Monday, 28 May 2012

Western negative stereotypes about Greeks from the Middle Ages to today

by Athanasios Kotsakis

With the Roman conquest, the Greek world came essentially in close contact with the Latin for the first time. This coexistence had multiple parameters. Apart from cultural osmosis between the two sides (both the effects of Greek culture in Roman and other Roman hiring practices and institutions in the East by the Eastern Roman Empire), the two worlds came in conflict with each other since the early Middle AgesThere were rivalries and frictions, even in ecclesiastical level, between the Old and the New Rome. Those frictions eventually led to the schism between Roman Catholics and Orthodox Christians.The relations between the East and the West deteriorated after the great migration that took place in the era between the 3rd and the 5th century AD, when Germanic tribes flooded Western Europe and overthrew the western part of the empire, occupying Rome (476 AD). Yet, despite the raids, looting and destruction in the eastern part of the empire, the Germanic tribes were not able to prevail there. Prominent members of the aristocracy in Constantinople founded the "Panhellenic", an institution with strong anti-german orientation. Panhellenic's ultimate goal was the expulsion of the Germanic tribes from the area of the Eastern Roman Empire, a goal that was eventually achieved during the popular revolt in 400 AD. The aftermath of the riot was the extermination of the Goth Warlord Gaina and of all the Goths who had settled in the vicinity Constantinople.

Since then the Byzantine Empire will continue to be in conflict with the Germanic tribes and the western principalities, culminating in the ideological conflict with the empire of the Frankish ruler Charlemagne and his successors, who claimed the title of "Roman Empire" (800 AD)Wanting even to monopolize this title, Western leaders called the Byzantine emperor simply "king of the Greeks" and not "Roman", who in turn called the emperor of the West just "king" and the Franks 'barbarian race ".

Liutprando da Cremona and his picture for the Byzantines

In the context of diplomatic contacts between the two sides, the German Emperor Otto I (962-973), founder of the later Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation, sent Lombard Liutprand, bishop of Cremona, to Constantinople, to negotiate with emperor Nikiforos Fokas, regarding the match of his son, Otto II with Theophano, a greek princess. But it seems that the bad behavior the Byzantines showed to Liutprand - the latter having been sent there as a representative of the German prince, that is a usurper of Roman legality in the Byzantines' eyes - enraged him so much that he wrote a very passionate and strongly critical report on his trip to Constantinople with the Latin title: "De Legatione Constantinopolitana". This text, which probably reflected not only his personal views but also the prevailing attitudes in the Western world, is considered to be useful for modern historians, in order for them to trace the roots of Western anti-Greek feelings. In this book the Greeks are presented as "frivolous," "stupid", "flatterers," "covetous," "deceitful," "crooks," "untrustworthy," "liars," "traitors" etc. , This opinion the Middle-Age Westerners held about Byzantine Greeks may be interpreted in the light of certain "inferiority complexes" of the early Medieval West towards the thriving eastern empire.

In particular, according to Liutprand, "Nikiforos is a truly monstrous creature, a pygmy with giant head, with eyes like the mole, with short beard, broad, thick, whitish. The forehead is one finger wide, his hair scruffy crowning his untamed and wild face, as if he were Iopas.The skin is blackish as if he were Ethiopian .. He is big-bellied with weak glutes. His thighs are large, with disproportionately short of stature, his legs wide. He wore an old peasant cloak, frayed and dirty. His words are cheeky, but his mind is like a fox and like Ulysses he is liar and perjurer" In addition, the Byzantine emperor: is boor, Padfoot, cuckold, effeminate, hairy, uncouth, barbarous, brutal, "walks like an old lady and has a goat's face."

Continuing, Liutprand says: "The king of the Greeks is hairy, wearing a cloak with long sleeves and feminine guise, he is a liar, deceiver, ruthless, sly fox, arrogant, stingy, greedy, eating garlic, onions and leeks and drinks valnionInstead, the king of the Franks is good looking, he is not wearing women's clothes, he covers his head, he is sincere, he is not deceiving anyone,he knows when to be compassionate, strict when necessary, he always has real humility, he never becomes a miser, he does not eat garlic, onions and leeks to make savings on the animals."

