I was always politically active, since I can remember myself touching for first time Plato and his endless ideas about the ideal state. Looking back in the middle 90´s, Greece was still under the communistic ¨enlightenment¨, a leftover of the latest civil war, the first chapter of the Cold one.
The results are of-coarse known, but the victor in the hearts and minds of most Greeks, were Marx´s and Lenin´s children. All that in theory of-coarse, because in reality, Greeks are crying of their communistic ideals by electing governments that make Saddam Hussein´s reign look even more socialistic than Mother Teresa herself. No matter how much I was involved in politics though, it wasn't until I got to met Sir Winston Churchill that I really loved it, and reason to that was no other, than the sparkling mixture of politics and old good British humour.
Sir Winston is perhaps the zenith and epitome of British humour as we know it, with explosive and poisonous quotations, sarcastic and cynical lines that could make every human with intelligence, laugh. He has said countless quotes, but the most memorable to me, were his notorious moments with Lady Astor. I still can remember a biographical film about him where he was having breakfast with his wife, while he was trying to set in a descriptive manner that their economic situation was bad, and measures had to be taken in order to prevail unpleasant circumstances.
The dialogue that followed changed forever my way of seeing politics.
-Winston: ¨Unfortunately we have to proceed into drastic economical changes my dear.¨
-Clementine: ¨How bad is the situation darling?¨
-Winston: ¨I am afraid that we even must give up on the marmalade¨
-Clementine: (yells upset) The marmalade????
(Clementine grabs the bowl with the salad and smashes it furiously on the floor, while the maid enters the kitchen in terror)
-Maid: Sir! Are you all-right sir?
-Winston: ¨The brussels misbehaved¨
The man was a God damned prodigy. Perhaps I still haven´t seen anyone equal to his spirit and with that sense of humour. But why humour is of such importance in our life? Aristotle, a man that could bare everything and everyone, was more negative to people without humour, than his philosophical confronters. What the ancient greek philosophers used to do, was to disagree, and they indeed used to disagree about everything. Perhaps the only thing that all of them had as a common denominator, despite the teaching style, was their opinion about humour. The reason why humour was so acceptable (if not a necessity) lays into its´ very own name.
The word ¨Humour¨ comes from the latin ¨Humor¨ a loan from the greek ¨Χυμόρ¨ (Himór), and directly translates as ¨Juice¨. The term is of two major parts, with the first one, being
¨Χύμ-¨ (Hím-) for ¨Χὐνω¨ (Híno) eng. ¨spill¨ ¨pour¨ ¨drop¨ + ¨όρ¨ (ór) for ¨Ροή¨ (Roí) eng. ¨Flow¨.
The synthesis of those two, let a meaning of ¨spilling-flow¨ that was used as ¨Juice¨ and therefore as ¨distilled intelligence¨
Many people today are under the impression that the ancient Greeks philosophers were people of extreme strictness and very serious, but they had a great sense of humour that still up to date very few have managed to challenge their creativity. Closing, I will give some ancient greek humorous stories , wishing to everybody ¨Ευδιάθετον Πνεύμα¨ (Evdiátheton Pnévma, eng. Humorous Spirit).
# Once, the court of Pella was advising Philip II the Macedon to exile a man that was sycophant.
Calm, the King responded:
¨You must be out of your minds! It´s enough to slander me here, I don´t need him to do the same in the rest of Greece!¨
# Once, Xantippe (the wife of Socrates) was furious on him about something he had done, and she threw him a bucket of water. Socrates, completely calm, said in public:
¨Women are like Zeus! First they thunder and after it rains.¨
# A father once asked from Aristippus of Cyrene, to teach his son and the philosopher asked the amount of 500 Drachmas, while the father considered the fee very expensive.
- ¨With 500 drachmas, -the father said- I can buy an animal!¨
- ¨Do so. -said Aristippus- then you will have two.¨
# Zenon of Elea was once trying to convince Antisthenes, with lot´s of talking and very complicated arguments, that there is no motion in nature. Zenon was talking and talking endlessly while Antisthenes started walking and Zenon was following him.
Finally Antisthenes said to Zeno:
- ¨Don´t you think that the facts are stronger than your arguments?¨
# Antisthenes once was trying to show in public the holes on his hiton (robe) in public (Antisthenes was very rich while in contrast was a cynical philosopher) so Socrates interrupted him:
¨Antisthenes! Through your robe´s holes, I can clearly see your vanity.¨
# Once, King Philip II of Macedon issued an ultimatum to King Cleomenes II of Lacedaemon (Sparta)
- Philip II :
¨If I come in Peloponnesus, I shall tear the walls, and flat the city.
I will kill every Spartan, and every woman will be a prostitute and a slave,
I will destroy the temples and all houses.
If I come, Sparta will end. You are advised to submit without further delay,
for if I bring my army into your land,
I will destroy your farms, slay your people, and raze your city.
If I win this war, you will be slaves forever¨
-Cleomenes II: ¨IF¨
# Lycurgus of Lacedaemon was reportedly asked the reason for the less-than-extravagant size of Sparta's sacrifices to the gods. He replied,
-"So that we may always have something to offer."
# When the Persians sent envoys to the Spartans demanding the traditional symbol of surrender, an offering of ¨Soil and Water¨, the Spartans threw them into a deep well, suggesting that upon their arrival at the bottom, they could
"Dig it out for yourselves."
# When the banished Samians reached Sparta, they had audience of the magistrates, before whom they made a long speech, as was natural with persons greatly in want of aid. Accordingly at this first sitting the Spartans answered them that they had forgotten the first half of their speech, and could make nothing of the remainder. Afterwards the Samians had another audience, whereat they simply said, showing a bag which they had brought with them,
¨The bag wants flour.¨
The Spartans simply answered that they did not need to have said
# After the disastrous sea battle of Cyzicus, the admiral Mindaros' first mate dispatched a succinct distress signal to Laconia. The message was intercepted by the Athenians and was recorded by Xenophon in his Hellenica:
"The ships sank.
The men go hungry.
What do we do?"
# The heavy price of defeating the Romans in the Battle of Asculum (279 BC) prompted Pyrrhus to respond to an offer of congratulations with
"Another victory like that, and we are doomed"
("One more such victory and the cause is lost";
in Greek: Ἂν ἔτι μίαν μάχην νικήσωμεν, ἀπολώλαμεν
Án eti mían máchin nikísomen, ápolólamen)
# When news of the death of Philip II reached Athens in 336 BC, the strategos Phocion banned all celebratory sacrifice, saying:
"The army which DEFEATED US at Chaeronea has lost just one man."
# Demetrius I of Macedon was offended when the Spartans sent his court a single envoy, and exclaimed angrily,
"What! Have the Lacedaemonians sent no more than one ambassador?"
The Spartan responded,
to one king." ₪