Thermopylae


Top of a reading list that James Mattis, the new US Defense Secretary, gave to his soldiers is a book on the battle of Thermopylae.

https://militaryreadinglists.com/reading_list/47-lt-gen-james-mattis

Thermopylae is about 125 kilometres south of Larisa, the town where Achilles was born according to myth.

Locals, however, tell me only Achilles’ mother was born in Larisa. Achilles himself was born in Farsala, in Pithia, the region of Thermoylae where  300 Spartans defended a mountain pass from thousands of Persian soldier in a legendary battle, buying time for reinforcements.

Can only say Homer’s epic poem Illiad featuring Achilles fighting in Troy is really riveting, more riveting than Steven Pressfields book, although I only glanced at it on Amazon. Can only recommend the Illiad in the translation by Robert Fagles.

Anyway, as I make a new push to learn modern Greek to help me with my case here in Larisa by reading literature in parallel with English texts, I just came across a poem called Thermopylae.

It’s by Cavafy and was written about 1910.

What is the Thermopylae in our lives? What do we define ourselves by? What are we ready to guard? Where are our red lines? What are our rock solid values, convictions, habits? Where are we ready to give ground?

In 2016, free humanity has scored two Thermopylae style victories in Brexit and the election of Donald Trump.

Tomorrow, a referendum in Italy and the presidential election in Austria could see two more staggering victories against the Globalist empire.

Thermopylae

Honor to those who in the life they lead
define and guard a Thermopylae.
 Never betraying what is right,
 consistent and just in all they do
 but showing pity also, and compassion;
 generous when they are rich, and when they are poor,
 still generous in small ways,
 still helping as much as they can;
 always speaking the truth,
 yet without hating those who lie.
 
 And even more honor is due to them
 when they foresee (as many do foresee)
 that in the end Ephialtis will make his appearance,
that the Medes will break through after all.

http://www.cavafy.com/poems/content.asp?id=69&cat=1

And this is the Greek version. Just in case you too, dear reader, want to start learning modern Greek without using standard, and mega boring?, text books…At least, this approach works better for me. I just started and am already learning much more than ever before and the new words stick in my memory.

Θερμοπύλες  

Τιμή σ’ εκείνους όπου στην ζωή των
ώρισαν και φυλάγουν Θερμοπύλες.
Ποτέ από το χρέος μη κινούντες·
δίκαιοι κ’ ίσιοι σ’ όλες των τες πράξεις,
αλλά με λύπη κιόλας κ’ ευσπλαχνία·
γενναίοι οσάκις είναι πλούσιοι, κι όταν
είναι πτωχοί, πάλ’ εις μικρόν γενναίοι,
πάλι συντρέχοντες όσο μπορούνε·
πάντοτε την αλήθεια ομιλούντες,
πλην χωρίς μίσος για τους ψευδομένους.

Και περισσότερη τιμή τούς πρέπει
όταν προβλέπουν (και πολλοί προβλέπουν)
πως ο Εφιάλτης θα φανεί στο τέλος,
κ’ οι Μήδοι επί τέλους θα διαβούνε. 

http://www.kavafis.gr/poems/content.asp?id=150&cat=1

 

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