wondering what happened to all the students, only to discover that just some of the institution’s administrative services are housed here and that visitors are not normally allowed to enter for security reasons. Disappointed, they turn away, as I make my way in and up the marble staircase towards the majestic
The Great Hall of Ceremonies, with painted decoration by Polish artist Eduard Lebiedzki, is where all the formal events of the University of Athens take place.
Great Hall, a regular venue for various ceremonial events. Its painted, multicolored ceiling, another impressive creation by Lebiedzki, adds to the architectural splendor and makes it a space fit for a president. It was here, in fact, in October 2015, that French President François Hollande was presented with the title of Professor Emeritus of the University.
1. A detail from Lebiedzki’s elaborate work on the epistyle, frieze and an Ionic column capital. 2. A section of the painted ceiling, the work of Eduard Lebiedzki. 3. A sphinx, a mythical creature connected to the legend of Oedipus, on a handrail inside the Great Hall of Ceremonies.
4. Marble staircase just beyond the entrance to the University, leading up to the Great Hall of Ceremonies. 5. Seated statue of Greek scholar Adamantios Korais, by sculptor Ioannis Kossos, placed in the University’s forecourt in 1875.
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The ATHENIAN Trilogy
The Academy C e l e b r at i n g E x c e l l e n c e
s I stand on the threshold of the Academy of Athens, regarded by many Greek and foreign experts as one of the most beautiful neoclassical buildings in the world, I realize that none of these buildings would be standing here were it not for the generous donations of members of the Greek diaspora. Simon Sinas, the building’s benefactor, assigned Theophil Hansen – brother of the architect who designed the University – to its construction, which was completed in 1887. Inspired by the Propylaea of the Acropolis, Hansen’s Academy was the result of the efforts and talents of many artists, including those of architect Ernst Ziller, a student of Hansen’s; sculptor Leonidas Drosis, responsible for the pediment above the entrance and for the statues of Athena and Apollo on the flanking pillars; and Christian Griepenkerl, who painted the building’s hidden treasure, the pictorial ensemble in the Meeting Hall, which is where I’m headed. Near the main entrance, I encoun-
ter the marble statue of the Academy’s benefactor, Simon Sinas, standing guard. Straight ahead is the meeting hall, the most fascinating room in the building, which accommodates the plenary sessions of the Academy members and is home to some great works of art. The 50m-long colorful mural, based on designs by Theophil Hansen and inspired by Aeschylus’ tragedy Prometheus Bound, depicts the Passions of Prometheus and reads like a story, starting with the prophecy regarding the theft of fire by Prometheus and ending with his reception by the gods on Mount Olympus. Apart from its artistic qualities, what’s striking about Hansen’s mural is the choice of theme, centered on the authority-defying Prometheus who brings fire, a symbol of knowledge, to the people. No doubt this symbolism mirrored the beliefs of the Academy’s first visionaries, who held that national independence from any sort of oppression had to go hand in hand with a spiritual renaissance through knowledge.
The Meeting Hall of the Academy of Athens, with the masterful pictorial ensemble by German-born artist Christian Griepenkerl.
One of four ornate marble lamp-holders that decorate the meeting hall.
1. Athena the Defender (left) and Apollo the Lyre Player (right), works of sculptor Leonidas Drosis, stand guard outside the Academy. 2. The President’s Office, located in the west wing. Behind the desk hangs a portrait of Simon Sinas, the institution’s great benefactor. 3. A corridor with pictorially painted walls connects the two wings: Simon Sinas’ statue stands on the left and the Eastern Hall in the far backround.
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The Library Treasury of Knowledge
he National Library, created by Theophil Hansen in order to complement the Academy on the far side of the University, has been standing here since 1903 with a mission to preserve Hellenic intellectual heritage. Soon it will move to its impressive, Renzo Piano - designed Faliron “home,” part of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center. Until then... I walk up the monumental semicircular Renaissance-style staircase, which was chosen for practical rather than aesthetic reasons, as too many straight steps would have made the edifice taller than the adjacent ones. I pass under the impressive Doric prostyle portico, through the main entrance and arrive in the lobby. The architectural order changes here, with two pairs of decorated Ionic columns contrasting with the stern Doric exterior and making for a lighter space.
Beyond the lobby lies the reading room, where I am welcomed by the smell of old books. The library is home to an impressive body of knowledge, including the first printed book in the Greek language, which dates back from 1476. The sun streaming through the skylight gives the room a somewhat imperial atmosphere and highlights its elegant marble Ionic peristyle and furnishings. The original tables and chairs, as well as the unusual cast-iron bookstands and galleries around me, are still in use; they were designed by Ernst Ziller, a student of Hansen’s, who supervised the Library’s construction. Photography is not permitted and visitors can only peek in, unless they want to do some reading. So that’s what I decide to do. What better way to end my journey through the Trilogy than by doing some research on Hansen while sitting on one of his student’s creations?
1. The National Library’s impressive reading room, with an Ionic peristyle by Theophil Hansen, and furnishings and bookstands by his student Ernst Ziller. 2. Marble statue of Maris Vallianos, one of the three wealthy brothers who financed the Library. The work of Georgios Bonanos, it is located in the lobby. 3. Bookstands in one of the reading room galleries and detail of the polychromy Hansen used for the ceiling. 4. The colored capitals of the Ionic columns in the reading room as seen from one of the galleries. 5. A time-honored search engine: index cards in one of the library’s multi-drawer file cabinets. 6. Venerable volumes, part of the immense body of knowledge housed in the Library. 7. The statue on the left, work of sculptor Georgios Bonanos, is of Panagis Vallianos, the most generous of the Library’s three benefactors.
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Â© REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis
The Timeless Temptation 102
The shackled skeletons found in the Faliron Delta ancient necropolis – some lying in a long neat row, others piled on top of each other, arms and legs twisted with their jaws hanging open – belong to the victims of a mass execution, according to archaeologists.
rchaeologists excavating two mass graves in an ancient cemetery at the site of Athens’s new opera house in Faliron, suggested in April that the 80 men whose skeletons they had found – 36 of whom in iron shackles – may have been supporters of an ancient Athenian sports hero who tried to grab power around 632 BC. The would-be tyrant, Cylon, thought that his glory as an Olympic Games champion would ensure popular support in his bid to supplant his fellow aristocrats. It seems the people were not sufficiently unhappy to join his revolt and it was crushed by the city’s leaders. This coup attempt, early in Athens’ political development, is indicative of the timeless quarrel between an elite few and the masses, which, in this case, resulted in the world’s first democracy over a century later, around 508 BC. Whether the skeletons are those of Cylon’s supporters is yet to be confirmed, but the conjecture is a reminder that politics is a set of variations in a struggle between personal ambition and collective need, two standpoints often at odds with each other but also with the potential for creative coexistence. The stakes in this struggle are always high – national survival or destruction, personal happiness or misery.
of Despotism BY N i ko s Ko n s ta n da r a s
Democracy can easily lead to tyranny, as ruthless men exploit the power of the mob. G R E E C E IS
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From prehistory to modern elections, ambitious individuals shake up their nations, either through military dictatorships or palace coups or by riding the power of the masses, and change history.
Strongmen exploiting their celebrity, projecting uncompromising bravado and harnessing popular discontent with promises to overturn the current order, have always been a basic ingredient of politics. From prehistory to modern elections, ambitious individuals shake up their nations, either through military dictatorships or palace coups or by riding the power of the masses, and change history. We should not be surprised to see this happening today in developing nations and mature democracies alike. But that doesn’t mean we should not worry about it. Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin, Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Rodrigo Duterte (the newly elected president of the Philippines who promises the mass murder of “criminals”) have one thing in common: each bases his power on public support. However despotic they are, no one can deny that they (Mr. Trump excepted, so far) were elected. Unlike Cylon, they are products of democracy, even as they undermine its institutions and its norms by acting like oligarchs or dictators of pre-democratic times. In Europe, with its mature democracies and long tradition of the rule of law, the moderate forces that dominated the continent’s politics after World War II are being pushed aside by growing public dissatisfaction, to the benefit of populists of the extreme left and right. Austria’s recent presidential election is the latest example: centrist candidates were eliminated in the first round and, in the runoff, an independent environmentalist beat an extreme-right candidate by a very narrow margin – just over 30,000 votes – proof of deep social division.
The collapse of the center and the empowerment of formerly fringe forces (of the extreme right or radical left) was first seen in Greece after 2010, when the country had to agree to harsh austerity and reforms in exchange for an international bailout. Since then, many European countries have been plagued by economic malaise and unpopular reforms, by fears provoked by a wave of the refugees and immigrants and by the major terrorist attacks in France and Belgium. Globalization and a sense of loss of sovereignty are provoking anger against local and foreign elites. Moderate parties and the politics of consensus suffer while demagogues flourish. Simplistic slogans divide societies and chill relations among states. Even more disturbing is the muting of dissent through repression, allowing government power to go unchecked. In a world of uncertainty and enmity, populist politicians can exploit public discontent to create friends and enemies and divide their nations. It is easy to gain power in this way, but it is difficult to govern a divided nation without resorting to repression. Authoritarianism can only keep its grip when things are good, when a large enough part of the population has an interest in the regime’s survival. When things get tough, dictators and populists must fight on many fronts. The result is either more repression or collapse. This is why ancient Athens remains so interesting. Democracy came about not because someone suddenly invented it, but because the principle of all men (if not women and slaves) being equal and having an equal say and stake in the running of their city-state emerged gradually and proved effective.
After Cylon’s failed uprising, “there was strife for a long time between the notables and the masses,” Aristotle wrote some 300 years later. “All the land was in the hands of the few, and if the poor failed to pay their rents, they and their children could be enslaved.” As debt and discontent grew, and the state needed more people engaged in its survival, radical reform became a priority, and changes were enacted. Within a century, the people’s debt burden was eliminated, debtors could no longer be sold into slavery and old social units were replaced by 10 new groups on the basis of geography, not family. Aristotle, in his “Politics,” described the reformist leader Cleisthenes as wanting to “mingle the citizens with one another and get rid of old connections.” All free male citizens were given the vote – and the burden of responsibility of serving in public institutions. Tensions between the “few” and the “many” continued, but democracy proved durable in ancient Athens and inspired modern liberal democracies. As observers over the ages have warned, democracy can easily lead to tyranny as ruthless men exploit the power of the mob. But history also shows – from Athens to Washington – that equality for all citizens, along with state institutions that provide justice and control power, offers the greatest prospect of social stability, happiness and personal empowerment. Populists may play the system to gain power, but if they continue to undermine it, they will either destroy their nation, or it will destroy them.
Originally published in The New York Times
RIDING The WAVE OF DISCONTENT While democracy has turned out excellent visionary leaders, it has also given voice to politicians who have abused its freedoms in order to push agendas in direct violation of its basic tenets. profiles BY XENIA KOUNALAKI
iberal democracy, as it developed in North America and Europe, has been the envy of, and model for, people across the globe during the decades of stability, justice and prosperity that it provided after World War II. Liberal democracies kept improving their citizensâ€™ living standards, attracting immigrants and giving them opportunities that they could not find at home. At the same time, the residents of many countries across the world hoped to push their own nations towards such a political and social system, where the rule of law prevailed, individual rights were guaranteed and opportunities were limitless. Today, liberal democracy is under attack from many quarters. In mature democracies, sweeping changes in production, in the economy and in society (where large numbers of immigrants and aging populations are causes of great uncertainty) combine with anger at
a political class that does not have convincing solutions, thus opening the door to populists of the extreme left and right. Terrorism has shaken the system further, pushing democratic governments to adopt strict police and judicial measures, while cynics push simplistic, unworkable solutions that serve only to undermine institutions and divide society further. One institution under threat is the European Union itself, as demagogues persuade ever greater numbers of citizens to question the political class and the EUâ€™s fundamental principles and cohesion. In countries with multiparty systems but less mature democratic systems, we see autocratic leaders using democracy to gain power and then employing state machinery and institutions to entrench their rule. In the following pages, we present some of the protagonists of assaults on democracy around the world: from liberation hero turned despot to privileged prankster turned revolutionary. â€“ N . K .
