Back August 3.
Peter Brown bibliography here (post and comment). For the sake of completeness, his new book is
The Ransom of the Soul, Afterlife and Wealth in Early Western Christianity, Harvard University Press, 2015
GW Bowersock, New York Review of Books (subscribers)
In early Christianity, the souls of the dead were believed to enter a limbo during the interlude between the material world and the Last Judgement. Tertullian (160-240) wrote of a refrigerium interim, before their awakening to damnation or to glory.
But this refrigerium did not encourage anxiety or the giving of money to the Church.
In the later view, whose evolution and theology Brown traces from the time of Cyprian of Carthage, martyred 258, to that of Julian, Bishop of Toledo under the Visigoths, late seventh century, the journey to heaven began immediately (where did that leave the Last Judgement?) and the soul needed to be encouraged on its way.
“The wealthy – and that far wider group who wished to imitate the wealthy – sought to protect, nourish, and eventually bring home to heaven their own souls and the souls of the deceased” by pious practices, gifts and endowments. (Brown quoted in Donoghue)
You gave so that the prayers might continue after your death. Ancient euergetism. Christian giving. Foundations of medieval Church. Spain to Babylon, North Africa to Ireland. The soul’s destiny could be changed by what was happening on earth post mortem. The phrase “pray for the soul of …” puzzled me as a child. Surely it was too late.
The phrase comes from Proverbs 13:8: “The ransom of the soul of a man is his wealth.” What does that mean? Commentary. It was a phrase much used in the Middle Ages, but only two or three times, Brown tells us, in the period with which he is dealing, and towards the end, so he nearly did not use it.
In Matthew 19:21 and Luke 12:33 Christ seems to say that we can store treasure in heaven through almsgiving, ie gain a spiritual reward for financial generosity.
How much giving to the poor was direct, unmediated through the Church?
Wikipedia: The ransom theory of atonement.
“Labyrinth Books and Princeton’s History Department invite you to a discussion between Peter Brown and fellow historian Helmut Reimitz. Recorded Thursday, April 2nd, 2015 at 6pm.”
While a Medieval Western vernacular poetry adopted from a contemporary Arabic poetry the device of rhyme, which could be applied to accentual verse as readily as to quantitative, it is noteworthy that the Medieval Western vernacular poets were not inveigled by their admiration for their Arabic models into doing violence to the genius of their own mother tongues by going on to borrow from the Arabic a quantitative basis of versification which was common to the Arabic school and the Hellenic.
Rhyme entered European poetry in the High Middle Ages, in part under the influence of the Arabic language in Al Andalus. Arabic language poets used rhyme extensively from the first development of literary Arabic in the sixth century, as in their long, rhyming qasidas.
A Study of History, Vol IX, OUP, 1954 (footnote)
I can only describe Chadwick’s smile as papery. From many years in a college. In my late teens I asked for the two volumes of his monumental The Victorian Church for Christmas, to the puzzlement of my family. At school I had had to read, and enjoyed, even if it lacked a certain drama, his The Reformation in the Pelican History of the Church, which he edited and to which he also contributed a volume on the Cold War. His younger brother Henry wrote the one on the early church, RW Southern a fine one on the middle ages.
He mentions DC Somervell in the first part, the man whose abridgements of Toynbee appeared in 1946 and 1957, as his history teacher at Tonbridge. He tells us that Toynbee’s early volumes were coming out then and that Somervell was rather contemptuous of him. But the first three then-uncontroversial volumes were only published in the summer of 1934. And would Somervell have said this? Especially when he wrote to Toynbee on September 11 to say that he had found them “enthrallingly interesting”? I wonder if this is not an academic reflex. Chadwick returns to Toynbee in the second part to show his own disapproval.
Macfarlane’s is a civilised voice, but he doesn’t get all that much out of his subject. But the picture in the Guardian shows Chadwick looking younger at 98 than he does here.
The discussion touches on Cambridge historians: Lord Acton (I met Chadwick at a lunch given for the launch of Roland Hill’s biography of Acton, which Chadwick in some degree mentored), GM Trevelyan, David Knowles, JH Plumb, Hugh Trevor-Roper (who was succeeded at Peterhouse by another ex-Christ Church figure, Henry Chadwick), Peter Laslett, Noel Annan, GR Elton. And others, such as the philosopher Michael Oakeshott.
“The Balkans might be better off at the moment if one or two people like David Owen or Lord Ashdown had known some history.”
Owen and Henry were both ordained Anglicans who were historians. Henry had a theological bent and wrote about the early church. Owen wrote mainly about religion, and the friction of church and state, in the nineteenth century.
Owen read history at St John’s, Cambridge and after the war was made a Fellow of Trinity Hall, Master of Selwyn College, Dixie Professor of Ecclesiastical History and Regius Professor of Modern History, and was for two years Vice Chancellor of the University.
Henry went to Eton and then Magdalene, Cambridge on a music scholarship, and after the war became a fellow of Queen’s College, Cambridge, Regius Professor of Divinity at Oxford, Dean of Christ Church, Regius Professor of Divinity at Cambridge and then Master of Peterhouse in Cambridge, making him the first person in four centuries (since whom?) to have headed a college at both universities.
The Russian Empire will never become an industrial and commercial power; but like every other unit in the new international World she has need of a free outlet to the high seas, through which she may transmit to foreign markets the raw produce of her vast continental hinterland, and supply herself with the manufactured goods of industrial countries in return.
Such outlets she has never yet obtained. Till the eighteenth century her only port was Archangel on the White Sea, and this perhaps sufficed her during the era of stagnant isolation: at any rate the English Merchant Adventurers found it worth their while to trade there, though it is ice-bound two-thirds of the year. [Footnote: From about October to May.] In the year 1700, the Baltic was a Swedish lake, and the Black Sea a Turkish one. Peter and Catherine broke the maritime monopoly of these two powers, and gave Russia a sea-board on both waters. Odessa [now in Ukraine] and Riga [now in Latvia] have grown in a century and a half to be magnificent ports, and would suffice in themselves for the needs of a Russia much more highly developed than the present. But they are no more in direct communication with the Oceanic highways of international commerce than are the ports of Milwaukee and Chicago on the Great Lakes.
