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[00:00:08]

Welcome to the Knowledge Project, I'm your host, Shane Parrish, curator, Bunna Farnam Street blog, which is an intellectual hub of interestingness covering topics like human misjudgment, decision making strategy, philosophy and culture.

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The knowledge project allows me to interview amazing people from around the world to deconstruct why they're good at what they do and get inside their head. It's more conversation than prescription. It's about seeing the world as they see it. The next episode is one of two interviews that I conducted while visiting Greece this summer. Greek history, which is deep rooted in many things, is philosophy. Democracy and culture, has laid the foundation of so much of what we know, what we live today.

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Today, I'm going to speak with Aristotle.

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Cost is one of the best guides you can find in Athens.

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In order to be a guide in Greece, an individual must complete two and a half year program at the School of Tourist Guides in Greece, which is the state school under the Ministry of Development. Some of the courses in the curriculum include ancient Greek history, Byzantine history, prehistoric archaeology, mythology, geology, history of theater and and the psychology of the tourists, along with completing the required written and oral exams.

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The professionals must also complete 110 hours of lessons in the museum about archaeology and 260 hours of visiting sites and practicing guides.

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It's not like you just walk up to the boss and get a guide here.

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I contacted Athens Walking Tours to find out who their best guide was and that's how I came to meet Aristotle. With his first degree in archaeology, Aristotle decided to continue his studies in order to become a certified guide in Athens. And we're lucky that he did. Today, you'll hear us speak about the history of Athens.

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Over the past three thousand years, the influence of Greek culture has had across the world and some insights on what surprises him meeting visitors from different countries.

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I hope you enjoy the conversation as much as I did. Hi and welcome. Thank you. Welcome, welcome to Greece in Athens. Jerome, tell us a little bit about yourself first. Well, uh, yeah, my name is Aristotle Cosiness and Archaeologist's and Qualified Tourist Guides. I was well, I was born in Athens and I have lived in this city for most of my my life, although I had to go out from my university studies to be trained as a tourist guide.

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So I have been outside of Athens for several years, but I have returned to this big city, too.

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And I'm working since, say, 2003 as a as a tourist guide, which is my full time job.

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And archaeology now has become a passion.

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I wouldn't call it a hobby, but I pursue my style of my research when I have some spare time, which fortunately it is limited. And so fortunately financially, because I'm busy and working.

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On the other hand, I have a ton of roof tiles waiting for me to study them and I'm getting phone calls from my brother up from the directors of the DSK, Aristotle.

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We have we have found some new roof tiles where you were coming over to see them November, December next year, probably. And how many people live in Athens? How many?

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There are five million people, although those who are registered are about four million. Just happens that during the census, people leave and go back to their villages or towns because they they believe that if they are registered there, the government will have a different approach and attitude towards the local communities. But the population of the greater Athens area is five million, which is about 40 percent of the population of the country, where about 11 million, according to the census of 2011.

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And what do you find most interesting about being a professional tourguide? That's that's not that's a difficult question. Well, first of all.

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Well, is that I come in contact with different people every time and I have the opportunity to talk to them about the history of Athens.

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And in Greece, of course, it's my version of the history of Athens. And in Greece, I tried to make them see the country through my eyes.

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And yeah, that's what makes it interesting.

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And sometimes, however, you have people who are not particularly interested about the history. They just want to take a selfie, in which case, yeah, it's not that interesting for me to do that because again, you can find a place to take yourself. There are plenty of opportunities in the city to take a selfie. Now, you cannot say that the audience cannot see that. But whatever you have, you have a look of the Acropolis. So it's it's great.

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The history of Greece dates back so far and goes on for so long. And it's so vast. It seems like there's an endless amount of threads that you could pick up for someone who wants to learn or somebody looking for where to start, where where would you suggest?

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Well, start reading or visiting, because that's, for example, you want to if you visit the country, you want to have an introduction to your story. I would say Athens will be the first ever place of choice because you had you have the National Technological Museum, which has antiquities from all the periods of Greek history, from the Neolithic.

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So 7000 B.C. to do the Roman, although now just a note when we said the history of Greece must make a distinction.

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You have the history of of of Greece as a country which starts back in the Paleolithic period, 200, 300 thousand B.C. and then you have the history of the Greek people, which started a little later than that, because based on the other, there's a debate about it.

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The archaeological we can prove that the Greek people arrived in this region during the second millennium BC. So if you want to be very strict and precise, the history of the Greek nation starts in the second millennium. But in the narrative of the formation of the Greek state, if you read the books, you'll see that my non Cretans are also included in the history of the Greek nation. The people of the syllabus who were living here since the walls, probably since the fourth millennium B.C. were also included in the Greeks were not certain if they were, don't know what language they were speaking.

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So we're not certain if they were Greeks or a different. Ethnic stuff. So, yeah, but anyway, visiting Athens, you'll get to see all that that continuity from the seventh millennium to the to the Roman period, and then you have other places. So you can see the modern revival of Greece and the modern sequel of a country after the war of independence against the Ottoman Turks, when Greece became a sovereign state in 1831 to the present. So, yeah, I know that Athens hasn't got the beaches and the whitewashed churches that people are accustomed and they know from the commercials.

