the-teacher-of-arcadia:-rethinking-the-story-of-modern-greece
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The Teacher of Arcadia: Rethinking the Story of Modern Greece

Ruins of the Temple of Olympian Zeus with the Acropolis in the background, under a clear blue sky.
The majestic remnants of the Temple of Olympian Zeus, with a view of Athens’ iconic Acropolis in the distance. Credit: Jean-Pierre Dalbéra, Wikimedia Commons, CC BY 2.0

The novel by Greek cinematographer Thodoros Maragos titled “The Teacher of Arcadia and the TALOS 21st Century,” is a riveting and timely book that has the power to inspire and change your life, help you rethink the conventional story of modern Greece.

By Evaggelos Vallianatos

My artist friend Evi Sarantea from the island of Euboea introduced me to the Greek cinematographer Thodoros Maragos. I watched several of his documentaries. They are political and philosophical. They are commentaries on the history and politics of the 200-year-old modern Greek state and society.

They zero in on foreign influence, which shaped the politics and economics of Greece. The tragedy of this country in the third decade of the twenty-first century, tied to foreign debt and perpetual humiliation, is that it is the same country that, in the classical age of some 3,000 to 2,500 years ago and in the Alexandrian Era, 2,300 to 2,000 years ago, gave us the rule of law, democracy, philosophy, the Parthenon, beautiful arts, architecture, theater, the Olympics, Aristotle, science, Alexander the Great, advanced technology of the Antikythera computer of genius, and civilization.

How did that happen? I have tried to answer this question in my articles and books. But the films and documentaries of Maragos, many of them award-winning, give us a unique Greek perspective from the ground up of how modern Greece faced the crises and tragedies of the twentieth century.

Maragos is not exactly optimistic about resolving the dramatic debt impoverishment the European Union, the European Central Bank, and America’s International Monetary Fund perversely saddled on the country. He says this tragedy will last for a long time. He accuses Germany, Britain, and America for many of the misfortunes of tyrannizing the Greek people.

Like forcing corrupt Greek politicians to de-industrialize the country, making it dependent on imports and ceaseless borrowing – for their personal profit and the profit of their foreign sponsors.

The Teacher of Arcadia

Teacher of Arcadia

Maragos summarized his vision for Greece in his 2023 Greek book, The Teacher of Arcadia and the TALOS 21st Century. I read the book and loved it. Though it is a novel, the book is a story that unites ancient and modern Greece, and how a teacher in a mountain village of Arcadia, Pege (water hall), Istros Aetovouneas, acts like Socrates by teaching virtue.

He teaches all, children, and adults. His mission is to help the inhabitants of Pege think like their ancient ancestors, embracing reason rather than superstition. Cultivate the land, he urges them, for self-reliance in food; reject the war gifts of unethical modern technology like those of Artificial Intelligence pretending to win the war against death, promising long lives and immortality to those with lots of money.

Istros reminds us that god Hephaistos created TALOS, a flying anthropomorphic robot in the second millennium BCE in Minoan Crete. That version of AI was useful, he says, because it protected Crete and Europa, the beautiful lover of Zeus. But now, he says, things are upside down.

He says to the peddlers of AI that love is not mathematics and that AI without feelings is pure destruction. I agree with him. AI is a dragon the billionaires created to control us, the planet, and its wealth. They care less that this factory technology may become another version of nuclear bombs. My alternative and that of Maragos is a Renaissance in modern Greece, so that the wisdom and freedom of the ancients will, once again, take deep roots in the soil of Arcadia and Greece.

The Teacher of Arcadia is a riveting and timely book that has the power to inspire and change your life, help you rethink the conventional story of modern Greece. The dream, of course, is all about turning this modern Greece into a country, which is as close as possible to Hellas. Reading this thoughtful book one understands the life and death struggle of the evolving Greek tragedy of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, itself the product of incompetent and almost traitorous Greek leadership and overwhelming foreign influence.

The dream of Kapodistrias of a sacred Hellas

The Greek Revolution of 1821 and the first President of Greece Ioannes Kapodistrias sowed the seeds of freedom and the return to Hellenic culture in the emerging Hellenic polis.

Indeed, in 1816, Kapodistrias dreamed of a Hellas in Greece, a country guaranteed by all states to be inviolable, independent, and sacred in order to advance the sciences and enlightenment for humanity.

But his assassination on September 27, 1831 by Greeks very possibly funded by Britain reversed the course of Greek Renaissance and history.

The Europeans imported a German king for the new “independent” country, which then started growing up in the shadow of the Turkish enemy and unfriendly Europe and America.

Maragos’ book and his films and documentaries, however, include a glimmer of hope that the Greeks, finally, are beginning the arduous road home.

Evaggelos Vallianatos is a historian and environmental theorist. He earned his Ph.D. in history at the University of Wisconsin and did his postdoctoral studies in the history of science at Harvard. He worked on Capitol Hill, the US Environmental Protection Agency, and taught at several universities. He authored hundreds of articles and seven books, including The Antikythera Mechanism: The Story Behind the Genius of the Greek Computer and its Demise.

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