Nationality and the War, Dent, 1915
The disaster [of the “Babylonish Captivity”] lay in the “capture” of the Papacy by the French Crown, and not in the scene of the “captivity”; for the metaphorical Babylon on the banks of the Rhone was much better placed than the metaphorical Zion on the banks of the Tiber for serving the fourteenth-century Papal Curia as a centre for the administration of an ecclesiastical empire which extended at the time from Sicily to Ireland and from Portugal to Finland.
A Study of History, Vol IV, OUP, 1939 (footnote)
with a note on Russian Baltic ports
Most of Finland was part of the Kingdom of Sweden from the thirteenth century to 1809, when the Finnish-speaking areas of Sweden were ceded to the Russian Empire and became the Grand Duchy of Finland. The Grand Dukes were the Russian Tsars.
Finland broke away in 1917. The passage below was published in 1915. My interjections are not summaries of omitted passages.
Finland, from its Swedish background, is Lutheran. Finnish nationalism emerged in the nineteenth century, focussed on Finnish cultural traditions and the Finnish language.
Finnish, like Estonian, Livonian, Hungarian and some northwest Siberian languages, is part of the Finno-Ugric family.
Between [Norway] and the Russian frontier a broad barrier was interposed by Finland, so long as she remained a Swedish province, but the settlement of 1814 endorsed an accomplished fact by bringing Finland within the Russian Empire as a self-governing national state under the Imperial crown, with much the same status as the constitutional kingdom of Poland. During the whole century that has elapsed, there has been a silent contest on Russia’s part to press her way over Finland’s carcase to a Norwegian port on the open Atlantic, and on the part of the Scandinavian powers, backed by Great Britain, to maintain the existing arrangement of constitutions and frontiers.
To fortify the Scandinavian peninsula against Russian encroachment, the Vienna Congress linked its two discordant nationalities [Sweden and Norway] together by a personal union [old post]. This experiment had a more successful history than the United Kingdom of the Netherlands, which the same Congress welded together as a bulwark against France [and which split into Belgium and Holland]; but it collapsed finally, none the less, nine years ago, [footnote: In 1905.] while on the other side Russia has been levelling her path by a systematic attempt to crush Finnish nationality out of existence.
Two countries, whether in a union or not, lay between Russia and the Atlantic: Sweden and Norway. But the Norwegian ports to which Russia wanted access were, according to this passage, in the far north, where Norway bordered directly on Russian Finland.
Wikipedia (edited here) summarises the period of the Grand Duchy thus:
1809-62: fifty years of consolidation, during which the Finnish authorities succeeded in convincing the Russian court not only of their own loyalty, but of that of all Finns.
1863-98: thirty-five years of increased independence, including the re-establishment of the Diet of Finland and the elevation of Finnish from a language for the common people to a national language (1863) equal to Swedish (1883). The catastrophic Finnish famine of 1866-68 was followed by eased economic regulations and extensive emigration: yet another nineteenth-century diaspora.
1899-1917: twenty years of attempted russification, ultimately unsuccessful and detrimental for Finland’s relationship with the Russian Empire (and the Soviet Union that was formed shortly afterwards).
In their politics and social life the Finns are one of the most highly-civilised nations of Europe. The smallness of their population [footnote: The census taken in 1901 showed a total of 2,713,000, including 2,353,000 Finns, 350,000 Swedes, 10,000 others.] and the unindustrialised character of their economics have simplified the problems set them to solve, but within their modest dimensions they have solved them to perfection. The tradition of their culture, and their Lutheran religion, both come from Sweden, and the townspeople on the coast are still largely Swedish in race and language; but since the political connection with Sweden has been broken, the native Finnish speech, which belongs to a non-Indo-European family, though enriched with many primitive Teutonic loan words, has raised its head and proved itself to possess enough vitality to become the vehicle of national development.
With Russia Finland has no inward bonds of union whatsoever, neither of religion nor of language nor of tradition nor even of geography, for she lies away in a corner, and her sea-board, besides fronting merely upon the Baltic, is much less accessible from the Russian hinterland than are the outlets upon the Baltic, White Sea and Black Sea which Russia possesses elsewhere.
Finland has simply been the victim of Russia’s ambition for an open port on the Norwegian coast, because the eventual railway to that port must run through her territory. It is a precise repetition of the relations between the Magyars and Croatia. A small nationality has been inalienably endowed by Geography with the fatal function of standing between a powerful nation and a sea-board to which she ardently desires access: the stronger power has been so stupid and barbarous as to imagine no better means of satisfying her wants than the destruction of the little nation that stands in the way of their realisation; and the latter, fighting desperately for life, is looking round for some strong helper who will bring the oppressor to his knees, set her free from all connection with him, and shatter for ever his projects, for which she has suffered so terribly.
There would be poetical justice in such a consummation, for it would be the natural outcome of the bullying power’s behaviour; but it would not solve the problem at issue, but only bring forth evil from evil, reversing instead of eliminating the injustice and sowing the seeds of future war.
We have seen that if we win this war, and the Dual Monarchy collapses, Croatia will probably achieve complete political freedom from Magyar tyranny [she did, within a southern Slavic federation], but that she must not, in such an event, be allowed to use her advantage merely to take the offensive in the racial feud: she must give Hungary facilities for realising all her legitimate political desires by entering into economic co-operation with her. But the same issue of the war, for which we hope, will not effect the forcible liberation of Finland, and this imposes all the more urgently upon us the duty of securing that, when the settlement comes, Finland shall obtain as much and more from the justice, good sense and liberalism of our victorious ally Russia, as she would have obtained from her compulsory resignation in the event of defeat.
What was the Atlantic port to which Russia wanted access?
[We must include] in the European settlement some such terms as follows:
(i.) The perpetual integrity and independence of both Norway and Sweden shall be guaranteed by Europe.
(ii.) In return for this, Norway shall allow Russia to lead a railway of Russian gauge across Finland and up the left bank of the Tornea River to some perennially open port on her North-West coast, either Tromsö or Hammerfest or both, according to the lie of the land, without interposing a customs-barrier at any point along this route between the Russian frontier and the open sea.
In 1915, the need to use a port usually led to a desire to control the intervening land.
Russia has always been obsessed with gaining ports, in the Atlantic, Baltic, Sea of Azov, Black Sea, Aegean, Persian Gulf, Arabian Sea, Sea of Japan, Sea of Okhotsk. I assume that the railway was never built. The discussions were presumably forgotten in the cataclysm of 1917.
