Τρίτη, 18 Μαΐου 2021

Nikolaos Platon, Archaeologist

 

 

Nikolaos Platon                                              ΝΙΚΟΛΑΟΣ ΠΛΑΤΩΝ

                                                                           

Born in Cephalonia 1909                           Died in Athens 1992


 

Section D1


 

One day, I was wandering in a section I seldom visit and noticed an unusual headstone – so Minoan, and yet... here in Athens...

 

The motif was continued on the rectangular marble slab which identified the person buried there. Although it was in a newer section of the cemetery, the marker looked antique. But it was not.  The person buried here had died in 1992. I was guessing he had to have something to do with Minoan culture and I was correct. It was the grave of Nikolaos Platon, a man whose range of knowledge was very broad indeed, but who specialized in Cretan prehistory. Perhaps he is most famous today for his discovery of the Minoan palace complex at Zakros in eastern Crete, a wonderful find because the site of the palace had not been built over by later generations. But that is not all.  He was   the long time director of the Heraklion Archaeological Museum, a university professor, writer, director of the Acropolis Museum in Athens when it was situated on the sacred rock itself and, in fact, director of the entire Athens area for a time, and much, much more.  He was one of the many archaeologists who with their trusted assistants, guarded museums’ treasures from the Nazis during the Second World War.  His presence in the First Cemetery offers us an opportunity to consider his life, the richness of the Minoan heritage he helped to uncover, a glimpse at the efforts to preserve the Acropolis, and the efforts of all the brave men and women who risked their lives to preserve the heritage of Greece.


 

 

His Life

Nikolaos was born on the island of Cephalonia but his parents moved to Heraklion Crete when he was very young and it was there that he received his primary and secondary education. Nikolaos and Heraklion proved to be a good fit.  He was, by all accounts a diligent and disciplined student who graduated from high school as the winner of the school’s gold medal for excellence. Even then the adjectives ‘modest’ ‘unassuming’ and ‘mild mannered’ were used to describe his personality.


 

Nikolaos went on to study literature and archaeology at the Philosophical School of Athens University. After graduation, he worked at the Archaeological Museum of Heraklion under one of archaeology’s super stars, Spiridon Marinatos. (1)  He held a position there until 1935 when he moved to the mainland as curator (ephor) in Thebes - another  fascinating centre of prehistoric Greece, this time Mycenaean.

All this before going to Paris in 1937 to obtain his doctorate at the École Pratique des Hautes Études.

When he returned to Greece in 1938 he took over from Marinatos as the curator (ephor) of the new Heraklion Archaeological Museum a position he would hold for 24 years until 1962.  This museum was remarkable for its fabulous contents but also because many of its architectural elements - colours, polychromatic marbles, and columns - which echoed Minoan design. It was anti-seismic and had innovative skylights to highlight the exhibits: Bauhaus meets Minoan.

 


A new wing was added in 1964

His long tenure there was rudely interrupted, by the Italian and German invasions – and thereby hangs a tale.  

 

The Second World War and Greek Archaeological Treasures

In May of 1941, Platon was in Epirus, a soldier on the Albanian front. Germany had invaded Greek territory the previous month. Fearing for the artifacts in his beloved museum, Nikolaos was desperate to return to Crete, a seemingly impossible journey under the circumstances. But, no! He used his connection with German archaeologist Kurt Gebauer at the German Archaeological Institute in Athens (2) and obtained permission to fly to Crete! Two factors may have been key to the success of this surprising manoeuvre.

First, many Greek archaeologists had long associations with their German counterparts in Greece. In spite of the natural territorial sentiments of each archaeological school, archaeologists are a fraternity.  The German Archaeological Institute had been a part of Athenian life since its founding in 1874 and some of its members had  Greek spouses. Gebauer’s wife’s mother happened to be Greek. That may have helped. Secondly, archaeologists are all preservationists at heart, perhaps another reason for Gebauer to help. (3)

There may have been another factor as well. The preservation of ancient artifacts suited Nazi propaganda goals: the glories of ancient Greece played into their Aryan fantasy that Germans had descended from ancient Greeks. In their arrogance, they may have assumed that since all of Greece’s treasures would be theirs in the near future, who guarded them in the meantime did not matter so much. Their certainty of ultimate victory is, to me, the only plausible explanation for the fact that so many Greek museum treasures which had been so carefully hidden by Greek museum personnel before the invasion, remained hidden until the war ended.

