A History of the Greek People (1821-1921) by G.P. Gooch

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G.P. Gooch
AMS Press
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A History of the Greek People (1821-1921)

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Book review

Most persons, and especially those who have had a classical education, are wont to be interested in modern Greece because of the literary reminiscences of ancient Greece. But this habit, which does not affect the public judgment of the other states of South-Eastern Europe, is both historically defective and practically unjust to the Greek people. Greek history is a whole; its stream does not, like some of the Greek rivers, disappear underground at the date of the Roman Conquest in 146 B.C., to emerge again into the light of day with the War of Independence in 1821. For many centuries Greece was under foreign rule, Roman, Frankish and Turkish, and they have naturally affected to a more or less degree the character of her people. To expect, as some literary enthusiasts expected, that the Greek notables who fought against the Turks in the time of Byron, would be endowed with the same qualities as the leading Athenians of the age of Perikles was as absurd as to imagine that the Roman, Saxon and Norman conquests of England have not modified the British mentality.
Modern Greece is politically, and especially in foreign politics, far more the child of the Byzantine Empire than she is the grandchild of the little classical Republics. Nevertheless, the traveler will be struck by the similarity between the modern Greek character and the real (as distinct from the supposititious) qualities of the ancient Hellenes. No one now believes the iconoclastic theory of Fallmerayer, that the Slavonic and Albanian invasions of the Middle Ages uprooted the Greek race in Europe. The dogma of 1830 that "not a drop of pure and unmixed Greek blood flows in the veins of the Christian population of contemporary Greece" is historically false and practically absurd. Like the olive-shoot which grew up again and bore fruit, although the goat had eaten it down to the root, the germs of Hellenism have survived the successive blows of alien rulers and invaders. The Greeks have absorbed these foreign elements, and notably the numerous Albanian colonies in their midst, rather than have merged in them. Across these long centuries the Greek language, modified as all languages are by the course of ages, has remained, in a sense in which Latin has not remained, a spoken tongue, and Greek literature, which text-books usually cut short at the Alexandrian period, really extends through the learned scholars of Byzantium and the popular "Chronicle of the Morea" down to the novelists and poets of to-day. There are rival schools of language in modern Greece, the "purist" and the "popular"; but their respective instruments are both ultimately derived, although by different routes, from the divine workshop of Homer and the other classics, largely thanks to the immense influence of the New Testament.

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