For several years, Weekly City made an annual tour of Greece in September. It’s September, so I’m in Greece with a lot of people, and we’re currently on our seventh day of travel.
Just a few hours ago we arrived home for the next two days in Kalabaka, Greece, where the stunning Meteora Monasteries are located on the rock spiers that rise almost vertically from the valley floor. These monasteries, which once numbered 24 in the 1300s, still claim six in operation today, several of which we will visit tomorrow morning.
If you have seen the movie Just for your eyes, starring Roger Moore as James Bond, you too have seen those arrows. He rose through the ranks and in doing so figured out how to thwart the bad guys.
They are also seen in The Bourne identity, Lara Croft Tomb Raider And Game Of Thrones, from which the Vale of Arryn is said to be inspired. In 1988, Meteora was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and there are 18 others in Greece.
From the looks of it, including three tour buses in our parking lot alone, Meteora is on more than one bucket list. Meteora is both mystifying and astonishing. Well, all of Greece is that, and I say this without shame or hyperbole – it simply is. Yesterday we visited Pella (where Alexander the Great was born) and Vergina (where the royal tombs contained his father’s remains), also UNESCO sites.
We traveled to both from our recent base in the city of Thessaloniki, which is essentially a living history lesson in all things early Greek, Christian, Roman and Byzantine cultures. When not left speechless in front of treasures such as the Church of Saint-Demetrios, the Rotunda, the Arch of Galerius, the White Tower and in particular the vast cultural artery of Aristotelous Square, our group found everything the time needed to discover the other beautiful things in the region: bougatsagrilled sardines and ouzo.
At the end of this trip, at the beginning of October, a little more than 80 people will have participated. That’s a ton, and my tour guide receivers are always set to “little” or “very little” patience. I’m just not a great tour guide, so we hire real guides when possible, which is a good thing since everyone now has at least some idea that when my own grandmother was born in a cabin in logs near Vernal, Utah, in In 1899, Greece was on the verge of building enormous artifacts that are valuable around the world.
These artifacts still exist after more than 2,500 years, like the Parthenon located atop the Acropolis. Greece has also given the world gifts such as societal values of literacy and education, comedians’ appreciation for humor and tragedy, the symbolic and powerful words of poetry, the need to accept and to question logic, mathematics and science, the seeds of modern medicine and the structural pillars of civilized society, government and, of course, democracy.
For 20 of us, our first port this year was Athens, where democracy was born. We all stood there, on the rocks and paths where some of history’s greatest orators spoke and where the first pagan Greeks were converted to Christianity by the biblical apostle Paul.
I remember a visit here where I came across a group of about 10 Latter-day Saint missionaries singing on Ermou Street in Athens. I approached and discovered that none of them knew where Paul was speaking, even though it was in plain view from street level. They also did not know where Corinth was or that Paul had written his letters to the Corinthians only about 40 miles downstream. I just thought, well, that’s how Americans are, we don’t really try to learn about other cultures.
But a religion determined to win converts to the LDS church perhaps should have tried harder. There are several reasons why there are fewer than 800 members of the LDS church in all of Greece (nearly 11 million people). I mean, even Zig Ziglar would advise a salesperson to understand their customer and their needs before making a pitch. It’s not hard to understand that suggesting to someone that they’ve been wrong about a subject for 23 centuries is a difficult place to start, but also to misunderstand it in the first place?
Giving missionaries an introduction to ancient Greek history would certainly be a great place to start. And there are undoubtedly lost faces in Greek history who were not the best citizens, who were less courageous when it came to standing up to the corrupt. But that’s why in the movie TroyAchilles (played by Brad Pitt) tells his assistant and groom that history will not remember him, that only the brave will survive.
So it is with some comfort that as I browse these websites today (filled with images of Colorado Republican Rep. Lauren Boebert and a guy having sex at the local theater), I understand and accept more easily than the cowards of our own United States The governments of the United States will be just as lost in time, just like the boy who made his living picking up the manure left by Achilles’ horse. Our palaces of law, honor and justice are full of them today, elected officials of the greatest democracy of the greatest country in the world, amplified in one way or another to a rarefied status by means and behaviors that were not acceptable in ancient Greece.
The enduring greatness of ancient Greece could not have survived the clown shows spawned by wacko horse manure-shoveling politicians like Boebert or Utah Senator Mike Lee, to name just two. And neither does America, for that matter.
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