In more recent years, even those who admire  Jack Kerouac’s “On the Road” , realize the book  challenges traditional values.For example, observers compare the Greek gods Apollo and Dionysus. In the same manner the  wily economic behavior of modern Greeks also seems to challenge the established canon  of gods and titans both financial  and mythical.   Apollo is the “god of light and perfection”, and Dionysus is the “god of wine and frenzy”.  Kerouac, like the Greek citizen attempts “to realize the Dionysian ideal”  and the Beat Generation is an example of “the Dionysian spirit” . Those hipsters on the Mediterranean.

'The connection between the Beats and Hippies? They are just all part of one big movement, a Dionysian movement, named after that Dionysius guy' Jack Kerouac in 60's TV interview

CLOUD-MAIDENS that float on forever,
Dew-sprinkled, fleet bodies, and fair,
Let us rise from our Sire’s loud river,
Great Ocean, and soar through the air
To the peaks of the pine-covered mountains where the pines hang as tressed of hair.
Let us seek the watch towers undaunted,
Where the well-watered cornfields abound,
And through murmurs of rivers nymph-haunted,
The songs of the sea-waves resound;
And the sun in the sky never wearies of spreading his radiance around.

The Frogs. Stephen Sondheim. "Nathan Lane stars as Dionysos in the musical, which is based on the Aristophanes classic. The ancient play focuses on a debate between Aeschylus and Euripides, to determine who is the greater artist. The winner of the contest returned to Earth with Dionysos to save civilization."

Let us cast off the haze
Of the mists from our band,
Till with far-seeing gaze
We may look on the land… ( Song of the Clouds, Aristophanes. trans. Oscar Wilde )

Many in the financial community have asserted all sane individuals should be aware of Greeks bearing bonds.  Wall Street listens: “Will Greece default?,” Dionysus, Aphrodite, Helen of Troy and Dante could not care less. Apparently, a mysterious Vatopaidi monastery brought down the last government, laying bare the country’s economic insanity. But beyond a $1.2 trillion debt ,roughly a quarter-million dollars for each working adult, there is apparently a more frightening deficit. After systematically looting their own treasury, in a breathtaking binge of tax evasion, bribery, and creative accounting spurred on by Goldman Sachs, Greeks are sure of one thing: they can’t trust their fellow Greeks. …

Anthony Quinn in Zorba the Greek. 1964

“The end of the Dionysian movement is always ecstasy, a going out of oneself, the loss of Ego to forces greater than it.Dionysus in his own realm of field and forest is nothing dangerous; he represents simply the flow of unconscious life in the whole psyche.But over against him stands Apollo, god of light and consciousness, the guardian of civilization and culture, education, commerce and civic virtue.To the civilizing Apollonian attitude, with its premium on rational consciousness and ego-integrity, nothing is more abhorrent, and hence more dangerously seductive, than the dark irrational urge”  ( William Everson )

John Hooper:Archaeologists studying an ancient mosaic found by workers laying cable south of Rome have been astonished to discover that it is an optical illusion. Viewed one way up it is a bald old man with a beard, but turned the other way round it is a beardless youth. Roberto Cereghino, a government archaeological official, told the Italian daily newspaper Corriere della Sera that it was "a very beautiful work, of immense significance". He said it appeared to be a depiction of Bacchus. The double face is surrounded by objects that were used in Bacchanalian rites: an ancient musical instrument, the sistrum, a two-handed drinking bowl, and a priestly wand. The mosaic's optical trickery may be linked to the fact that Bacchus was the god of wine.

a The vast economy of self-employed workers—everyone from doctors to the guys who ran the kiosks that sold the International Herald Tribune—cheated (one big reason why Greece has the highest percentage of self-employed workers of any European country). “It’s become a cultural trait,” he said. “The Greek people never learned to pay their taxes. And they never did because no one is punished. No one has ever been punished. It’s a cavalier offense—like a gentleman not opening a door for a lady.”

