The Struggle for the Aegean

A drawing of a person fighting a person Description automatically generated

Warrior combat, about 1450s BCE, Pylos, Peloponnesos. Engraved on a gem found in a tomb near King Nestor’s palace in Pylos. Treasured discovered by Sharon Stocker and Jack Davis, Classics Department, University of Cincinnati. Courtesy of the Palace of Nestor Excavations, Department of Classics, University of Cincinnati.

Prologue

The Aegean Sea has been an intimate part of the history of the Hellenes / Greeks and their civilization. For millennia, the Aegean Sea united the Asia Minor / Ionia to the mainland of Hellas / Greece. It was the water bridge between the numerous small and large Aegean islands.

The Cycladic islands, in southern Aegean and north of the large island of Crete, sparked Greek civilization in the Bronze Age, 3,100 – 1,000 BCE. They built houses with running water, sanitation, and cobblestone streets. Their sanctuaries were large buildings for the offering of gifts, sacrifices, and piety (εὐσέβεια) for the gods. Women were dressed in beautiful, hand-woven and multi-colored clothes. Their hair were long and stylish. The Cyclades also developed an exquisite art of sculpture, ceramics, and metallurgy. This refined culture characterized the other islands of the Aegean as well. The island of Lemnos in northern Aegean, for example, was the workshop of Hephaistos, god of metallurgy and advanced technology. The divine model of Hephaistos and his sons, the great Kabeiroi gods, inspired the Aegean Greeks to advance metal works and engineering.

The other influences came from Minoan Crete and Mycenaean mainland Greece. Extensive trade in products of metal, gold, silver, and ceramic art and, possibly, food and agriculture, helped the Greeks of the Aegean, Crete, and Peloponnesos / mainland to exchange ideas, celebrate their Greek identity, and maintain their freedom. After all, these Greeks spoke the same language, wrote in Linear B and alphabetic Greek, offered piety to the same gods, and created the same civilization of the rule of law, popular assemblies, political independence and passion for freedom.

Greek history

Greeks were by no means perfect. Like other people, they quarreled with each other and sometimes fought civil wars. Neighborhood people like the Persians tried unsuccessfully to conquer Greece. The Greek defeat of the Persians in 490 and 480 BCE gave rise to a renaissance of science and civilization, most clearly evident in Athens. The polis of goddess Athena, Athens, built the Parthenon to honor her patron and defender, daughter of Zeus and mirror of intelligence, philosophy, and freedom. The greatness of Athens tied the Aegean islands in a defense alliance for keeping the Persians at bay. This rise of Athens to power caused fear in Sparta, the superpower of ancient Greece. The result was the destructive Peloponnesian War, 431-404 BCE. Athens lost the war. The consequence was a divided Greece and increasing Persian influence. This was a continuation of the Persian policy during the Peloponnesian War of funding Spartans to keep fighting the Athenians.

The fourth century BCE was a turbulent era. Poleis (city-states) competed for supremacy. Macedonia won. King Philip II defeated Athens and Thebes and united the Greek world. Aristotle, student of Plato, inventor of science, and the greatest genius of Greece, tutored the Macedonian prince Alexander. He edited the Iliad and the Odyssey of Homer for Alexander. He urged his pupil to bring the Persian danger to an end. Alexander did. He conquered Persia and set the foundations for the spread of Greek culture all over the world. Alexander, however, died in 323 BCE. He was barely 33 years old. His empire lasted for about 300 years. The Romans inherited it by force of arms. The Romans learned from the Greeks, but not enough to continue the course of Greek civilization. Their choice of Christianity in the fourth century wrecked the edifice of both Roman and Greek culture. Dark ages followed, though the Greek east fared better than the Latin West captured by northern European barbarians.

The Greek East with Constantinople as its capital lasted for more than a millennium. It was a defender of Western civilization. But political and theological divisions within Christianity undermined medieval Greece to the detriment of Europe. In 1054, Orthodox Christianity anathematized Latin Christianity and the Pope returned the favor. This Cold War became hot war with Venetian, German, and French crusaders capturing Constantinople in 1204. Meanwhile Mongol Turks kept attacking the weakened Greeks until, in 1453, they took over medieval Greece.

The Mongol Turkish conquest of Greece changed world history. Most educated Greeks left their country carrying with them their ancient treasures of poetry, literature, philosophy, science, technology, and the arts. They brought the ancient Greek manuscripts to Padua, Florence, and Venice, where they translated them into Latin. These works sparked the Renaissance of the fifteenth century and, in a sense, created our world.

