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Ancient Greek solutions for the economic crisis of their distant descendants

11 June 2012 / 19:06:56  GRReporter
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If time could go back and if modern Greece could turn to Apollo for advice in connection with the economic crisis, what would be the prediction of prophet Pythia?

We find the replies to this and other questions that actually constitute "rules of ancient wisdom and practice" for dealing with modern Greece’s problems in the funny text by Armand d'Angour, who is a lecturer in Greek literature at Oxford University. He even went so far as to prophesy an alleged "order" and it would be as follows: "Greece should abandon the euro if the euro has abandoned Greece." An ambiguous phrase, which could be interpreted in different ways like all Delphi orders.

The lecturer adds other things in connection with the solutions that ancient Greeks would come up to. The ancient Greek politician Solon answered the question “how do you deal with obligations, divisions and rebels,” the best. When in the early 6th century BC farmers in Athens went so far as to become slaves in order to get rid of their huge loans, aristocrat Solon introduced the "sisahtia" law, i.e. removing liabilities. But this relief went along with deep reforms that affected all and divided the citizens into social classes depending on their income. He thus paved the way for democratic governance.

D'Angour offers two Delphi orders as "political slogans" for solving the crisis: "Know yourself" and "Nothing in excess." I.e. it is imperative for state authorities and citizens in Greece and Europe today to know exactly who they are and do nothing in excess.

Homer's hero Odysseus would also "sober down" modern Greeks, teaching them to be patient and understand the hardships they have experienced like him on his long road to Ithaca and his beloved Penelope. "Hold fast, my heart, you have endured worse suffering," the traveller who had suffered many obstacles said.

On the eve of the re-elections, Aristophanes would show that the path to overcoming the crisis goes through the election of the best rulers. In his comedy "Frogs" in 405 BC, he advises his then and today’s fellow citizens: "Choose good leaders, or you will be stuck with bad ones."

As for the "magic solutions" that some politicians promise to the Greeks, the British lecturer recalls that the philosopher Socrates drank the potion of hemlock, precisely because he offered the Athenians the chance to doubt everything that is presented as a safe option and question even when they know that there are no obvious answers.  Therefore, d'Angour stated that Socrates became "an eternal martyr to free thought and moral inquiry."

The father of medicine Hippocrates would also give wise advice for the crisis. He was a supporter of diets and exercises because his research showed him that the condition of regularly eating and exercising patients did improve, regardless of whether they died later. "Magical or wishful thinking cannot bring a cure. Only honest, exhaustive, empiric observation can hope to reveal what works and what does not," the lecturer wrote.
When everything around is changing and nothing is permanent, "You can’t step into the same river twice," as Heraclitus said. I.e. you should find the appropriate and different places each time in order to step safely and to cross the river. You should also know exactly when to act and what measures to undertake, which is summarized in the modern word "timing". A leading role in all this is played by innovation.

As an example of the ancient world innovation, d'Angour states Archimedes. Although it took him a long time to determine whether a crown was actually gold, he quite suddenly discovered while bathing that every object displaces a different volume of water.
The cry, "Eureka," which the legend attributes to the enthusiastic leading physicist, mathematician and engineer, while running naked through the streets of Syracusa, shows something valuable to today's economic crisis. And it is that "finding the solution to a knotty problem requires hard thinking, but the answeroften comes only when you switch of f- and take a bath."

Tags: SocietyCrisisAncient GreecePythiaProphecySolonSocratesHeraclitusArchimedes
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