Western Plunder of Greece

The plunder of Greece by Western Europe goes back to the Romans. Despite their admiration for Greek culture, they made Greece a colony in 146 BCE. From then on, occupied Greece became an open field for thieves and conquerors.

Roman rulers and wealthy Romans filled Rome and their homes with purchased or plundered Greek statues. Rome started looking like Greece, but underneath that artistic splendor, there was resentment and boundless violence.

Athenaios, a Greek writer of the second century who was close to the Roman imperial ruling class, reported the Romans sucked life out of their victims: stealing their achievements and letting them rot in impotence and poverty.

Westerners have been following the Roman model of plunder. The Christianization of Europe made the situation worse. To the jealousy of the Romans for the Greeks, you now added the fanaticism of the Christians for the “idolater” and “heathen” Hellenes.

The Catholic pope and the Orthodox Greek patriarch anathematized each other in 1051. Then the Italian, German and French crusaders dismembered medieval Greece in 1204. The crusaders even melted down ancient Greek statues for coins. And the crusaders’ blow against Greece prepared the path for the Turks who captured Greece in 1453.

That was the time of the Western Renaissance sparked primarily by ancient Greek philosophical and scientific texts. But the very people who treasured Greek science tolerated the Turkish conquest of Greece for 400 years.

Not only that, but Westerners took advantaged of the Turks in Greece to rob Greece of its archaeological treasures. For example, from 1801 to 1812, agents of the British ambassador to the Ottoman Turkish empire, Lord Elgin, sawed and hacked parts of the Parthenon and carried them to England where, to this day, are in the British Museum.

Similar cultural atrocities took place in occupied Greece for centuries.

When the Greeks revolted against the Turks in 1821, the rulers of the West were ambivalent. Nevertheless, Western powers intervened and forced Turkey to recognize independent Greece.

During World War II, Italy and Germany recaptured Greece.

The Germans were ferocious, wrecking, starving, and plundering Greece. They did not pay compensation for the massive destruction they engineered in Greece. And they have yet to return the stolen Greek treasures.

Thus the current occupation of Greece by the European Union and the International Monetary Fund follows a well-established tradition of plunder.

Few Europeans or Americans challenge the ruthless policies of the EU-European Central Bank-IMF in Greece. They witness a crime but, conveniently, they look the other way. After all, their banks are the beneficiaries of plundering Greece.

Civilized Westerners know, however, civilization is like lipstick. Unless you keep it in place, it fades away. The example of Germany ought to give pause to the enforcers of bank dogma.

Pre-WWII Germany cultivated the classics while, simultaneously, was giving birth to the barbarian monster of fascism-Nazism. Impoverishing Greece, the mother of Western civilization, impoverishes civilization itself. But who knows what other monsters are growing up in the wings.

For example: Stephen Miller, emeritus professor of archaeology at Berkeley, has spent his life in archaeological research at Nemea, one of the five Panhellenic athletic and religious centers of ancient Greece.

Miller discovered the stadium and revived the ancient Nemean games. He also helped in the restoration of some columns of the temple of Nemean Zeus. In 1973, he says, one tourist visited Nemea. In 2012, more than 50,000 tourists flocked to Nemea.

Now the Greek government is saying it may not be able to pay the salaries of some of the museum guards, in which case ancient Nemea will be locked up. For Miller such an eventuality equals to having wasted his life.

The tragedy of Miller is bad enough. But what does this tells us about the government of Greece when, for the sake of satisfying her Western occupiers, it is on the verge of shutting down one of the lights of civilization?

Such regression into darkness ought to be unacceptable to all.

Punishing the vast majority of the Greeks for the errors or corruption of their American-educated leaders is also unfair. Justice and democracy forbid collective punishment.

About 300 members of the Greek parliament and not many rich Greeks who are benefiting from the tragedy of their country deserve severe punishment. The Greeks call their political leaders “party dogs” for good reason.

The EU-ECB-IMF know where these few Greeks are depositing their ill-gotten money. Instead, of forcing the Greek government to raise taxes on largely unemployed people, they can tax or confiscate the deposits of the rich. Yes, that would be against accepted norms. But ruthlessly exploiting Greece is a war crime and a crime of civilization.

In addition, Greece is a member of the European Union, a noble experiment to prevent another catastrophic war. But EU or any other union cannot last for long when some members cannibalize other members. The current vicious policies EU enforces in Greece signal the beginning of the end of the EU.

It’s not too late for the EU to become real EU. Start such a metamorphosis with an honest treatment of Greece: write off her debt. By now the lenders have gotten most of their money back. It is unethical to enforce illegitimate lending rules and bleed Greece for extra money, which could go to pay salaries of guards in the Nemean museum.