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© AFP/Mary Turner
BORIS JOHNSON Foreign Secretary, UK
The populist The petulant Eton and Oxford graduate, who starred in the UK’s decision to leave the European Union, surprised many after the referendum by abandoning the race to become David Cameron’s successor as leader of the Conservative Party and was rewarded for his cold feet with the Foreign Office. Using a combination of humor and blatant populism, he has expounded several extreme views, such as likening the EU to Hitler, because, as he said, it is trying to create a superstate that will end tragically.
© AFP/TIMOTHY A. CLARY
DONALD TRUMP Republican presidential candidate, US
The narcissist The eccentric billionaire, whose rise to the top of the Republican Party has played out like a Hollywood drama, appears at times to have absolutely no intention of winning November’s US presidential elections. So far, he has managed to alienate the country’s Muslims, Hispanics and women, while backpedaling on a number of key issues, such as immigration. His racist and sexist rhetoric, tinged with unbridled narcissism, seems to resonate with a large portion of American voters, who view him as an anti-systemic force, a challenge to the Washington establishment and an enemy of political correctness.
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© AFP PHOTO/ADEM ALTAN
RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN President, Turkey
The sultan Erdogan addressing the Turkish people via FaceTime on the long night of July’s failed coup may be this year’s most iconic image. The modern-day sultan with the tacky presidential mansion in Ankara acknowledged the virtues of democracy that night and then abandoned them the very next day by “purging” the state machinery of thousands of alleged dissidents. But Erdogan had not always been so heavy-handed in his tactics. When he was first elected prime minister in 2003, he was regarded as an Islamic social-democrat reformer and a valuable intermediary between the Muslim world and the West.
© AFP/Alexander Zemlianichenko
VLADIMIR PUTIN President, Russia
The CZAR Putin secured his third presidential term in Russia by swapping places with Dmitry Medvedev in a process of ersatz democracy. OECD observers have repeatedly voiced concerns not only about how elections are carried out in the country but also regarding press freedom, particularly as during Putin’s tenure, dozens of journalists, dissidents, activists, bloggers and rock band members have been arrested or even killed under mysterious circumstances (Anna Politkovskaya and Boris Nemtsov being two prominent examples). Putin himself, however, does not seem troubled by all of this, and in rebuttal has even disputed the democratic character of US elections.
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© EPA/SVEN HOPPE
Freedom Party (FPO) chairman, Austria
Alternative for Germany (AfD) chairwoman, Germany
THE HEIR APPARENT
Under the slogan “Austria First,” the far-right leader combines euroscepticism and Islamophobia with an abhorrence for modernization and an obsession for domestic security. The political offspring of party founder Joerg Haider (killed in a car crash), Strache succeeded in attracting young voters and putting the FPO second in Vienna’s local elections last year. The contradiction in his anti-democratic tendencies is that he claims to champion direct democracy and referendums, inspired by the Swiss model (the last plebiscite in Switzerland was over whether foreigners should be deported if they break the law).
The 41-year-old chemical engineer who defines herself as a nationalist-minded conservative has managed to cleanse her party’s leadership of the eurosceptic technocrats that founded the AfD and transform it into a xenophobic, ultraconservative force. Petry caused a furor at the start of the year when she said that border guards should be allowed to use firearms to prevent migrant crossings. (As this issue goes to print, news is breaking that Petry’s AfD has placed second in regional elections in Angela Merkel’s home state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, ahead of Merkel’s CDU.)
© REUTERS/Alessandro Garofalo
MARINE LE PEN
National Front president, France
Party for Freedom (PVV) founder and leader, the Netherlands
THE NATIONALIST A slightly more moderate version of her vitriolic anti-semitic father, Marine Le Pen may well find herself in the second round of the French presidential elections next year or even holding the highest office in the land. Her anti-Muslim platform has tapped into the insecurity of French citizens, following a number of brutal terrorist attacks conducted in the name of Islam. Her party came first in last December’s regional elections and, encouraged by the Brexit vote and prevalent discontent with the European Union, Le Pen has championed France’s departure from the eurozone and is seeking a referendum on the issue.
THE ISLAMOPHOBIC CONTENDER A politician at the vanguard of Islamophobia and intolerance, Wilders is likely to win the upcoming Dutch elections in 2017, as his party is currently leading in public opinion polls. His manifesto is centered, as the Dutch media have ironically stressed, on three main issues: immigration, immigration and immigration. He has no intention of allowing any asylum seekers into the country, not even those whose applications are already being processed. His objective is to rid his country of every trace of Islam by shutting down mosques and banning both the headscarf and the Koran.
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JAROSLAW KACZYNSKI Law and Justice party leader, Poland
The hyper-patriot The former prime minister and twin brother of former Polish President Lech Kaczynski (killed in an airplane crash in 2010) is one of the biggest backstage forces at play in Poland today. Even though he holds no formal office in government, he is believed to be pulling the strings behind efforts to change the constitution, manipulate the justice system and further criminalize abortion. He is accustomed to flaunting his patriotic fervor, boasting about not speaking any foreign languages, not owning a computer and never having been on holiday outside Poland.
The media persecutor Even though his country was inducted into the eurozone under his leadership, the Slovak politician has what can only be described as a tumultuous relationship with Brussels. He refused to accept the quota scheme for refugee relocations, and even went so far as to suggest that Greece should be sacrificed for the bloc’s sake and transformed into a vast migrant camp. His persistent flirtation with Russia and Serbia has isolated him in the EU, which he has accused of being so enamored with itself that it sees no other alternatives to its current form. His clashes with his country’s media – which he accuses of bias – are also fabled, with the PM referring to certain journalists as “idiots” and “pricks.” 114
VIKTOR ORBAN Prime Minister, Hungary
The fence-builder A xenophobe, populist and eurosceptic who has vowed to reclaim his nation’s sovereignty from Brussels, the Prime Minister of Hungary stands as a paradigm for many European politicians. He was criticized by the EU for attempting to curb freedom of expression, personal liberties and the power of the Constitutional Court. He also erected the fence along the border with Serbia, effectively closing off the so-called Balkan Route to refugees. Following in the UK’s footsteps, he has called an October 2nd referendum on whether Hungary should accept the EU’s quotas for refugee relocations.
© REUTERS, EPA, AFP, GETTY IMAGES/IDEAL IMAGE
Prime Minister, Slovakia
President, South Africa
The dictator for life
The pAMPERED POLYGAMIST
The fact that he has been in power for 36 years says all there is to say about how he governs his country. He started out in the 1960s as the hero of a popular uprising against the white minority and is now considered by many the classic case study of a dictator, with numerous human rights violations to his record. To celebrate his birthday each year, he orders wild animals to be butchered and fed to the tens of thousands of guests he invites to his parties, spending incredible amounts on lavish feasts in a country where 80 percent of the population lives below the poverty line.
A historic member of the African National Congress and the South African Communist Party and fellow exile of Nelson Mandela on Robben Island, Zuma has faced multiple accusations of sexual assault and corruption. The refurbishment of his mansion, known as “Zumaville,” cost €20 million; it features bulletproof windows, a bunker, a pool, a heliport and a private health clinic. Currently married to four women, he receives state funds of €1.3 million a year in child and wife support. Despite shaky backing from his own party and opposition accusations that he controls the judiciary, Zuma ran again in 2014 and was re-elected thanks to popular sentiment generated by Mandela’s death the previous year.
The conspiracy theorist The heir to Hugo Chavez in office and in ideology, the former bus driver has pursued the exact same policies as his predecessor, with the difference being that his tenure coincided with a nosedive in oil prices. Sky-high inflation and shortages in basic foodstuffs and medicine, long lines and popular discontent have been dealt with by Maduro in the typical manner of totalitarian leaders: ousting dissidents from the state apparatus and laying the blame for the country’s woes on nebulous foreign forces.
RODRIGO DUTERTE President, Philippines
The sexist punisher Within two months of his being elected president, 1,900 people were killed in crackdowns on drug cartels. “The Punisher,” as Duterte has been nicknamed, has publicly supported summary executions and shocked the international community by making a joke about the gang rape and murder of an Australian missionary, saying he should have been first in line. A zero-tolerance champion of law and order, Duterte has repeatedly voiced support for armed vigilante citizens’ movements. A populist, fervent patriot and isolationist, he has threatened to leave the United Nations and publicly lambasted the US ambassador to Manila for being gay, later refusing to apologize.
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SE E KING RE FUGE
Humanity’s Crisis A conversation with Zygmunt Bauman, emeritus professor of sociology at the University of Leeds, and one of the world’s greatest thinkers. BY B r a d E va n s
here is tragic symbolism in the fact that many of the refugees fleeing the savage conditions of war and crossing the dangerous Mediterranean seas are heading to Greece today. The birthplace of so many of the credentials held by our Western “civilization,” it is a land which remains foundational to our sense of belonging and our self-recognition as political and social animals committed to ideas of democracy and justice. Central here has been the age-old triangulation between politics, philosophy and the arts which has proved integral to the development of the Western imagination and its ethical commitments to Others. Indeed, just as Greek literature gave rise to the power of the arts when dealing with the realities of tragedy and suffering, so the order of philosophy – from the term philo – designated a shared human commitment to knowledge and compassion based on the idea of friendship. Tragedy is certainly an apt term to describe the plight of the refugee today.
Indeed, they seem to represent a problem which is overwhelming us physically, ethically, and philosophically. Just as there are no ancient solutions to contemporary problems, the way the refugee is being dealt with today highlights a profound failure of the political imagination. In these conditions, the language of security certainly doesn’t help; in it, the refugee is presented more as a problem rather than somebody who once again needs the compassionate hand of friendship. The following conversation, which was part of a wider series in The New York Times on rethinking the problem of violence, was carried out with these concerns in mind. The conversational format is not incidental. How we deal with this issue moving forward will require an honest and sincere discussion, because the way we deal with the refugee, ultimately, tells us less about them than it does about whether we can claim to have any semblance of true civility and understanding.
An Afghan migrant is seen inside a bus following his arrival by the Eleftherios Venizelos passenger ferry with over 2,500 migrants and refugees from the island of Lesbos at the port of Piraeus, October 8, 2015.
INFO All the photos accompanying this article were taken by the Greek photographer Yannis Behrakis from the Thomson Reuters team that won a Pulitzer Prize this year in the category of Breaking News Photography for their coverage of the refugee crisis in Europe and the Middle East.
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Amoun, 70, a blind Palestinian refugee who lived in the town of Aleppo in Syria, rests on a beach moments after arriving along with another 40 on a dinghy in the Greek island of Kos, crossing a part of the Aegean Sea from Turkey to Greece, August 12, 2015.
