The Hellenic Europe: Problems of Greek Continuity
Ahrweiler H., The Making of Europe, Lectures and Studies, Nea Synora Livanis Publishing Organization, Athens 2000.
Because Ι heard Dr Ahrweiler's address and was struck, like the rest of her receptive audience, by both its form and content I have attempted in this translation to retain their character and quality: the attenuated phrases rich in parentheses and subordinate clauses, the wealth of an expressive vocabulary, and the often headlong momentum of the engaging delivery, all indicative of the sweep of knowledge, the scholarly observations and deep thought that sustain the argument and the urgency of the message the speaker is anxious to convey. Alas, it is more than likely that some of the warmth of her delivery has been lost in cold print.
Crucial to the subject of Dr Ahrweiler's address are concepts that single words encapsulate in the Greek language, concepts familiar and intelligible to Greeks - to Hellenes, to Romioi. But to nοn-Greeks -to Barbarians- these concepts are not readily intelligible; nor does a single word adequately, let alone consistently, interpret them in an alien tongue. Here they are, in Greek in the order they occur and transliterated: Pwμιοσύνη (Romiosyni), Ελλnνικότnτa (Hellenikotita), Ελλnνοσύνn (Hellenosyni), Ελλnνότnτa (Hellenotita).
Ιn respect of Romiosyni -and indeed of Hellenikotita- I have οn its first appearance hazarded a translation: "Greekness". Just how far short of the mark this word falls and how misleading it is will at once be obvious to the initiate but especially to anyone, whether Greek or Barbarian, who has read and pondered "The Helleno-Romaic Dilemma", an apocalyptic chapter in Patrick Leigh Fermor's Roumeli which dares a penetrating analysis of this eternally enigmatic subject. But first to those other riddles.
Ιn the course of reading Dr Ahrweiler's address it will become apparent why the meanings attached to these words were constantly evolving over the centuries and why in consequence a single English equivalent cannot be found that transmits those transient meanings.
At the outset the author states that the Greekness of Hellenikotita may be recognized "not οnly by the inanimate structures that belong to bygone times but by the living tradition". And soon she is asking "to what extent does Hellenikotita retain its Hellenosyni, its essential nature, despite the successive alterations and transformations forced even imperceptibly upοn it..." She is referring to forces represented by geographical neighbours and by Greece's "racially most recent medium for change".
So, Hellenosyni is the essential nature of Hellenikotita. But, "How Greek", she questions, "does Hellenikotita remain notwithstanding cultural and racial diversifications of the populations that move about within its compass...?" "We need", she goes οn, "to clarify the meaning of Hellenikotita, how it evolves, and what remains of its original characteristics with the passing of time".
Ιn the V century B.C. the Greek historian Herodotus (480-425) identified by its several attributes the concept implicit in the word Hellenic, or Greek - what Dr Ahrweiler calls the coherent nature of a conscious group: homaimon (akin or related by blood), a common religion, a common ethos, and a common language; and to these the speaker adds customs observed in common. But Hellenosyni, or Helleιτikotita, is "a living experience and not a baseless idea". Ιn other words, it evolves. Moreover, cultural Hellenosyni is "the quest for wider horizons of thought and action".
Yet there is the constant feature, "the sine qua nοn element of Hellenikotita", namely, "the anthropocentric character of Greek civilization", conjuring up the dictum: Μan is the measure of all things.
Born half a century after Herodotus, the philosopher Isocrates (436-338) defined the new and very different conditions for participation in Ήellenikotita: "Greeks are they who share in our education" and "A Greek is such not by birth but by intellect".
The kaleidoscopic patterns of meaning attached from time to time to these terms may convince the reader that the translator can serve him nο better than by transliterating them, as Ι have done with a sense of insufficiency, and by urging him to seek their unfolding import in the very text of the address.
Ι nοw turn back to Romiosyni. Patrick Leigh Fermor remarks that "at its humblest and most comic level it is epitomized in the shadow play of Karayiozi". While significant to all Greeks and a mere handful of Barbarians, that observation must provoke many to seek the answer to a sequent question. However, Fermor casts another beam of light which discloses that Romiosyni has "the pungency of the familiar and immediate" while "Hellenism has the glamour of an idea". He then points out, confusingly perhaps, that these two concepts are but "two aspects of the same thing"`
Before setting down in a strikingly perceptive two-column list of sixty-four contrasting attributes that sharply illuminate "the antagonisms of the two... not their possible synthesis", he explains that the private theory he is about to expound rests οn the supposition that "inside every Greek dwell two figures in opposition, namely, the Romios and the Hellene, though all Greeks are in fact an amalgam in varying degrees of both, contradicting and completing each other".
Dr Ahrweiler has herself urged elsewhere that one should not overlook the essential element in the term Romiosyni, namely "Romio-", indicating the Roman Empire. This Romiosyni embraces the community which populated Byzantium, the Greek heir of the Empire of Rome. The term Romiosyni, she remarks, is used οnly by Neo-Greeks to characterize the people of the Eastern Roman Empire, and so underlines the continuity of Byzantium in the quiddity, the "whatness", of the modern Greek nation.
Romiosyni is in decline, wrote Fermor some thirty years ago, conceding that it "will carry off some bad old ways, but much that is precious and venerable". Οn the other hand, considering .the blessings that accompany its passing he admitted to being almost reconciled to it.
At this point Ι recommend only that the reader turns nοw to the revealing exegesis of Dr Ahrweiler who pays homage and does honour to Romiosyni and to those other qualities of Greeks which are but dimly comprehended, however promptly recognized, by most of my fellow Barbarians.