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But you have stayed in Athens for at least a couple of days, I think is important to get to know the history of Greece. What's the history of Athens, the city itself? Well, we have to go back to the fourth millennium, about 30, 400 B.C., when we have the first inhabitants who settled on the Acropolis and the surrounding plane.

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And from since that time, the city has a continuous habitation. So you say that the city has a history of six thousand years and several meters of archaeological remains beneath the modern city. You have the period well, until the 10th century B.C., we cannot say that. Well, certainly you can say that we have the city state of Athens, just not in ancient Greece. You have we have hundreds of independent city states, Athens, Sparta, Corinth, just to name the three of the most important.

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But we believe that the city states were formed during the 10th century B.C. So since that time, since the 10th century on, you have the formation of the ancient city started spreading out around the Acropolis. And the heyday of Athens was the 5th century BC, when was the had the strongest Navy. They controlled all the the Aegean. They had multiple sources of revenue from the harbor of Berríos that had silver mines, manufacturing activities. And in this period when democracy was developed, you had philosophy, art.

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So but when we said the fifth century B.C. as it period between four eight two four, 30 B.C., about that period when Athens is at its strongest and the most prosperous, and then after four, 30 B.C., they had to fight a long war against the city of Sparta.

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And its allies lasted for 27 years.

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And that's a very controversial period in between ancient Greek history because, well, we can say that all the sophisticated and refined Athenians would attend theatre.

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They wouldn't hesitate of exterminating an entire island because they oppose their policies and their expansion for in for 17, they destroyed the island of Millas because the millions refused of paying tribute to the Athenians and in for four or four. When the Athenians surrendered finally to the Spartans, it was Athens was at its knees. You had even their democracy was abolished for for a year or so. The city was revived, but not as a major political or military power. It retained that aura of cultural, of a cultural center throughout the ancient times, I would say not just in the classical period.

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So and then you had periods of prosperity, especially when it was supported and endowed by the rulers of the time, precisely because it was Athens, the center of civilization and the founding of of culture, and that there were during the late Roman period after the third century A.D., the city itself had been destroyed.

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So it had become a much smaller settlement after two six to seven was was destroyed by the barbarian tribe of the Hareli.

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The city was confined in the zone around the the Acropolis.

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OK, so then but and then in the sixth century A.D., the schools of the city were closed after an imperial edict.

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And that was the final blow to the significance of Athens as a major educational center during the Middle Ages.

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It was, well, a prosperous market town.

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It was still have the memory that it was Athens of all the Athens of Pericles and the and the philosophers.

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And there is in the 12th century A.D. of. Bishop was sent to to Athens, he was highly educated in the classics, he imagined that he would see the the city that was described in the ancient texts, and he was completely disappointed.

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And he's making references that this is not offensive. That's something that's completely, entirely alien to what I had in my imagination of the city in the 15th century was occupied by the Ottoman Turks.

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And it's interesting that during the first 100 years of the Ottoman occupation, Athens prosperous and in the census of the 16th century, it was it has a population of seventeen thousand people, which makes it the fourth largest city of the Ottoman Empire in in Europe was as well.

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And I say this interesting because it wasn't an administrative center, was it a trading outpost?

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Not even because we don't have in other cities.

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The Ottomans would build large markets in Athens.

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That was just the bazaar which which was developed over the ruins of the ancient markets and the ancient libraries. That's fascinating in Athens that you can see a building of Roman period, which was which was a library, and then it was repurposed into a bazaar during the Ottoman time. So you have the same location, but it was changing through the centuries.

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So, nope, it probably has to do with the thriving countryside because during the Ottoman, the process of the Ottoman based on the countryside of Athens was not robust. So you had a strong population base and you had the interaction between the city and the countryside.

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That's the only reason as far as we as we know then, because in the 18th century, the revenue and the taxation system changed and the Ottoman Empire.

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So instead of collecting the the taxes directly, the Ottoman state would leave out the taxes to tax farmers. Right.

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Which would collect the taxes with interest for their own profit. And by the late 18th century, this population has dropped to eleven thousand people.

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We have references that people would leave the city to be released from the tax burden.

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People would motor towards their farms, to the monasteries or to wealthy Greeks or wealthy Ottomans.

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So gradually had the accumulation of land to more and more people.

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And that was the financially and socially that was a fatal blow to what it was that they were trying to extract too much taxes.

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Or was it just to be here?

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Was that every year the Ottoman Treasury would have the sound that they had in the budget.

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Right. And they wouldn't bother of of collecting it to build up the mechanism to to collect it. So you had these intrapreneurs actually, they were usually members of the Ottoman elite who would hire other people to do the dirty job would be the façade, the dirty work.

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Yeah. And they would say, OK, look, how much do you want from Athens who are supposed to take 40000 coins? OK, this is 40000 coins. Yeah. They at the beginning of the of the year and then coming back to Athens, this, uh, these people, uh, would collect the taxes.

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I'm suspecting a lot more than 40, 60, 70000, because they had not only to make a profit, they also had to come up with the money to pay the other Ottoman officials where they are superior.

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So they would got they would get that that grant, that concession.

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There was a network of bribing or not bribing.

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I know that people in Turkey would be interested in that gift exchange from the lower to the to the upper level.

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And of course, those who suffered the most were the people on the lower level who had to give the the money, the tributes.

