I’m getting used to read bad press about the Greeks either this is coming from inside or outside from my homeland. This time the accusation was quite bizzare since it was referring to the ancient times and our fault was centred around our affair with the Persians!. David Gardner, chief Editor of FT Middle East, wrote an article reviewing some books about Iran. Reading it I found some very interesting points. Beginning with his introduction:
“The Persians have had a bad press pretty much since the world became aware of them. Aeschylus (whose Persians of 472BC is the earliest surviving play) and his fellow classical Greek tragedians won many a pan-Hellenic Oscar by manufacturing an image of a cruel, effeminate and decadent despotism of the east, the better to build up Greek identity and cultural superiority. The great tragedians were the first and most accomplished demonisers of “the other”, as Edith Hall documented 20 years ago in Inventing the Barbarian” . Fair enough, I know that it was our fault !
And he continued by mentioning some very interesting parts of the book of Michael Axworthy “Iran: Empire of the Mind”
“….. when Islam burst out of Arabia into a Persia exhausted by war, it found a people receptive to its levelling liberation theology that took aim at Persia’s “strongly hierachical aristocratic and priestly system. Persia’s empire was tolerant by the standards of the era. But, above all, the Persian cultural genius lay in good part in its ability to accomodate and assimilate invaders-to conquer its conquerors. From the era of Alexander the Great and Seleucids, their aim of bringing Greek influence into Persia was probably outstripped by Persian influence seeping into Greek civilisation. When Rome rose to dominate the entire Mediterranean basin, the Roman empire was divided between the Greek east and the Latin west, but still the style of the Greek east showed the influence of the vanished Acheamenid empire, and inturn influenced Roman with imperial ambitions from Pompey to Elababulus.Not only the Seljuk Turks and Arabs were treated to this Persian seduction, even the Mongols succumbed. Before the fall of Baghdad in 1258, the Mongol devastation fell like a cataclysm on Persia, obliterating towns and populations, reverting swathes of the country from agriculture to nomad pastoralism for centuries to come. In Khorasan and Transoxiana perhaps a million people were slaughtered. But within decades the Persians pulled off their defining trick and conquered the conquerors. Their architects and astrologers, their bureaucrats and viziers became indispensable to the Mongols, who eventually converted to Islam. Meanwhile, Persians and Turks had pushed into India and established an Ind-Islamic outpost of Persianate culture. This is what Axworthy means by Empire of the Mind: the way Persian scholars and poets, mathematicians and doctors kept bouncing back through crisis after crisis, using their intellectual heritage to refloat their language and their culture .
Perhaps this is what happens with the Greeks … crisis after crisis we are keeping bouncing back .. Hope so ! Actually I think it’s worth reading the book “Iran : Empire of the Mind:A history from Zoroaster to the Present day” by Michael Axworthy. Benguin Books 2008.
The following video is irrelevant, I’m just hooked on it ;)