By loving wisdom we approach Hellenism in its real character, which is not racial. This is why ancient Athens could be seen as the ‘Greece of Greece’, and even barbarians were accepted at Eleusinian mysteries. “They have the same blood who have communion with the same Gods”, (Plato, Laws 729c). Truth is blood, because ‘truth is the start of all goods for Gods and for men’ (Laws 730c), it is not only a conceptual fact, nor always, nor mainly. Love for wisdom made the Greeks travel to foreign lands and learn from other peoples. Hellenism is not a defense but a movement, an exit from oneself. Greek is he who doesn’t want to be ‘the best’: he wishes for all people to be better in order to admire all, to learn from all and be able to say ‘I’m a Russian, I’m a French, I’m a German…’ – he has his race in truth and not in himself.
This is a crucial aspect, because it means that first of all it did not cause any problem to the ancient Greeks the fact that the new faith was connected with Jewish history. If today some Christians feel ‘uncomfortable’ with the Jewish elements contained in Christianity, to the point of asking even the abandonment of the Old Testament!, or feel ‘diminished’ because Christ was born a Jew and not a Greek, this proves beyond any doubt that they are less Greek than the Ancient and the Byzantine Greeks.
To an other sort of foolish people, to modern worshippers of a Greece-out-of-history, who jump two millennia of hellenism for the Utopia of giving life to the corpse of ancient Greece, antiquity is just freedom and discussion (although even Socrates was executed!), while Christianity is dogmatism and superstition. Some of them even talk about an enforcement! of Christianity upon Greeks, as if the first Christians, who were powerless and persecuted for three centuries, were not Greeks, or as if there were not already before Christ great Greek sages who more or less and even completely rejected the ancient religion, and as if there was not Greek the heart and in the end the whole body of Byzantium.
Yet, let us suppose that Hellenism sank to the most horrible madness, sucrificing its own children to the new faith: how then this same ‘alienated’ hellenism, studied, loved and saved its ancient self all those centuries?
“Byzantium searched with passion for the ancient texts, all the ancient manuscripts, it copied them in thousands. This restored the ancient Greek works, the text that we read today. It accomplished this huge work with remarkable care, in order to remain as close as possible to the initial text, it created a tradition of critical editing which continued the Alexandrian tradition of the Hellenistic era. Without the bibliographical workshops (scriptoria), without the Byzantine editors [mostly monks] whose activity surprises us, to what would have been limited our collection of ancient texts that we call classical?” (-Paul Lemerle, The continuity of the European Conscience).