Friday, May 18, 2012

Friedrich Nietzsche and the ancient Greeks

Friedrich Nietzsche

As we know Friedrich Nietzsche was not only a philosopher but also a classical philologist.The fact that he was the youngest to take the chair of classical philology of the university of Basel(24 years old) speaks on its own about Nietzsche's Intellectuality. 
As a classical philologist Nietzsche had a big knowledge about Ancient Greece and this obvious because some of his philosophical works are dealing with the ancient Greeks and their inventions (like theatre for instance) from a philosophical perspective.
An interesting excerpt from Nietzsche's first work with the title "The birth of tragedy" shows how much esteemed were the ancient Greeks for him.

We read at the 15th unit of the book:
In the sense of this last mysterious question we must now state how the influence of Socrates has spread out over later worlds, right up to this moment and, indeed, into all future ages, like a shadow in the evening sun constantly growing larger, how that influence always makes necessary the re-creation of art—I mean art in its most profound and widest metaphysical sense—and through its own immortality guarantees the immortality of art.
Before we could recognize this fact, before we convincingly established the innermost dependence of every art on the Greeks, from Homer right up to Socrates, we had to treat these Greeks as the Athenians treated Socrates. Almost every era and cultural stage has at some point sought in an profoundly ill-tempered frame of mind to free itself of the Greeks, because in comparison with the Greeks, all their own achievements, apparently fully original and admired in all sincerity, suddenly appeared to lose their colour and life and shrivelled to unsuccessful copies, in fact, to caricatures. And so a heartfelt inner anger always keeps breaking out again against that arrogant little nation which dared to designate for all time everything that was not produced in its own country as “barbaric.” Who were those Greeks, people asked themselves, who, although they had achieved only an ephemeral historical glitter, only ridiculously restricted institutions, only an ambiguous competence in morality, who could even be identified with hateful vices, yet who had nevertheless laid a claim to a dignity and a pre-eminent place among peoples, appropriate to a genius among the masses? Unfortunately people were not lucky enough to find the cup of hemlock which could easily do away with such a being, for all the poisons which envy, slander, and inner rage created were insufficient to destroy that self-satisfied magnificence. Hence, confronted by the Greeks, people have been ashamed and afraid, unless an individual values the truth above everything else and dares to propose this truth: the notion that the Greeks, as the charioteers of our culture and every other one, hold the reins, but that almost always the wagon and horses are inferior material and do not match the glory of their drivers, who then consider it amusing to whip such a team into the abyss, over which they themselves jump with the leap of Achilles.

source:The birth of tragedy by Friedrich Nietzsche 

Thursday, May 17, 2012

It's the geopolitics st*pid!

From time to time i post interesting articles that don't have to do with history but with the present time. But the present too can be arguably considered history in the making. Anyway, i found this article in euobserver written by a Polish pm concerning the Greek recession and the importance of Greece for the Eu contrary to the Eu heads statements that a Greek collapse is not going to affect anyone else rather than the Greeks.

 The eurozone decided to grant Greece a second bailout, but this does not mean that the country received a wallet full of money and that the risk of default is gone. Greece and its political elites need sober determination to implement socially difficult reforms also after the April elections.
The Union has once again demonstrated its solidarity with Greece and the fact that it is demanding to supervise the effectiveness of its aid does not surprise. We cannot perceive the presence of EU experts in Athens in terms of loss of sovereignty.
The situation is serious. Without EU support and further tranches of financial help the country's default is certain and the return of the drachma would bring about a much deeper crisis.
The danger lies, however, not just in the financial aspect of the Greek crisis, but also in its potential geopolitical consequences, in particular the possible destabilisation of the South-East flank of the European Union. We must not forget that all this is taking place very close to the hot spots of the Middle East, the Arab countries of North Africa and the still unstable Western Balkans.
Given its geographical location, Greece is a crucial transit country for EU energy supplies coming from the Black and the Caspian Sea basins. It is a key element of the EU's energy security strategy - the Southern Corridor, which is to bring about oil and gas supply diversification, a reduction of EU's dependence on Russia and a decrease in energy prices.
Greece is at the same time a country favoured by Russia, as we have seen many times in the past, most notably recently when Russia cut supply to energy-starved EU, it increased the supply to Greece above the contracted volumes. It cannot be excluded that in the case of helplessness or ineffectiveness of the EU, Russia could offer help which would go much further. The same goes for China which is already the owner of the Piraeus port.
Greece is not only a member of the EU, but also of Nato. Its army and navy consume 4.3% of its GDP and are a crucial component of the military and maritime balance in the Eastern part of the Mediterranean Sea.
The country is also the warden of the longest EU border of the Schengen area, and one which struggles with strong migration pressure from the South. Destabilisation in Greece would mean it not only leaving the Eurozone, but also withdrawing from the Schengen.
A weakening of democracy in Athens, with the possible military involvement to maintain order in the worse of foreseeable scenarios, would be catastrophic for the European Union and its image in the neighbourhood - both the south and the east - as well as in the world.
In particular, it would damage the perception of EU's role as the stability guarantor and a democracy exporter. Hence the long-term consequences of a lack of resolution of the Greek crisis would go beyond the purely financial and economic aspects, and would be grave geopolitically as well.
We need therefore to leave behind the prevailing, predominantly accounting-like approach to the Greek debt. We need a political solution, with the geopolitics kept very much in mind.
The evil - in the form of the indebtedness crisis in Greece and elsewhere - has transpired. The lessons for the future have been learnt and acted upon through the 'six-pack' and the fiscal compact, both of which will now further change the Union's order.
Greece, whether with the euro or the drachma, remains a matter of European responsibility and solidarity. Notwithstanding the trespasses of the Greek and others, we are now confronted with the most serious test of the credibility of the European construction. Withdrawing the support for Greece can spark off further reduction in the scope and depth of the European acquis. Should it fail to bring results, it will have an impact on the future doctrine and the practice of European solidarity and cohesion.
Hence it is important and necessary to prescribe a treatment which is protective and preventive, and not a crude amputation. This is not only about Greece. We have to save Europe from the dangers and the potential consequences it is now facing, on a political level not just on an economic one.
If the situation gets out of control it could easily and profoundly affect European security. This should be part and parcel of the European cost-benefit analysis as well as its strategic reflection. One would dare to say, travestying and turning around former US president Bill Clinton's phrase: it's the geopolitics, stupid!
Jacek Saryusz-Wolski is a Polish member of the European Parliament, a former president of the foreign affairs committee and a vice-chair of the European People's Party

