Sunday, May 27, 2012

Greek Miscellany: Wealth, Ephialtes, Rent, etc.

Greek loose ends:
  • Thoughts while gazing down onto the Bay of Corinth, from Delphi: these suckahs were rich. No, silly, not last week. But in the 5C BC. All the classical stuff that gins up the modern tourist trade: Delphi, but even more the Parthenon, Olympus, Delos. They are splendid displays of wealth in their own right: somebody had to csrt in all the stone, roll it uphill, carve it, put it in place. And shrines were loaded down with treasure--not just coins but vases, statues, whatever, all fine materials in fine handiwork. And I suspect whatever they may have given to the gods, we can assume they kept the good stuff for themselvea (recall Homer: they sacrificed cattle, but the gods got the smoke; they saved the meat for themselves). All this implies--what? Right, slaves. And mines. But Athens (at least) was a great trading empire, sending out triremes and hauling back loot, all presented in ensemble as a great projection of power.
  • In the foothills below Delphi, olive trees.  Everywhere.  Apparently not just a marketing choice: the government limits tillage to olives so as to please the eye of the tourist. The EU picks up (part of?) the tab.  And FWIW, Armenians do the scut work.
  • Found in the ruins of the ancient Delphic stadium: a mandate imposing a fine of five drachmae for taking wine out of the premises.  Go figure.
  • My friend Gordon wonders what it would take to buy the American licensing rights for the Cult of Dionysus. There's not a town bigger than Podunk where we couldn't find some self-starter fit to franchise the wanton ecstasy of the flesh. All we ask is three percent of the gross.
  • You remember  Ephialtes of Trachis?  Sure you do.  Or at least you remember Thermopylae, the pass in Northeastern Greece where the Spartan Leonidas and his forces kept the Persians at bay until some snake-in-the-grass led the Persians round by the back way.  Ephialtes is the snake in question; Kieron Moore played him in the movie. Anyway, I learn that the name Ephialtes survives in modern Greek as the word for "nightmare." 
  • And speaking of nightmares, here is my word for the day: ενοικίαση, aka ενοικιαζόμενα, and kindred.  That's "rent," as in "for rent," as in "store for rent," as in "hundreds of stores for rent in just about every town I've been through."  Whether or not Greece is holding its own, you'd have to say that retail is dying.

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