  The order to hide the treasures had come from the Greek Ministry of Culture.


 

The ‘would be’ inheritors in 1941

In October 1940, after war had been declared, the Ministry had issued a letter to all museums to hide whatever they could. A great deal was accomplished in the six months before the Germans actually invaded. Museum floors all over Greece were dug up, artifacts lowered, sand used as a buffer, and the floors then replaced. Other items were hidden in caves, secret storerooms, and private homes.   


 

A kouros being lowered to the basement in Athens in the winter of 1941-2 (4)

 

And so it happened that when the German occupiers sent their own experts to museums all over Greece, they found empty rooms. The Heraklion Museum staff had complied with the Ministry’s directive to the best of their ability. Still, it is hard to believe that the Nazi’s, with their well known torture tactics, could not have unearthed the secret of the hidden exhibits had it been a priority. They may have been playing a long game, - waiting until their victory was assured and the population totally subdued before going after these missing treasures in earnest – something that thankfully never happened.

The German military pilfered whatever they could and even did a little excavating during the occupation.  According to his son, Platon slept inside the Heraklion Museum to protect it from predators, especially the rapacious German general, Julius Ringel (5) who had ensconced himself in Sir Arthur Evan’ s home, the Villa Ariadne, at Knossos and was stealing whatever he could find for his personal collection.

 


Julius Ringel was wanted for war crimes after the war

Ringel was a ruthless man and Platon knew where all the treasures were buried. This was dangerous information to have. His determination and steadfastness in the face of the occupiers was truly heroic.

1945 and On

The museum suffered damage during the war. It was Platon who supervised the placement and re-exhibition of its contents so that it could reopen in 1952.

When the war ended, Platon was put in charge of all Cretan archaeological sites, a position he would hold until 1962.  In 1958, he proposed a system of Minoan chronology based on the development of Minoan palaces. He divided the Minoan period into Prepalatial, Protopalatial, Neopalatial, and Post-palatial periods. This system was employed along with Evan’s chronology which was based on pottery styles.  

In 1960, there was a new direction. He was made director of the Acropolis Museum and the Athens area. It was a busy time since he was concurrently the field director of the excavation in eastern Crete in 1961 which unearthed the palace complex at Zakros, the find of a lifetime!

 


 

 

The Palace at Zakros

Others before Platon had speculated about the existence of a Minoan settlement in eastern Crete to compliment the known palace complexes at Knossos, Mallia and Phaestos.  It made sense given what was known about the Minoan trading activities. In 1900 David Hogarth of the British School had begun excavations at Zakros and found artifacts pointing to a possible palace complex.  But he did not find the palace itself. Nikolaos Platon did.

 

 

The palace was small, about a fifth the size of Knossos, but it still covered an area of 4,500 square metres and contained all of the rooms expected in a complex which was the commercial and religious hub of the community which surrounded it.  There were reception rooms, a room for religious rituals, storerooms with clay tablets (Linear A), and chambers for the ruler and his family.  A paved road went from one of the Palace entrances to the commercial port.  Finds have indicated that Zakros traded with Africa and Asia.  Locally made pottery and other items were found in Cyprus, Egypt, and the Middle East.

The work of the excavators was not muddled by later buildings and the methods used in 1961 were more scientific than the earlier efforts of Sir Arthur Evans at Knossos, so much was learned at Zakros.  The first palace dated back to 1900 BC and it is likely that an earthquake caused it to be rebuilt 500 years later.  When it, too, was destroyed, the site was abandoned.