But would Tromsø or Hammerfest have been any use to it?
The answer is that they were genuine warm-water ports, ice-free throughout the year, thanks to the Gulf Stream and despite Hammerfest being the most northerly full-scale town in the world. And they offered an Atlantic outlet, which made them seem important while Germany was threatening the Baltic. Ports much further south – some on the Baltic, for example, or Okhotsk, on the Sea of Othotsk – are not always ice-free. (Vladivostock, on the Sea of Japan, is.)
We must trust the future of Finland to Russia’s good faith and good sense. In opening to her a free railway across Finland to a free port on the Norwegian coast, we eliminate her chief motive for trampling the Finnish nation to death, and this is all that we can do. We have already convinced ourselves that the ultimate solution of the national questions of Europe, and therewith the establishment of European peace, depends not upon mechanical adjustments, but upon a change of heart in the nations themselves. If we cannot obtain a reversal of Russia’s attitude towards Finland by negotiating her Atlantic railway, we cannot artificially produce the desired result by forcing her to submit to a guarantee [with Europe as the guarantor].
So he wants European guarantees for Norway and Sweden, but feels that a European guarantee will not suffice to force it to change its policy towards Finland.
He imagines a critic saying that
“Russia, if she is compelled once and for all to resign to Germany the naval command of the Baltic, will not submit to the lack of any naval sally-port whatsoever upon the Western seas, but will attempt to repeat on her railway to the Norwegian coast the policy she devised at the beginning of the century in Manchuria. She will seek to turn her free port into a fortified naval base, and the danger of Tromsö or Hammerfest developing into an Atlantic Port Arthur may finally wreck the good understanding between Russia and Great Britain, and involve the latter power in a war for the stronghold’s destruction as costly as the sieges of Sebastopol and of Port Arthur itself. Such may be the consequences of indecision now. In the question of the Baltic the future peace of all the European powers is at stake.”
His answers are part of an argument about how to allow Russia what she needs in the Baltic without unduly humiliating Germany: a more important question, in his opinion, than that of her access to the Atlantic.
Russia had become a Baltic power when Peter the Great defeated Charles XII of Sweden in the Great Northern War. By 1920 it had only St Petersburg.
In 1917, Finland declared independence: she did not have to wait for the peace settlement. A civil war between Finnish Red Guards (bolsheviks) and White Guards followed, with the Whites, supported by Germany (and some young Swedish, Estonian and Polish volunteers), gaining the upper hand during the spring of 1918.
On April 13 1918 German troops captured Helsinki (Helsingfors in Swedish). The plan was to erect a German monarchy (YouTube has its proposed anthem), with Prince Frederick Charles of Hesse as king. But Germany collapsed and on July 17 1919 Finland became a republic.
Russian Baltic ports
St Petersburg was Russian from its foundation in 1703
Reval (Tallinn) and Riga were Russian from 1710 (captured from Sweden), part of independent Estonia and Latvia (the territories north of Lithuania used to be called Livonia) from 1918, with Russia again from 1940, in independent states again from 1991
Lithuania’s largest port, Memel (Klaipėda), did not have a long Russian history; it was in the northernmost corner of East Prussia; it passed into Allied hands in 1919 and then, in 1923, to newly-independent Lithuania; was reclaimed by Germany in 1939 and was part of Soviet Lithuania from 1945 to 1991
Vyborg, in Karelia, a minor port, was Russian from 1710 (captured from Sweden), part of independent Finland from 1918 to 1940, was fought over during Finland’s war with Russia, and has been Russian since 1944
Kaliningrad, like Memel, was an East Prussian city (Königsberg), port area Baltiysk (Pillau); it was captured by the Red Army in 1945 and has been a Russian enclave, between Poland and Lithuania, ever since.
About 37,000 people died in the short Finnish Civil War, most of them Reds; this may be a White victory march
Nationality and the War, Dent, 1915
“A clergyman-academic of a kind once common in universities but now very rare […].”
What Elgarian, even, knew of this recording of the Finnish National Orchestra, under Georg Schnéevoigt, playing Cockaigne at the Queen’s Hall in 1934?
They play as if they mean it. Peroration at 2:37. They get the Edwardian grandeur. The work had been premiered at Queen’s Hall in 1901. Finnish National Orchestra seems to be an old name for the Helsinki Philharmonic. Robert Kajanus had founded the ensemble in Russian days, in 1882, and ran it until 1932. (That makes him more or less the longest-serving director of an orchestra ever, tying with Ansermet and Mravinsky.) Kajanus was Sibelius’s champion in Finland. Schnéevoigt was his successor with the orchestra, but has never had his reputation.
This was its first visit to London. There is something political in their playing. In 1917 Finland had freed itself, after 108 years, from Russia, and returned to the West. But it did not return to Sweden; it became a nation. In the same way, every recorded performance by Paderewski is political. Of course, Finland’s absorption into Russia had given it the cultural charge which was released in part in Sibelius’s music. You can even hear Tchaikovsky in early Sibelius.
The clip is May or June 1934. Elgar had died in February. (He had made his second recording of the work, with the BBC SO, at Abbey Road in April ’33. It was his last appearance there, a mere 29 years before the Beatles’ first.)
The last of Sibelius’s five visits to England, to conduct English orchestras, had been in 1921. During the ’30s England became the second home of his music. Hamilton Harty and Cecil Gray championed him. The Columbia Graphophone (sic) Company issued recordings of the first two symphonies with the LSO under Kajanus in 1930. The HMV Sibelius Society issued other recordings by subscription, starting with symphonies three and five and Tapiola, LSO and Kajanus again, in 1932.
During the 1934 visit, the Finns performed five of the symphonies and recorded (through the Society?) at least numbers four and six. In the same year, Constant Lambert published his Music Ho!, A Study of Music in Decline, which ends with a long defence of Sibelius. It was Sibelius who could show the way forward.
Henry Wood gave all seven symphonies in the 1937 Proms. Thomas Beecham mounted a festival of six Sibelius concerts in 1938.
It was different in Germany. As far as I know, Klemperer and Furtwängler never recorded a Sibelius symphony. His reputation was also set back by Theodor Adorno. It was rescued, a little later, by Karajan (cf Kajanus). But Abbado never did Sibelius in Berlin; Rattle has had to reintroduce him. (I’m not much of a Sibelian either, come to that.)