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And it was a distributive system.

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So if a small community had to pay and say, 100 coins, it didn't matter if you had a thousand or ten people, it would be still hundreds of coins.

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So when people started living, you ended up with a couple of few families taking all the burden of taxation. So they were at least two riots against those tax collectors in Athens during the eighteenth century. Were Greeks and Muslims participated? So it was not just an ethnic thing, it was a social and economic phenomenon.

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So in eighteen, twenty one, when the Greek war of independence was declared, the people were more than ready to to join and expel the Ottoman authorities into the Ottoman population from the city of the offense suffered a lot during the war of independence, especially between 1826 and 1827. The Greeks were in possession of the Acropolis, which was a castle wall, was the Acropolis, was a castle.

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The the Ottoman army was visiting them so that we know that by the end of that seed's, there were only 40 buildings standing.

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There was out of 2000 buildings, 18, 34, three years after the end of the war, Athens was declared the capital of Greece.

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And again, that, uh, choice was what was ordained by the history of the city, not its significance as a as a town during the 19th century.

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It was Athens was the city that was mentioned in all the ancient texts. It was a city where democracy was created, was the city where a philosophy. So the first king of Greece was a German.

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Uh, by the way, this and his advisers decided to establish the capital in Athens to to showcase the link between modern Greece and its ancient glories.

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There was even a plan which was just the only a plan, fortunately, to build the royal residence on the Acropolis.

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It never happened, thank God. So the city that invented democracy ended up with the monarchy?

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Yeah, well, it's not just the say it was. It was Greece.

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During the War of Independence, I made the Declaration of Independence.

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We had the parliaments. Right.

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And the constitutions that were drafted during the war of Independence were very progressive and liberal for the standards of that time.

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Don't forget, that is the war of independence started a few years after the end of the Napoleonic wars. So the monarchies of Europe wanted to retain the status quo. So they didn't they didn't want to hear anything about parliaments and elections.

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Right during the war. Unfortunately, the Greek people also were fighting a civil war. That is interesting. We were fighting actually for two civil wars during the war of independence. We're fighting against each other to establish who would be the the ruler or the powerbroker in the when we became independent, um, we also contracted to loans from British banks.

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All that money were just squandered during the civil war and to irrelevant purchases of military materiel.

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We we we we purchased six steamships because we thought that this superior technology would give us an advantage over the Ottoman navy.

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Of this, six ships, only one arrived during the war. And it was and it was deployed. It's actually the first steamship that was used in in in battles.

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The other two arrived after the end of the war. The three were never built, although we had paid for them. And we even bought a frigate from the United States. We have permission. We have order.

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Three, only one arrived. We have paid for all of it.

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But that's another story.

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But these loans were very important because by taking the loans, the Greeks acquired an entity and the governments of England wanted well, they had to take care of their own interests, economic and political interests.

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So of legitimising.

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Yeah, in a way, we were, uh, we weren't recognized officially as a as a people fighting against the Ottoman Turks.

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But yeah, essentially we were when you give money to someone, first of all, you have a vested interest that that someone will be able to pay you the money or give you the collateral. Yeah. Yeah.

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Uh, so yeah, that's in a way we although they're historians, they would disagree with that.

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But an important factor in the success of the War of Independence was those two loans. There were yes, there were divisive. They they were never used for the war itself. But politically, they played an important role. And we I think we paid those loans in the late nineties. And that's a it's a great job that we're still paying the the bonds of the Greek war of independence then in.

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And in 1827, finally, the European superpowers decided to intervene. They send a joint fleet for England, France and Russia. They destroyed the Ottoman fleet.

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And then there was just a matter of time when the Ottoman army and garrisons would leave the country. And we originally the plan was for Greece to become a vassal state to the Ottoman Empire. But you do the diplomacy of the first governor of Greece, who was a very competent diplomat.

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We were able to become an independent state.

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And part of the agreement was that Greece would become a monarchy. And since we didn't have any nobility in Greece, there were people who call themselves Barones and princes, but they were not they didn't have any real klip.

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But also because of the civil war, people were reluctant to accept one or the other of the of the factions.

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So when we were offered security, it actually kind of image that the Greek people believe that an outsider would bring stability in the Greek society. So the prince from Bavaria after the game was appointed, the king of Greece for him, must have been quite a shock when he came to the country.

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He was 17 years old. And maybe he he knew about the history of of Greece.

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Right. He must have seen the warriors who came as a delegation to offer him the crown. But he must have been we have his descriptions of his arrival, that he was a little shaky, that he even lost his footing when he came off the boat. So he was grabbed by one of his bodyguards who have been quite humiliating arrival for a king just to fall right away again.

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And Otto, well, the father, the father of the King Ludwig of Bavaria, was was fascinated with Greek history and culture. He had created a large collection of Greek art.

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The Globetrotter in Munich is actually started as his collection. And of course, he was happy to have the same number as the ruler, of course, here in Greece. So Athens was chosen as the capital. And so that's actually the milestone for the modern history of Athens is 18 34.

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And since then, you have a history of of expansion and growth. In in 1834, the city had only four thousand people because it was after the war people had left.

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And just in sixty years, when the first Olympic Games were held in Athens, the population was more than 100000. Yeah. And you have that increase. There were two there were also two periods of dramatic population increase.