B r a d E va n s : For over a decade, you have focused on the desperate plight of refugees. Attention has been particularly drawn in your work to the many indignities and insecurities the refugee continuously faces on a daily basis. You have also stressed how the problem is not entirely new, and must be understood in a broader historical context. With this in mind, do you think the current refugee crises engulfing Europe represent yet another chapter in the history of flight from persecution, or is there something different taking place here? Z y g m u n t B a u m a n: It does seem like “yet another chapter,” though as with all political problems, which all have histories, something is added to the contents of its predecessors. In the modern era, massive migration itself is not a novelty, nor is it a sporadic event. It is in fact a constant, steady effect of the 118
modern mode of life, with its perpetual preoccupation with order-building and economic progress. Those two qualities in particular act as factories endlessly capable of producing “redundant people,” those who are either locally unemployable or politically intolerable, and are therefore forced to seek shelter or more promising life opportunities away from their homes. It’s true that the prevalent direction of migration has changed following the spread of the modern way of life from Europe, its place of origin, to the rest of the globe. As long as Europe remained the only “modern” continent of the planet, its redundant populations kept being unloaded onto the still “premodern” lands — recycled into colonist settlers, soldiers or members of colonial administration. Indeed, up to 60 million Europeans are believed to have
left Europe for the two Americas, Africa and Australia during the heyday of colonial imperialism. Starting from the middle of the 20th century, however, the trajectory of migration took a U-turn. During this time, the logic of migration changed as it was dissociated from the conquest of the lands. The migrants of the post-colonial era have been and still are exchanging inherited ways of eking out existence, now destroyed by the triumphant modernization promoted by their former colonizers, for the chance of building a nest in the gaps of those colonizers’ domestic economies. On top of that, however, there is a rising volume of people forced out from their homes, particularly in the Middle East and in Africa, by the dozens of civil wars, ethnic and religious conflicts and sheer banditry in the territories the
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An Afghan migrant jumps off an overcrowded dinghy onto a beach at the Greek island of Lesbos, October 19, 2015.
colonizers left behind in nominally sovereign, artificially concocted “states” with little prospects of stability, but enormous arsenals of weaponry supplied by their former colonial masters. B . E .: Hannah Arendt once used the term “worldlessness” to define those conditions where a person doesn’t belong to a world in which they matter as human beings. This seems to be equally resonant in describing the plight of contemporary refugees. Might the problem here be our framing of the debate in terms of “security” — that of either the refugees or their destinations? Z . B .: Part of the issue is the way in which the political world is framed and understood. Refugees are worldless in a world that is spliced into sovereign territorial states, and that demands identifying the possession of human
rights with state citizenship. This situation is further compounded by the fact that there are no countries left ready to accept and offer shelter and a chance of decent life and human dignity to the stateless refugees. In such a world, those people who are forced to flee intolerable conditions are not considered to be “bearers of rights,” even those supposedly considered inalienable to humanity. Forced to depend for their survival on the people on whose doors they knock, refugees are in a way thrown outside the realm of “humanity,” as far as it is meant to confer the rights they aren’t afforded. And there are millions upon millions of such people inhabiting our shared planet. As you rightly point out, refugees end up all too often cast in the role of a threat to the human rights of established native populations, instead
of being defined and treated as a vulnerable part of humanity in search of the restoration of those same rights of which they have been violently robbed. There is currently a pronounced tendency — among the settled populations as well as the politicians they elect to state offices — to transfer the “issue of refugees” from the area of universal human rights into that of internal security. Being tough on foreigners in the name of safety from potential terrorists is evidently generating more political currency than appealing for benevolence and compassion for people in distress. And to outsource the whole problem into the care of security services is eminently more convenient for governments overloaded with social care duties, which they are apparently neither able nor willing to perform to the satisfaction of their electors. G R E E C E IS
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A Syrian refugee holds onto his children as he struggles to walk off a dinghy on the Greek island of Lesbos, after crossing a part of the Aegean Sea from Turkey, September 24, 2015.
B . E .: Central to your analysis has been to argue how many of the vulnerabilities people now face need to be explained in more planetary terms. Increasingly, individual nation states seem incapable of responding to the multiplicity of threats defining our interconnected age. Does the figure of the refugee reveal more fully the globalized nature of power and violence today? Z . B .: Seeing the problem in “more planetary terms” is indispensable to fully understanding not only the phenomenon of massive migration, but also of the genuine and widespread migration panic that the phenomenon has triggered in most of Europe. The influx of a great number of refugees, and their sudden high visibility, draws to the surface fears that we are trying hard to stifle and hide: those fears that are gestated by the premonition of our own fragilities in society, and by the continuously reaffirmed suspicion that our fate is in the hands of forces far beyond our comprehension — let alone our control. In part, they bring the mysterious and obscure, but hopefully distant, horrors of “global forces” right into our visible and tangible neighborhood. As recently as a few weeks ago, those newcomers may have felt just as safe at home as we do right now. But now they look at us, deprived of their homes, possessions, security, often their “inalienable” human rights, and of their entitlement to have the respect and acceptance that provide a guarantee of self-esteem. Following the age-old habit, the messengers are blamed for the contents of their message. No wonder the successive tides of fresh immigrants are resented, to quote Brecht, as “harbingers of bad news.” They are embodiments of the collapse of order, a state of affairs in which the relations between causes 120
and effects are stable and so graspable and predictable, allowing those inside a situation to know how to proceed. Because they reveal these insecurities to us, refugees are easily demonized. By stopping them on the other side of our properly fortified borders, it is implied that we’ll manage to stop those global forces that brought them to our doors.
B . E . : Those who flee from war-torn situations ignite vociferous debates regarding their correct labeling: the “migrant” or the “refugee”? But both terms can be reductive. Might we need a new vocabulary here to emphasize more the human agency of those who are trying to escape such conditions? After all, as the poet Warsan Shire observed, ‘no one puts their children in a boat unless the
grant” stigmatizes these victims, its use should be condemned. Such discursive acrobatics leave the causes of these crises unexamined, and those responsible untouched by guilt. In a culture that ennobles the pursuit of self-betterment and happiness by raising it to the rank of life purpose and meaning, it is nothing less than utter hypocrisy to condemn those who try to follow this precept but are prevented from doing so by lack of means or proper papers. B . E .: When dealing with the racial and cultural politics of the refugee you have used the metaphor “setting fears afloat” to emphasize how the refugee has become the signifier upon which many of our contemporary fears and anxieties are projected. Mindful of what you address above in respect to the politics of (in)security; is there not a danger that the heightened focus on the refugee adds to the scapegoating by presenting the problem as defining of our times (hence truly polarizing the debate and driving it to the extremes)?
The language of security certainly doesn’t help; in it, the refugee is presented more as a problem rather than somebody who once again needs the compassionate hand of friendship.
water is safer than the land.’ Z . B .: In most cases, the choice open to a refugee is between a place where one’s presence is not tolerated and another where one’s arrival is unwanted and disallowed. Similarly, the choice open to the so-called economic migrants is one between famine or a prospect-less existence and a chance, however tenuous, of tolerable conditions for oneself
and one’s family. This is not any more of a “choice,” in any meaningful sense, than that faced by the refugee fleeing overt physical violence. Each one of us would be horrified by the necessity to make such choices. We do need a language and critical vocabulary for a worldly condition that forces millions of its inhabitants to do so. Insofar as the label “economic mi-
Z . B .: As Hegel warned nearly two centuries ago, the owl of Minerva, that goddess of wisdom, spreads its wings at dusk. By this I mean that we tend to learn only what defines “our times” in retrospect, once they are over. And rarely even in hindsight do we learn this definitely. Eric Hobsbawm, perhaps the greatest historian of the modern era, gathered courage to attach the G R E E C E IS
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name of the “Age of Extremes” to the 20th century only in 1994. And even then he felt the need to apologize for such attachments: “Nobody can write the history of the 20th century like that of any other era, if only because nobody can write about his or her lifetime as one can (and must) write about a period known only from outside, at second or third-hand, from sources of the period or the works of later historians (...) This is one reason why under my professional hat as a historian I avoided working on the era since 1914 for most of my career.” Let’s heed the advice/warning by the great historian and resist the temptation to overemphasize what Thomas Hylland Eriksen has called, with particular reference to the power of the media, the “tyranny of the moment.” The refugees might have indeed more entitlements than most other categories to hold the status of “the defining scapegoats” of “our times” — but for how long? In my latest book, I write that our insecurities keep “floating,” as none of the anchors we cast proves to be solid enough to hold them in place with any degree of permanence. So it may go with the refugee, who embodies in the clearest way the liquidity of fear in the contemporary moment. Right now, at least, that liquidity creates a sort of affinity between the strangers at our doors and the mysterious, seemingly omnipotent global forces that pushed them there. Both stay staunchly beyond our reach and control, ignoring our deepest wishes and our most ingenious “solutions”.
B . E . : It is arguable that one of the “intellectual casualties” of the war on terror has been the humanitarian ideal the world might be transformed for the better. Do we perhaps need a new humanism for the 21st century? Z . B .: In his “Cosmopolitan Vision”, Ulrich Beck captured the predicament brilliantly: we have been already cast (without having been asked) into a cosmopolitan condition of universal, humanity-wide interdependence. But we are still missing, and have not yet started in earnest to compose and acquire, an accompanying cosmopolitan awareness. This creates a kind of cultural lag, as William Fielding Ogburn would call it, the evidence of which is the treatment of the refugee. They may well remain the collateral victims of this lack of understanding until such time that we try in earnest to attend to that lag’s institutional, state-based foundations. As Benjamin Barber crisply put it in his manifesto “If Mayors Ruled the World”: “Today, after a long history of regional success, the nation-state is failing us on the global scale. It was the perfect political recipe for the liberty and independence of autonomous peoples and nations. It is utterly unsuited for interdependence.” He sees that nation states are singularly unfit to tackle the challenges arising from our planet-wide interdependence, in that they are “too inclined by their nature to rivalry and mutual exclusion,” and appear “quintessentially indisposed to cooperation and incapable of establishing global common goods.”
I trace much of the problem to the growing separation between power and politics, a rift that results in powers free from political constraints and a politics that is suffering a constant, and growing, deficit of power. Powers, and particularly those most heavily influencing the human condition and humanity’s prospects, are today global, roaming ever more freely in (to use the Spanish sociologist Manuel Castells’ words) the “space of flows” while ignoring at will the borders, laws, and internally defined interests of political entities — whereas the extant instruments of political action remain, as they were a century or two ago, fixed and confined to the “space of places,” that of states. Alternative “historical agents” are much in demand, and one may surmise that, until they are found and put in place, debating the models of a “good” or at least a “better” society will seem to be an idle pastime — and, except in the extreme margins of the political spectrum, won’t arouse much emotion. All the same, I don’t believe there is a shortcut solution to the current refugee problem. Humanity is in crisis — and there is no exit from that crisis other than the solidarity of humans. The first obstacle on the road to the exit from mutual alienation is the refusal of dialogue: that silence that accompanies self-alienation, aloofness, inattention, disregard and indifference. Instead of the duo of love and hate, the dialectical process of border-drawing needs to be thought therefore in terms of the triad of love, hate and indifference or neglect that the refugee, in particular, continues to face.
© 2016 New York Times
The influx of a great number of refugees, and their sudden high visibility, draws to the surface fears that we are trying hard to stifle and hide: that our fate is in the hands of forces far beyond our comprehension — let alone our control.
A world-renowned Polish sociologist and philosopher, one of the creators of the concept of “postmodernism”. Professor Emeritus of Sociology at the University of Leeds, Bauman writes on issues as diverse as modernity and the Holocaust, postmodern consumerism and liquid modernity.