Also:- The Emperor cheats (...) and does not tell anyone the truth. He did as the Greeks always do".

- "Greeks are of uncertain faith: Latins, look carefully! Do not believe them, nor hear their words. How much more will they lie in order for Argos to prevail! ".

- "The perjurer Greece."

- "The deception derives from the Greeks, so that everyone can judge them from a single crime."

- "How much ready are the Greeks to swear on the head of another."

- "The skimpy dinner begins and ends with lettuce, once closed the dinner of their ancestors."

In the latter passages there is use of negative stereotypes about Greeks, that derives from Roman antiquity, which as it turns out, were in use and during the Middle Ages. The latter phrase, though not at all flattering to the Greeks, proves that Westerners saw the Byzantines descendants of the ancient Greeks, as they are faced as a single entity. And the negative characterizations against the Greeks and especially against the Byzantine emperor are clearly excessive and exude empathy.

So nearly a century before the schism of 1054 
the existence of negative stereotypes established, on a part of Westerns and especially the Germans, concerning,
in particular, the reliability of the Greeks and their hostility towards the West. From 1054 onwards the characterization of the "schismatic" or more rarely of the "heretic" will be added to the anti-Greek stereotypes, given that the Roman-Catholic Church did not regard the Orthodox heretics but only schismatics . Since the late 11th century  by conducting the 1st Crusade and especially after the fall of the Byzantine Empire by the troops of the Fourth Crusade, relations between the two sides dramatically deteriorated. The defeated Greeks will face not only the oppression but also the mocking of Western conquerors, who thought of them as "people of scribes."

The Chronicle of the Morea and the image of the Greeks

The rivalry between "Roman" (Greek) and Franks (medievalFrench) is reflected in the "Chronicle of Morea", a text of the 14th centuryprobably written by Gasmoulo of Peloponnese (f758-761769):

«Τίς νὰ πιστέψῃ εἰς Ρωμαῖον εἰς λόγον εἴτε εἰς ὅρκον;
λέγουσιν ὅτι εἶναι Χριστιανοὶ καὶ στὸν Θεὸν πιστεύουν·
ἐμᾶς τοὺς Φράγκους μέμφονται, λέγουν, κατηγοροῦν μας,
σκύλους μᾶς ὀνομάζουσι, ἀτοί τους ἐπαινοῦνται
(…) Ἀκούσατε τὲς αἵρεσες, τὲς ἔχουν οἱ Ρωμαῖοι».
«Ἀκούσατε οἱ ἅπαντες, Φράγκοι τε καὶ Ρωμαῖοι,
ὅσοι πιστεύετε εἰς Χριστόν, τὸ βάφτισμα φορεῖτε,
ἐλᾶτε ἐδῶ νὰ ἀκούσετε ὑπόθεσιν μεγάλην,
τὴν κακοσύνην τῶν Ρωμαίων, τὴν ἀπιστίαν ὅπου ἔχουν.
Ποῖος νὰ θαρρέσῃ εἰς αὐτούς, ὅρκον νὰ τοὺς πιστέψῃ,
ἀφῶν τὸν Θεὸν οὐ σέβονται, ἀφέντη οὐκ ἀγαποῦσιν; ὁ εἷς τὸν ἄλλον οὐκ ἀγαπᾷ μόνον μὲ πονηρίαν
». (στ. 724-730).

Regarding the split between the two Churches (1054) Chronicle of the Morea says:

