My birthplace has been in the news lately—this time not for tragic plays, philosophy, or wartime gallantry, but for cheating. In cahoots with Goldman (Ali Baba) Sachs, the Greeks cooked the books, took E.U. money, and ran. Once caught, they rioted and even managed to murder a pregnant woman who—unlike the rioters—was working at her bank desk. “What is wrong with you Greeks?” asked a friend of mine. “Can’t you play by the rules?” Well, er, no, not really. Here is a brief historical background so we can understand why Greeks in general, and Greek governments in particular, cheat.
After the glorious centuries of antiquity, the Greeks became an integral part of the Eastern Roman Empire with its opulent capital, Constantinople, founded in a.d. 330 by the emperor Constantine.
Constantinople lasted until 1453, when Sultan Mehmed II and his Ottoman Turks captured and sacked the city. Four hundred years of Turkish domination followed, and with it came most of the ills that have plagued modern Greece: civil disobedience, distrust of authority, and a lack of political maturity.
Modern Greece was founded in 1830, after nine years of revolutionary struggle against the Turks. Britain, Russia, and France assisted the revolutionaries, but the new government struggled from the start. Today, 180 years later, Greece is still out there begging for money...