THE OTHE R SIDE
Democracy for Non-Westerners Every day, thousands of people risk their lives to reach the shelter of Western societies, equating democracy with what they seek the most: freedom BY OMAIR A GILL
n the summer of 2015, I found myself, like so many of my colleagues, standing on a beach ankle-deep in orange life jackets as I watched a wave of humanity wash up on Greece’s shores. It was a shocking moment, one I was not prepared for and which took me days to recover from. What hit me the hardest was that I was witnessing the fallout from the disintegration of more than one society, and that if Fate’s hand had moved slightly differently, it could as easily have been me clinging to that boat, a precious child shivering in my arms, as I made a break for freedom. It could even have been you. What I came face to face with on those shores a year ago, and what I continue to encounter in my work with refugees, is what happens when people are denied their democratic rights or when a society as a whole is denied democracy altogether. In the past, these people and societies might have found some way to blunder along, unaware of what it was that had been kept from them. But we live in a digital world, and these people now know what lies on the other side of the sea. It’s the pre-
cious commodity of democracy and everything it entails. It’s out there, it’s been denied to them, and from Syria to Eritrea, people are on the move, flocking to the shelter of a democratic society. “We want to be free.” This is what the survivors of these journeys have told me again and again. Digging a little deeper, what became obvious to me was that they were equating this freedom with democracy. Democracy is rightly enshrined in Western thinking. However, while no one could argue against Greece’s role in the birth of democracy, it would be misguided to treat democracy as an exclusively Western trait of society. When we follow this line of thinking, we end up on the path that sees countries in the West waging wars in the Middle East under the clumsy premise of exporting democracy. This creates the problem of an Orientalist point of view as well as a colonial one. It treats the Eastern world in general as oblivious to the beauty of democracy and in need of having their eyes opened; in this scenario, ‘non-Westerners’ are no more than passive
Democracy is rightly enshrined in Western thinking. However, while no one could argue against Greece’s role in the birth of democracy, it would be misguided to treat democracy as an exclusively Western trait of society.
© ARIS MICHAEL/BRIDGEMAN IMAGES
Aung San Suu Kyi in front of the head of Bhairava in Kathmandu, Nepal, c.1970s.
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recipients of the West’s great idea, like sheep sitting dumbly in a totalitarian field, waiting for a shepherd to come and open the gates to the green pastures of democracy. A Western-centric approach to democracy largely excludes the evidence of democracy’s existence in ancient Eastern societies. The earliest evidence of this can be found in the Rig Veda, part of the ancient Vedas which were passed down orally and are thought to date from 5,000 BC or earlier. The most striking example is this passage: “We pray for a spirit of unity; may we discuss and resolve all issues amicably, may we reflect on all matters (of state) without rancor, may we distribute all resources (of the state) to all stakeholders equitably, may we accept our share with humility” Brahmanical and Buddhist literature from the 5th and 6th centuries BC describe large swathes of northern India functioning as independent republics, much larger than the equivalent Greek city states of the time. These Indian states were also described by the Greek writer Diodorus Siculus (90-30 BC), who wrote about what they were like around the time of Alexander’s invasion. His account appears to draw on the explorer Megasthenes’ records of travels through India. About these republics that replaced monarchies, Diodorus wrote: “...most of the cities adopted the democratic form of government, though some retained the kingly until the invasion of the country by Alexander.” But whether democracy came from the East or the West is of little concern to those who don’t enjoy its freedoms, be that in how you are able to dress, to interact with the world, to make political choices, to air those political choices, to express your sexuality or to choose when and whom to marry. No one appreciates these blessings of true democracy more than those who have been denied them, and on this point, the Eastern world needs no lecturing. I say this as someone who was made keenly aware very early in my life what it means not to be an equal in society. I knew how it felt to grow up in the patriarchal society of Pakistan, which is structured to remind you that, as a female, you are worth less than a male. I had to adjust the way I dressed and acted as I grew up until, within the democratic enclave of my own house, my parents made the decision to move to the UK – before the curbs placed on my sisters’ and my freedom began to extend to what ambitions we dared to develop.
That being said, as a woman and an ethnic minority, I also remember the sense of injustice I felt when I discovered that the West did not exercise democracy in its fullest form, either. Knowing that, as a woman in the UK, I will consistently earn less for the exact same work as my male counterparts, I don’t feel equal, even if I enjoy the right to vote on the same grounds as those higher-earning counterparts. The conclusion is that democracy, like so many of humanity’s creations, is not perfect. It is a millennia-old creature that is still evolving; it is also something which cannot be applied in blanket form around the world. Like any creature, it needs to adapt and adjust to its environment in order to survive. Its flaws, always there, are perhaps simply more evident these days, in the face of the results of democratic processes like the Brexit referendum or the confusing circus that is the American presidential election. Nonetheless, democracy is precious. It’s a veil, thin as cigarette paper, which separates order from chaos and freedom from fear. Its flaws and its fragility are exactly what make it worth preserving and perfecting. Greece may have had an overdose of democracy last year with two general elections and a referendum, leaving many complaining – yet another democratic process? But to those people who collapsed gratefully onto the shores of Greece and who continue to make the journey this year, even with the odds stacked against them, too much democracy is better than no democracy at all. It’s worth remembering that when you’re trudging to the voting booth yet again; this is a right and a privilege that you are lucky enough to be able to take for granted.
Democracy is precious. It’s a veil, thin as cigarette paper, which separates order from chaos and freedom from fear. Its flaws and its fragility are exactly what make it worth preserving and perfecting.
CAN RELIGION AND DEMOCRACY CO-EXIST? When religion transcends the State – its institutions, its laws and its authority – there is no democracy. BY S O T I T R I A N TA F Y L L O U
emocracy is incompatible with religion if the latter does not recognize secular law and submit to it. The relationship between democracy and Islam – a contemporary instance of such an incompatibility – is not dissimilar to the relationship between democracy and Christianity up until the end of the 17th century. Both Christianity and Islam founded theocracies ruled by divine law and obedience to God. They were both powerful because they were monotheistic, “total” (demanding the believers’ total subordination) and intolerant (punishing apostasy and sectarianism). They were powerful because they were “interventional”: they proselytized infidels, controlling both their private and public lives, or killing them. Christianity and Islam were at war for about a thousand years – however, from the end of the 17th c. onward, “res publica” in Christian countries started to disconnect from religion and a new entity emerged: private life. Political authority in the Christian world became secularized, while in the world of Islam, theocracies remained. The secularization of the West was the outcome of long and bloody religious wars: Protestants and
Catholics were at each other’s throats, and the animosity threatened to decimate European populations – tolerance was a measure of self-survival. Islam, on the other hand, although deeply divided, has never seen its ferocious interior struggles reach the scale of the European carnage. Christianity developed within the framework of Roman civilization,
where it never acquired the right of religious freedom. Religious rights were rights inside the Church. European law originates from Roman law, so it is autonomous; it has no organic relationship to religion. Islamic law, however, was never autonomous: it was, and is, a political doctrine, a set of guidelines dominating all human activities. As for the warlike nature of both reli-
gions, there is an important footnote: Christianity developed from the Old Testament to the New; it evolved and it adapted to successive political reforms. Sometimes it did so reluctantly, sometimes it showed more flexibility. In contrast, Islam has no gospels: it may be influenced by specific political goals, it may be manipulated, but its teachings remain unmodified. Democracy cannot
work with cemented dogmas: it is, by definition, an ever-evolving regime. Christianity was reformed time and again, particularly after the English civil wars that brought about the demise of theocratic utopianism in the West. It was reformed to fit a developing civil society, to fit within the parliamentary framework and, later on, to exist in republics with no crowned
Clay Bennett Editorial Cartoon used with the permission of Clay Bennett, the Washington Post Writers Group and the Cartoonist Group. All rights reserved.
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heads. Islam never had such intentions: wherever semi-democratic administrations were established, they were due either to the civilizational radiance of the West, or to Western imperialistic strategies. Exporting democracy sounds like a euphemism for invasion. Can democracy be exported? Sometimes it can, most times it cannot. However, when people do not accept that this point is debatable, they tend to believe that democracy can be born anywhere and that populations and individuals all over the world share the same democratic ideals. Which, of course, is not true. Amartya Sen and lots of other politically-correct intellectuals disagree: they present democratic experiences in non-Western countries as some sort of “global heritage,” as special roads to democracy. Amartya Sen is wrong: he explains democracy in simplistic terms, saying that it is not only about general elections but about public dialogue as well. As if we didn’t know that… The thing is, both elections and public dialogue can be un-democratic: if, for example, a theocratic party wins the elections, it does not create democracy, it destroys it. And public dialogue is only democratic if the framework is democratic and if the decisions are eventually taken by all the different parties of the dialogue – if the dialogue is “listened to”. In countries with a theocratic structure and mentality, public dialogue is hushed; instead, there are a few dissidents here and there. When religion transcends the State – its institutions, law, authority – there is no democracy. We can see the weakening of the State, of the liberal democracy so to speak, in most Western countries where the politics of multiculturalism have created differentiated citizens, citizens with dual allegiances and exemptions from the law. At the same time, we can see attempts to export this shaky and mutilated democracy of ours to Third World countries, a strategy considered arrogant and paternalistic. It may be so, but that is not 130
Europeans seem to forget what religion did or did not do to their civilization throughout the centuries; by “respecting” religions with clear political goals, they tend to harm their own hard-won secular law, thus undermining liberal democracy.
the point. The point is that we should respect democracy more than we do: political relativism, as well as cultural relativism, seems generous and open-minded but, in fact, it can lead to obscurantism and tyranny. The exportation of democracy to Japan was successful – although the local ideals were very different from the Western ones – for many reasons related to the war, but the absence of a repressive, invasive religion surely helped the transition. A Western constitution was imposed upon the Japanese, and suddenly one of the main components of democracy could be exported and, even more significantly, could be imported. Another component was the distribution of power, which was and remains far more difficult to impose. In India, the exportation was very complicated: Muslims in India have been resisting integration for a thousand years. Thus, the British came up with this not-so-brilliant idea of partitioning the country and creating an Islamic homeland, which, later on, divided to become Pakistan and Bangladesh. Turkey is, I think, living proof of the incompatibility between religion and democracy. Europeans do not seem to understand that Turkey has no intention whatsoever of complying with European laws even if, from time to time, it asks to join the European family. The reasons for this ambivalent approach to Europe are both financial and civilizational – Turkey entertains ambitions
of cultural conquest of areas with large Muslim populations. It will not, and cannot, be detached from perennial religious beliefs and certain viewpoints regarding long-standing enemies: the Turkish state, despite Mustafa Kemal Ataturk’s progressive push back in the 1920s, does not contemplate secularization. On the contrary, at present it is undergoing a nationalistic and Islamic rollback. Many European commentators analyze Turkish affairs using the traditional rift between the Right and the Left, between the conservatives and the radicals. Some understate the religious fanaticism and the theocratic nature of Turkey for diplomatic reasons: the Turkish aggressiveness, they argue, must be contained, we must placate Erdogan’s gung-ho spirit and find a way to live together. I am afraid that most of these optimistic arguments are stale: religion and religious identity are a far more decisive factor than we tend to believe. They obstruct moral and cultural development, replace worldly pursuits with metaphysical questions, create enemies, and prevent civil society from being civil society. Marxian theories, reducing history to economic forces, neglect the role of religion, and so do many present-day analysts. Europeans seem to forget what religion did or did not do to their civilization through the centuries; by “respecting” religions with clear political goals, they tend to harm their own hard-won secular law, thus undermining liberal democracy.
