Under the Black Flag

Drunk at the Same Fountain

I first met Sir Patrick Leigh Fermor in the summer of 1977, in Corfu.  I was on board Gianni Agnelli’s boat, and the charismatic Fiat chairman asked me to go ashore and bring “a very smart Englishman whose Ancient Greek is much better than yours.”  I knew Paddy, as everyone called him, by sight, because among us Greeks he was on a par with our ancient heroes.  Not only was Leigh Fermor famous for his books on Greece—Mani and Roumeli—he was renowned for his incredible heroics in a guerrilla operation in Crete in April 1944.  Having spent two years disguised as a Cretan shepherd in the rough mountains of the island harassing German troops, Paddy dressed as a German police officer and stopped a car carrying Gen. Karl Kreipe, the island commander.  Having killed the general’s chauffeur, Leigh Fermor proceeded to wear the general’s hat and managed to bluff his way through the capital, Heraklion, and 22 subsequent checkpoints.  Kreipe was stuffed under the back seat while Leigh Fermor’s bat man and three hefty Greek rebels sat on him.  For three weeks the group managed to evade frantic German search parties, finally marching the general over Mount Ida, the mythical birthplace of Zeus.

One moonlit night, high up, Fermor was guarding the general when Kreipe, gazing up at the snowy peak, recited the first line of an Horatian ode (Ad Thaliarchum): “Vides ut...

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