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Guest Viewpoints

The World Owes Greece

To Our Brothers and Sisters Across the Archipelagos In your hour of sorrow, I am writing to you to remind you – and the rest of humanity – that if we, those of us who benefit from the bounty of human civilization, live in a decent way worthy of human dignity, we owe that to you.

More than two-and-a-half millennia ago, your great ancestors showed mankind that we can think for ourselves, we can know without the help of any imaginary supernatural powers. They showed us that nature was not run by deities, but that can be understood and even harnessed by men for the good of men. But more important than allow for that, they taught us the value of human freedom. It is with free thinking that men began creating great art and science. And with that step, human civilization was born.

Before Greece, there had been cultures: great cultures indeed, in Egypt, Mesopotamia, Indian, China… but none was civilized, because they lacked individual freedom and the ability to argue without killing each other. Before Greeks showed the world otherwise, art was stifled, two-dimensional, and compartmentalized to depict rulers and the ruled, masters and slaves. Art had no time and no movement. It depicted a world of beings bound in chains. Your ancestors showed us how to break those chains. With the rise of the Greek individual, human individuality and dignity were invented. A being worthy of thinking himself one with the gods.

When lunacy, thinking itself deity, arrived from the East with the mightiest force the world had seen to that point, tiny Greece raised its head and said: “I shall not surrender, because I am a free human being. I shall not bow before any ruler, because I alone can rule my own world. I shall not be herded, because all my human siblings are individuals, worthy of equal respect. “You may kill me, because you are powerful, but you shall not enslave me, because I cannot be beaten into submission. I submit only to my own mind and convictions. These convictions may be changed by intelligent argument, but not by force.” Your noble dead at Marathon, Thermopylae, and Salamis represent the greatest monuments that mankind can ever erect for itself. It is their spirit that still watches.

A.M. Celal Sengor is a professor at the Istanbul Technical University

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