“The scale of Greek tax cheating was at least as incredible as its scope: an estimated two-thirds of Greek doctors reported incomes under 12,000 euros a year—which meant, because incomes below that amount weren’t taxable, that even plastic surgeons making millions a year paid no tax at all….On he went, describing a system that was, in its way, a thing of beauty. It mimicked the tax-collecting systems of an advanced economy—and employed a huge number of tax collectors—while it was

act rigged to enable an entire society to cheat on their taxes.” ( Michael Lewis )

Bacchus ( Dionysus ) by Titian. "The Dionysian is a way of bblife, a culture or an ethos, which stands in opposition to the Apollonian. It is the way of the God Dionysos, whether he is seen as a deity, a great spirit of nature, an archetype, an ancient teacher or a metaphorical principle. A figure in Greek myth,the god of untamed nature, the wild grapevine, wine and drugs, intoxication and liberation. The life force of the cosmos. A human born deity, a living, shape shifting, paradox half god and half beast, an intoxicated man-woman, feasting on wild mushrooms and drinking herbal potions, while bringing a message of liberation from oppression. Who in his most ancient myth is born from an 'obscene union' of Zeus and Persephone (Heaven and Hades), and soon after his birth is torn apart, by the Titanic forces of Nature he later commands, only to be reborn as a greater self from the phallus of Zeus. A lesson in true will and the transmutation of the ego. As an archetypal being a version of Dionysos is found in all cultures under different names..."

In the romantic era, the passion for Greece animated kings, princes , and governments in the wake of poets and artists. Swept up like Keats and Byron in pursuit of the classic ideal; the Aegina marbles were recovered in 1811 by Charles Robert Cockerell, John Foster and two Germans. All of them were architects, caught in the classical, yet romantic, flush of enthusiasm of the time for the Greeks. That evening their boat passed a British naval transport bearing the great Lord Byron, and as they passed under the stern of the transport they sang one of Byron,s favorite songs. The poet looked out of his window and invited them aboard; and as the sun set the architects and the poet and the naval officers drank port wine together.

They parted; and their boats took them in different ways. The divergence, the different directions were symbolic noyt only of the difference between the famous mid-fifth century marbles en route to London and the more ancient but rather less famous marbles which Cockerell and his friends were to find a day or two later, but of different attitudes both to Greece and to art itself.

Aegina Marbles. In the ancient world Aegina must have been something like Venice: an island state looking outward to a world of commerce. All its inhabitants were expelled at the beginning of the Pelopennesian War.

One common passion had assembled Byron , and the twenty large cases of sculpture, and Cockerell and the German Von Hallerstein on that ship in the gilded green evening off the Piraeus. The poets wrote poems, the dilettanti collected marbles, the architects and sculptors measured and then alas, imitated what they had measured; because in Greece, after the long centuries, north Europeans now felt themselves in touch at last with human perfection, with the dream in reality. Instead of its familiar dilution in Roman or Graeco-Roman products, here were Greek marbles carved, they thought, by Phidias. And in greece itself they at last breathed the Attic air which had caressed the philosophers and poets.

As was determined later, the camp where the architects camped belonged to that of Aphai and not to Zeus after all. She was the Aeginetan counterpart of Artemis; a nymph with Zeus for a father, whom Artemis favored.

…”The Greek state was not just corrupt but also corrupting. Once you saw how it worked you could understand a phenomenon which otherwise made no sense at all: the difficulty Greek people have saying a kind word about one another. Individual Greeks are delightful: funny, warm, smart, and good company. I left two dozen interviews saying to myself, “What great people!” They do not share the sentiment about one another: the hardest thing to do in Greece is to get one Greek to compliment another behind his back. No success of any kind is regarded without suspicion. Everyone is pretty sure everyone is cheating on his taxes, or bribing politicians, or taking bribes, or lying about the value of his real estate. And this total absence of faith in one another is self-reinforcing. The epidemic of lying and cheating and stealing makes any sort of civic life impossible; the collapse of civic life only encourages more lying, cheating, and stealing. Lacking faith in one another, they fall back on themselves and their families.” ( Michael Lewis )…

In Gregory Corso, beat poem “Marriage” the implication created by these concepts is that marriage is rather like a pre-packaged commodity; like tickets to a film, comic books, a house in the suburbs or furniture it is an experience that one buys into and does not create. It is so much part of middle class society that it no longer exists as an expression of love or devotion. Thus, as an institution, the speaker is entirely disillusioned with marriage.