 


An exquisite vase found at Zakros

 

In Athens

As curator of the Acropolis and its museum, his priority was to protect the site. This was a continuation of efforts that had been ongoing since the 1830s and mistakes had been made.  Apparently he began with some work on the Karyatids, those stalwart maidens who had been doing service holding up the Erechtheion porch for well over two thousand years without a break. They had already lost one sister to Lord Elgin, and were in desperate need of repair.

 


Early days...

 



Circa 1930 after some renovation

The situation on the Acropolis during his tenure was daunting because of the rusting iron used in previous repair efforts, pollution, and just plain errors of placement by earlier restorers. He had an exhaustive archive made of what remained on the acropolis, restored what he could manage on a budget that was never enough and, in 1965, even conducted excavations behind the western end of the long Portico of Eumenes (6).  There he discovered a Mycenaean chamber tomb which has led to speculation that this area had been a Mycenaean cemetery which future generations had almost entirely obliterated. 

Platon created the Commission for the Rescue of the Acropolis Monuments. He remained committed to this long term project and organized international conferences about the issue.  It would not be until 1975 with the formation of the interdisciplinary Acropolis Conservation Committee (7), and funding from the Greek government and European Union that the rock would get the attention it so needed and deserved. This project is still a work in progress but the Karyatids did get a good home in the New Acropolis Museum when it opened in 2009.

 


They oversee every visitor entering the museum (8)

In 1965 Platon added the word ‘professor’ to an already full resume, teaching prehistoric archaeology at the University of Thessaloniki and, in 1974, at the university in Rethymnon, Crete.

Summation

To say that Nikolaos Platon was adept at multitasking would be an understatement. Along with the accomplishments described, he was also  instrumental in the founding of The Society of Cretan Historical Studies (SCHS) in 1951 and aided in the restoration of the Vikelas Library in Crete which had been damaged during the war. . (9)  He was knowledgeable about and taught Byzantine history as well. It never fails to amaze me, the range of scholars’ interests in the 19th and early 20th centuries before the present age of narrow specialization. His book, Zakros : The Discovery of a Lost Palace of Ancient Crete can still be found for sale on the Internet.

During his lifetime he was made a member of the Athens Academy and honoured by the Italian state for his contribution to archaeology. 

He died in Athens in 1992.

 

 


His bust in situ at Zakros

 

              His Grave


 

Section D1

Every once in a while, Filia or I take a single rose to place on a grave containing someone whose story affected us.  This out of the way memorial of a man who may not have been a superstar in his field like a  Marinatos or an  Orlandos , but who nonetheless contributed greatly to the long history of Greek culture, merits one for sure.

 

  Map

 

 


Footnotes

(1)  Spiridon Marinatos specialized in Bronze age Minoan and Mycenaean civilizations. He is best known today for his leadership in the excavations at Akrotiri on Santorini.  When he died in 1974, he was buried there, an unusual honour in the 20th century.

(2)  Kurt Gebauer married Christina Ott from the Kosmetatos family.  In 1930, approximately 1,300 German-speaking foreigners were living in Greece. Quite a few were classical scholars. See https://www.kankeleit.de/pdfs/occupation_greece.pdf

 (3) This would not be the first or last time that members of the archaeological fraternity put their finds ahead of their politics.  The story goes that Kyriakos Pittakis who was so instrumental in establishing the first state collection of antiquities and setting up museums, had been so distraught when the Turks held the Acropolis that he suggested sending them bullets so they would not melt down the lead holding the ancient columns together to manufacture their own! 

(4)  See   https://www.pappaspost.com/april-28-1941-nazis-find-empty-archaeological-museum-athens/

 (5)   Ringel gave some of his collection to an Austrian museum and some items have been returned.

 (6)   The 163 metre long Portico of Eumenes is now accessed via the entrance to the ancient theatre of Dionysios.  It ran along the foot of the south slope of the Acropolis, to the west of the theatre of Dionysos  and the Odeion of Pericles.

(7)  This committee is interdisciplinary and consists of archaeologists, architects, engineers, and curators, the idea being to avoid mistakes in past renovations and to produce the best possible result.

(8)  I wonder what Platon would think of them today as kissed by laser pulse ablation they stand guard over the ramped entrance to the new Acropolis Museum.