«Οἱ Φράγκοι γὰρ καὶ οἱ Ρωμαῖοι πίστιν μίαν ἐκρατοῦσαν·
τῆς οἰκουμένης οἱ ἀρχιερεῖς, Φράγκοι τε καὶ Ρωμαῖοι,
οἱ πατριάρχαι κ᾿ οἱ ἀρχιερεῖς οἱ πρῶτοι τῆς οἰκουμένης,
ἐπαῖρναν τὴν χειροτονίαν ἕκαστος ἀπὸ ἐκεῖνον,
ὅπου ἦτον Πάπας κι ἀρχιερεὺς εἰς τὸ σκαμνὶ τῆς Ρώμης.
Διαβόντα γὰρ χρόνοι πολλοὶ αὐτεῖνοι οἱ Ρωμαῖοι,
Ἕλληνες εἶχαν τὸ ὄνομα, οὕτως τοὺς ὠνομάζαν,
- πολλὰ ἦσαν ἀλαζονικοί, ἀκομὴ τὸ κρατοῦσιν -
ἀπὸ τὴν Ρώμη ἀπήρασιν τὸ ὄνομα τῶν Ρωμαίων.
Ἀπ᾿ αὔτης τῆς ἀλαζονείας, τὴν ἔπαρσιν ὅπου εἶχαν
ἀφήκασιν τὸν ὄρδιναν τῆς ἐκκλησίας τῆς Ρώμης,
καὶ στήκουν ὡς σχισματικοί, μόνι τὸ καῦχος ἔχουν.
Τηρήσετε, ἄρχοντες καλοί, τὴν ἀπιστίαν ὅπου ἔχουν·
λέγουν ὅτι εἶναι Χριστιανοί, καὶ ἀλήθειαν οὐ κρατοῦσιν·
τὸν ὅρκον τους οὐδὲν κρατοῦν, οὐδὲ Θεὸν φοβοῦνται·
μόνον τὸ βάφτισμα ἔχουσι τὸ τῆς χριστιανωσύνης» (στ. 789-804).

"Anti-Greek" Western stereotypes of modern times until the Greek Revolution

The negative pattern for the Greeks will be repeated to a degree in works of Western travelers who visited the Aegean in the 16th,17th and 18th century, as in these of the Western officials. 

For example:- The Venetian monk Paolo Sarpi (1552-1623) called the Greeks  "infidels" and said they need "a little bread and lots of whacking" ("poco pane e molte bastonate") and should be treated as wild beasts, they must be constantly humiliated and prevented from training with weapons.

- The Italian Pilgrim Zuarllardo writes in the late 16th century: "We should not trust the Greeks too. they are known enemies. "

- The French 
Aegean traveler  Jean Thévenot (1633-1667) said that: "The Greeks are covetous, infidels, traitors, pedophiles, very vindictive, hypocritical and very superstitious," and that " They hate the Catholics more than the Turks."

- The French Jesuit Robert Saulger (1637-1709) called the Orthodox inhabitants of the Cyclades "schismatic" and "superstitious" and believed that the Greeks are "pride when they are greater, but humble when they lose and sometimes by necessity are liars". " Also, "They are crafty, a little unstable and truthful in their friendship. So in the East will refer to the Greek  infidelity and will tell you to believe the opposite of those that the Greeks believe." But these supplements do not apply to everyone, because in the Aegean Islands met "many who were very sincere, honest and prudent."

It should be noted that these passages are not representative of the Western writers who refer to the Greek Orthodox population of the Aegean. Anti-Greek feelings is not usually the most dominant element in their writings. However, repetition in modern times of medieval negative stereotypes about Greeks is something that could not pass unnoticed. This phenomenon is obviously part of the overall climate of the time in the western area where the image of the Greeks (Hellenes) is generally not the most positive.

Only later, with the emergence of artistic and ideological currents, such as Romanticism, will the interest rekindle  in Western Europe not only in ancient Greece, but also in the fate of the contemporaries, enslaved Greeks. Many Western Europeans will indeed come as volunteers to fight alongside the Greeks during the Greek Revolution (1821-1829), a phenomenon that will be repeated until the Greco-Turkish war of 1897 and the Cretan revolutions of 1866 and 1896, as in the First Balkan War (1912-13), mostly by Italian Garibaldini.

On the other hand, Westerners Hellenists will significantly promote the Greek (Hellenic) letters (eg Louis, King of Bavaria and father of Otto of Greece) and despite the unilateral persistence in ancient Greece and the rejection of the Byzantine past, they could be described as real and warm Philhellenes, given the practical support in the Greek (hellenic) national liberation struggle. However cases of other Western Europeans who favoured greek (hellenic) but who were also violent anti-Hellenes as the Dutchman Cornelius de Pauw, the Prussian Jacob Salomon Bartholdy, the English William Gell and Thomas Thorthon, and also the British Richard Chandler and Charles Perry, who argued that modern Greeks are "resourceful, cunning and crafty people" and "deceitful, crooks and traitors."did not disappear. The most famous scholar, however, in this category was the Austrian Philip James Fallmerayer (1790-1861), who was best known for his theories regarding the absence of any relationship between ancient modern Greeks (Hellenes).

