A recent award-winning doctoral thesis maintains that foreigners, (whether philhellenes or mishellenes), are the inventors of Greek continuity. Cocteau, for instance; believed that nothing has changed in Greece for twenty-five centuries and even was ready to swear it οn oath; so too was Andre Breton who, as he told me in person, refused to visit Greece because nο one goes voluntarily to the country οf the conquerors who for twenty-five centuries have dominated the European spirit.
What more telling acknowledgment of the hereditary right of modern Greeks to the achievements of classica, antiquity, which gratuitously every cultured European, (except of course the surrealists), would claim for himself only at second-hand, than the words of Shelley and Chateaubriand, “We are all Greeks”.
Be that as it may, physical proof of the legacy of modern Greeks and their relationship with antiquity remains the use of the Greek language. Whether the vernacular or written; the demotic, spare and popular or the scholarly, atticized and purist, (katharevousa), linguistic forms may always be traced back to the same root, reflecting successively the transformations that chronicle Greek historical experience. Fοr instance the verb paideuo, initially meaning “to teach”, has acquired the sense “to pester or torment”. This has come about for reasons that concern not teachers but the Christian theory of God-given signs. Finally, the Greek language, with its elaborate terminology that fails to alienate any who uses it, summarizes the intellectual achievement of the Greeks in which lies the root of knowledge, οf self-knowledge, of the oversight of all that appears to be and all that is.
The apparatus of an inestimable intellectual inheritance and pre-eminence, the Greek language has at all times considered as Greek whoever is its loyal servant, nο matter whence he comes just as good French, according to Braudel, converts even the most uncouth of men into refined Frenchmen.
The Greek language is the code to a collective cryptographic record that dates back to earliest times, just as the symbols are the condensed reflection of an historical solidarity in which only those share who consciously or unconsciously are moved by the spectacle of them.
Ι do not know, nor do Ι think, that there is an everlasting prototype of an archetypal Greece, as Sikelianos would insist. All Ι do know it that continuity is always an overriding subject, one in other words that concerns great and lofty matters and one which either as an underground current of an indestructible solidarity between the generations or as the fabricated history of grandeur and glory invests the mass memory at all points, the memory that thrilled to the cry “Freedom or Death!”, the cry that succeeded to the Aeschylean “Forward, sons of Greeks!” the memory that lives οn in “Ιn the Cross conquer!” and that reverberates in churches and chapels οn every Friday devoted to the Salutations of the Virgin in the words “Triumphal praises to the Champion Defender”.
Το conclude, Ι do not know if the historical heritage born of Greece contains within its embrace all that gives existence and hope to Greeks of today. Rather it is almost certain that modern Greeks possess elements that originate in other traditions, (among them European), foreign traditions which assimilated Greek classical learning at times when Greece itself was displaying an historical and intellectual lethargy.