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

9/5/1945 The Soviet victory day

The famous image with the Soviet flag on the German Reichstag.

In May the 9th 1945 in front of Georgy Zhukov the famous Soviet general of the red army, Nazi Germany surrendered with no terms. The WW2 was reaching an end marking the victory of Human over Nazism. The Soviets paid the biggest blood tax than any other country in this war in order to achieve this victory.

In a war front of 3.000 to 6.200 kilometers the Soviets fought against the mighty Axis forces for 1418 days.
During the war for every minute that was passing the Soviets were loosing an average of  9 men, for every hour 507 and for every day 1.400.To understand better the height of the numbers the other main allies USA and Britain lost from 400.000 soldiers each while the Soviets lost nearly 20 million people and 10 million were wounded or disabled.

The war cost for the Soviets was higher than both USA England and France together.This was due to the fact that the German forces unlike USA England and France(which didn't offer much resistance) achieved to penetrate much into the Soviet territories causing much damage to infrastructure. Additionally the Soviets who were engaged in a scorched earth policy they were also destroying their own infrastructure.In total 1.700 cities 70.000 villages and over than 30.000 industries were destroyed in the Soviet union during the war.

Regardless from what happened later(Cold war) and from what Stalin has commited during his reign we need to acknowledge the significant contribution of the Soviets in the war against Nazism, cause neither the Soviets nor USA and England would have been able to win this alone.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Post-Byzantine art and iconography.

A 17th century icon that reperesents Jesus Christ  with an emperor's outfit.

Twelve centuries ago at the last of the great ecumenical councils of christendom, the assembled fathers pronounced that holy icons depicting Christ and His angles and saints ,should be set up in the holy churches of god,on sacred vessels on vestments on walls on panels in houses etc. The honour that is paid to the image passes to the one that it represents.Religious painting has been eagerly practised since the time of the Roman emperor Constantine.but there had always been an element especially in the eastern provinces which remained faithful to the Jewish ban on graven images. This division would later cause the Great civil wars in the Byzantine empire known as iconoclasm.In this conflict the defenders of the icons prevailed and the defeated would almost all be converted to Islam after the Arab conquests of the Byzantine East.

After the 9th century there was an increased production of portable icons especially by the poor people.The imperial workshops continued to produce large icons made of gold, silver, mosaic and jade.After the fall of Constantinople in 1453 the portable icons acquired new importance.Most of the big churches were converted into mosques and the christians had to built smaller churches.

From 1204 AD till the  mid 17th century that the Venetians had possessions that formerly belonged to the Byzantines .A new artistic school flourished in Venetian lands and particularly in Crete called Cretan school or post Byzantine art.The success of this school was that it used both eastern and western elements in iconography.The most famous artist of this school was a Cretan called Dominikos Theotokopoulos(EL Greco).Icons exportation became a major business in Crete as there was a considerable demand for icons in the west.

In this post though, i will focus on the icon production in the Ottoman occupied lands.
The Byzantine empire may had fallen in 1453 but the production of Byzantine art  didn't cease.In the Ottoman territories artistic production diminished and if there was any it was constrained in small scale iconography with old eastern and  Byzantine elements.As i foretold at this period portable icons came into prominence.

The icons were not produced any more by artists but by monks who strictly followed the rules of the old  Byzantine painting traditions.However there  were some talented artists who were adding some elements of individualism in their icons they were just exceptions cause the rules never changed and iconography remained the same .

The major places of artistic production was the Holy mountain which represented the traditional iconography and Crete in which the Cretan school flourished. Later after the fall of Crete to the Ottomans the artists either fled to Venice or to the Heptanese in Western Greece which were still under Venetian control.

Below you can see some examples of the post Byzantine art in Ottoman Greece from the period 1453-1821

Saint Mercurius and Catherine(17th cen. )

Saint Nicolas(17th cen.)

Jesus descends to hell(18th century)

Scene from a big wall painting of the Apocalypse

Scene from a big wall painting of the Apocalypse
details from a big wall painting of the Apocalypse

The father the son and the Holy spirit in the form of a pidgeon

Saint  George on the left killing the snake and and Mercurius killing the Byzantine emperor Julian 

John Prodromme

Saint George. The Italian elements are obvious

Saint George on a throne

sources:Μετά το Βυζάντιο(After Byzantium) author: Βασίλης Φωτόπουλος(Vasilis Photopoulos)

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