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  • Christians and the Classics:War against Reason
  • Evaggelos G. Vallianatos (bio)

The Athens Olympics in August 2004 were as much a reminder of what Christianity did to the Hellenes in the past two millennia as it was a celebration of the coming home of this great ancient Hellenic tradition. It was the Christian emperor Theodosius who abolished the Olympics in the late fourth century after its life of some 1,169 years. The Hellenes started the Olympics to honor Zeus, father of both gods and people, and to remind themselves of their common culture. It was an athletic event and a Panhellenic religious and political celebration of athletic excellence that marked the unity of the Greek world.

Now the Olympics, which were brought back to life in 1896, have become the greatest show on earth, having nearly nothing to do with their Hellenic origins. The reason is that they are now tied to a different civilization whose defining characteristics are Christian monotheism and money. The ancient Greeks used money, too, and they gave plenty of money to those athletes who won immortality in the Olympics, but their polytheistic religion colored everything they did, including their organization of the Olympics, which was primarily a means of paying their respect to Zeus. Yet the people of the West, who now own the Olympics, have the illusion they are following in the path of the Greeks. They are not. On the contrary, Christianity and materialism have been an insurmountable obstacle in the vague Hellenic dream of the western people, including modern Greeks living in Greece and staging the non-Hellenic Olympics in Athens in 2004.

Western people credit the Greeks for their civilization. Yet, despite the Renaissance, which formally integrated Greek thought into Western culture, Christianity, an ancient enemy of Greek thought, remains as the core foundation [End Page 75] of the Western world. In the best of circumstances, this makes Greek thought an ambivalent value in the Western tradition. In fact, during the late twentieth century, an industry of anti-Greek academics became more vociferous than ever before. So much so that a couple of American classicists, Victor Davis Hanson and John Heath, were compelled to write a book lamenting the "murder of Homer" at the hands of elite philologists and theorists who prefer "therapeutics, moral relativism, blind allegiance to progress, and the glorification of material culture" to Greek ideas and values.1 This may be true, but Christianity, more than anything else, made these philologists myopic in denouncing Homer and the Greeks. In fact, Christianity, not trivial philological pursuits, has been the first anti-Greek impulse in the West. This is particularly significant now that Christianity is ready to fight a war against Islam. Christianity, particularly in the United States, which is behaving and acting like the Roman Empire of the fourth century, is reverting to its crusading fervor, preparing the ground for another wave of global conversion and conquest.

What Christianity did to the Hellenes and their culture remains, by and large, a secret in Western historiography. Nevertheless, it is instructive as an explanatory model of the origins, nature, political, and global purposes of that religion. This "secret" Greek history also explains why modern Greece is facing an identity crisis of major dimensions. Christianity made Greece a palimpsest, that is, something antithetical to its very being. It forced Greece to become a country where Christians supplanted Homer and Hellenic culture and on top of them wrote Christian stories.

The Nature of Christianity: War against the Classics

The war of Christianity against Homer, the genius of Greek civilization, started in the fourth century when the Roman Emperor Constantine I (306-37) raised Christianity from a persecuted sect to official religion of the Roman Empire. Some sixteen hundred years later, Christianity is still fighting its war against Hellenism in Greece, the warfare being now conducted at a low level, almost invisible, but nonetheless effective in its ceaseless denunciation of Hellenic culture. [End Page 76]

Experts on late antiquity hint that the ancient Greeks were in trouble at the hands of the Christians. These scholars, overwhelmingly Christian, treat the Greeks in a perfunctory manner, lacing their narrative and analysis with some of the...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-1935
Print ISSN
1047-4552
Pages
pp. 75-94
Launched on MUSE
2004-10-01
Open Access
No
Archive Status
Archived 2019
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