The Mystery of the Greeks

The Mystery of the Greeks

We read in our history books that the ancient Greeks were largely the foundation of our civilization. Athens and Jerusalem were the twin fountainheads of how we think to this day. Athens provided the science and Jerusalem provided the ethics. As historian of the Greek world Sean Gabb puts it:

The first lecture in the course makes a case for the Greeks as the exceptional people of the Ancient World. They were not saints: they were at least as willing as anyone else to engage in aggressive wars, enslavement, and sometimes human sacrifice. At the same time, working without any strong outside inspiration, they provided at least the foundations for the science, mathematics, philosophy, art and secular literature of later peoples

So there is a mystery there. If the Greeks of today are exceptional for anything it is indolence. Where did their ancestors get their novel ideas from?

People so far have mainly been content to see ancient Greek genius as a sort of bolt from the blue. The ancient Greeks were amazingly modern and very inspiring and that is just the way it is. There is very little enquiry about how the ancient Greeks got to be that way. It seems unlikely that some sort of genetic accident produced the ancient Greeks so so there is no obvious line of enquiry into what produced them.

But I think at least a skeleton of an explanation for their emergence has opened up. And I think the key lies in what archaeologists call the Vinca culture. I think the Greeks did have precursors in wisdom and that the precursors were nearby in Europe, in what is now often called “old Europe”.

Vinca is a well documented excavation site around the modern-day Serbian village of Vinca, which is in turn close to Belgrade, the capital of modern Serbia. And the culture that is revealed there was actually widespread in South central Europe. Vinca may well not have been its focus or original source, which is why the basic culture concerned is often more generally called “old Europe”. There is a considerable range of sites in which similar artifacts to those at Vinca have been found, mostly northward from Greece. We read:

As early as the 6th millennium BC, three millennia before Dynastic Egypt, the Vinca culture was already a fully fledged civilisation. A typical town consisted of houses with complex architectural layouts and several rooms, built of wood that was covered in mud. The houses sat along streets, thus making Vinca the first urban settlement in Europe, but being far older than the cities of Mesopotamia and Egypt. And the town of Vinca itself was just one of several metropolises, with others at Divostin, Potporanj, Selevac, Plocnik and Predionica.

Archaeologists concluded that in the 5th and early 4th millennia BC, just before its demise in east-central Europe, ‘Old Europeans’ had towns with a considerable concentration of population, temples several stories high, a sacred script, spacious houses of four or five rooms, professional ceramicists, weavers, copper and gold metallurgists, and other artisans producing a range of sophisticated goods. A flourishing network of trade routes existed that circulated items such as obsidian, shells, marble, copper, and salt over hundreds of kilometres.

The central issue in evaluating “Old Europe” is chronology. The source above places “Old Europe” as a very early phenomenon. It was for a time said to be much later but radiocarbon dating has pushed back its origins to a time at least as early as the Mesopotamian civilizations. It could even be earlier. Concerning the dating of some Vinca tablets found in Romania, we read:

Radiocarbon dating on the Tărtăria finds pushed the date of the tablets (and therefore of the whole Vinča culture) much further back, to as long ago as 5,500 BC, the time of the early Eridu phase of the Sumerian civilization in Mesopotamia. This finding has reversed our concept of the origin of writing, and it is now believed that the Sumerians inherited a Vinca tradition of ‘magical’ or ‘meaningful’ scripture, probably following the collapse of the Vinca homeland c. 3,500 BC.

That the Vinca culture was long thought to be much later than the Mesopotamian civilizations explains why virtually nothing about it appears in our history books. Depending on your chronological conclusions, it is just a minor archaeological footnote or the very origin of civilization itself.

I am taking what I think is a middling position: that “Old Europe” existed in Serbia and places North of it over a long period, with knowledge from it first being revealed to history as what we now know as ancient Greece.

I am submitting that we know so little of “Old Europe” primarily because we have no stories from it, even though some of their writings do exist. There ARE writings that have been recovered from “Old Europe” sites but we have no key to interpreting them. The writings that we have from sites in “Old Europe” do in fact resemble rather strongly the famed Cretan “Linear A” writing but we have no key to that either.

So what I think happened is that it was the wisdom preserved from “Old Europe” that suddenly popped into view in ancient Greece — and it popped into view when the Greeks started to use an alphabet, an alphabet that is an adaptation of the Hebrew/Phoenician alphabet, an alphabet that arrived in Greece by way of Phoenician traders. Phoenicia is of course only a short sailing journey from Greece and Phoenecians were for a very long time known as dedicated marine traders.

