News from Somewhere

The “somewhere” is Nafpaktos (which the Venetians, when they acquired the town, renamed Lepanto) on the Corinthian Gulf.  We have been in Greece for a week but have been so busy showing friends around that I have not had a moment to spare. We’ve spent the past two days gawking at the magnificent scraps that time has spared in Olympia and tomorrow we are off to “sandy Pylos.”

Pylos has more visitors, mostly Greek, than I remembered, but it is still very pleasant.  A few miles away in the country is the site of Nestor’s Palace, one of the most interesting remains of Mycenaean Greece, while here in Navarino Bay is the location of the battle that partly determined the liberation of Greece from the Ottomans.  It was one of those rare occasions when the Brits actually assisted the victims of Islamic oppression and worked together with the French and Russians.

I am sitting on the balcony of our hotel room, smoking a cigar and looking out at a sailing boat in the harbor.

We spent yesterday walking all over the ancient “Altis” of Olympia.  These Greek holy places are strange to modern men and women.  Olympia is first and foremost dedicated to Zeus, and the one fine column the Germans re-erected about 18 years ago suggests both the magnificence of their conception and the excellence of the architect and workmen from nearby Elis.

For moderns of course it is the games that interest them, but the games are best recalled in the epinician odes (choral songs in praise of the victors) composed by Pindar in the early fifth century.   We have nothing comparable in modern European literature though I sometimes think the music of Bach might express some of the formal power.  I was about 19 when I was captivated by Pindar and for his Olympian and Pythian odes used Gildersleeve’s commentary.  Pindar’s home city of Thebes refused to support the Greek struggle against Persia, largely because of her long running feud with  Athens, and the great southern classicist who rode with Stuart could not help sympathizing with  the “traitors” to the cause of union and democracy.

Watch  this space for updates

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Thomas Fleming

Thomas Fleming is president of the Fleming Foundation. He is the author of six books, including The Morality of Everyday Life and The Politics of Human Nature, as well as many articles and columns for newspapers, magazines,and learned journals. He holds a Ph.D. in Classics from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill and a B.A. in Greek from the College of Charleston. He served as editor of Chronicles: a Magazine of American Culture from 1984 to 2015 and president of The Rockford Institute from 1997-2014. In a previous life he taught classics at several colleges and served as a school headmaster in South Carolina

1 Response

  1. Michael Strenk says:

    As regards the Brits helping to liberate the Greeks from Islamic oppression, it is my understanding (in which I am quite ready to be corrected) that the Greeks had already regained control of most of the apparatus of the rotting Ottoman Empire and were poised to regain the Empire with little bloodshed necessary. The Brits and the French fomented the rebellion purely for their own purposes and I have read that they subsequently incited the Greek faction allied with them to slaughter that allied with Russia. All of this served to awaken the Turks to the danger that they were in and radicalized the Ottomans, inspiring them to renew great acts of bloodletting. I can’t remember the source of this (Yannaras? Florovsky?)