ÂŠ Keystone-France/Getty Images/IDEAL IMAGE
Do terrorist attacks justify giving greater powers to security forces?
Children in Barnet Council School in England, trying on gas masks (November 1939)
BY Erica Chenoweth
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Security in the French capital has been increased, with more police stops and more security personnel deployed on the streets in response to last November’s Paris attacks by ISIS jihadis, which resulted in the deaths of 130 people.
ecent ISIS-inspired attacks in Europe have resurrected an ageold debate regarding the proper balance between security and liberty. In the face of such appalling violence, it is easy to see why many commentators, policymakers and the public demand stricter protective measures, even if these require short-term sacrifices regarding day-to-day liberties. But terrorist attacks do not justify giving extraordinary powers to security forces, and there are many reasons why they don’t. First, pragmatically speaking, exceptional powers should match genuinely exceptional threats – and terror134
ism has rarely been a truly existential threat to any state in the modern world. Notwithstanding occasional shocking incidents of violence, people living in democracies today are far more likely, as John Mueller1 has repeatedly pointed out, to be killed in routine automobile accidents or die of heart attacks, cancer or suicide. In the United States, people are more likely to die by drowning in their own bathtubs or by the accidental discharge of a handgun than they are to die from a terrorist attack. Although terrorism is always a spectacle, it has seldom risen to the threat level necessary to justify extending extraordinary powers to security forces.
The only possible exception might be 1970s and 1980s Italy, where a wave of right-wing and left-wing terror attacks that lasted years threatened the very existence of the Italian state. Publicized abuses by the police and the Carabinieri undermined attempts to contain the violence and prolonged the crisis. But by the late 1980s, Italy had largely succeeded in stemming the violence, through a combination of police work and a compelling informant program wherein “pentiti” militants could acquire reduced prison sentences in return for information leading to the capture of their former comrades. By 1988, within four years of launching the
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Despite the typical impulse of countries under attack by terrorism, the most effective approach is to bolster and reinforce democracy at home, and to practice peace and restraint abroad.
program, terrorism in Italy was a thing of the past. Unlike the leftist groups of the 1970s, which successfully recruited tens of thousands of adherents, ISIS does not control a significant portion of the body politic in any European country. Although ISIS threatens to commit a greater number of attacks in Europe, it does not pose an existential threat to the existence of any European state. Second, a growing body of research suggests that exceptional coercive powers are often counterproductive in combating terrorism. For example, in recent research on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Laura Dugan2 and I collected daily data from news reports on the different repressive and conciliatory actions the Israeli government took toward Palestinians – both in terms of the general Palestinian population and in terms of specific Palestinian groups – during the period 1987-2004. By repressive actions, we mean arrests, raids, threats, or killings. By conciliatory actions, we mean actions like reversing settlement expansion, engaging in peace talks, or funding development projects to improve infrastructure for Palestinians. We collected data on both material and verbal actions, and we differentiated between actions targeting specific terror suspects and actions affecting the broader population. We then combined our data with attack data from the Global Terrorism Database, and we found that violent attacks by Palestinian groups – such as Hamas, Fatah, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad – only declined following months in which the Israeli government adopted a relatively conciliatory stance toward the gen-
eral Palestinian population. However, repression that affects Palestinians in general – such as threatening or blaming Palestinian people for the conflict, shooting at demonstrators, or occupying a village – tended to be associated with an increase in violence by Palestinian groups in the following month. In other words, creative conciliation, not expanding repressive powers for security forces, has made Israelis safer in the past. Moreover, in a 2010 study, political scientists James Piazza 3 and James Igoe Walsh 4 used data on the human rights performance of different countries around the world to evaluate whether states that violate human rights are more prone to terrorist violence than those that do not. Unsurprisingly, they found that when states fail to respect rights to physical integrity in their countries, they tend to face higher amounts of terrorism. Creative conciliation with Europe’s Muslim population has a clear role to play with regard to the ISIS threat to Europe. For example, Danish approaches to counterterrorism that favor community engagement have shown some anecdotal successes. Increasing trust in local authorities can yield a higher level of cooperation between the Muslim population and law enforcement agencies. On the other hand, further marginalization, discrimination or harassment can undermine cooperation. So far, the discussion has related to domestic or regionally localized terrorism. But should security forces receive extraordinary powers to combat terrorism abroad? Once again, recent research suggests that militarized approaches to
combating terrorism are not always the most effective. For example, states tend to get attacked by transnational terror groups – or domestic actors inspired or directed by such groups – when they adopt bellicose foreign policies. In a paper published in the journal Security Studies in 2015, Alex Braithwaite5 found that as a country increases the number of troops deployed in another county, the number of terror attacks launched against the invader increase. These findings corroborate an earlier study by Brian Phillips6 and Burcu Savun7, who found that transnational terrorists tend to target democratic states not because it is easier to do so per se, but rather because democracies tend to engage in a higher number of foreign military interventions abroad. Such attacks are ways for aggrieved but weak actors to inflict harm on the military that they see as terrorizing their own communities and societies. In a crude way, transnational terrorism is war by other means. Existing research thus suggests that current policy toward the Middle East is counterproductive in defeating ISIS. By eschewing foreign military adventures, countries can largely avoid being targeted by transnational terror groups. If bellicose foreign policies lead to terrorism, there are some specific foreign policy instruments that can decrease it. In a 2011 paper, Joseph Young8 and Michael Findley9 argue that foreign aid that specifically aims to bolster the education, public health, civil society and conflict prevention sectors is associated with reduced terrorism over time. In other words, paralleling the domestic context, it is carrots – not sticks – that tend to reduce terrorism. G R E E C E IS
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Third, at a strategic level, undermining fundamental rights, weakening legal institutions, and succumbing to polarization in the name of counterterrorism is a surefire way to sabotage one’s own position. This is because terrorism is fundamentally a strategy of provocation. As David Fromkin10 suggested in his seminal 1975 essay The Strategy of Terrorism, acts of terror are intended to provoke a violent and unjust overreaction that vindicates the terrorists’ grievances. When the United States invaded Iraq in 2003, it inadvertently bolstered Al Qaeda’s critique of the West’s interference in the Muslim world. Moreover, terrorism is meant to create divisions within the society in a way that polarizes and weakens them. In a fight against a committed opponent, a country should never adopt a posture that favors the adversary. Finally, there are long-term consequences to giving security forces fewer constraints. Special powers tend to expand, not contract. Although the public may trust incumbent politicians – like Francois Holland in France or Angela Merkel in Germany – to implement extraordinary powers responsibly and ethically, temporary extraordinary powers often become permanent. As John E. Finn11 argues, even when governments attach “sunset provisions” to counterterrorism legislation, subsequent governments generally renew and expand rather than repeal such legislation. For example, U.S. President George W. Bush signed the USA PATRIOT Act into law in 2001; the Act did not expire until 2015. Even then, the U.S. government replaced it with the socalled “USA Freedom Act,” which maintained some but not all of the security provisions in its predecessor law. Thus, the public should ask not only whether they are comfortable with incumbent politicians using extraordinary powers but also whether they are comfortable with any future leaders of their countries exercising these powers as well. Such a reality is all the more disturbing when one considers that terrorism 136
is a contested, politicized and pejorative term. The arbitrariness with which people can label legitimate dissent as “terrorism” means that lending expanded powers to security forces could interfere with the very foundations of democracy; the rights to free assembly, free speech and personal conscience. For a recent example, one need look no further than Turkey, a country whose aggressive approach to rooting out political dissent by labeling political opponents as “terrorists” demonstrates how an emerging democracy can succumb to authoritarianism under the pretext of a national security threat. Given the empirical evidence, it is difficult to argue that giving extraordinary powers to security forces is a productive way for democratic countries to deal with the terrorism threat. Despite the understandable instinct to react to episodes of spectacular violence with massive expansions of government powers, the best way to handle terrorism is, as Louise Richardson13 and Richard English10 have often argued, with a response that is proportional to the threat it poses. Terror attacks by ISIS-inspired youth do not pose an existential threat to any European state. While they are horrific episodes, they are extraordinary; European societies today are incredibly safe. The ISIS phenomenon, while indeed threatening, is likely to be temporary, whereas major changes to security procedures and extraordinary powers are often permanent. As such, common-sense law enforcement methods, such as increasing the staffing in security lines at airports, bolstering border checks, ensuring that large gatherings have a sufficient law-enforcement presence, and prosecuting suspects using widely-accepted criminal codes, are generally sufficient to minimize the threat if not eliminate it altogether. Despite the typical impulse of countries under attack by terrorism, the most effective approach is to bolster and reinforce democracy at home, and to practice peace and restraint abroad.
The public should ask not only whether they are comfortable with incumbent politicians using extraordinary powers but also whether they are comfortable with any future leaders of their countries exercising these powers as well.
People cited 1. John Mueller: Professor of Political Science at Ohio State University. 2. Laura Dugan: Professor in the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice at the University of Maryland. 3. James Piazza: Professor of Political Science, Pennsylvania State University. 4. James Igoe Walsh: Professor of Political Science, University of North Carolina at Charlotte. 5. Alex Braithwaite: Associate Professor in International Relations, University of Arizona. 6. Brian Phillips: Assistant Professor of International Studies at the Center for Research and Teaching in Economics (CIDE) in Mexico City. 7. Burcu Savun: Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Pittsburgh. 8. Joseph Young: Associate Professor with appointments in the School of Public Affairs and School of International Service at American University in Washington, DC; expert on terrorism and civil conflict. 9. Michael Findley: Associate Professor in the Department of Government and the LBJ School of Public Affairs (courtesy) at the University of Texas at Austin. 10. David Fromkin: Noted author, lawyer, and historian, best known for his historical account of the modern Middle East, A Peace to End All Peace. 11. John E. Finn: Professor in the Department of Government at Wesleyan University. 12. Louise Richardson: Vice-Chancellor of the University of Oxford. 13. Richard English: Wardlaw Professor of Politics in the School of International Relations, and Director of the Handa Centre for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence (CSTPV), at the University of St Andrews.
Cyclades Fashion Archaeological Museum of Mykonos One of the first thoughts that springs to mind when viewing the exhibition “Vanity: Stories of Jewelry in the Cyclades” is how far back in time one can trace people’s deep desire to adorn their bodies with elaborate objects. The items on display in this first major temporary exhibition of jewelry from across the Cyclades, which is being hosted at the Archaeological Museum of Mykonos, span a period of seven millennia, right up to the 1970s. For good measure, the 230 exhibits from 19 Cycladic islands are supplemented by a number of specially commissioned contemporary creations by leading Greek jewelers. The exhibition, which opened on August 10th, will remain open on Mykonos for one year before travelling to other museums in the Cyclades and concluding in Athens.
THE GRE E K CRISIS
What Went Wrong Political freedom is not enough when seeking sustainable growth, as inadequate institutions and populist brinkmanship can destroy the tangible benefits of democracy.