So it is to me rather wonderful that we do now appear to know something of what our most ancient European ancestors thought. It was Greek thought.


  1. Μωλον Λαβε says

    It is said that the Greeks are the smartest people in the world…….
    …….if you don’t believe them……ask them !

    It is said that God knows everything…..but the Greeks know things a little bit better !

    It is said that when we go to Mars……there will be a diner……run by a Greek !

  2. First, archaeologists just make up wild things for funding. You can’t be Orthodox if you don’t follow the Genesis account. And even if you’re an atheist, there’s no reason to trust academia.

    Second, the Greeks were so intelligent because the human genome hadn’t degraded. The Egyptians, Persians and Babylonians also made great advances in science, but they had less access to the sea and were bogged down in the occult. The Greeks were pagan, obviously, but they did much less sorcery. The Greeks also had a complex language that could express nuanced ideas. So the Greeks weren’t as unique as we think.

    Third, much of this special insight was based in Attica. Other Greeks were lower IQ. This wasn’t a universal, but it was a general pattern. So really it was concentrated in one area, and when Hellenism spread, it spread the ideas of Attica but not the mind.

    Fourth, modern Greeks aren’t really descended from the ancient Greeks. They are a mongrelized people of whoever lived in the northeastern Mediterranean, much how most “Hispanics” have little or no Spanish ancestry.

    Fifth, the Ottomans killed off any educated or wealthy Greek, so most Greeks today are descended from the Arkansas Greeks of Byzantium. This is why mainland Greece has such a degraded language but Cyprus has a relatively pure dialect. (Supposedly so does Pontus, but I’m not sure people still live there.)

    Somewhat related, does anyone know how Greek the Greek Orthodox people of Alexandria are? I don’t mean the bishops who are hand-picked from Greece. I mean the actual faithful. My guess is that at this point they don’t look very Greek anymore. I knew two Egyptian brothers who claimed to be from the Alexandrian patriarchate, but I’m pretty sure they were lying.

    Do the common Alexandrian Orthodox faithful speak Greek? Can they understand the liturgy?

    • Peter A. Papoutsis says

      This is so riddled with mistakes I hardly know where to begin. Smh at the utter stupidity. Oh well…Here’s your sign.


    • Austin,
      Forgive me, but it seems that you were rambling so much that it was hard for me to follow what the main point of your post was supposed to be highlight.

      So, with that said, what was the primary point you were articulating?

  3. Give me an ancient European civilization, and i show you how is come from Greek.

  4. Lenas Karadis says

    Diversity is exactly why Greece was so democratic and creative. Greece
    was a trading confederation, never a nation, in antiquity. Phoenician
    Lebanese were first to colonize Mediterranean including Punics of Spain and
    Quechua (Aztec, Inca, Maya; cf noses and pyramids) of America. Moroccans
    felt they were reuniting with Andalusian Punics. Phoenician Mafia Vendetta
    style of conflict resolution in Mani and Crete is obvious. Minoans were
    Phoenician Arabs (Ann Hum Gen, 2008, 72,205-214), distinguished as being
    Semites from Asia not Africa. Ahiya were from Egypt, why Sparta got wheat
    from Sicily. Ionian Attics were Jovan Scythians, which is why Athens got
    wheat from Scythia. Phillip, Alexander’s father, choked Athens by taking
    Byzantium. Carpathian Celts took Delphi 2c BC and became Galatians of Asia
    Minor who spoke Gaelic until 7c AD. Aeolians mingled with Carpathian Celts
    to become Thracian Vlachs. Dorians were Alpines who also mingled with
    Pelasgians to make Albanians. Everywhere Herodotus said there were
    Pelasgians, like Koropi near Athens, and Methana near Corinth, today are
    Arvanites. Trojans were undeniably Hittites, who appear with Mongolian
    Turkic Turanian slanted eyes on drawings. That is why the Trojan Romulus and
    Remus share Magog Volpomammic birth myth with American Indians and Uyghurs.
    Metaxas and Venizelos adulterated Herodotus and Thucidides for Bizmarkian
    nation building which still mess Greek minds. Hellenism was the original
    globalisation. The Mega Idea of Paul Melas was that whoever wanted to be a
    Greek, is. To restrict Greece to a tiny peninsula is to crush it.

  5. “…noses and pyramids”

    point, counterpoint…?

  6. George Michalopulos says