Gregory Corso. notes Allen Ginsberg

John Clellon Holmes admits that “it is certainly a generation of extremes”. He went on to say that with this disenchantment with society and the desire to reform it, the Beat Generation were challenged by the tension existing between finding comfort and security in conformity or in excess. In Corso’s work, according to Carolyn Gaiser, “one finds the recurring embodiment of the Dionysian force of emotion and spontaneity, as opposed to the Apollonian powers of order, clarity and moderation.

In a series of fantasies, Corso’s  speaker takes a metaphor for middle class life and subverts it. A  few simple acts of subversion highlight the narrow boundaries of the middle class life; the books, portrait and stamps represent not only that which lies beyond those boundaries, but they confront and also subvert these limits. Dionysus dares Apollo and is representative of Corso and the Beats in the same search for the classic ideal that animated Byron and Goethe:

"Today, I want to highlight the poetry of Sappho. An Ancient Greek poet, she was born sometime during 600 - 700 BC, and is widely held to have been homosexual mainly because of the way she refers to women in her poetry, rather than men. The modern term 'lesbian' finds her as its source, as she hailed from the Isle of Lesbos."

In “Marriage”  the middle classes are represented by “Mrs Kindhead collecting for the Community Chest”, “the mayor coming to get his vote” and “the milkman”. The Community Chest, mayor and milkman are all illustrative of traditional social structures: the Community Chest is a charity organisation who distributes money given by,mainly, middle class people to the poor, the mayor is symbolic of the political organisation of society and the milkman is a common aspect of suburban dwelling. In subverting these elements, the speaker descends into what would be considered “mad” behavior: his actions are not appropriate to the circumstances. Again Dionysus comes face to face with Apollo, but because this subversion is not done secretively, by sneaking into a neighbor’s house, they have more of a feeling of the “excess” so assiduously avoided by the bourgeois. The tension between conformity and excess continues, whether quietly or out in the open. This Beat Generation issue is brought into the poem; as a member of the Generation, the speaker is torn between either having the appearance of conforming and in a clandestine manner upsetting middle class life or blatantly and loudly challenging it.

"Unless you know what to expect on Mount Athos—it has been regarded by the Eastern Orthodox Church for more than a millennium as the holiest place on earth, and it enjoyed for much of that time a symbiotic relationship with Byzantine emperors—these places come as a shock. There’s nothing modest about them; they are grand and complicated and ornate and obviously in some sort of competition with one another. In the old days, pirates routinely plundered them, and you can see why: it would be almost shameful not to, for a pirate."

…”Knowing nothing else about the Vatopaidi monastery except that, in a perfectly corrupt society, it had somehow been identified as the soul of corruption, I made my way up to the north of Greece, in search of a bunch of monks who had found new, improved ways to work the Greek economy….And on this island no women are allowed—no female animals of any kind, in fact, except for cats. The official history ascribes the ban to the desire of the church to honor the Virgin; the unofficial one to the problem of monks hitting on female visitors. The ban has stood for 1,000 years.”… ( Michael Lewis )