Also in the mid 19th century the image of Greeks (Hellenes) for much of the Western public opinion was very negative, given the reluctance of Greece (Hellas) for alliance with the Western coalition, which campaigned against Russia during the Crimean War (1853-1856 ) and the mission of Greek (Hellenes) volunteers alongside the Russians. The overall picture, however, of the Westerns for the Orthodox world was generally not the best, as opposed for example with the image that had many for the Muslims, but at the time allied Ottoman Empire.

Western European and especially German negative stereotypes about Greeks (Hellenes) (late 19th - early 21st century.)

Dealing with the ancient Greek (hellenic) past and the promotion of Greek (hellenic) letters will continue primarily from the German educational and research institutions throughout the 20th century, but the geopolitical conflict between the two countries, which are found in opposite camps during the two world Wars will not favor the occurrence of philhellenic feelings for the modern Greeks, although there have been several Germans philhellenes throughout the last half a century. Already almost from the first day of the Federal Government, of Bismarck (late 19th cent.), Some Greeks blamed the Germans -as part of their geopolitical ambitions- they wished to govern Greece "as a province of Bavaria" under the doctrine of "Deutschland über Alles".Also noted that the tight embrace between Germany and the Ottoman Empire before and during the First World War was not unrelated to the systematic extermination of Hellenism in Asia Minor by the Neo Turks, who were planned by German officers - consultants, as Fr C. Otto Liman von Sanders who called the Asia Minor Greeks "hostile elements, inspired by revolutionary ideas from outside", which should be prosecuted mercilessly. During the Nazi period there is evidence indicating that the Greeks (Hellenes) were accused as "lazy and cafe  habitues", that  the Germans said they would oblige them to work "as they know how to put slaves to work."
Today, 70 years later, the scene is repeated in some way with one another form.The military invasion of the Third Reich in Greece (Hellas) has been replaced by common consent of the German economic penetration, reaching far to undermine our national sovereignty, in a quasi-re-known from the 30s and 40s as "living space" of Germany (" Lebensraum ").

Also, articles in the German press, especially in broad popular consumption, characterize the Greeks (Hellenes) "vermin," "lazy," "crooks," "thieves," "liars," "worthless," "untrustworthy," who should be punished with harsh economic measures or the loss of part of their territory (eg some islands or even the Acropolis itself!), preferably in favor of Turkey. Similar types of publications have been identified in other countries such as Denmark and other Nordic countries, secondarily in England and rarely in France, but above all perhaps in Holland, where in addition to the above, the Greeks (Hellenes) are seen as "inventors" of gay sex . Often Greek (hellenic) immigrants living in central and northern Europe, mainly in German-speaking and Nordic countries, face the ridicule and scurrilous attacks of a not insignificant portion of the indigenous populations there.

But such a war  is not limited to the Greeks (Hellenes), although our people is at the forefront lately of the peoples encountered derogatory, primarily by the Protestant north. Mediterranean peoples, and especially Catholics, with not particularly great appeal to economic growth, are treated as category B Europeans, on one hand effected by the current economic crisis on the other, ridiculed by some partners in northern Europe, they have been characterized as "lazy ", 
"parasite", " pigs ", etc. , While believing that they are "sinners" who should be "imprisoned".

The existence of these stereotypes is obviously a product of various combinations of parameters: firstly the current politico-economic conditions and also the different glimpse into the personality, culture and historical and cultural background among the peoples of Europe. It seems that has somehow developed in Europe a psychological gap between the Protestant north and Catholic (and Orthodox) South, which, however, due to the gradual spread of economic crisis and north of the Alps, begins to subside, though perhaps not at the expected degree.