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The first was in 1922, and by that time the city had about 700000 people. But within one year, a quarter of a million were added to the population.

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So that was after the after the First World War.

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Greece got a mandate to garrison the area around the city of Izmir, Greek now, where more than 80 percent of the population were Greeks.

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And the idea was that after the after five years, there had been a referendum and then inhabitants of that region would decide if they wanted to be united with Greece or they would have an autonomous status in the plan of the Greek government was that Greek populations that were Greeks and Christians would flock.

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Who would leave the areas in Anatolia and come into this. This result would have a hundred and fifty percent Greeks in that area. It didn't work that way because the the Turks started their own war of independence and it was up to the Greek army to to pursue them.

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By 1922, we were defending the frontier 700 kilometres long. We were just at one point our army reached 50 kilometers of Ankara. My grandfather, who was in that campaign, had stories that would say Ankara somewhere in the distance. But then we had to retreat.

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And we 1922, the Turkish army counterattacks.

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The civil war of Izmir is destroyed and thousands of people were killed.

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And the next year, when the peace treaty was signed, they agreed to for a mandatory exchange of population. So one and a half million Greeks left their villages and towns. And in Turkey and they the. Were settled in Greece and about half a million Turks and Muslims left northern Greece and then went to Turkey, and there are still, I think I don't remember the name of the village, but there is a ghost village in Turkey, which was used to be a hundred percent Greek and just have the houses immediately after the when the people left and they all left at the same time.

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Yeah. And imagine that you have several municipalities in Athens who started as refugee camps and then they became communities that were added to the to the city. Whenever you see in the map, New Smyrna, New Philadelphia, these are actually they have the names of the communities from which these people came originally.

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I want to talk a little bit about Greek culture that's kind of taken on its own term and own meaning throughout the world. And it sounds like more and more we're meaning Athenian culture historically. Can you walk us through what what is a culture, historic historical culture or the modern culture?

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So a little bit of both. I mean, what is the modern culture and where did it become that way from the historic perspective?

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Well, the modern culture well, Greece, modern Greece is a curious mix of the memory of its ancient glories and globalization. First of all, you have the culture of Athens.

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It's a melting pot where you have Greeks from all around. Someone have said that Athens is just the agglomeration of of of of thousands of villages because you have people from Corfu, you have people from from south in Greece, you have people from create.

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These people brought their own customs, their own ideas. They had to adjust in the environment of the big city.

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Don't imagine that every year during the festivals you have in every neighborhood of Athens, you have a traditional festival. No, it's it's like has been Greek.

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All elements of traditional agriculture have been turned into a mixer and now we see them through a modern filter.

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So you have, uh, we celebrate all the religious festivals.

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It's a great opportunity for eating and drinking and meeting with, uh, with friends.

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Yeah. Well, you see the now modern Greeks using devices and computers and all that.

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On the other hand, sometimes they'll still have the social restrictions that they have carried from their villages.

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They say, OK, let's behave this way because the people of our environment will start making comments.

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So they still have the mentality of the of the small community, although they live in the big city and they live in the way.

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I don't know if it's it is is historic Greek culture, really Mediterranean culture in the sense that I believe the Romans conquered Greece, but Greek culture permeated throughout Roman Empire.

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Well, Greek culture, the Romans recognized that the supremacy of the Greek civilization of agriculture under the Roman author says that Greece was captured with our weapons, but the culture of Greece managed to take up.

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We are the captives of the of the Greeks because of their of their culture.

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So what do they mean when they said Greek culture and when they.

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Well, you can say philosophy. They are primarily the arts and literature.

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That's when you say when the historical perspective, what the Romans took from from the Greeks was, first of all, the the arts which they adjusted to their own social and political reality garment's.

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They also took the the luxury of the of the Greeks, because by the time the Romans had occupied occupied Greece, you had Greek and Oriental elements that were fused.

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And you have all this idea of of good living, of drinking, of common Salaita perfumes, textiles, carpets, things that the Romans there were some Roman traditionalists who said none of these are decadent things. We don't need them, not even we don't even need their statues and poetry. They're they're not working for us Roman warriors. Uh, but, uh, by the first century B.C., you started having all the Roman elites assimilating the Greek ways of life and entertainments, collecting Greek arts.

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When the original when they ran out of originals, they started producing copies, so there was an entire industry of producing copies or reworkings of early earlier Greek statues to go to several all around the world. And most of the statues that we have, the exception is Greece. But we have a lot of originals. By the way, you have their Roman copies of ancient Greek originals.

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That's interesting.

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And to be you had Romans who would study in Athens because Athens still had that distinction that if you want to be educated, you'll go to to Athens.

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It's like they're going to Harvard or or Cambridge or Oxford.

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It was the end of the Roman period.

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Athens was that that's a nice car college city where you have all the philosophers that students from all around.

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What did it mean to get a Greek education? What was like what did that consist of back in?

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Well, first of all, there was a small number of people who could do it by the Roman period. Only the elite could be educated in that high level.

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I'm not talking about know how to read and write about, uh, been trained in the art of rhetoric's to to study philosophy.

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Um, yes.

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Poets, authors, politicians could do it. Uh, other wealthy people could also do it. And sometimes it would be just, uh, I think that some people would visit Athens.