BY BABIS PAPADIMITRIOU
Yiorgis 2011 Courtesy of the artist Panos Kokkinias and Xippas Gallery
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THE GRE E K CRISIS
Kostas, 2002 Courtesy of the artist Panos Kokkinias and Xippas Gallery
o one doubts that the vested interests of certain businesses have, at times, been “better” served by authoritarian regimes. Is this, however, the rule? Those who question the perks of capitalism often answer without hesitation that businesses get by better with less democracy. Yet this “truth” was debunked some time ago, and today it is widely accepted that open societies, where the mainstream political system is based on a commitment to strengthening its democracy, perform extremely well economically, generate greater wealth for more people and ultimately distribute it in a more just manner. The relationship between business and democracy has, of course, matured over time, based on solid rules of law and giving rise to some outstanding cultural values. Ultimately, this relationship becomes interactive and mutually beneficial in all those societies that believe this partnership is the best way forward, although, as we know, such societies are few and
far between. In short, the answer to the question is that democracy and growth go well together. History provides ample proof of such examples; Greece is one of them. The recent economic crisis has provided yet one more argument in favor of this premise, though admittedly we would have preferred to have been spared the experience. The issue, perhaps, needs to be put differently: the quality of a democratic regime is not, nor can it be, exactly the same in every country and at every moment for everyone. A democracy is better served and better facilitates the ability of an inclusive political system to generate the resources needed for a higher standard of living when it is has certain supports. It should be backed by robust and well-controlled administrative institutions and a good educational system; it should be free of influence from other powers; and it should safeguard the terms of participation in the labor market. The ongoing Greek meltdown – triggered by the combi-
THE GRE E K CRISIS
nation of a global financial crisis, the economy’s inability to become competitive and the well-known ineptitude of key sectors of the state – could not be averted, despite the unhindered operation of democracy. After the fall of the 1967-74 dictatorship, democracy in Greece experienced its finest years since the creation of the independent Hellenic state (1830). However, in the 40-odd years since then, its economy has not always performed as well; for the greatest part of that period, growth has been weak. The explanation for this failure lies in the fact that free and fair elections, a competent parliament and freedom of speech may be the cornerstones of democracy, but they do not automatically provide the population with more opportunities to increase its wealth. During this period, many factors kept the productive sector of Greece isolated from the developments and benefits of the globalized economy: the state maintained excessive influence over business decisions; professional groups enjoyed special privileges in the distribution of economic gains; and corruption affected the decision-making process in business. As a result, the overall wealth that was generated was much smaller than it could have been. The liberalization of the economy and particularly of the credit system did not come until the mid-1990s; the final obstacles to foreign trade with the unified European market were lifted and, eventually, a stable currency, the euro, was adopted, resulting in a spectacular reduction in the cost of borrowing money. For the next 12 years, the Greek economy grew at a steady and rapid pace. Meanwhile, democracy became more multifaceted in its operations. Institutional changes added further complexities to the political system and the justice system became more independent, as did the country’s central bank. At the same time, independent authorities were established to organize and supervise large markets such as telecoms and the media, to sever the strong links between the civil sector and political parties (the Supreme Council for Civil Personnel Selection played an important part here), and to safeguard fundamental rights (these authorities include the Authority for Communication Security and Privacy, the Data Protection Authority and the Greek Ombudsman). The further broadening of democratic institutions as drivers of the state, however, was hindered in the first decade of the new century by the state’s inability to curb the corrupt bonds between politicians and businessmen, bonds which came at the cost of enormous state expenditures. In addition, the state could not rein in the deeply-rooted populism which protected those who opposed the modernization of the public administration, the abolition of special privileges for powerful lobbies and, ultimately, the country’s full adoption of established high-productivity practices that define almost all competitive states. Greece may have scored high on growth, but it was a laggard when it came to its adjustment of democratic institutions. As a result, it was dragged down by a state that grew increasingly expensive to run and was constantly declining in quality. The day inevitably came when the global financial
crisis prompted international capital markets to question whether Greece was capable of servicing the huge debts it had incurred, debts generated by politicians leveraging votes and sweeping their mistakes under the rug. From 2004 on, recourse to elections became endemic. In just over one decade, Greece has held two elections for the European Parliament, three for their local authorities, five general elections and one referendum. This recourse to the popular mandate has created the appearance of democracy in action, but it has been, in practical terms, little more than a bid by the political system to write off its own grave responsibility for the poorly-executed operation of democracy. In addition, Greece continues to suffer through difficult relationships with its true allies, the other states of the eurozone. A program of successive and interconnected actions that, under other circumstances, may have sped up the adjust-
Free and fair elections, a competent parliament and freedom of speech may be the cornerstones of democracy, but they do not automatically provide a population with more opportunities to increase its wealth.
ment of the economy and of society to a better model for the production of incomes and investments, now looks more like a straightjacket; it is dividing public opinion and making the successful stabilization of the economy impossible. The duration and magnitude of the crisis – with burgeoning unemployment, the disappearance of deposits and investors alike, the bane of over-taxation and the mixed reception from the public to government measures and policies – have benefited the rise of domestic totalitarian forces. The conversion of a relative majority into a zealous guardian of state power and the inability of traditional political forces to acknowledge the limitations of the political system when they appear in an international environment of intense conflict could easily place the Third Hellenic Republic, only 42 years old, at unpredictable risk. There is little time left if we want to honestly prove that growth can return. Only entrepreneurship – that is, initiatives by those willing to take on risks – can bring in the investments that will generate jobs and better days ahead. Those who understand the cause and effect of this financial challenge understand that what we are missing in the current phase of the crisis is more faith in the democracy of the markets and its rules. G R E E C E IS
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MONEY & POWE R
o one can doubt Adam Smith’s belief in free markets. His admiration was as keen as was his suspicion regarding their absence, even when this absence was created by business practices. In “The Wealth of Nations”, he wrote: “People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public, or in some contrivance to raise prices.” This “conspiracy against the public” is not simply about prices. In a fascinating chapter of his book “Republic Lost”, Harvard law professor Lawrence Lessig describes how the political influence of large corporations contributed to an increase in diabetes and obesity in United States: “In 1980, humans had never tasted high-fructose corn (HFC) syrup. In 1985, it accounted for 35 percent of sugar consumption. In 2006 that number had risen to over 41 percent. Why? Price is the answer, but it is not the price of free market. Sugar in the United States is two to three times as expensive as
in other countries. That’s because the U.S. government protects the domestic sugar manufacturers with tariffs... That tariff gives those manufacturers about $1 billion in extra profits a year. It costs the overall economy (through increased prices and inefficiency) about $3 billion… This protectionism does, however, help at least one group beyond the sugar barons: corn producers. For the higher the cost of sugar, the safer the market for sugar substitutes such as HFC. Which explains why one of the biggest supporters of sugar tariffs is a company that doesn’t produce any natural sugar: ADM [Archer Daniels Midland]... a conglomerate of companies with revenues exceeding $69 billion in 2009.” Corn processing is a primary activity for ADM: they process 76,000 metric tons every day. On the other hand, Lessing notes that: “Corn in the United States is cheap relative to other nations because we subsidize its production. In the 15 years between 1995 and 2009, the government spent $73.8 billion to ensure that
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Mike Luckovich Editorial Cartoon used with the permission of Mike Luckovich and Creators Syndicate. All rights reserved.
The greater the political influence of large corporations, the more that taxpayersâ€™ money is used for corporate welfare, or that laws are passed to secure corporate profits. BY Pa s c h o s M a n d r av e l l i s
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The political process is not “dependent on the people alone”. It is more dependent on special interests, which promote legislation regarding such things as corn, sugar, steel, banks and copyright.
farmers produced more corn than the market would otherwise bear. That corn then got used to produce lots of high-fructose corn syrup, at an increasingly low price” This is good for business. According to a policy analysis by the libertarian think tank Cato, “At least 43 percent of ADM’s annual profits are from products heavily subsidized or protected by the American government.” Why is the American government distorting to such a degree the market that may be contributing most to obesity-related diseases, illnesses that cost the medical system $147 billion annually? The former ADM chairman Dwayne Orville Andreas is legendary for his political campaign donations, having contributed millions of dollars to Democratic and Republican candidates alike. This is not the only sector where taxpayers’ money is used for corporate welfare, or where laws are passed to secure corporate profits. A common joke in the media industry is that you can expect the next copyright extension act when a Disney character is near to becoming public domain. The 144
last Copyright Term Extension Act, a law also known as the Mickey Mouse Protection Act, was passed in 1998, five years before the copyright protection of this character was scheduled to expire. The Walt Disney Company is one of the largest donors to election campaigns. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, it spent $18.7 million in contributions (since 1990) and $74.5 million (since 1998) in lobbying. The problem is that, for the protection of Mickey Mouse, millions of other pieces of intellectual work are buried under copyright, stifling the creativity of younger generations. Perhaps, then, we should alter Adam Smith’s quote to something like: “People of any trade seldom meet with politicians, even for merriment and diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public and against democracy” because democracy demands that the House of Representatives, as James Madison wrote, “ought to be dependent on the people alone” (Federalist Papers No. 52). With $753 million raised in 2015-2016 for all House candidates, or with $3.8 billion dollars spent in Congressional races in 2014, the political process is not “dependent on the people alone”. It is more dependent on special interests, which promote legislation regarding such things as corn, sugar, steel, banks and copyright. The largest spender of all by far is the financial sector, which spent $677 million on the 2016 election cycle. There is a huge elephant in the middle of the room, and a huge challenge for the democratic process. It is the $6.3 billion in 2012 congressional and presidential election costs in the US alone (we don’t have statistics for the world). And this is not the only cost. “ADM’s finagling in Washington may have cost taxpayers and consumers more than $40 billion since 1980, counting the cost of the sugar program ($3 billion in higher prices each year), the ethanol program, and federal food giveaways and export subsidies” (James Bovard,
Cato Institute Policy Analysis No. 241: Archer Daniels Midland: A Case Study in Corporate Welfare). What’s more, the cost is not only to taxpayers’ wallets; nor is it only the choking of economic progress by established companies. To the damage caused, we have to add the exclusion of politicians who cannot keep up financially, like James Larocca who, in the article “Priced Out Of Politics” that appeared in The New York Times on November 27, 1998, wrote: “Over the past two years, I sought the Democratic nomination for governor of New York. I traveled to virtually every county in the state. I won the support of the Democratic Rural Conference. I placed well at the state convention and mounted a successful state-wide petition drive to get on the Democratic primary ballot. But I raised the least amount of money of any of the candidates. I couldn’t buy advertising on television. I lost. “Editorials, including one in The New York Times, said I was a good candidate. My demographics were great – Vietnam combat veteran, suburban, moderate. By all accounts, I did very well in the debates. I liked campaigning... But favorable commentary about me as a candidate and a potential governor was invariably accompanied by the sad observation that I had no money, that I couldn’t raise any money, and that I was, therefore, not ‘real’.”
experience G REECE I S
WHI LE I N A TH EN S
MEMORABLE EXPERIENCES From essential sightseeing to authentic experiences, our eclectic mix of tips and addresses will help you make the most of your stay in the vibrant city of Athens. Illustration by Mike Karolos, www.smirapdesigns.com
MUST-SEE sites in ShorT Chalking up memorable experiences and appreciating history is really what visiting this city is all about.
BY John Leonard
East end of the Parthenon, once the templeâ€™s main entrance, with the circular Temple of Roma and Augustus in the foreground.
