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Greek-American Stories: History in the Minds of School Kids

I’m sure we’ve all heard, at some time or other, stories about the ancient Greeks. In some schools it was required reading. In other schools it may have been required reading, but it wasn’t required that the students understood. But, recently, in a magazine, I’d read a collection of history bloopers, collected by a retired teacher, history as written by students from eighth graders to college level students. I repeat! College level! If you haven’t come across the magazine article, I hereby save you the trouble of looking it up. Here are a few that I think really entertaining and informative. And, if you are observant – who knows? – you may learn something, too!

This piece was written by a high school kid who was supposed to read and write an essay on what he had read: “The Greeks were a highly sculptured people and without them we wouldn’t have history. They invented three kinds of columns – Corinthian, Ironic and dorc – and built the apocalypse. They, also, had myths. One myth says that the mother of Achilles dipped him in the river Stynx until he became intolerable. Achilles appears in The Iliad, by Homer. Homer, also, wrote, The Oddity, in which Penelope was the last hardship that Ulysses endured on the journey. Actually, Homer was not written by Homer but by another man of that name.”

Another student wrote, “Socrates was a famous Greek teacher who went around giving people advice. They killed him. Socrates died from an overdose of wedlock. After his death, his career suffered a dramatic decline.”

OK sportsmen! Here’s a good one: “In the Olympic Games, Greeks ran races; they jumped, hurled the biscuits and threw the java. The reward to the victors was a coral wreath.”

This one was written by a student who, I hope, didn’t go into politics: “The government of Athens was democratic because people took the law into their own hands. There were no wars in Greece because the mountains were so high that they couldn’t climb over them to see what their neighbors were doing. When they fought with the Persians the Greeks were outnumbered because the Persians had more men.”

If the following student ever decided to become a playwright, I’d quit ever going to see a play: “Aristotle was famous for his plays. He rationed out his situations by relieving himself in long soliloquies. Another play, written by another Greek, is about a son who loves his mother and invents [the] Oedipus complex where his mind is full of ideas every time he sees his mother.”

This one nearly sent me to the medicine cabinet for something that would calm my rattled nerves.  “Eventually, the Romans conquered the Greeks. History called them Romans because they never stayed in one place for very long. Julius Caesar extinguished himself on the battlefields of Gaul. The Ides of March murdered him because they thought he was going to be made king. Dying, he gasped out, “Tee Hee, Brutus!”

The teacher who had to read and correct this next one, probably, took early retirement. “Nero was a cruel tyranny who would torture his poor subjects by playing the fiddle to them. Today Rome is full of fallen arches. And, Athens has a lot of fallen arches, too.”

Well, we can only hope that history, later on, was saved by receiving a historectomy. I’d bet none of those kids knew the names of the three ships Christopher Columbus sailed with. But we know, don’t we! They’re the Ninja, the Pizza, and the Santa Domingo. Zeus help us!



This article is part of a continuing series dealing with reports of Greek POWs in Asia Minor in the Thessaloniki newspaper, Makedonia in July 1936.

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