Many times each day, through the course of our normal activities, we encounter some form of the phrase “…the Greeks invented that,” “The Greeks were the first to… ” or “that’s derived from the Greek…” We need to remember that some items of significance came from sources other than the Greeks.
Did you know: the cathode ray tube, BBQ sauce, Botox, carpet cleaner, the twin cam motorcycle engine, and Quebec, were all invented by Non-Greeks! Yes!! It’s true!!!!
Today is Greek Independence Day. Modern Greece was born on March 25, 1821. Wait, how can that be? – you are thinking…. Did they really invent everything in the last 200 years? The answer is “no” but I will highlight a brief history of Greece.
Ancient Greek Civilizations began with the Minoan civilization in Crete and the Mycenaean Greeks circa 3300 BC. Some accomplishments over the next 3000 years include: Democracy, The Parthenon, Olympics, The Hagia Sofia, Drama, Science, Trial by Jury, Greek Mythology, Philosophy, astrology, biology, mathematics, physics, Medicine, Fables, Comedy, Tragedy, and Satire. Men such as Plato, Socrates, Pythagoras, Homer, Hippocrates, Herodotus, and Aristotle have had lasting impact on our present day civilization.
Around 300 BC the Hellenistic period began. This occurred when Alexander the Great left Greece and conquered 22,000 miles by foot over the next 8 years. He died at the age of 32, undefeated in battle. Though, his death resulted in his empire being split into 14 empires, there was a tremendous spread of the Greek language, culture, and population.
The Byzantine period followed over the next 1000 years and spanned 35 present-day countries in Northern Africa, Southern Europe, and Western Asia. Greece fell to the Ottoman Empire in the 15th Century. Over the next 300 years, Greeks held onto their culture through “secret schools” that were found underground and in caves. Greeks had never given up hope of regaining their country and did not want to lose their history, language, or culture.
During the early 1800’s, a period of Philhellenism (Love of all things Greek) began. Because of the Greek origin of so much of the West’s classical heritage, there was tremendous sympathy for the Greek cause throughout Europe. Many wealthy Americans and Western European aristocrats, such as the renowned poet George Gordon Lord Byron took up arms to join the Greek revolutionaries. Many more also financed the revolution. People thought, “wouldn’t it be really cool if Greece was a country again.”
In 1821 Greece had declared war on Turkey and the fight for independence gained momentum. Byron died with an army fighting for the Greek cause in 1824, but support continued to come in. But by 1830 the war had ended and Greece was free. Thus modern day Greece was born on March 25, 1821.
Though modern day Greece has not risen to the level of power or influence of their ancestors, Greece did get credit for the first Allied victory of WWII. After Greece had turned back Italy, Germany was forced to postpone battle with Russia to defeat Greece. Following the battle, Winston Churchill had declared, “Hence you will not say that Greeks fight like heroes, but that heroes fight like Greeks.” Soon after, Roosevelt stated, “Greece has set the example which every one of us must follow until the despoilers of freedom everywhere have been brought to their just doom.”
Today many members of modern society continue to show respect for the accomplishments of the Greek people. This is never more evident than to look at the strong desire for people to display the colors of the Greek Flag – blue and white. Hanes indicates that its most popular color for T-shirts is white. Levis-Strauss indicates that its most popular color for jeans has consistently been – blue.