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

16 thoughts on “Greeks Bearing Gifts

  1. I often feel when discovering the meaning of Greek words, that they express the spirit behind the words, compared with the literary meanings of Latin words

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    • I was thinking the same thing. It seemed they put visual ideas within their words. Even their lettering is artistic and creative. 🙂

      Ideas within words. Or in Greek, using the Google translator: Λέξεις αυτεπικονιάσεως ιδέες.

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  2. I have always wondered what made Greeks to produce such array of philosophers ,artists and people with fertile mind and tastes. Thank you Lady Budd for your posts I wait for them every day. 🙂

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    • I have wondered the same thing!! Maybe it was something in the water that made their minds flourish. Whatever it was – I am so glad that we had our marvelous ancient Greeks!

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    • 😆 You always make me laugh! I remember the first time I read about the riddle – I didn’t get it then, but I know about it now….

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  3. It’s 10pm and I am just starting to read this morning’s newspaper. I laugh out loud when I see, in the travel section, in large letters “Return to Erewhon”. In one short day, it seems that ‘nowhere’ is a feature on your side of the world and mine. Although of course Erewhon is not quite Nowhere, but it is somewhere.

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  4. I have an uncle who is Mexican, he thinks he is Greek, if you say a word or a name he will tell you it came from Greece, it is so funny. Very interesting did not now about Melancholy
    I am learning with your post thanks 😉

    Great photo too

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    • We have a wonderful Greek community in Vancouver! They bring so much to our city – food, music, drama! Did I mention food! Yummy!!!! I look forward to your visits -thank you! 🙂

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  5. Let us nor forget hubris, then a crime, helped keep an entire society civilized. (Well, maybe not an entire, poor Socrates). But, seriously, could you imagine what re-implementing that as a criminal offense would do? I smile to think. Great post!

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    • I’m so glad that you added that “gem” of knowledge to the dialogue. I can only imagine! Our world would be a radically different or perhaps we would make adjustments. Poor Socrates!! You bring up a very interesting point – one that speaks to our sense of justice and fairness – and how that plays out in our words and definitions. Insightful!!! Thank you!!!

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  6. I grew up in Nebraska where one of the important summer events is called “Aksarben”. I had not thought of that in years. Spelling backwards–what fun.

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    • I almost forgot about that!! What a great branding technique – people remember the name, years after the event! I agree – what fun!

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