Two concurring views of ancient Greeks from contemporary Greece



They were very upset when I said the development of the greatest importance to mathematics in Europe was the discovery by Tartaglia that you can solve a cubic equation: although it is of little use in itself, the discovery must have been psychologically wonderful because it showed that a modern man could do something no ancient Greek could do. It therefore helped in the Renaissance, which was freeing man from the intimidation of the ancients. What the Greeks are learning in school is to be intimidated into thinking that they have fallen so far below their ancestors.

[From: "Cubic Equations, or Where Did the Examination Question Come From?" (by H. B. Griffiths and A. E. Hirst (quoting Richard Feynman reporting on a 1980 visit to Greece), American Mathematical Monthly, February 1994, pp.151-161)]



The old Greeks were dying one after the other, bitten by huge mosquitos sent by God to destroy them. Many of them, to save themselves, sneaked into gorges, caves, wherever they could. One of them went blind, and, after a long time in hiding, he left his cave and met a New World ploughman and asked to shake hands with him; he wanted to test how strong people from the New Generation were. The ploughman was afraid to extend his hand; instead, he passed to him the ploughshare. The Hellene grabbed it in his huge hand, clasped it and squeezed it to the point of making it as soft as leaven and getting water out of it. Then the Hellene said: you are strong, too, but not like us; we were stronger!

[From: "The Ancient Greeks in Modern Greek Folk Tradition", by I. T. Kakridis, National Bank of Greece, 1978 (in Greek), story #61 (from Schoretsena, Epirus), p.35]



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