The spirit of exploration
Our cover story on historian Michael Wood is a personal inspiration because he has the job many of us would want in our fantasies—spanning the globe, literally, to methodically explore some of the fascinating epics of our Greek history. Did a Trojan War really take place? What were the mysteries of Eleusis and how has the sacred path changed? What drove Alexander the Great to his conquests, what was his world like, what was the Gordian knot and what did the desert look like where he famously poured the water into the sand to share the hardship of crossing that desert with his men?
Wood is a scholar, but he’s also a showman, and he’s made a career of combining the two. Not many of us can do that and he comes in a long line of scholars and pundits who have become showmen in the television age: Carl Sagan, David Attenborough, Alastair Cooke. That’s the beauty of television, that it can take a private passion and make it into a vivid reality and an obsession for millions of television watchers. Physics may have put many of us to sleep, but Carl Sagan took the mathematics of the universe and made it into the compelling drama of man’s quest for knowledge and the spirit of adventure by recreating the legendary repository of ancient knowledge, the library of Alexandria (and strolling through it), and then jetting off to visit the planets in a spaceship of his own creation—and grinning convincingly like a little boy when he took flight: a stuffy academic who was a natural for the television age.
The story of Alexander is fascinating because, to paraphrase historian Will Durant, it shows what man can do against all odds. We all have a little bit of Alexander in us—we need it to survive. But to go beyond and conquer the known world takes perhaps more courage than any of us have, and perhaps more madness.
This issue also features an interview with the minister of tourism of Greece, newly-appointed to his post, who makes us all aware that Greece can be as beautiful in the winter as it is in the summer. Greece has snow and skiing in parts, and it has the same attractions you see in the summer, but without the usual crowds. When I mention to people that I am Greek, they usually admit their dream, someday, of visiting Greece, or they remember the part of Greece they once visited on a memorable journey. Greece is a dream and destination for many of us, Greek or otherwise.
Enjoy the New Year and may it be memorable and profitable for you in spirit and happiness.
Dimitri C. Michalakis