Greeks Bearing Gifts

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“We Greeks are lovers of the beautiful, yet simple in our tastes, and we cultivate the mind without loss of manliness.”

Thucydides

Ancient Greeks

The Trojans may have feared Greeks bearing gifts, but the rest of the world gladly embraced them.  We are indebted to the ancient Greeks, for they illuminated the way for greater accomplishments. Hippocrates, deemed to be the father of Western medicine, Phidias sculptor, painter and architect, Herodotus, the historian, Archimedes of Syracuse, the mathematician,  Homer, the poet, and the mighty philosophers, Pythagoras, Plato,  Aristotle, and Socrates.

Some linguists believe that the Hellenic (Greek) language is a family of ancient languages that are strongly related.  Others are more traditional and include only the ancient Greek.  Either way, the Greeks continue to influence our language and worldview.

The Greeks gave us canopy, which means “gnat curtain,” used to describe a tent structure, made from fish nets, used by Nile fisherman to sleep under without fear of a gnat invasion.  Melancholy comes from the Greek “melaina,” meaning “black” and “chole,” meaning “bile.” It was believed that emotions were made active by the bile and that sadness was generated by “black bile.”

The name “Sphinx” means “the strangler” in Greek.  According to an Egyptian legend, the Sphinx would strangle travellers who could not solve the riddle:“Which creature has one voice and yet becomes four-footed and two-footed and three-footed?” 

And my person favourite! In 1516, Thomas More, the unfortunate councillor to Henry VIII of England, wrote Utopia, a narrative about an imaginary Island that enjoyed an ideal political arrangement.  He used the Greek, ou and tópos, the combination of which translated into “not a place”, or “nowhere.”

“Let us dedicate ourselves to what the Greeks wrote so many years ago: to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world.”

Robert Kennedy