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I would study in Athens just as a nouveau riche.

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Uh, so so look, I have studied in Athens and I'm speaking there and I'm writing the Athenian dialect of the Athenian.

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OK.

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Uh, so, yeah, I think that, uh, during the Roman period, that's what they perceived as Greek culture, the the Athenian expression of Greek culture.

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And let's face it with because most of the history of Greece was written by Athenians or by by people who were living in Athens or they were writing about Athens, it's a nothina centric perspective.

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And we get about ancient Greek history.

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Of course, during the during the third and the second centuries B.C., you had the other cities which were even more even more important.

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For example, have the city of Alexandria was a metropolis of half a million people with its own central production of arts.

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Uh, you had there the museum and the Library of Alexandria was also a major center of of advanced research and studies.

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You have the city of Beirut, which was famous for its low status.

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But even with that, Athens was still that the the first among equals or because it had the long tradition, because everything started started from Athens.

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Speaking of starting in Athens, can you walk me through a little bit of the history of philosophy in Greece, specifically in Athens? Because despite my name, I'm not that much of a philosopher.

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But anyway, uh, you have the we divide Greek philosophy more or less into periods.

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Uh, we have the pre Socratic philosophy and the philosophers after Socrates, Socrates is the same as the pivot in all that.

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So during the sixth, uh, and the early fifth century B.C., philosophers were particularly active in cities such as militance or the big cities along the east coast of the Ajin, uh, started researching the origins of nature.

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You can call it more like physical philosophers they get.

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Some of them were also pursuing issues such as morality, but primarily they were looking how the what the world is made of.

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Is it er fire or soil is a combination of all that. What happens when these elements come into into conflict and all that.

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Uh, with Socrates in Athens who was active during the second half of the fifth century B.C., this, uh, Socrates, at least the Socrates we know through the writings of Plato because Socrates never wrote anything so personal.

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I think that later you use Socrates as his own mouthpiece and he has said thirty percent real Socrates and 70 percent Plato.

[00:36:58]

Yeah, but that's my that's my my view.

[00:37:01]

What is good and what is evil? And what makes you good and evil?

[00:37:06]

Uh, exercise, love, things that characterize the pursuit of modern philosophy and with his, uh, with his student Plato and then with, uh, with Aristotle, Aristotle.

[00:37:22]

But another generation after two generations after Socrates, uh, of course, there is a difference.

[00:37:28]

Plato was certain about spiritual and elevated issues. Aristotle was more down to earth.

[00:37:37]

Uh, and that's why in the painting, the School of Athens, which is in Florence, I think, uh, they saw Plato pointing upwards and Aristotle is pointing downwards.

[00:37:51]

So it looks interesting.

[00:37:52]

So what, uh, Plato was, uh, uh, play to believe that the ideas were these are internal, uh, elements of what we see in real life is just a pale shadow of the of the ideas. And you have to to further to find the true meaning, the true essence of things. And, uh, Aristotle was more about, uh, what we can get from experiencing and studying the environment, the nature around us.

[00:38:23]

So he was writing books about physics, about, uh, mathematics, about zoology, about plants, about politics. So he was more like the what would it what they would call a scientist with a wide field of, uh, of expertise.

[00:38:41]

Then again, in Athens, you have philosophers who let's as the Stoics or the Epicureans, uh, who were trying to to find a way to cope with the adversities of life.

[00:38:56]

So they were suddenly creating their own ideas of how you would behave and what is your life in order to deal with anxiety.

[00:39:08]

The goal was to reduce apathy that you won't be you are not affected by your your daughter dies.

[00:39:17]

You will see that you will you will think it over so that it just happens.

[00:39:22]

Yeah, but that is because during the the fourth and the third centuries it was a time and later, uh, was a very insecure time.

[00:39:33]

First of all, the Greek, uh, with the campaign of Alexander the Great and the Greek world had expanded, uh, tremendously from what used to be a small area of a few hundred cities.

[00:39:47]

States became, uh, uh, cosmopolitan of hundreds of thousands of kilometers. A Greek could travel all the way to modern Afghanistan.

[00:39:59]

And then there are Alexander the Great had created Greek, uh, cities, cities that were the model, you know, of Athens, because that's interesting.

[00:40:08]

He was a monarch, but he was using Athens as the model for his new creations.

[00:40:13]

Uh, Greek had become the land, the common language of, uh, for for thousands, millions of, uh, of people, people who were not ethnic Greeks. But they had they would learn Greek because that was the the lingua franca of the of the time.

[00:40:29]

You have political things changed.

[00:40:32]

Your life depended not on the decisions of of a small city council of your fellow citizens and dependent on what a king, uh, would decide hundreds of kilometers away.

[00:40:45]

So because of all these changes, because like had become very fluid, societies were also changing. There were also a lot of, uh, sources of stress and anxiety.

[00:40:57]

So they had to find a way to deal with those. That's why you have the different approaches.

[00:41:03]

And then after the during the Roman period, you have reworkings of the same type of play of the ideas of Plato and Aristotle of the Epicureans.

[00:41:12]

The Stoics, uh, the Roman emperor, Marcus Aurelius was a stoic himself.

[00:41:17]

And you and you can see in his writings that he follows the tenets of the stoic philosophy. Yeah. What else happened?