Russia invaded Finland in 1939. We and the French proposed to enter the Winter War in support of Finland during our own Phoney War, but did not, because of difficulties with Norway and Sweden. Two years later, when the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact had been broken, we found ourselves on opposite sides in the so-called Continuation War, though the Finns said that they tolerated German troops on their soil only as a defence against Russia.
The Queen’s Hall opened in 1893 and was destroyed by a German bomb on the night of May 10 1941, hours after a performance by the London Philharmonic under Sargent of the Enigma Variations and The Dream of Gerontius (Muriel Brunskill, Webster Booth, Ronald Stear, Royal Choral Society). Pathé:
We get the Finns again here in Cockaigne. Since at one stage we see London Bridge, I’ll add that 1934 was also the year of Eric Coates’s London Bridge march.
The Hall did not “rise again”. Its Langham Place site, next to the BBC, is now occupied by a cramped concrete hotel, the Saint George’s.
Are these the only two pieces of film showing the Queen’s Hall?
First recording of Sibelius 6, the one nobody plays, Finnish National Orchestra, Schnéevoigt, London, presumably Queen’s Hall, 1934:
First picture is of Sibelius’s villa Ainola (named after his wife Aino), Järvenpää, winter 1917
Sibelius wrote in 1943 that “the sixth symphony always reminds me of the scent of the first snow”.
On which note:
Back July 20.
or, The ambivalence of Sarastro
“The culture of Enlightenment […] bears witness to a deep and recurring conflict. The free individual, motivated by reason, and guided by universal ideals, at the same time longs for community, for locality and for the warmth and protection of the tribe. Hence the era which saw the ‘rational’ reforms of the Emperor Joseph II in Austria [recent post, older one], the Revolution in France, the birth of modern democracy in America, and the programmes for universal education, saw too the rise of the Masonic and Rosicrucian Orders, with their closed doors, their mysteries and their rites of passage. Study that sublime masterpiece of Masonic art – The Magic Flute of Mozart – and you will see that the two conflicting impulses of Enlightenment have a common emotional source. The priest Sarastro, who offers freedom, truth, and the community of moral beings, is also an excluder, who offers these universal goods at the end of ordeals, and through mysteries which speak once again of the tribe, its comfort, and its all-enveloping darkness. The marriage of Pamino and Tamina is not a contract but a vow, the subject-matter of an elaborate rite which purges the individual of his wilfulness and subjects him to a moral order beyond the reach of reason. That which the Enlightenment drove from the public world – superstition, ceremony and the rites of the tribe – has been resurrected as a mystery, the exclusive property of the enlightened few. And, in a certain measure, this symbolises the role of high culture in the newly enlightened world.”
Roger Scruton, Modern Culture, Bloomsbury, 1998.
Pluto shouldn’t really be there without Eris, Makemake, Haumea and Ceres, but he was part of the family from 1930 to 2006.
Seven Studies on Themes of Paul Klee (1959). Radio Philharmonic of Hannover, Schuller. What are the themes? I don’t know, but one is obviously North Africa. Klee visited Kairouan, the fourth holiest city in Islam, in 1914. The Maghrebian light changed him.
I wonder whether any visual artist has ever been referred to by more composers than Klee was.
You also hear Schuller’s jazz origins.
Greek jazz by Antonis Ladopoulos, saxophone, and Sami Amiris, piano (Morning Waltz, Alt Take, not Schuller), with Klee images:
Jon Vickers’s supreme rendition of Grimes’s final soliloquy. And Peter Grimes is one of the greatest of all stage works.
Soliloquy is the only word. Unlike Alex Ross, I was lucky enough to see Vickers in this role, also under Colin Davis in Covent Garden, but a bit earlier than this.
Peter Grimes redefined, as the Enigma Variations had done in 1899, what British composers were capable of.
Its premiere at Sadler’s Wells on June 7 1945 belongs to the series of events which rebuilt an exhausted Britain’s morale after the war. July 26 Labour government; May 3 1951 opening of Festival of Britain; May 29 1953 conquest of Everest; June 2 Coronation.
Same site: Arabs without God.
I was driven this year in Cairo by an Egyptian who confessed to being an atheist, though he loved the medieval mosques. It will not surprise people who know Egypt to hear that he was in his seventies. If a young person said that, he would probably be from a privileged class.
An English investment adviser there told me on the same visit that one of the untold stories in the Arab world is that of Muslims who are embracing Christianity. It must be a very small number, and he may have been so attracted, charmed, by the phenomenon as to exaggerate it, but it happens.
On my to be watched list is Cheyenne Carron’s 2014 film The Apostle, about a French Muslim who becomes a Christian. It is hard to find or even to google, but it’s on iTunes. I have not heard either good or bad things about it yet.
Gaza pictures from Reuters. Hold cursor over images.
“We multiply as we are mown down. The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” Translation by nobody in particular.
There were many Christian martyrs in those years too. The Cristero War was fought from 1926 to ’29 against the violently anti-religious forces of Plutarco Elías Calles, President of Mexico 1924-28. I don’t know whether Rivera allied himself with him, but he was an atheist of Sephardic converso ancestry.
A Study of History, Vol VI, OUP, 1939 (footnote)
He was born in Alexandria into a Christian family which was neither “Coptic” nor Coptic Catholic, but Melkite Greek Catholic. The family was of Levantine descent.
They spoke Arabic and (like many upper-class Egyptian families) French (old post) and perhaps other languages. He spoke or learned Greek, Italian, Spanish and English. He converted to Islam in 1955 in order to marry his Sunni Muslim wife. He had a Jewish grandson. Obituaries.
St Anthony of Padua, an early Franciscan, took his name from St Anthony of Egypt.
In the year of Greece’s accession to the EU – or rather, EEC – OUP published a final book by Toynbee.
In the last two working years of his life, 1972-74, he wrote two chronological studies: Mankind and Mother Earth (completed 1973, published posthumously 1976) and The Greeks and Their Heritages (completed 1974, published 1981).
All scholars, he thought, should pursue general and specialised interests in parallel, so these were late reviews of his two main subjects, world history (necessarily general) and Greece (specialist even if he covers thousands of years). The only chronological study which preceded them had been the brief Hellenism, published in 1959. Mere chronological history wasn’t normally his way, and even these do not descend into narrative. The main chapter headings of the later Greek book do not promise an easy read, but rather arouse forebodings of a lugubrious pedantry. Of course, it is fascinating as well (and Mankind and Mother Earth has real grandeur).
