Pan Hellenic Project Features Greek Achievements in Western Civilization

NEW YORK – Even the solid marble of the glorious Greek temples and statues would crumble with the passage of time if they are not preserved and maintained at high cost to the world’s museums and the Greek state. Likewise, Hellenes have to work and make sacrifices to preserve the part of their heritage that is not carved in stone. The Pan Helleni

NEW YORK – Even the solid marble of the glorious Greek temples and statues would crumble with the passage of time if they are not preserved and maintained at high cost to the world’s museums and the Greek state. Likewise, Hellenes have to work and make sacrifices to preserve the part of their heritage that is not carved in stone.
The Pan Hellenic Project is a tax-exempt organization that was created to produce “a series of educational DVDs reasserting the importance of Classical Greek ideas to Western civilization,” according to a letter accompanying the first volume which was just released and is titled “Our Greek Heritage.”
Three DVDs are planned and the goal is to send a set to the history department of every major college and university in the United States for free.
The DVD opens with shots of the great thinkers, artists, and buildings of Western Civilization – the U.S. Capitol, Beethoven, Da Vinci, Michaelangelo, the Coliseum – before settling on a striking images of the Parthenon and busts of Pericles and Socrates.
The narrator quotes the great English poet Shelley, who said “We are all Greek.” He continued, “but our educational system has done a terrible job of conveying that to students.”
The project is the initiative of members of the community that are active in the Order of AHEPA in Fresno, CA and who were outraged by the devaluation and rejection of the uniqueness of Hellenism’s contributions in the wake of the publication of Black Athena: The Afroasiatic Roots of Classical Civilization, by Martin Bernal (Rutgers University Press).
Although scholars like Mary Lefkowitz, who wrote the book Not out of Africa, challenged Bernal, his ideas continued to infect American educators.
The project was born of conversation by members of Chapter 151 of AHEPA, including Chris Rockas, a retired attorney who has served as AHEPA’s Supreme Councilor, and Robert Sexton.
Concerned about how the American education system was ignoring Ancient Greece, they took their idea of creating a twenty minute lecture to then-superintend of schools Peter Mihas, a fellow Hellene, who promised to get it into every high school in the county.
Their ideas evolved and when they discussed the matter with the whole chapter, Tony Kocolas, Professor of history at Merced College, said he had been thinking along the same lines, and they agreed to collaborate.
They got regional and national AHEPA approval, but were told “you have the project, you raise the funds for it.”
As part of their research, the group began to communicate with distinguished classicists Victor Davis Hanson and Bruce Thornton. The latter appears in the DVD.
After Chapter 151 had some initial success raising funds in 2006, the flow of money slowed down, but they reached out to various groups, including Cretan organizations that proved very generous and supportive.
James Maropoulakis Denney of Girard, OH, who made the successful presentation to the Pancretan Association of America at its convention in Las Vegas, also threw a fundraiser, and his son raised $3700 through his participation in the Athens Marathon that marked the 2,500th anniversary of the original run by Pheidippides.
The group recruited George Gianopulos to chair the oversight committee and bring the project to completion. He told TNH “I don’t do fundraising and I’m not a historian, but I sure as hell know how to get things from point A to point B.” He did exactly that for NASA spacecraft at the famed Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, CA.
By the end of 2012 they raised enough money to begin production of the first DVD.
The project is a stellar example of how cooperation and pooling resources among the community’s groups makes possible great accomplishments.
Rockas said that they were able to produce the first DVD for only $21,000. Kocolas wrote the script and served as director and John Mallos, a former television anchor, agreed to narrate it for free.
Thornton, now chairman of the Classics Department of Fresno State, like Hanson, a scholar who has been honored by the Greek government, agreed to participate at reduced rates, and the committee was able to take care of the production costs for $9000.
It was finally presented at the June 2013 District 21 AHEPA convention in Modesto, CA and was also well received at the national convention in August.
Rockas told TNH “the DVDs began selling like hot cakes.” They sold almost $4000 worth in two days.
The plan is to finance the second DVD through local sales of the first one, and the final one by selling the first two. They are targeting both educational institutions and individuals but they are searching for an agency to do national marketing.
The first DVD explains the Hellenic institutions and ideas that contributed to Western civilization and highlights the unique civic and cultural developments that are the foundation of modern Democracy, especially the supreme idea that ultimately authority on Earth belongs to and is derived from the body of citizens, not the gods.
The crucial importance to social and cultural progress of respect for the middle class “oi mezzoi” – the citizens who were neither farmers nor aristocrats – and of the value of the individual is also stressed.
The speakers note that by limiting the influence of the priestly class, the Greeks pioneered the separation of Church and State, and reinforced the right to question. By thus liberating the human mind from superstition, science and philosophy were able put down deep roots in the Western mind.
The DVD closes with the declaration Jacob Burckhardt, the great 19th century historian of art and culture: “We see with the eyes of the Greeks and use their phrases when we speak.”