The Greeks in Greece were left in a concentration camp with barbarians at the gates. They suffered unspeakable atrocities. Finally, in 1821, they revolted and won their political independence. Their torturers, the Turks, are still trying to reverse the liberation of Greece. America has been conspiring against Greece, primarily because they want to keep Turkey in their military camp of NATO. They use Greece like a lure. They gave northern Cyprus to the Turks in 1974. Fifty years later, the Turks have cleansed northern Cyprus of Greeks. They are planning to grab the rest of Cyprus.

Erdogan’s war games

The president of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan understands the hubris of President Joe Biden, thinking of weakening / defeating Russia through his proxy war in Ukraine. So, Erdogan is probably demanding from Biden more of Greece in return for keeping his country in NATO. Erdogan wants the Aegean. He is acting like the leader of a large powerful state. He is heading a sophisticated campaign of propaganda and military force, telling the Turks and the world that the Aegean is the blue homeland of Turkey. He even had the audacity of stating that Turkey will defend its blue homeland. Of course, we don’t know if Biden has been encouraging Erdogan’s war path. But the behavior of the Greek Prime Minister, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, mirrors American pressure to comply with the hostile demands of Turkey. There’s no other explanation. Mitsotakis must be aware of the lies and threats of Erdogan about the Aegean. So, why the shenanigans of Erdogan visiting Athens and Mitsotakis Ankara? To improve “neighborly relations” while Erdogan is openly practicing how to grab the Aegean? Only American demands on Mitsotakis explains the madness of Erdogan and the cowardliness of Mitsotakis, his shameful behavior.

What about the Greeks?

Since the assassination in 1831 of Ioannes Kapodistrias, the first president of independent Greece, the country has lived from day to day on the whims of European monarchical powers and, since WWII, the dictates of America. The politics of Greece facilitates outside interference. The political parties represent not the patriotic desires of the Greek people for national defense, self-reliance, and prosperity at home. The agenda of the parties is full of the interests or claims of foreign ideologies and powers and corporations. The mass media of Greece, like those of Hollywood America, have mixed national news with entertainment and beautiful women reporters. Listening to a story one does not know what to accept as truth or simply enjoy the looks of the female reporter.

This corruption harms democracy, especially democracy at its place of birth. The prime minister is an elected monarch. He and his close advisors, doing the bidding of foreigners, become ethnonihilists. This metamorphosis helps Erdogan and other enemies of Greece.

Where does Erdogan come from?

Mitsotakis should know that Erdogan represents a country that tyrannized Greeks for about 400 years. Moreover, in early twentieth century, Turkey employed its genocide weapon against its Greek minority, murdering about a million Greeks. So, how dare does he take Erdogan seriously?

Those who doubt the genocidal proclivities and practices of Turkey in the first 23 years or so of the twentieth century should read The Blight of Asia, a 1926 book of the experienced American diplomat George Horton who witnessed the ferocity of the Turks killing thousands upon thousands of Greeks and Armenians in Turkey. Horton worked in the Near East for 30 years. He accused the United States and European powers like Britain for cuddling the Turks for petroleum favors. This “great power” indifference to what the Turks were doing clearly encouraged them to finish off their Christian minorities. To this day, Turkey refuses to admit any wrongdoing. This guarantees that Erdogan and other Turkish leaders will repeat genocide against their enemies.

Epilogue

Greece and the European Union should convince the United States to face the Islamic danger of Turkey. Demand that Turkey accepts responsibility for the genocides it sponsored. The Turks must ask forgiveness for their genocide crimes; take their army of occupation out of Cyprus, while repatriating the Turks from the mainland back to their homes; allow the Cypriots (a minority of Turkish Cypriots and a majority of Greek Cypriots) to elect a unity government under the auspices of the Democratic Republic of Cyprus; Britain must remove its military bases from an independent Cyprus, which is a member of the United Nations and the European Union. Turkey must stop talking about its fake blue homeland. International law(the Treaty of Lausanne, 1923), limits Turkish sovereignty in the Aegean to 3 miles from the Asia Minor coast.

If Turkey complies, it can start a discussion with the European Union for closer relationships and potential entrance to the European Union — and improving its relations with Greece.

Evaggelos Vallianatos, Ph.D., studied history and biology at the University of Illinois; earned his Ph.D. in Greek and European history at the University of Wisconsin; did postdoctoral studies in the history of science at Harvard. He worked on Capitol Hill and the US EPA; taught at several universities and authored several books, including The Antikythera Mechanism: The Story Behind the Genius of the Greek Computer and its Demise.