The Influence of Heritages from the Past
The Mycenaean Greeks’ Successes and Failures
The Hellenic Greeks’ Heritage from the Mycenaean Greeks
The Hellenic Greeks’ Successes and Failures
The Byzantine Greeks’ Heritage from the Hellenic Greeks
The Byzantine Greeks’ Successes and Failures
The Modern Greeks’ Heritage from the Byzantine Greeks
The Modern Greeks’ Heritage from the Hellenic Greeks
The Modern Greeks’ Successes and Failures
At least this plan suggests a way of treating Greek history, with all its discontinuities, as a whole. And he was returning to his scholarly roots and to his youth, having had a thoroughbred training in the classics at Winchester, of a type no longer available; having been introduced there even to the then little-known field of Byzantine history through reading JB Bury; and having encountered modern Greece after Oxford, first as a serious traveller, then through the Foreign Office in London and at Versailles, and then as a correspondent from the Greco-Turkish War. Does the repeated phrase “successes and failures” remind one of old-fashioned exam questions? (The whole table of contents is like a dream of an exam, the repeated ordeal of his youth.)
OUP don’t identify the church, but it is the Church of the Pantanassa or of the Dormition of the Theotokos in Monastiraki Square in Athens. The cover shows Hellenic, Byzantine and modern Greece in the background, middle distance and foreground.
Wikipedia, with links where they exist:
1968 and 1973 were imposed by a dictatorship.
Joseph Stiglitz’s phrase “Greece, with its strong democratic tradition” took some people by surprise. What democratic tradition in this rotten, almost third-world Balkan country? Did Stiglitz know anything at all about history?
Greece-bashing may not have reached such contemptible levels as some of the Greek rhetoric on Germany, but it, too, needs examining. Perhaps Greece does have a democratic tradition. Perhaps Greece has even on occasion behaved with maturity. I am not able to judge, but here are some extemporised thoughts.
Outside the mind of Condoleezza Rice, democracies take root over time. The Greeks have held regular parliamentary elections for nearly 200 years, with periodic electoral reforms. To have had at least fourteen constitutions during this time is not a sign of stability, but it may be a sign of political life.
They kicked out a lazy Bavarian king in 1863 and got a better Danish line. That spirited act is remembered by some as an earlier confrontation with Germany. The Wittelsbachs had nearly bankrupted the young state and “disfigured” a Byzantine nation. (Mikis Theodorakis, quoted in the Telegraph, does sound third-world on all this, recently alleging “two centuries of European crimes against Greece” by the Western enemies of the Hellenic Orthodox world.)
Still, Otto’s failings are admitted. His deposition by politicians was welcomed by the people.
The Greeks were no greedier for scraps of the Ottoman empire than anyone else.
Greek irredentism was not more fanatical than German or Italian. And the Greeks took their catastrophic defeat of 1922 rather well: instead of sulking and starting a cold war with Turkey, they had a diplomatic reconciliation. It was led by the very person, Venizelos, who, with the encouragement of the Allies (who were partly lying to him in 1916, as they were to TE Lawrence, but wanted him to join the war), had been such a champion of the Great Idea. Perhaps that would not have happened without an exchange of populations, but in any case it happened. The Greeks are not living in the past on that matter. Are they?
The Greek semi-fascist of the ’30s, Metaxas, refused to capitulate to the Italians.
George II did not become a German puppet in 1941. He presumably could have been one. His father had been removed in the First World War by Venizelos for being too pro-German.
The German invaders committed criminal acts in Greece. The destruction of the Jews of Thessalonika was one of the major acts of the Holocaust.
Is it a sign of immaturity to have had a struggle with communism?
The Colonels only stayed seven years and Constantine II wasn’t implicated.
Golden Dawn received a smaller percentage of the vote (6.3%) in the 2015 Greek parliamentary election than the National Front did in the first rounds of the French 2012 presidential and parliamentary elections (17.9% and 13.6%).
And when one hears young Greeks talk, they often sound not very different from young Germans. Are there worrying signs of maturity here?
However corrupt the Greek system was, however much they “lied to get in” and deserve their fate (most of them deserve nothing, even if the fate is inevitable), few deny outright that irresponsible lending helped to get Greece into the mess.
I’d rather spend an evening with the clownish Tsipras or insufferable Varoufakis than with Juncker or Lagarde. At least Varoufakis speaks good English.
This excruciating crisis might be the making, not breaking, of Greece.
Back July 6.
I 1920, December 5, YES to return of Constantine I
He had abdicated and gone into exile in Switzerland in 1917 (retaining his titular right) because of a disagreement with the charismatic and anti-royalist prime minister, Venizelos, over whether Greece should enter the war. Constantine supported the Central Powers, Venizelos the Entente.
He abdicated again on September 27 1922 after the Greek debâcle in Asia Minor and spent the last few months of his life in exile in Italy. He was succeeded by his eldest son, George II, but the defeat nearly destroyed the monarchy.
II 1924, April 13, NO to continuation of the reign of George II
George had himself gone into exile in December 1923 (Rumania, then Britain) after royalists had attempted and failed to take control of the government. A republican interlude followed: the only time after the revolutionary years of 1822-32 and before 1973 when Greece was a republic.
III 1935, November 3, YES to reinstatement of George II
Metaxas was the prime minister from 1936 to ’41 and died in office before the German invasion, but after the Italian invasion; despite his fascist sympathies, he had rejected an Italian ultimatum demanding the stationing of Italian troops in Greece.
George went into exile in Britain when the Germans invaded. The old regime had been quasi-fascist, but he did not become a German puppet.
IV 1946, September 1, YES to return of George II
V 1968, November 15, YES to new constitution prepared by the Colonels
Military junta of 1967-74. The monarchy was retained, but Constantine II had gone into exile (Italy, then Britain) at the end of 1967. He returned to live in Greece in 2013.
VI 1973, July 29, YES to Colonels’ proposed abolition of the monarchy
VII 1974, December 8, NO to reinstatement of the monarchy after the collapse of the junta
VIII 2015, July 5, YES or NO?
As far as I can see, the record of the monarchy was not entirely dishonourable.
