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,
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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