"In 2001, Greece entered the European Monetary Union, swapped the drachma for the euro, and acquired for its debt an implicit European (read German) guarantee. Greeks could now borrow long-term funds at roughly the same rate as Germans—not 18 percent but 5 percent. To remain in the euro zone, they were meant, in theory, to maintain budget deficits below 3 percent of G.D.P.; in practice, all they had to do was cook the books to show that they were hitting the targets. Here, in 2001, entered Goldman Sachs, which engaged in a series of apparently legal but nonetheless repellent deals designed to hide the Greek government’s true level of indebtedness. For these trades Goldman Sachs—which, in effect, handed Greece a $1 billion loan—carved out a reported $300 million in fees. The machine that enabled Greece to borrow and spend at will was analogous to the machine created to launder the credit of the American subprime borrower—and the role of the American investment banker in the machine was the same. The investment bankers also taught the Greek-government officials how to securitize future receipts from the national lottery, highway tolls, airport landing fees, and even funds granted to the country by the European Union. Any future stream of income that could be identified was sold for cash up front, and spent. "

The western figures that Cockerell found on Aegina are late archaic, the eastern are severe- or transitional between archaic and classic; and in Greek sculpture, the best of the geometric, then of the archaic, then of the severe, exemplify those wonderful moments of a developing art when aboriginal energy begins to know without flagging, but not to know too much. To prefer is not to condemn; the Parthenon figures and reliefs have their passages of the exquisite and the cool. But those sculptures of the classic phase, so long a plague to Western art, do illustrate those less wonderful moments when knowing too much begins to drain energy away, and stone begins to turn into cheese.

Archaic Period. 700-490 B.C. "and the temple figures from Aegina (510-480 BC). Of the latter, there are in fact two sets of similar sculptures at the Glyptothek. As archeologists excavated the site at Aegina, these two sets were discovered, and it was later theorized that the original temple was destroyed during the Peloponnesian War and another temple was erected shortly after in its place. The Greeks had not bothered to clear the area, and had left the remains of the original temple buried at the same location."

As far as sculpture is concerned, the Greek dream of the pre-romantics and romantics had been nourished on Roman copies and on the debased Graeco-Roman work; upon softer stuff. The standard was set; and the Parthenon marbles, at last, shone with such wonder to the romantically conditioned academic eye simply because they were the best of softness. In 1820, 1830, 1840, the romantics still wanted the “Ideal” and they still wanted that nature or natural accuracy- more and more of it- which with better artists was to loosen with impressionism, or harden into realism.

Should I get married? Should I be good?
Astound the girl next door with my velvet suit and faustus hood?
Don’t take her to movies but to cemeteries
tell all about werewolf bathtubs and forked clarinets
then desire her and kiss her and all the preliminaries
and she going just so far and I understanding why
not getting angry saying You must feel! It’s beautiful to feel!
Instead take her in my arms lean against an old crooked tombstone
and woo her the entire night the constellations in the sky-

When she introduces me to her parents
back straightened, hair finally combed, strangled by a tie,
should I sit with my knees together on their 3rd degree sofa
and not ask Where’s the bathroom?
How else to feel other than I am,
often thinking Flash Gordon soap-
O how terrible it must be for a young man
seated before a family and the family thinking
We never saw him before! He wants our Mary Lou!
After tea and homemade cookies they ask What do you do for a living?

Should I tell them? Would they like me then?
Say All right get married, we’re losing a daughter
but we’re gaining a son-
And should I then ask Where’s the bathroom?

O God, and the wedding! All her family and her friends
and only a handful of mine all scroungy and bearded
just wait to get at the drinks and food-
And the priest! he looking at me as if I masturbated…. ( Gregory Corso, Marriage )


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  1. Marìa says:

    Zorba was 100% Dyonisian: “yes, I have a house, wife, children, the whole tragedy, am I not a man?”; some other people are incapable of having fun: 100% Apollonian, always working and worrying, even very rich, and I would add, especially the very rich.

    A likable character Zorba, and great Anthony Quinn acting, as often; normal people should be able to be a responsible citizen, and sometimes have fun, drink, dance, laugh; but then, they should be able to stop and go on being responsible persons. Alcoholics can not stop drinking, a pity.

    The remnants intelligent peple of the Roman empire must have been assimilated by the new centers of power and development; they are not in modern Greek and Italy, guess.

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