A referendum about conditions for debt relief was proposed under Papandreou in 2011, but not carried out.
I don’t think these referenda, which were anyway often manipulated, justify Stiglitz’s rather shallow-sounding reference in the Guardian the other day to “Greece, with its strong democratic tradition”.
On the other hand, Greece has been holding parliamentary elections for nearly two centuries.
There’s a list of Greek monarchs after this post.
Nikos Skalkottas, Ten sketches for strings, c 1940, New Hellenic Quartet
And, at the end, Theodorakis at 90.
Kostas Grigoreas plays Η μπαλάντα των αισθήσεων και των παραισθήσεων (Ballad of Sensation and Illusions) by Manos Hadjidakis; it has a kind of leftist drive to it, but isn’t political
Last two from what? Originally for guitar? The last is also a song, with lyrics by Aris Davarakis.
Mikis Theodorakis will be 90 later this month. I can’t post music when I don’t know what I think of it. It’s not a matter of not getting past the Zorba theme. I have no response at all yet to what I’ve heard. But Bob Shingleton at On an Overgrown Path has good things to say, especially about the Requiem. Here are his posts.
The main events in Greece in the twentieth century were its wars with Turkey, an invasion by the fascist forces of Italy and Germany, the subsequent Civil War and a military junta. Not that the Colonels were Greece’s first dictators. Theodorakis fought successively against fascists, anti-communists and the junta. He was tortured, went into hiding and was jailed and exiled.
There were many noble Theodorakises in Latin America. But the humane left is no longer fighting militarists or fascists. Theodorakis has declared himself in favour of Tsipras, but his leftism thrives in an unreformed system. It is part of the same set of illusions which caused the mess. The renewers of the left now are the Green movement and an emerging global class warfare in which Tsipras and Varoufakis are (sort of) players.
The Wittelsbachs and Greek debt (old post)
Albert Kahn called his vast photographic project (last post) Les archives de la planète.
Selection. Music: part of slow movement of Mozart’s sonata for two pianos, K 448. I don’t know who’s playing. It is one of the pieces said to produce the Mozart effect.
Kahn called his garden in Boulogne-Billancourt, in the west of Paris, Les jardins du monde.
From a five-part BBC documentary series about Albert Kahn, Edwardians in Colour [why Edwardians?]: The Wonderful World of Albert Kahn, c 2007. The talking head is Mark Mazower, mentioned in the last post.
BBC: “In 1909 the millionaire French banker and philanthropist Albert Kahn embarked on an ambitious project to create a colour photographic record of, and for, the peoples of the world. As an idealist and an internationalist, Kahn believed that he could use the new Autochrome process, the world’s first user-friendly, true-colour photographic system, to promote cross-cultural peace and understanding.
“Until recently, Kahn’s huge collection of 72,000 Autochromes remained relatively unheard of. Now, a century after he launched his project, [a] book and the BBC TV series it accompanies are bringing these dazzling pictures to a mass audience for the first time and putting colour into what we tend to think of as an entirely monochrome age.
“Kahn sent photographers to more than 50 countries, often at crucial junctures in their history, when age-old cultures were on the brink of being changed for ever by war and the march of twentieth-century globalisation. They documented in true colour the collapse of the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian empires, the last traditional Celtic villages in Ireland, and the soldiers of the First World War. They took the earliest known colour photographs in countries as far apart as Vietnam and Brazil, Mongolia and Norway, Benin and the United States. In 1929 the Wall Street Crash forced Kahn to bring his project to an end. He died in 1940, but left behind the most important collection of early colour photographs in the world.”
The photographer of Thessaloniki in early 1913 was Auguste Léon, but the name mentioned at 00:20 is hard to understand.
Mesmerising as some of the images are, does Kahn concentrate too much on street sellers and the like? What is unrecorded by his photographers and by most others is what life was like indoors. That is the real lost world.
And these records show nothing of people’s manners.
Mitchell and Kenyon are of similar importance in England before the First World War because of the technical quality of their work, though they made moving films, and in black and white.
Musée Albert-Kahn, Paris.
Islam: A tent for the ignorant.
[Sephardic Jews] developed under the Ottoman régime a quite different êthos from the Jewish êthos as we know it in the West, because the treatment which they received at the ʿOsmanlis’ hands was quite different from the treatment which Jews have customarily received at the hands of Westerners.
The psychological effect of four centuries of the [comparatively benign] Ottoman régime upon the descendants in the Near East of these Sephardi refugees from Castile was once brought home to the writer of this Study by an incident which came under his personal observation.
One day in August 1921, some eight years and more after Salonica, with its Sephardi population of eighty thousand souls, had passed by conquest out of Ottoman jurisdiction into Greek, I found myself travelling by train from Salonica to Vodena in the same carriage with three Sephardi school-teachers going on a holiday and one Greek officer going to rejoin his regiment. The holiday-makers – two girls and a man – were in high spirits, and they gave vent to their mood by breaking into song. They sang in French: the “culture language” in which the modern Near Eastern Jew has found the necessary supplement to his hereditary Castilian vernacular. After they had been singing for some time, the Greek lieutenant broke his own silence. “Won’t you sing in Greek for a change?” he said. “This country is part of Greece now, and you are Greek citizens.” But his intervention had no effect. “We prefer French” the Jews answered, politely but firmly, and fell to singing lustily in French again, while the Greek lieutenant subsided. There was one person in the carriage, however, who was even more surprised at the Jewish teachers’ reply to the Greek officer than the Greek himself, and that was the Frankish spectator. Seldom, he reflected, would a Jew have shown such spirit in such circumstances in France or England or America. The incident bore witness to the relative humanity with which the Jews in the Ottoman Empire had been treated by the ʿOsmanlis; and it also had a wider and more interesting significance. It was evidence that the Jewish êthos was not something ineradicably implanted by Race or something indelibly ingrained by Religion but was a psychic variable which was apt to vary in response to variations in Gentile behaviour in different times and places.
The Jews were singing in a lingua franca, French, not in a ghetto language, and they were not showing a ghetto mentality. Such cheerful defiance in the presence of a member of the dominant culture, and a soldier, would not have been thus demonstrated in Russia or Austria – but really not in France, England or America?
