The ongoing Greek financial crisis is creating political and economic turmoil within the country and beyond, especially within the European Community.  Join Active Minds as we share the story of Greece, from its ancient history to current struggle.  We will end with a look at how the story may continue to unfold given the economic response from the rest of Europe.

Key Lecture Points

  • The Minoan and Mycenae civilizations developed during the Bronze Age and were the origins of the civilization of Ancient Greece.  The city-state of Athens became the center of Greek art, science and philosophy.  In 336 BCE Alexander the Great of Macedonia built an empire that stretched as far as Asia Minor, Egypt, India and Afghanistan.  Octavius (later known as Augustus when he became the emperor of Rome) defeated Mark Anthony and Cleopatra in 31 BCE at the Battle of Actium, marking the end of Ancient Greece and the start of Roman rule of the Hellenistic world.   For two thousand years after the Battle of Actium, Greece was conquered several times and did not regain its independence until the 19th century.
  • Centuries later the culture of Ancient Greece still influences Western art, literature, philosophy, mathematics and science.
  • Greece held a strategic position in the post-war Cold War.  In 1947 President Truman provided military and economic assistance to Greece as a clear message to the Soviet Union that the US would come to the aid of countries threatened by communist aggression.
  • After joining the Eurozone in 2001, the Greek government began borrowing on a large scale and expanding public sector employment and benefits while taking a lax attitude to collecting taxes.  The 2008 global financial crisis plus the revelation that Greece had been misreporting its deficits, set off alarm bells about Greece’s ability to pay its creditors.  A time honored response would have been to devaluate but this was not an option for Greece because it is part of the eurozone.  Instead Greece went to the European Central Bank, the European Union and the International Monetary Fund for the first of three bailouts.  Since then Greece has spiraled ever deeper into a financial and political crisis in a way that has created an economic crisis in Europe as a whole.
  • Although Greece is a small economy—about 2% of the eurozone, the real impact of a possible Greek exit from the eurozone is that it would question the viability of the European common currency and even of the union itself.  A return to the drachma would likely bring more economic pain to Greece by causing a further drop in living standards, shortages, more layoffs, hyperinflation and potentially more civil unrest.

Exploration Questions

  • Name three major contributions of the Ancient Greeks to our world today.
  • Describe what caused the current Greek financial crisis.
  • What are the pros and cons of Greece returning to the drachma?

Reflective Questions

  • Greek mythology references are found throughout Western arts and literature.  Can you think of other areas of our culture where we see the influence of Greek mythology?  Some suggestions:  Product names (Nike, Amazon), Team names (Spartans, Trojans).
  • Do you think Greece should pull out of the euro?  Why?  Why not?

More to Explore

Books for Further Reading

  • Plato, Benjamin Jowett (translator).  The Trial and Death of Socrates: Four Dialogues.  Dover Publications, 1992.  128 pages.  Plato describes the trial and death of Socrates as well as Socrates’ thoughts on religion, respect for the law, death and the immortality of the soul.
    Click here to order
  • Ober, Josiah.  The Rise and Fall of Classical Greece.  Princeton University Press, 2015. 464 pages.  The author describes what factors led to the rise of Ancient Greece to its height in the Classical Period and what led to its decline.  He also provides insights on what Ancient Greece teaches us about how great civilizations are born and die.
    Click here to order
  • Buxton, Richard. The Complete World of Greek Mythology.  Thames & Hudson, 2004.  256 pages.  This book retells the Greek myths while providing context on the world in which the stories developed, their themes and how they reflect Greek religion and society.
    Click here to order