(9)  The Vikelaia Municipal Library is a cultural institution that organises and supports scientific and artistic activities, conducts research and promotes local history by utilizing historical archives. Its original benefactor, was Dimitrios Vikelas, a writer, the man  in charge of the 1996 Olympics, and the person who inspired this blog on the First Cemetery.

 

Sources:

https://www.archaiologia.gr/blog/issue/%CE%BF-%CE%BD%CE%B9%CE%BA%CF%8C%CE%BB%CE%B1%CE%BF%CF%82-%CF%80%CE%BB%CE%AC%CF%84%CF%89%CE%BD-%CE%BA%CE%B1%CE%B9-%CE%B7-%CE%B1%CE%BA%CF%81%CF%8C%CF%80%CE%BF%CE%BB%CE%B7/

https://www.culture.gov.gr/DocLib/appendix8_en.pdf

https://www.ysma.gr/en/restoration/history-of-older-interventions/

 

 

Τετάρτη, 28 Απριλίου 2021

Alexandros Papanastasiou

 

 

Alexandros Papanastasiou                  ΑΛΕΞΑΝΔΟΣ ΠΑΠΑΝΑΣΤΑΣΙΟΥ

Born July 8, 1876                                                  Died November 17, 1936

 

 


Plaza Number 39

 

Democracy consists of a whole system of political forces... in order to ensure freedom and egalitarianism the state must try to elevate the many -  meaning the whole governing organization; in the political, economical and social and in general in all our relations with other countries.

Alexandros Papanastasiou was a politician, thinker, and, above all, an idealist. This is a quotation from a speech he delivered when he became Greece’s Prime Minister in 1924.  His career spanned the years from 1907 until his death in 1936, a period of incredible turmoil in Greece. He introduced something new to Greek political life, - a school of political thought. By regarding politics as a science compatible with scientific research, he believed that sound policies could emerge. He did not believe that a monarchy could or should be the basis of the modern Greek state; he did believe that it was the proper role of government to intervene, fine tune, and improve the society it was leading as well as ensuring as friendly relations with neighbouring states as possible in order to ensure the well being of the region.

In the early 1900s there were many intractable issues facing Greece. It had declared bankruptcy in 1893, had suffered a crushing and humiliating defeat in the Greek Turkish war of 1897 and the governments in power lacked any coherent long term strategy for the betterment of citizens, especially for its poorest citizens, the workers and farmers.  How to enhance the all important agricultural sector especially in the newly acquired  bread-basket of  Thessaly, what role the king should play in political life, and how to improve the economy were all issues in search of solutions that Papanastasiou and his followers believed were within their grasp. He published his views tirelessly in the newspapers of the day. Two articles: What Has to Happen written in 1909 at the time of the military coup at Goudi and, the Democratic Manifesto written in 1922 just before the Smyrna debacle still resonate in Greece. 


 

 

His Life

Alexandros was born on July 8, 1876 in Tripoli in the Peloponnese.  His father was a department head in the Ministry of Education, and a member of parliament for Mantineia.  One grandfather was the mayor of Levidi in Arkadia. Public service in the family was a way of life.

 


With his sister Aristovouli in public school

He studied Law at the University of Athens, earned his doctorate in 1889 at the age of 23, and his licence to practice law in 1901.  Still, he did not feel his education was complete. He continued his studies in Berlin and Heidelberg from 1901 to 1905 where he studied Sociology, Philology and Economics, and later studied for a time in England and France.  

 


As a student in Germany (on the left)

The Return

At the age of 31, he returned to Greece with the aim of helping the country to modernize and develop a more solid democratic character along social democratic lines. This included his championship of demotic Greek, the language of the people. When the poet Costis Palamas was criticized for publishing his poems in demotic rather than Katharevousa, the pure language favoured by the social and political elite, Papanastasiou sprang to his defence in an article entitled Freedom of the Word, (Ελευθερία του Λόγου).