Would the point have been made even more strongly if they had been singing in Turkish or Greek or would that have come from mere cultural dilution? Would they have shown even more confidence if they had been singing in the “hereditary Castilian vernacular”, ie Judaeo-Spanish, ie Ladino? Ladino was spoken by Sephardic minorities in the Balkans, Turkey, the Middle East and North Africa. Most speakers are now in Israel.
It is not to be confused with another Romance language, Ladin, which is spoken in parts of northern Italy and is related to Friulian and the Swiss Romansh.
The Jews of Salonika were happier in the multi-ethnic Turkish Empire (before the arrival of the Young Turks) than under the Greeks (1912-41). 98% of them died in the Holocaust. Much of the Jewish Quarter had been destroyed in the fire (probably accidental) of 1917.
See Mark Mazower, Salonica, City of Ghosts: Christians, Muslims and Jews 1430-1950, Harper Collins, 2004.
A Study of History, Vol II, OUP, 1934
To be added to London anthologies:
“If you roll a boxful of shoes down some stairs, you will hear the word ‘London’.”
Andrew Cover, a friend, c 2000.
Elgar, Cockaigne, Elgar conducting BBC Symphony Orchestra, April 11 1933
The sovereign of the Achaemenian Empire, which served as a universal state for the Syriac World, asserted the oecumenical range of his rule by styling himself “King of the Lands” or “King of Kings” [footnote: Meyer, E.: Geschichte des Altertums, vol. iii (Stuttgart 1901, Cotta), pp. 24-6.] – a title which was laconically translated into Greek in the one word βασιλεύς without even an introductory definite article. [Footnote: This verbal recognition of the uniqueness of the status and office of the Achaemenian Great King was a striking act of homage on the lips of Hellenes who were defying his efforts to extend his oecumenical authority over their own city-states.]
Caricaturing Persia (old post).
A Study of History, Vol VI, OUP, 1939
1945 film directed by Richard Massingham and perhaps made for the British Council, which shows, at 6:50, the most popular serious English historian of the first half of the twentieth century, the Master of Trinity, lecturing at Cambridge.
University lectures and lecturers are often (usually?) disappointing. “Forged on the anvil of time.” He could write better than that. Apart from the important collective experience of sitting together and seeing your teacher, what could such wooden discourses offer that a book couldn’t? Trevelyan is old-fashioned, but he deserved his reputation in print.
We see Lawrence Bragg, Cavendish Professor of Physics, who had won the Nobel Prize at the age of twenty-five; John Sheppard, the Provost of King’s, talking theatrically to foreign visitors about Greek “freedom and friendship”; absurdly old-fashioned conducting by Patrick Hadley, and Bach performance, at 19:25.
The waves of Marxism, sexual liberation, deconstruction, gender politics and political correctness of later decades seem far off.
Where was bohemianism? In 1945, perhaps nowhere.
Toynbee was an Oxford man, though only briefly a don, but he declined the Regius Professorship of Modern History at Cambridge in 1947 in succession to GN Clark. The job would surely not have suited him. It was taken by JRM Butler instead.
Twice on [his] antiquarian tour [of Italy and Greece in 1911-12], the Oxford don-elect was arrested as a Turkish spy, first on the evening of the 16th November, 1911 on the last lap of a day’s march from Terracina to Formia, by an Italian carabiniere [Footnote: On this occasion, the suspect was able to clear himself by showing a card with “Balliol College, Oxford” engraved on it. “Ah! Collegio! Dunque non siete Turco”, reasoned the intelligent Italian security officer, and straightway left the left the suspicious-looking traveller in peace. Forty years later, in A.D. 1952, the carabiniere would, of course, no longer have been justified in acting on an a priori assumption that “Turk” and “college” were incompatible ideas.]
The Italians had every reason to be spy-conscious: their war with the Ottoman Empire, which gave them Libya and the Dodecanese (Rhodes), had begun at almost the exact moment Toynbee arrived in Italy. It ended soon after his return from Greece. (They held both colonies until the Second World War. The Dodecanese were returned not to Turkey but to Greece.)
and then again, on the 21st July, 1912, by a Greek military patrol. [Footnote: On this second occasion, he was arrested on the reasonable charge that he had walked across the perilously vulnerable railway viaduct over the gorge of the River Asopus at Elefterokhóri, where the sole railway running from Athens to the Graeco-Turkish frontier leaped across a chasm to come to earth again along the eastern flank of the citadel of Trachis. This charge was supported by the less convincing argument that the trespasser must be a foreign military spy because he was wearing insignia in the shape of a military water-bottle that was not of the pattern affected by the Greek Army.]
The Balkan Wars began a few weeks after his return to England.
A Study of History, Vol X, OUP, 1954
Apropos Byron’s Childe Harold (last post), I asked my friend Giovanni Caselli whether the Romans would have recognised the Italian landscapes of 1818. He generously replied with this broad-brush agrarian history of Tuscany, Umbria and the Marches and has allowed me to quote him. The same patterns are not necessarily found in northern Italy, Latium or the south. 1818 was a good time.
“The latifundia of Roman times collapsed during the war between the Goths and Byzantines. The large estates of the Late Empire, with great fields of wheat, vineyards, and olive groves with flocks grazing under the trees became a wilderness (5th-6th centuries CE).
“During the Longobard and Frankish period this wilderness was reclaimed with the [primitive feudal] courts system (7th-9th centuries). Patches of cultivated land appeared in clearings of the Mediterranean bush and oak wood forests.
“These cultivated clearings expanded during the castles period (10th-12th centuries), interspaced by larger clearings used for grazing.
“In the 12th-14th centuries the city bourgeoisie destroyed the power of the earls, who had demanded tolls for the transit of goods, and took over the production of wine, wheat and olive oil, with a crop-sharing system [payment of a share of the crop as rent]. Central Italy became dotted with hill-towns and scattered houses with mixed agriculture, and the mountains, largely deforested by charcoal burning, were used for grazing. The bourgeoisie employed the former slaves of the earls as farmers, giving them a better deal with contracts, enough land, and autonomy. They also bought slaves from the Crimea and the khanates of the Tartars. These introduced tools and implements of their own and also an ‘oriental’ method of growing vines. Women slaves introduced the use of pasta in Italy, being house servants and concubines. Each vine grew supported by the branches of a maple, shaped as a chandelier, each at a distance of eight to ten yards one from another.