[00:41:25]

The Alexander the Great period. What was can you walk me through a little bit of that in this and.

[00:41:30]

Well, in the period of Alexander, you have, first of all, in three thirty eight B.C., because that's when things started for Greece.

[00:41:42]

And, uh, and Alexander, uh, Philip, the second the father of Alexander defeated the Greek city states the battle of Kurnia.

[00:41:52]

And according to most of the of ancient and modern historians, that battle spelled the end of the independence of.

[00:42:02]

The Greek city states, um, um, Philip had, uh, I think his policy was a bit more complicated than that, that he guaranteed the dependent's.

[00:42:15]

Of all the Greek city states. But what Felipe considered as independent was that I'm not going to be involved in your internal affairs, but, uh, I'm going to guarantee your territorial integrity and status.

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But you are not going to be able to expand or attack another city state, because I will be here to guarantee the right the peace.

[00:42:39]

And that's why he created, uh, we call it the League of Corinth, because he would meet in Corinth where all the Greek city states were not. Not all of them, but most of them participated.

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And they declared Felipe, the commander in chief of the of the of this new of the army of that league, which will be the police force enforcing the order and peace in Greece. But also he will be the commander in chief of the campaign against the Persian Empire.

[00:43:10]

And Philip, uh, and then Alexander Hassan presented the campaign as a common Greek and their war against the Persians to revenants the Persians.

[00:43:23]

But what they have done in Greece during their own invasion, there were some Greek cities would retain their independence, even the nominal independence, such as the Spartans who never participated, although they didn't have any way of affecting the situation.

[00:43:42]

They said, no, we are we are the Spartans and we're not we don't want to participate. Say that what Filipa asked them, do you want me to come to visit your city as a friend or as an enemy?

[00:43:55]

And the reply was neither. We don't want you. We don't want you.

[00:43:59]

The city will be asking the very laconic Spartan way where Philip visited Sparta. He destroyed the countryside around them. He saw them. Who's the who's the power now?

[00:44:10]

And he left. And when later Alexander, he had his first victory against the Persians.

[00:44:16]

He dedicated, uh, 300 suits of armor which are made of gold that were dedicated on the Acropolis here in Athens.

[00:44:26]

And there was an inscription saying, Alexander, the Greeks except the Spartans.

[00:44:30]

Huh.

[00:44:31]

So, uh, three thirty six, Philip is murdered and, uh, Alexander becomes king of Macedonia.

[00:44:43]

And of course, he takes on the mantle of being the commander in chief of all the Greeks.

[00:44:47]

And he begins then three years of his task is his campaign, which was indeed the very first world tour of of of of conquests.

[00:44:59]

And just ten years see, he destroyed the person of the Persian Empire and he created his own empire. Well, actually, in a way, he replaced the high king of Persian and he became the King of Prussia. That's interesting about Alexander.

[00:45:18]

He didn't say, okay, now all of you become Macedonians.

[00:45:21]

I am the successor of the, uh, of the high king.

[00:45:25]

When he went to Egypt, he said, I'm the successor of the pharaohs.

[00:45:29]

When he went to Jerusalem, he said, yes, I recognize that there's one God.

[00:45:33]

And he had a very he's in his diplomacy was very wise not to to suppress the preexisting situation. He'd just use it, use it for his own needs.

[00:45:46]

Alexander died early.

[00:45:51]

He was thirty six. He was thirty three.

[00:45:55]

But he died in three. Twenty three. Yes.

[00:45:58]

Uh, he was on the verge of being Alexander.

[00:46:03]

He wanted to continue his his campaign. So that was interesting that they had plans of conquering ah. At the the Arabian Peninsula. He had plans of conquering Northern Africa and Carthage. Um, I think if he had another ten, fifteen years of life, uh, the map of the world and world history would have been very different, probably will never had the Roman Empire yet because we have conquered Rome.

[00:46:32]

Uh, if you have the tactical and strategic genius of Alexander with the battle hardened army, with all the resources of the East, I don't think that the Romans good could stand against it.

[00:46:48]

But when he died, he he didn't well, he had two minor sons who were used as pawns in the political games afterwards. Both of them were assassinated a few years later.

[00:47:00]

And that empire was was dissolved into three. Then they became four kingdoms. Then they became actually you had started to have spinoffs from all different things. Boosler Splinter and Degrease. Go back to Greece. We still have the. But most of Greece was under the control of them, of the Macedonian.

[00:47:20]

So you had Macedonian garrisons and the CD's important fortresses were under the Macedonian control of the kingdom of the Ptolemy's who rule in Egypt, who wanted to fight against and to undermine the Macedonians, were supporting the Greeks when they wanted to have to start a rebellion against the Macedonian Garçons.

[00:47:48]

It happened a couple of times, but with with meager successes just for a few years.

[00:47:54]

Uh, and that's, uh, that's why when the Romans finally arrived and they defeated for the first time the kingdom of Macedonia, they declared the independence of the Greeks. It was very fashionable of declaring independence of the Greeks. But always independence meant you can take care of your own affairs. But we call the shots in important issues of diplomacy and independence.

[00:48:20]

To an extent, yeah. You have a municipal independence, right? And within your territory, outside your territory, it's very little.

[00:48:29]

Politics still works today. You have municipal dependence and then provincial or moderniser.