Then, In 1908, together with like-minded colleagues, (1) he founded the Sociological society  (Κοινωνιολογική Εταιρεία) with the aim of creating a political party for workers and farmers, groups which  were sorely under- represented in parliament.  The Society produced two regular publications: a weekly Newspaper called The Future (Το Μέλλον)  and The  Review of Social and Law Sciences (Επιθεώρηση των Κοινωνικών και Νομικών της επιμέλειας).

 


 

On the occasion of the coup d’état at Goudi in 1909, (a coup lead by the Military League, a group of officers disgruntled at the interference of the Monarchy in the choice of officers, fed up with the politicians in charge, and wanting changes in the constitution) he wrote What has to Happen (Τι πρέπει να γίνει) concerning how the Greek state, its administration, and the justice system in particular, should be run – and presented it to Colonel Nikolaos Zorba, the coup leader! It was this coup that led to the election of Eleftherios Venizelos in 1910.

 


Coup leaders always saw themselves as saviours of the state. In this case, democracy was restored quickly

Papanastasiou’s views had not gone unnoticed by the great man himself. Venizelos was a subscriber to the Review of Social and Law Sciences and well versed in the contents of  What Has to Happen. Their fundamental outlooks were similar, especially at the beginning of their careers in politics.  Venizelos remarked on one occasion: You will be the steam engine which will pull ahead and open the road, and I will follow. And he once presented him to the people waiting outside of his office with these words: “Behold the Future of Greece! «Ιδού το μέλλον της Ελλάδας».

 

 

 


Alexandros standing shoulder to shoulder with Eleftherios Venizlos

 

Venizelos, was very much under the influence of  ‘’What Has to Happen when he presented his party’s platform in June 5, 1910, the year he became Prime Minister of Greece for the first time.

 

In 1910, Papanastasiou had formed the People’s Party  (Λαϊκό Κόμμα), Greece’s first socialist party, and he was elected to parliament. His faction in parliament acted as a kind of left wing for Venizelos’ Liberal Party and, from that position, constantly encouraged him to make reforms.  Land reform, especially in Thessaly was very much on the mind of the People’s Party, and with good reason.  After Thessaly had joined Greece in 1881, fully 75 percent of the land was in the hands of Greek land owners in the form of vast estates. The people who worked this newly acquired land were being exploited in a quasi - feudal system in which making any kind of living wage was impossible. There had been a farmers’ rebellion at Kileler in 1910 in protest.


 


It looks idyllic, but it was not for these Thessalian farmers.

Papanastasiou’s group  wanted this land expropriated by the government and given to the workers. Agriculture constituted a large part of the Greek economy then and modernization was necessary to develop the sector’s potential. Giving farmers their own land would increase production as well as end the situation of share-cropper servitude.  Although actual land distribution did not happen until the 1920s, Papanastasiou had shown the way. (2)

Papanastasiou’s  People’s Party’s efforts contributed to many of the reforms made by the government of Venizelos: Sunday as a day of rest, the protection of working women and children, prohibition (except in certain cases) of children under twelve working, inspection of work environments, and efforts at social welfare and wage protection.

He did not win re-election in 1912 and that year saw him volunteering as a fighter in the First Balkan War.  

In 1916, the People’s Party joined the Liberal Party of Venizelos and supported him during his break with the king over the entrance of Greece on the side of the Entente during the First World War. As a reward for his loyalty, Venizelos made him governor of the Ionian Islands. (3)  Then, after 1917, Venizelos put Papanastasiou in charge of several ministries: Transportation, the Ministry of Health and the Interior Ministry. He accomplished a great deal including the rapid rebuilding of Thessaloniki after the fire of 1917.



The Committee for the renewal of Thessaloniki with the English architect Mawason, the French civil engineer Pleyberm and the architect-town planner Hebrard with Γκίνης, Ζάχος Κιτσίκης κand the mayor Αγγελάκης.

He also created three new schools at the Athens University: architecture, Chemical engineering, and Land Surveying and ensured that the University would be become an independent Institution. Nor was culture ignored. Papanastasiou  became involved with putting the holdings of the National Gallery in order and made artist and poet Zacharias Papantoniou its director.