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isitors with an appetite for Greece’s ancient past will discover a virtual smorgasbord of experiences to choose from, given all the archaeological sites, scenic historic spots and freshly refurbished museum galleries now available around Athens. Even with only a few days of “site-seeing” time, there are certain key places not to be missed, as you explore the narrow streets, piney slopes and marble monuments that give the city a sense of timelessness. Visitors who think they already know what to expect will find that Athens holds many archaeological surprises and opportunities for new discoveries, from inspiring hilltop ruins, to towering Corinthian columns, to richly illustrated Byzantine manuscripts, all in the midst of the bustling modern city. Topping the list is the Acropolis: one should always begin with a pilgrimage to the most perfect marble temple ever built, one that survived condemning Christians, destructive conflagrations and Venetian bomb blasts. But don’t make straight for the Parthenon and miss all the intriguing other details to be noted during your walkabout. The Theater of Dionysus and the stone arches of The Odeon of Herodes Atticus lie just beside the path, as you tread up the South Slopes in the footsteps of probably every prominent ancient Athenian to have left their mark on history. Beginning about 2,500 years ago, this was an area of Athens frequented by playwrights, city leaders, social critics, would-be brides and many other inhabitants or visitors seeking musical entertainment, drama, laughter, religious
fulfillment or medical relief. The diminutive Sanctuary of Asclepius, once something of a hospice or health clinic, recalls to mind the terrible plague that swept through the walled-in, war-torn city of Athens and claimed the life of its great leader Pericles in 429 BC. As you climb higher, catch another glimpse of the Odeon from above, with its rising tiers of marble seats: a benefaction Herodes made to the city in the name of his late Italian-born wife Regilla—herself a great public benefactress and the head priestess of Fortuna’s temple, whose ruins lie hidden on the wooded knoll beside the horseshoe-shaped Panathenaic Stadium, easily distinguishable from the Acropolis. On another pine-clad hill, as you look out to the sea, stands the curving, partly preserved facade of a monumental tomb belonging to Gaius Julius Antiochus Philopappos, a distinguished Athenian citizen and the exiled ruler of a Roman-occupied kingdom in Asia Minor. Passing upward through the Propylaia, be sure to notice its coffered ceiling and the exquisite Ionic styling of the Athena Nike Temple to the right, both newly restored by the present-day Acropolis team of cutting-edge architects, engineers, conservators and stonemasons. On emerging from the colonnaded gateway, there lie before you the jewels of the Sacred Rock: the Parthenon with its refined Doric architecture; the Erechtheion with its elegant Caryatids and moldings; and, from the Belvedere (the spot on the Acropolis where the Greek flag stands), one of the most panoramic views of age-old Athens and its surrounding hills. Equally impressive experiences can
In the Athenian Agora, one can almost feel the presence of Socrates, philosophically sparring with the city’s youth... or of Thespis, the world’s first award-winning actor.
1. Odeon of Herodes Atticus, a music hall erected in AD 161, now restored for the summer arts festival held in Athens. 2. Sculptural displays in the Stoa of Attalos, an ancient colonnaded shopping mall enclosing the east side of the Athenian Agora.
4. Bird’s-eye view of the National Archaeological Museum, home to the golden “Mask of Agamemnon” and other ancient Greek masterpieces.
3. The South “Caryatid” Porch of the Erechtheion, on the Acropolis, supported by temple maidens serving the mythical king Cecrops.
5. Ruins of the Middle Stoa in the Athenian Agora, once part of a commercial center, with the Acropolis above.
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© SHUTTERSTOCK, PANAYIOTIS TZAMAROS, VANGELIS ZAVOS, CLAIRY MOUSTAFELLOU
The Roman-period orchestra of the Theater of Dionysus, where dramas, gladiators, wild animals and mock sea battles were regular fare.
be had at lower altitudes all around the Acropolis, especially at the Acropolis Museum. Here, you will reenact your earlier Acropolis ascent, as you move upward through the galleries, culminating in an opportunity to view the Parthenon’s remaining marbles up close and personal. West of the Acropolis is the Hill of the Muses, whose summit carries the Philopappos monument and offers more inspiring views of the templed Sacred Rock. Also visible are the blue Saronic Gulf and Piraeus, home to ancient Athens’ triple-basined military/commercial port. Adjacent is the Pnyx Hill, which still retains the speakers’ rostrum and hillside auditorium of the popular assembly (Ekklesia), which once echoed with the speeches of Pericles and Demosthenes. On the north side of the Acropolis, in the Athenian Agora, the ancient city’s main public square, one can almost feel the presence of Socrates, philosophically sparring with the city’s youth in the House of Simon the Shoemaker, or of Thespis, the world’s first award-winning actor, who performed along the lanes of the Agora. The Temple of Hephaestus and Athena (Hephaisteion), the best-preserved temple of ancient Greece, also deserves a visit, while the Stoa of Attalos and its galleries of objects illustrating daily life and the ways of democracy in ancient Athens should not be missed. East of the Acropolis, as you me150
ander through the winding streets of Plaka, the solitary Lysicrates Monument—a marble trophy-stand recognized today for its pioneering external use of the Corinthian style — not only stands as a tribute to past wealthy sponsors (choregoi) who financially backed ancient Athens’ theatrical performances, but also calls to mind Lord Byron. The flamboyant English nobleman once used this diminutive monument’s internal space as a study — in the early 19th c, when a Capucine convent (which had grown up around the 4th c BC structure) rented him rooms. Further east are the massive Corinthian columns of the Olympieion, in the shadow of which one feels dwarfed by such an ambitious building project. As recently as the mid19th century, a monk who still carried on the ancient Stylite tradition sought a secluded refuge atop one of the columns, closer to God, and had his daily sustenance raised to him in a basket. The city’s most notable museums include the foremost National Archaeological Museum, where you will find such well-known works of art as the handsome statue of either Zeus or Poseidon, the Boxing Boys of Akrotiri in Santorini and the amused Aphrodite slapping at Pan. Perhaps Athens’ most visually striking museum experience, however, can be had at the Byzantine and Christian Museum, where a resplendent array of artifacts are notable for their rich colors, golden surfaces and enormous spiritual and historical value.
Info Τhe Acropolis Tel. (+30) 210.321.4172 • Open daily 8:00-20:00 (summer) • Admission €20 ( There is also a €30 ticket allowing admission to all main archaeological sites in Athens) Acropolis Museum 15 Dionysiou Areopagitou • Tel. (+30) 210.900.0900 • www.theacropolismuseum.gr • Admission €5 • Open Mon 8:00-16:00, Tue-Wed-ThuSat-Sun 8:00-20:00, Fri 8:00-22:00 ( Last admission is half an hour before closing) At h e n i a n A g o r a a n d M u s e u m 24 Adrianou • Tel. (+30) 210.321.0185 • Open daily 8:00-15:00 (winter) 8:00-20:00 (summer) • Admission €8 O ly m p i e i o n Entrance from Vasilisis Olgas Avenue • Tel. (+30) 210.922.6330 • Open daily 8:00-20:00 (summer) • Admission €6 Byzantine and Christian Museum 22 Vasilisis Sofias • Tel. (+30) 213.213.9500 • Open Mon-Sun 8:00-20:00 • Admission €8 Nat i o n a l A r c h a e o l o g i c a l M u s e u m 44 Patission • Tel. (+30) 213.214.4800 • Open Mon-Sun 09:00-16:00 (winter) 8:00-20:00 (summer) • Admission €10
AUTUMN ARTS Don’t miss out on cultural treats addressing timeless questions about humankind’s constant exploration of art, cultural identity, politics and history.
BENAKI - Pireos street Annex
BY XENIA GEORGIADOU
Time travel Alkistis Protopsalti, one of the foremost performers of the Greek music category known as entehno – and renowned for her sophisticated and versatile vocal delivery – evokes powerful emotions on a musical journey through time. Roman Agora, 21:30. By invitation only.
Escaping reality Two friends abandon Athens and seek the ideal state in the land of the birds, coming to an agreement with the residents of this new territory and agreeing to join forces to challenge the establishment. Planning to win out over the will of the gods and man, the birds throw themselves with enthusiasm into the construction of a wall in the sky that will sever all communication between the divine residents of Mt Olympus and the 152
mere mortals. In his production of Aristophanes’ Birds, director Nikos Karathanos draws inspiration from the dreams of men and from the melancholy that comes when these dreams are stifled. With English surtitles. Starts at 20:30. Onassis Cultural Center, www.sgt.gr
tue, the importance of honor and man’s struggle against his predetermined fate. The performance is in Russian and Greek, with Greek and English surtitles. Starts at 21:00. Odeon of Herodes Atticus, www.greekfestival.gr
Inspired by nature
Man vs destiny A collaboration between the Greek National Theater and Moscow’s famed Theater Vakhtangov results in one of the most fascinating contemporary interpretations of Sophocles’ emblematic Oedipus Rex. The production, which premiered at the ancient theater of Epidaurus as part of the Greek Festival, represents a fine example of cooperation between two different schools of theatrical thought joined by a common purpose. The multiaward-winning director of the Russian institution, Rimas Tuminas, has handpicked a cast of talented Greek and Russian actors to address the quality of vir-
From Tchaikovsky’s Waltz of the Flowers to the blossoming cherry trees of Puccini’s Madama Butterfly, nature is a constant spring of inspiration for the composers of opera, ballet and symphonic music. Under the Attica sky, in the beautiful park of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Center (SNFCC), the Greek National Opera stages its first big open-air concert, with extracts from the most emblematic works of the opera repertory, as well as oratorios and melodies written for classical ballet. Admission is free of charge. Starts at 20:00. SNFCC Park, Faliro Bay, www. nationalopera.gr
time in Athens. His exhibition at the Museum of Cycladic Art, titled Ai Weiwei at Cycladic, presents pieces inspired by the refugee crisis and by the museum’s permanent collection. Among the standout pieces in the show is Standing Figure, a life-size marble sculpture referencing the ancient Spedos style. The figure’s hand are stretched out in front of the body, appearing to have just dropped a vase that appears suspended at knee-level, in a reference to the destruction of ancient art during the Chinese Cultural Revolution. Open Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays & Saturdays 10:00-17:00; Thursdays 10:00-20:00; Sundays 11:00-17:00, www.cycladic.gr
Onassis Cultural Center
First Olympics come alive
Impressions of a journey The exhibition Thomas Hope: Drawings of Ottoman Istanbul, at the Benaki Museum of Islamic Art, showcases the impressions gleaned by traveler Thomas Hope from the capital of the Ottoman Empire. The scion of a prominent family, the young man went on the customary – for his class – Grand Tour of Greece and Turkey in the late 18th century, drawing topographical designs, temples, palaces, mosques, funerary monuments and scenes from life in the bazaars and cafes, providing us with priceless testimony regarding Ottoman life in Turkey during that period. Open Thursdays-Sundays 11:00-19:00, www. benaki.gr
Fresh perspectives Since its foundation 33 years ago, the DESTE Foundation for Contemporary
Art has supported and promoted upand-coming artists. The Equilibrists, an exhibition hosted by the Pireos Street Annex of the Benaki Museum to celebrate DESTE’s anniversary, embraces the same mission, presenting the work of 33 young Greek and Cypriot artists who express themselves in different media: sculpture, painting, performance, video and design. The artists address major issues, such as historical memory, cultural identity and the politics of architecture and infrastructure. The selection of the artists was carried out by New Museum curators Gary Carrion-Murayari and Helga Christoffersen. Open Thursdays & Sundays 10:00-18:00; Fridays & Saturdays 10:00-22:00, www.benaki.gr
Subversive art Restless Chinese artist, filmmaker, writer, architect and political activist Ai Weiwei is showing sculptures and installations in an archaeological museum for the first
Albert Meyer, the official photographer of the German delegation to the first modern Olympic Games in Athens in 1896, immortalized athletes and spectators during one of the most important moments in the history of athletic events. The exhibition Olympic Games 1896: The Historic Photographs of Albert Meyer from the Benaki Museum Collections, as Viewed by Eva Nathena, attempts to reconstruct the atmosphere at the Panathenaic Stadium and other sports facilities in the 1896 Games, through an original piece of video art. Visual artist Eva Nathena, who created the concept, and her partners – video artist Angelos Papadopoulos and musician Giorgos Poulios – have added sound and movement to the German photographer’s stills, breathing new life into the images. Costa Νavarino, Messinia, www.costanavarino.com
Sacred site Dodona: The Oracle of Sounds is a temporary exhibition organized by the Acropolis Museum and the Ephorate of Classical Antiquities of Ioannina, acquainting visitors with the oldest and most renowned oracle site of ancient times. Displaying important finds from excavations, it showcases how the oracle operated and also highlights man’s need to know what the future holds. Open Mondays 8:00-16:00; Tuesdays-Thursdays & Saturdays-Sundays 8:00-20:00; Fridays 8:00-22:00, www. theacropolismuseum.gr G R E E C E IS
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© Albert Meyer/Benaki Museum Collections, Figurine of Zeus Keravnios. The god of sky and natural phenomena is holding his characteristic symbol the thunder. 470-460 BC © Acropolis Museum, Olga Migliaressi-Phoca, Nudists, 2015. Courtesy the artist and Dio Horia Art Platform, Ai Weiwei, Chandelier, 2015. Photo Paris Tavitian ©Museum of Cycladic Art, Andreas Simopoulos, Nicholas Mastoras. Artwork: Beetroot
stavros Niarchos Foundation cultural center
e at & drink
A Grand Tour for the Taste Buds Start your day with breakfast with a view, take a break for lunch in a downtown delicatessen or dine in luxury by the sea – the Athens gastro scene is rich in selection. BY nena dimitriou
Breakfast by the Sacred Rock
A historic café
There is no other venue in the city that puts you as close to the Parthenon as the balcony of the Acropolis Museum café-restaurant. After setting off from Syntagma to wander the streets of Plaka, start your day of serious touring with a hearty breakfast at the capital’s most important museum. From 8 till noon daily, it serves a Greek breakfast that includes scrambled eggs in tomato sauce (strapatsada), crunchy bread with thyme-scented honey and handmade marmalade, traditional pancakes and crispy, cinnamon-scented dough fritters (loukoumades) drenched in honey. Lunch service starts at noon and includes spinach pie and other traditional dishes. Don’t hesitate to try Greek coffee; though packing less of a punch than espresso, it is very fragrant and intended to be sipped rather than downed in one go, allowing you the time to soak in the architectural details of one of the world’s most splendid edifices.