[00:48:36]

I say that in the fourth century B.C., the institution of the city state started declining. And you can say that politically it did, because now the Greek world was not all that.

[00:48:49]

A mosaic of small or large city states was interacted with each other in order to survive.

[00:48:56]

The other had to pledge your allegiance or to be subjugated by one of the great kingdoms, or you had to participate in a federation or an alliance was formed to stand against the kingdoms where again you would lose part of your independence.

[00:49:15]

But on the other hand, the idea of the city state as a model of civic organization thrived during that time.

[00:49:26]

First of all, you have all these new cities that were created by Alexander the Great.

[00:49:31]

They were they were modelled on the system of the of the city state.

[00:49:37]

They would have their citizens, their city councils. There are the the the agora, the theatre, the sanctuary, the gymnasium where people would work out and educated.

[00:49:47]

Then you have several more cities that were created by the successors of Alexander.

[00:49:53]

So the model of a city state, I would say that it thrives throughout as an organization system, not a politically. Yes, we had we had the climb because they had lost they didn't have the resources to cope with the greater powers of the time.

[00:50:12]

If we were going to start reading of the Greek history, where would you start? What would you recommend people start with in terms of they want to come visit before they come? They want to learn about? Well, definitely, uh, they must they should read and a general overview of Greek history. And there and there there are a couple in in English. And then, um, again, as I said, general for general reading there.

[00:50:39]

So there are books on the companion to Greek history or the Oxford Dictionary of Classical Greece or the Cambridge Dictionary or classical Greece, where they would get, first of all, the the frame there of Greek history, but also details about politics, about religion, about everyday life, about, uh, about warfare.

[00:51:07]

All that about technology. Uh, yeah. For, uh, for ancient Greece.

[00:51:13]

I think that that would be the the approach. And then, of course, but Greece is not just it's ancient history. It has a very varied history during the, uh, the Middle Ages. And it would in the Middle East was especially rich in military events.

[00:51:32]

And then, uh, and modern Greece, which is, uh, very interesting to see the wave of ascendancy and collapse, ascendancy or collapse, triumph and disaster. Now, we're in the disaster of Dunkirk.

[00:51:46]

The but there are also books have been written recently about. So, yes, I think first general overview about ancient Greek history and its and the different aspects of its culture and then move on to the to the modern world, because the modern history of Greece, it's, uh, it's unknown to the general audience when they hear a Greece.

[00:52:16]

They know the Acropolis baby Mycenaean that which is the late Bronze Age, because it's related to try but the modern history of Greece, it's what happened here in the Second World War, what happened after the Second World War, because knowing the modern history of Greece, they will understand what why where we have this situation now.

[00:52:39]

In the last five years, you interact with tourists all the time. What most surprises them about Greece?

[00:52:49]

Well, uh, first of all, especially in the last five years, a large number of people are surprised that we still operate, that the museums are open.

[00:53:01]

And because I have been told I was you see, they are doing construction and say yes, because you have, uh, you are bankrupt.

[00:53:10]

Well, not exactly as we are, but not exactly bankrupt yet.

[00:53:13]

There are because they get through the media completely destroyed the distorted view of what's going on in Greece, even when, for example, we had the in 2010, in 2011, when we had all these demonstrations and riots, people believe that they would come to Athens and they would find a post apocalyptic landscape of buildings on fire, police patrolling in the streets, helicopters. No, not even though and probably Batman jumping from from the roof.

[00:53:45]

But anyway, uh, we see there yeah, we had situations like this that they were just for a couple of days confined in a very small area of the city.

[00:53:57]

You would be I will give you one one example. It was two thousand eleven. Uh, May I had a tour of the Acropolis and then we come the Agora. And then we had lunch in the Placa, which is not very far from Syntagma Square where the demonstrations take place.

[00:54:15]

So we finished the tour and I made the mistake of switching on my radio to listen to the news. And I listened that there is a demonstration and the National Guard is on fire.

[00:54:29]

So what's National Guard is on fire.

[00:54:31]

So I walked towards the square, which is just, uh, what, about five minutes away if you are in a hurry?

[00:54:41]

Because I want to see the National Guard on fire. And what was the National Guard and fire? Just a Pinetree slightly singed on the fence. Now, if I was in my house.

[00:54:50]

Yeah, yeah. And I wouldn't I would believe that, yeah. The National Guard was burned by the demonstrators.

[00:54:59]

So you get what people listen and see through through the media and the idea they have about this. So, yes, they are. I think that they are surprised, uh, about the current situation.

[00:55:14]

Um, other times, other people are surprised that the archaeological sites don't close at three o'clock because there are some archaeological sites that even the summer close, uh, three o'clock.

[00:55:26]

And then you have to explain to them that limit that the Greek minister of culture hasn't got the budget to hire the extra personnel and the think that is better to have their sites closed instead of hiring extra people.

[00:55:39]

And so I have to ask last question. If we are going to spend ten days, if somebody is going to spend 10 days in Greece knowing what you know about it, how would you recommend that people spend those ten days?

[00:55:52]

Definitely a couple of maybe three days in Athens as an asset, as an introduction, and to allow also time for for the deadlock, because arriving from a transatlantic flight and then going to leave for, uh, for a tour, it's not always the best.