“The Black Death caused a collapse of the countryside. By the start of the 15th century the towns and scattered farmhouses were gradually restored and reoccupied. Again the landscape was planted with mixed crops and trees. Sheep rearing was enormously increased with laws and regulations for summer and winter pastures and droves connecting them. Siena grew wealthy with this transit of sheep and by renting grazing areas to flocks along the Tuscan coast. The wool trade made cities like Florence rich.
“This mixed agricultural landscape collapsed again in the course of the 17th century, with another great plague, and this lasted till the shabby landscape that was seen by Tobias Smollett in 1766.
“Then, province by province, the country was restored to its ancient orderly farming system by the Grand Dukes of Tuscany, especially Peter Leopold of Augsburg [who became the Emperor Leopold II], a genius neglected by biographers. Tuscan farmhouses were specially designed by an appointed architect, new ways of farming and drainage of the country were perfected, and the Grand Tour travellers saw this Tuscany. Napoleon said, upon conquering Tuscany, that it was vastly more civilised than any French Department. No hovels, but great houses and competent healthy, proud farmers were seen working with their great white cows in the fields of North-Central Italy. Cities grew wealthy with a farming economy. Tuscany abolished the death penalty in the 1830s and many taxes. It drastically curbed the power of the church to the minimum for survival. Tuscany had Protestant leanings.
“With the unification of Italy, Tuscany became a Mediterranean country and ceased to be progressive and functional. In 1982 a law made the crop sharing system illegal. Farming collapsed for this reason, founded on political ideology, and climate change made matters worse. Marx had called the peasants conservative and obtuse. There were songs proclaiming ‘I won’t marry a peasant, I want a factory labourer and to have a good life’. Farmers could no longer find a wife. They all wanted to be employed by FIAT. If not by FIAT, they would prefer to become road sweepers rather than remain on the land. They lost both culture and wisdom, becoming indiscriminate consumers and never created a workers’ ‘culture’, like for example in England or in other European countries. The workers never wanted a ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’ either, contrary to what the ‘intellectuals’ proposed to them. They wanted to cease to be a proletariat and become petty bourgeois, imitating the life-style of their factory masters. Instead of a big villa, they would seek a small one. Rather than a big car, they would be happy with a 500. Instead of skiing in Cortina they would go skiing in the Apennines. And so forth. Plainly, Thorstein Veblen was right and Marx wrong in the interpretation of what the masses wanted.
“Now the landscape is reverting to the state it was in in the Baroque period, with sections of entire regions devoted to intensive agriculture and intensive industry, the rest an abandoned wilderness. Where the Italians speak about ‘National Parks’, these are mere wastelands. The people live in a bubble, they have no idea of what is done in other countries. Like the savage, they think in terms of themselves being the right people and the rest ‘barbarians’. Italy lives in this illusion, and the Mafia and corruption have a really good time. Should anyone object to this description, I shall take him by the neck and drag him to see reality. Organic agriculture is practiced only by a small number of heroes, fighting against ENI, the firm that produces masses of weed killers, fertilisers and other poisons that have killed every insect species, including bees, and made farming products inedible by people gifted with a sense of taste, smell and eyesight, who can see the disaster around them.”
Giovanni Caselli is an Italian historian, archaeologist, illustrator and expert on pilgrim ways. Emilio Sereni’s History of the Italian Agricultural Landscape is too theoretical for his taste: like Toynbee, he prefers to understand a landscape by walking in it.
Fall in Tuscany, copyright, used with kind permission of F Botros at fbotros.com
Which was the mightiest in its old command”
Byron, Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage, Canto IV, 1818.
The next line has … “and is the loveliest”.
England’s landscape declined with its power. The trajectories were different, but (if you have anything like a classical view of landscape) they were in decline together from the moment English power started to decline.
The great twentieth-century popular historian of the English landscape was WG Hoskins, who published The Making of the English Landscape in 1955. That link is to a Wikipedia article which contains a summary of the book. The story was set in a wider historical context for the same generation, which had a stronger memory of old landscapes than we do, by GM Trevelyan (post here). For Trevelyan, the English landscape was still at its loveliest in 1818.
But would the Romans have recognised the Italian landscapes of 1818? I asked my friend Giovanni Caselli this question. I will post his reply tomorrow.
Back June 22.
The Wagon Passes, from Elgar, Nursery Suite. Ulster Orchestra, Bryden Thomson.
Or, as Elgar actually wrote, The Waggon (Passes).
The writer of this Study vividly remembers how the continental character of Macedonia impressed itself upon him at the first view. He first visited Macedonia in the summer of 1912, at the end of a visit to the Kingdom of Greece within the frontiers as they then stood. Since the standard-gauge railway which now links Athens with Salonica had not been completed at that date, he travelled from the Peiraeus to Salonica by sea. He had been looking forward with interest to observing the political aspect of the passage from territory under Greek to territory under Turkish rule; but, as the steamer entered Salonica harbour, his eye was caught, not by the Turkish flag flying above the custom house, but by Austrian and German railway-wagons standing along the quay, on rails which ran without a break from Salonica to Vienna and from Vienna to Berlin. He then realized in a flash that this economic solidarity with Central Europe was the distinctive and fundamental characteristic of Macedonia, and that the political connexion with Turkey-in-Asia, though picturesque, was accidental and superficial.
These were the last days of the Ottoman suzerainty in Salonika which had begun in 1430. The First Balkan War broke out on October 8. On November 8, the feast day of Salonika’s patron saint, Demetrius, the Greek army accepted the surrender of the Ottoman garrison.
The Bulgarian army arrived a day later. Tahsin Pasha, the governor, said to them: “I have only one Salonika, which I have surrendered”.
The rail connection to central Europe had been built some years before the connection to Constantinople.
The Treaty of Bucharest of 1913, at the end of the Balkan Wars, divided Macedonia between Greece, Serbia and Bulgaria, with Greece getting the lion’s share; a small section went to Albania. The Serbian part ended (from 1946) as a separate constituent republic of Yugoslavia and is now an independent country.
Toynbee also visited the Athos Peninsula in 1912. On his way home to England in August, he either visited Durrës (Durazzo) or saw the Turkish flag over it from his ship. After a short period of occupation by Serbia it would become part of Albania in 1913.
Summary of the Balkan Wars (old post).
A Study of History, Vol II, OUP, 1934 (footnote)