This centrally located café, a timeless emblem of Athenian luxury, has been a meeting point of the city’s intelligentsia and power players since 1939. Spending a couple of hours here is a ticket to what must seem like a live movie set. Sharply dressed men and well-coiffed ladies exchange compliments, politicians and lawyers expound arguments, and actors and artists soak up the atmosphere lounging in comfortable chairs, while outside, rushed passersby try to keep up with the city’s pace. If the chic drapes occasionally block the view, it’s just to provide more privacy. Take your time here in decoding Greek high society, while enjoying a high-quality espresso with select beans from small farms in Central America or tea that is served with great care. Accompany your beverage with a sweet from the well-stocked trolley. Zonar’s also prepares dishes of classic Greek cuisine, fusion and sushi, and has an excellent wine list of local and foreign labels, as well as several bottles in magnum and jeroboam size. The service, like the establishment, is discreet.
15 Dionysiou Areopagitou, Acropolis, tel (+30) 210.900.0915
9 Voukourestiou & Panepistimiou, Syntagma, tel (+30) 210.325.1430
© CLAIRY MOUSTAFELLOU, OLYMPIA ORNERAKI
Karamanlidika tou Fani
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Karamanlidika tou Fani
GB Corner Shop
Lunch in a deli
A modern Greek “food tale”
Greek design & delicacies
The “Arapian” family has been in the deli business for nearly a century, with its flagship product being pastourma, the traditional cured meat (usually camel) of Asia Minor, prepared using a recipe that has been handed down for generations. Across the street from their small deli on the fringes of Athens’s central market – on a street renowned for its spice shops and heady with the aromas of cinnamon, clove and turmeric – grandson Fanis has opened an excellent grocery store-cum-meze restaurant. The décor is centered on sides of cured ham, prosciutto, pastourma, salami and cheeses. You must try the older cheeses – pungent, they may not be for the faint-hearted – the cured beef kavourmas, the small pies made with pastourma, salted fish and smoked eel, traditional stuffed vine leave (dolma) and the spicy sausage with scrambled eggs. Most of the dishes – simple food, without airs – are quickly prepared fast in a frying pan, and anything you take a fancy to can be purchased onsite to take back home, vacuum-packed to retain all the flavors.
Kerameikos is among Athens’ oldest neighborhoods; in recent years it has acquired a rather charming but quirky character, featuring together some of the city’s most popular eateries, from cheap cafés to high-end restaurants. Aleria is one of the latter, housed in a neoclassical building, with a lovely courtyard and a discreetly modern dining room. The cuisine, created by chef Gikas Xenakis, is creative Greek and very fresh, balancing well between the rustic and sophisticated. Try the wild greens pie with crispy fylo and feta cream or the quail from Grevena in northern Greece with roasted beets, caper leaves and a currant cream. The owner and his staff know their stuff when it comes to wine, so trust them to guide you, especially if tasting one of the rare cheeses on offer.
Across from the Parliament in the heart of the city, take time to look around the gift shop on the ground floor of the historic Hotel Grande Bretagne. You will find all sorts of wonderful gastronomic delights, wines and spirits, including a series of select products from the hotel’s line of goods, such as halva scented with Chios mastic, dried herbs, Greek mountain tea (ironwort), honey, spoon sweets, olive oil and vinegar all done up in luxurious packaging. Beyond the edible souvenirs, don’t miss the clothing and accessory lines by design duo Zeus and Dione. The combination of high-quality fabrics (such as silks and cottons) and geometric lines inspired by ancient Greek art but with a modern take, makes them contemporary classics.
57 Megalou Alexandrou, Kerameikos, tel (+30) 210.522.2633
1 Vassileos Georgiou (corner of Syntagma & Panepistimiou), tel (+30) 210.333.0000
1 Socratous & Evripidou, Omonia, tel (+30) 22.214.171.124
Noel Championship-class cocktails
Noel became a popular hangout for Athenian urbanites within the first week it opened. It has chandeliers, gold-gilded sofas, baroque picture frames, dried flowers and furniture from the 1970s, but the action is really at the jam-packed bar – the regulars don’t mind the extra squeeze. It opens in the morning for coffee, but the real stars on the menu are the cocktails. Take the Corn Syndicate, for example, made with tequila, bourbon, mezcal, lime and agave syrup, and scented with roasted corn. There are also low-alcohol Mediterranean-inspired concoctions like the Aegean Walk, made with whisky, chestnut liqueur and tonic. Noel serves simple comfort food; we recommend the burger or the orzo with mushrooms. There is also a separate section exclusively for non-smokers, called Noel Blue. Painted in vibrant blue and decorated with gold ornaments, its avant-garde esthetic is impressive.
59B Kolokotroni, Monastiraki, tel (+30) 211.215.9534
© DIMITRIS VLAIKOS, KATERINA KAMPITI
e at & drink
GB Corner Shop
Galaxy restaurant & bar
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Hytra Michelin-starred gastronomy
Galaxy RESTAURANT & Bar Rooftop luxury drinking
On the waterfront
Despite its privileged location right in front of Piraeus’ picturesque Mikrolimano Bay, Papaioannou’s reputation has never relied on its sea views, but, instead, on its excellent seafood. The cuisine is actually quite simple, with the chefs relying on the rich catch of the Aegean Sea to lend their distinctive flavor. The smaller fish are beautifully fried; the larger ones are grilled or baked to retain all their juices, and the sashimi is filleted with expertise. If they don’t have what you’re looking for, it’s only because all the fish come from what local fishermen are catching at the time. October, for example, is the right time for striped mullet, red mullet and scampi. There are more than 60 choices on the wine list, mainly whites representing all the major Greek grape varieties. The dessert, dough fritters (loukoumades) with ice cream and fruit, is on the house.
The 12th floor of the Hilton Athens hotel is one of the few places in town to boast a 360-degree of the city – from the northern suburbs all the way to the sea on the south. This discreetly luxurious venue – ideal for a romantic evening or a business meeting – has all the cosmopolitan vibe of its international clientele. A rich menu of cocktails made with premium spirits is served from 18:00. Dinner service begins at 19:30 and comprises international cuisine and dishes inspired by Greece and made with local products, such as octopus carpaccio served with toasted anchovy bread. There’s also a good selection of sushi and we recommend that you save some space for dessert, such as the Valrhona chocolate cylinder with cumquat sauce or crispy loukoumades (dough fritters) stuffed with mastic gum mousse and served with a sauce of Greek coffee and a ball of mastic vanilla ice cream.
42 Akti Koumoundourou, Piraeus, tel (+30) 210.422.5059
46 Vassilissis Sofias Avenue, Ilissia, tel (+30) 210.728.1402
The restaurant on the top floor of the Onassis Cultural Center represents the Athenian food scene’s high-end gastronomy chapter and has been awarded a Michelin star for its bold, creative Greek cuisine. The ambience is simple-chic and with soft lighting to help you to better appreciate the wonderful things on your beautifully presented plate. Hytra recommends pairing your food and drink and offers two tasting menus of eight and 14 dishes respectively, accompanied not just by wine but also with one of the signature cocktails on the list. Try the calamari with oven-baked potatoes, fennel and a mayonnaise of cuttlefish ink; the quail stuffed with spelt wheat, fresh truffles and sour cheese from Naxos; or, from the vegetarian selections, the impressive Chef’s Garden, with a medley of herbs and greens and delightful edible flowers, followed by the yoghurt with honey and walnuts, scented with chamomile and pollen. The wine list comprises more than 80 labels, with both native and international options.
107-109 Syngrou Ave, tel (+30) 210.331.6767
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Oenophiles’ delight the best pl aces in town for excellent greek wines
Athens’ wine scene has been making new inroads in the past few years, with the capital’s growing population of oenophiles coming together chiefly in the area around Syntagma Square. Oinoscent, serving a number of Greek gems along with popular labels from around the world, is one of the oldest in the area and among the most popular. With exclusively Greek offerings – including the exceptional organic Melissokipos from the Paterianakis Estate, the highly recommended Santorini
from the Sigalas Winery and the memorable Limniona from the Zafeirakis Estate – Heteroclito is a tiny venue with lots of atmosphere, located on the pedestrian street next to the Orthodox cathedral. Perhaps the city’s most stylish wine bar, inside the Ralli Arcade, By The Glass, presents an incredible selection of Greek wines – some 150 labels, 20 of which are served by the glass – with a menu that would do any restaurant proud: exotic salmon tartar; beef fillet perfectly cooked in red
wine sauce; and sea bass burger with salmon roe and citrus sauce. Slightly further afield, in Makryianni near the Acropolis Museum, Winepoint offers outstanding selections from small and large Greek wineries, and hosts interesting tasting sessions that are perfect for novices. A few blocks away in Koukaki, Bobo is a tastefully decorated venue with attitude, serving around 70 labels, 20 of which are by the glass, paired with delectable snacks featuring Greek products.
By The Glass
By The Glass
36 Anastasiou Zinni • Τel. (+30) 210.924.4244
G. Souri & Filellinon • Τel. (+30) 210.323.2560
2 Fokionos & 30 Petraki • Τel. (+30) 210.323.9406
45-47 Voulis • Τel. (+30) 210.322.9374
Athanasiou Diakou & 2 Porinou • Τel. (+30) 210.922.7050
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