Scotland's small thank-you to the Greeks for all they gave us Where would B&Q be without the humble screw?

Category: 300 News | Posted by: admin
Article Date: January 11, 2007 | Publication: The Scotsman | Author: Stephen McGinty
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LOVE, actually, is Greek. The Goddess of Love in Greek mythology is Aphrodite, who was born in the sea off Cyprus, conjured from the foam produced by the severed genitals of Zeus's grandfather, hurled there by his son. Not the most auspicious of starts in life, you might agree, though Aphrodite subsequently thrived, going on to become not only the Goddess of Love but, in the eyes of the Spartans, also a Goddess of War. So, by default, she was the Goddess of Married Couples.

We've the Greeks to thank for a few other things, too. The cherished idea of democracy flowered in the 6th century BC, when power was first passed to the people. Or rather, the 10 per cent of Athens' population classified as citizens - women, slaves and foreigners not quite making the grade.

Then there are geometry, bawdy comedy and philosophy. The entire canon of western thought: Marx, Descartes, Derrida are all balanced on the shoulders of three men. Aristotle (384-322BC), who stood on the shoulders of his master, Plato (429-347BC) who was, in turn, propped up by Socrates (469-399BC), a swashbuckler who hacked his way through the Peloponnesian war. Where would B&Q be without the humble screw? Or Argos, for that matter, if it hadn't swiped the name of the new court of Agamemnon, King of Mycenae and destroyer of Troy?

Sure, they gave us a few bum steers. We could all have done without the secret police, whose antecedents can be found in the Kryptia, an elite group of Spartans, who slaughtered troublesome helots by night. And do we really need the marathon? Remember a poor Athenian messenger did it out of necessity, so why are millions of us now doing it for fun?

Still, it's nice to know that Scotland is now giving a little something back to Ancient Greece, a thank-you for all that which those beardy men in skirts and togas gave us. It was announced this week that geological tests carried out by Professor John Underhill, a geologist at the University of Edinburgh, have given extra weight to the theory that an area of the Greek island of Cephalonia, called Paliki, was, 3,500 years ago, an island. This now makes it the most likely location for "bright Ithaca", as Homer described the home of Odysseus, the warrior whose wooden horse tricked the Trojans. This, in turn, will allow fresh archaeological digging for his city and its fabled palace. Exciting stuff, for history buffs.

Then, in March, the film 300 is released, which tells the story of the legendary 300 Spartan warriors who held off the Persian empire at the narrow pass at Thermopylae. Our own Gerard Butler has donned a leather skirt to play Leonidas, the Spartan king who led the band to their victorious deaths, still remembered today by the stone inscription: "Go tell the Spartans, stranger passing by, that here obedient to their words, we lie." To judge by the trailer, he brings a deep vein of Scots menace to the role.

So let us take our fellow Scotsmen as an example and remember that it's never too late to wander through the fragrant groves of Greek history, a subject, of course, given to us by Herodotus. Though please don't make the same mistake as I made. The impeccable logic of childhood meant that when I first heard the phrase "The face that launched a thousand ships", I assumed that Helen of Troy must be exceedingly ugly, having been, like a fine bottle of vintage champagne, clattered off the bow of ship after ship after ship.

SO, WHAT more can I say about the tantalising prospect of Morrissey taking part in the Eurovision song contest than lament that he is one year too late? The victors of the 2006 competition were, if you remember, the Finnish Heavy Metal band, Lordi. Made up to resemble fiendish beasts, and equipped with axes dripping with blood, they were unstoppable, and laid waste to the whole of Europe, ransacking points from every judge. Only one man and his trusty daffodils could have prevented such carnage. Thanks for the offer, Morrissey, but where were you in our hour of need?

GORDON Brown has said he won't use Chequers when he becomes prime minister. When his neighbours in Fife grow weary of armed police and the SAS crawling through the undergrowth, I think he'll reconsider. C'mon, Gordon, live a little. It's only a country house. Just remember: don't play croquet during working hours.