[00:56:09]

I never had three hours of sleep. I, uh, also in Athens may sound strange, but, uh, you can take the tram and you can be a very nice this isn't just an hour, maybe half an hour, then, uh, uh, do a small you can do sit through it, set three days, then you can do a small tour of the Peloponnese, or maybe you can use Athens as a base and you can do a full day.

[00:56:36]

You go to the city of Napoleone and uh to visit my senior, which is, uh, Bronze Age Citadel. And so a very impressive site.

[00:56:46]

The city of Napoleon is also very, very beautiful. It was the first capital of Greece. And fortunately, fortunately, all the capital was transferred to Athens. Why was that fortunate for them?

[00:56:58]

That it was because the city it remained a very beautiful, uh, small city?

[00:57:04]

Well, Athens was was also a very beautiful city, especially during the development of the sixties. I don't know if you have walked through the through the Placa.

[00:57:14]

But imagine that until the 1960s, 1960, most of the city of Athens had very beautiful architecture of the 19th and early 20th century and a few apartment office buildings of the modern style.

[00:57:29]

But with all the development of the 60s, all the old buildings were condemned.

[00:57:34]

So I would say, Athens, that if we were wise and we have kept Athens as it was in the 60s, we have been a city as beautiful as us, even more beautiful.

[00:57:47]

Northern Greece is usually out of the way of their itineraries. And that's a pity because it's a very beautiful area and we're also very rich archaeology. So if your readers know about Alexander the Great and this period, definitely a couple of days in Thessaloniki or in the cities close to Saloniki and the islands, now the islands, I know that people definitely would like to go to Santorini and Mykonos because that's what everyone is is going. But I would recommend if you want to visit the Cycladic Islands to visit Naxos bottles.

[00:58:25]

Yeah. I think that in 10 days there will be 10 days of barely enough just to have a good a taste.

[00:58:32]

So Athens, the mainland, the Peloponnese, Peloponnesus, then the islands or you can do can visit, just fly to to Athens, to Thessaloniki, which saves a lot of time, fly to the Saloniki, use this island as a base to visit the sites related to Alexander and and this and that period and then, uh, return to Athens and go to to the islands.

[00:59:01]

What's one part of Athens that people don't see because they probably don't know about it or don't think about it, that you would recommend they they check out maybe a historic site, maybe a cultural saywell historic site.

[00:59:14]

You the the site of the Carmichaels, which was this the formal cemetery of the ancient city, is usually because it's the furthest away from all the sites. And, uh, well, usually we don't go there.

[00:59:27]

So and it's a very nice it's a very it's a beautiful site and very interesting.

[00:59:35]

Um, now other areas of Athens. Well, I would say there is a residential area called Mezze, which it's a small area, but, uh, it's not touristy at all.

[00:59:47]

But it was just said just the hour to to walk through to see it because it has its own particular character architecturally.

[00:59:57]

And the way it is, it is organized. Yeah.

[01:00:00]

These are areas that personally I don't see people, tourists that they don't visit. There is a lot and then there are other.

[01:00:09]

Well depending if you want to see the um and the interesting area is very beautiful. What is interesting is the area of gazy, uh, it is on the very close to the Carmichaels and it used to be an industrial neighborhood.

[01:00:24]

So you can see the contract with the Sellards Brown Building.

[01:00:30]

Yep, there is that general area, OK, and, uh, it is an area in flaks.

[01:00:36]

So you have the the old industrial buildings which are used for, uh, for as entertainment venues or as cultural venues. You have small houses where refugees and immigrants are staying and then next to them you have the the lofts and super modern architecture. And, uh, and it's also one of the has become one of the main entertainment areas of the city has been gentrified. And it's good for some people's good.

[01:01:07]

And also it's an excellent gallery of street art. So just that is an area where well, people go. But, uh, the Athenians go, but not a lot of, uh, of tourists, because usually people visit in Athens for the first time.

[01:01:24]

They go the walk through the placa, the walk in the area around the Acropolis.

[01:01:29]

They may go to Syntagma Square, maybe the hill of Lycabettus.

[01:01:33]

Sometimes they don't have the time to to visit other areas.

[01:01:37]

And it's difficult to see from the perspective of a tourist guy to tell you you have only one day in Athens, let's go to Gaza. Right.

[01:01:46]

And then or let's go to the to the heels of, uh, of the Ekta outside of the Acropolis, where you can see an ancient street and the ruins of of houses. Yeah. It's it's difficult to recommend things like that because people say, okay, we want to see the highlights, not just a random ancient street, which may maybe even more interesting than the Parthenon or so this has been fascinating.

[01:02:11]

I think you're going to have to come back next year to learn all about the Greek gods. And the miss oh, yeah, it's that's an inexhaustible subject. We'll save that for another time.

[01:02:21]

Thank you so much. I really thank you for having me. Hey, thanks for listening and I hope you enjoy the conversation with Aristotle as much as I did, having had the opportunity to speak one on one with him, give me a greater appreciation for the city. I'd highly encourage that. If you're curious about a place you're traveling, seek out a guide for professional tours to enhance your experience and learning along the way. In the second episode from my trip to Greece, I talk about one of my favorite subjects, wine.

[01:02:51]

I hope you check it out. Thanks.