Moreover, the fact that Greece is a true European country, but not essentially Western, as orthodox, seem not to create favorable conditions for developing this very friendly feelings of the western side of cycles that affect to some extent the common opinion, some of which connect or identify Greece (Hellas) with their enemy, Russia, even talking about "slavic-orthodox" culture and has become a reason for the existence of an "unholy alliance" or an "axis of evil" of the Greek Orthodox and Serbs during the wars of former Yugoslavia in the '90s. Also, in the German press of the era was pulled from the limbo of history the theory of Fallmerayer, for obvious reasons, and maps were circulated to Greece as a patchwork of peoples, with the eastern Aegean islands belonging to Turkey.

Of course phenomena of suspicion and hostility toward the West, especially to the Germans, have been observed previously on a part of some Greek Orthodox, given the many negative experiences accumulated from centuries of coexistence with the West. So in light of the above could be interpreted the phenomenon of being in Europe today some negative stereotypes about Greeks, and certainly in line with the general historical background of relations between the Greeks and the West.
However, the peoples of the West, including parts of northern European populations, begin to understand now the real causes of the current global economic crisis, developing in many cases philhellenic feelings, even philhellenic action: eg movement "Je suis 
 Grecque" («I'm Greek"), developed in Nantes, France from the end of 2011, which has spread to other countries, is perhaps the first important example of European solidarity movement to the Greek people . Also, from February 2012 Italian mayors offer symbolic salary in favor of the Greek people in the solidarity movement philhellenic "Magna Grecia" («Great Greece").
The Greek (Hellenic) civilization and the human values, which it represents, may constitute a realistic alternative, universal character anthropocentric proposal against the Protestant value system and the instrumentalist Anglo-Saxon thought, a product which is now the dominant socio-economic anti-human, neoliberal model emergence of the individual benefit. The struggle today is not so among the Greeks (Hellenes) and the West, but between peoples and the global financial oligarchs and their oppressors. The request to return to the values ​​of Greek (hellenic) culture seems now increasingly imperative for all mankind, this helps the Greeks to get closer to with the peoples of Western Europe, leaving behind any prejudices and passions of the past.

Published in the journal "Νέος Λόγιος Ερμής" (January - April 2012).

related: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xWI3uEJnOlI&list=PL4D25B85C43A26CD6

6 σχόλια:

Anonymous said...

We think of Greeks as a bunch of hoodlums,
liars, tax evaders, cheats, con men and just
plain gypsy trash. What a shame, that people
with such history can evolve into human filth.
....and taking a bath can'y wash away the stench.

from United States White Trash. We know
you because we are just like you.

Anonymous said...

Hellas will never die.
It has endured for 5,000 years.
If you had known your history, you would
have a better understanding.

Long live the 300 Spartans !

As always,there are many traitors among us,
implants of our countless enemies,
their time will come !

You can try to defeat Greece (as a country),
You can not defeat Hellas,
We are the World !

Anonymous said...

Hellenism has endured in the Haemus [Greek] peninsula for more than 3 Millenniums. Greek-Hellenic culture has endured Persian excruciations, Celtic invasions, Roman occupation, Hunnic barbarity, Ostro-Gothic treachery, Slavic settlement, Pope inspired crusades, Catholic betrayal and Turkish domination covering a time continuum spanning milleniums...Greeks survived to tell the tale. Greeks preserved Hellenism, the Hellenic language and culture into the modern era.

Who got bottle to Rubbish This!

Anonymous said...

Lol didnt read

Anonymous said...

Hello my Mediterranean brothers, I´m Spanish, and I have to say that Spain suffered all kind of black legends and Stereotypes due to the glory of the Spanish Empire, stereotypes that have persecuted us throughout history until nowadays made by the protestants of Northern Europe which all the richness that they have comes from the pillaging of other countries. History is written nowadays by the XIX century perspective. Our civilizations from Alexander the Great to the Roman Empire and then the Spanish Monarchy were the real cvilizations of the west and you Greeks were the pioneers. When I visit Greece for holidays I feel like I´m at home, We look like more than you think and I felt PROUD of it. I know about your suffering made by the usurers and banks, however the suffering won´t lasts forever. I wish you all the best my dear people. Our real richness are not written in Dollar notes but our culture, sociey, lifestyle, weather, food and so on...

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