There have been three widely separated political Greeces: the ancient city- states, the Byzantine empire and modern Greece, which won its independence from the Turks less than a century and a half ago. In essence, there is little relationship between the governance of these three Greeces but, because of classical influence on contemporary education and because the early Athenians were so gifted in defining and elaborating systems of thought, there is a persistent tendency to regard contemporary Greece in terms of its antique glory. Nowadays above all, when the country is governed by a stolid group of Colonels, it is fashionable to decry dictatorship in the birthplace of democracy.
"Democracy" is, of course, a Greek word and a Greek invention although the democracy made famous in the Athens of the fifth century BC was economically founded on slavery, and Plato's "Republic" is in fact a treatise on elementary fascism. Moreover, one should not forget that "anarchy," "tyranny," "despotism" and, above all, "chaos" are also Greek words, to say nothing of "demagogue." Actually, as Aristotle pointed out: "The forms of government are four-democracy, oligarchy, aristocracy and monarchy; and hence the power that governs and decides in them is always some part or the whole of each."
None of the three stages of Greece-classical, medieval or modern-has been famed for good government, very possibly because the Greeks are too intelligent, too unruly and too self-seeking to submit easily to the dictates of others. Few recent Greek statesmen have qualified as able to produce sustained stability in an inherently unstable nation. It can be argued that Constantine Caramanlis, Prime Minister from 1955 to 1963, headed the most successful modern administration but was too vain to accept political defeat, and instead of leading a parliamentary opposition-as Churchill had done in England-he departed in a huff for voluntary exile.
The disappearance of Caramanlis left no one with the prestige or personality to unite the center and right-wing majority that dominated Greek opinion after the bloody Civil War
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