It was all going so well.

But Greek involvement in Asia Minor with its hopes to create a larger Greece, was about to lead to disaster.  Venizelos had lost the election of 1920 but the army leaders and the new leaders, backed by the monarchy recklessly decided to continue their push into Turkey although the international climate had changed, and not in Greece’s favour.

Papanastasiou  and several colleagues foresaw the catastrophe and on February 12, 1922, just months before the Smyna debacle, published (in the two Greek newspapers -  Πατρίδα  and Ελεύθερος Τύπος) the Democratic Manifesto.

The Democratic Manifesto

Its position was bitterly anti-royalist. He blamed the king and the princes for Greece’s ills, claiming that they were treating the country like a piece of private property:

Greece is a spiritual creation of the hardship and struggle of its children. It is not a Royal preserve. It can never tolerate sacrificing even the smallest part of itself for the personal satisfaction of the Royal House.

As for the Great Powers, he pointed out that their earlier supportive policies had undergone a change and again he blamed the royal house:  

They do not wish to intervene in Greece’s internal affairs but they are forced to declare publically that the restitution to the throne of Greece of a ruler whose non law-abiding attitude and behaviour towards the Allies during the war became, for them, nothing but a sanction by Greece of the hostile acts of King Constantine.

His manifesto enraged the monarchy and the Royalists in the country. Papanastasiou and the other signees were arrested and charged with high treason and insulting the king.  Andreas Kavafakis the chief of the newspaper Eleftheros Typos was assassinated nine days after the Manifesto appeared. The climate was electric. Their trial took place in Lamia in June 1922. His defence was undertaken by social democrat and future Greek prime minister, GiorgiosPapandreau. They were sentenced to three years in jail.

 


Papanastasiou (second from the left) at his trial with the other arrested signees of the Democratic Manifesto.

Papanastasiou was sent to the island of Aigina, where he was when dire prediction of defeat came true in Smyrna. He was released from prison after the revolution on September 11, 1922 initiated by Nikolaos Plastiras.

 

On March 12, 1922, King Constantine was banished but King George was brought back to the throne on September 27, 1922 amid a great deal of anti-monarchical sentiment.

Papanastasiou, always concerned to spread his message, started a newspaper on 1923 called Demokratia.


 

It’s headline reads, The King Must Go

Prime Minister for 135 Days

In 1924, Papanastasiou ran for parliament as an independent with the support of the Liberal Party, and formed a government in March of that year. (4)

On March 25 he proclaimed Greece a republic. It must have been a moment of great personal satisfaction for Papanastasiou. He was finally at the head of what he believed was an ideal form of government for the country. Less than a month later the voters approved by plebiscite the abolition of the Monarchy by a margin of almost 70 percent.  (The party of Panayis Tsaldaris which was royalist, found cause to refuse the results of this plebiscite – something that did not bode well for the future.)

As prime minister, Papanastasiou officially recognized the demotic form of the Greek language and founded the University of Thessaloniki. He also cancelled all medals and decorations which had previously been bestowed willy nilly and without merit.



His statue, executed by Ioannis Pappas and erected on the grounds of the University of Thessaloniki in 1976, commemorates the establishment of the university.  He holds the Democratic Manifesto in his left hand.

In 1926, Papanastasiou founded another political party, The Democratic Union which was really the People’s Party under a new name. From 1926 to 1928 he was Minister of Agriculture and, in that role, was instrumental in the founding of The Agricultural Bank of Greece an organization that would provide credit to the agricultural sector and enhance rural development.

The Balkans for the People of the Balkans:

In the late twenties, he was able to concentrate on an issue dear to his heart –the improvement of relations among Balkan countries. The Balkan Wars and the Smyrna catastrophe had shown what could happen when amicable relationships did not exist.  Papanastasiou was so enthusiastic about his Balkan proposals that in one speech he termed his concept the new “Big Idea” (megali idea) a reference to the old Big Idea of a Greater Greece which had died in the flames of Smyrna in 1922.  He argument was sound: if nothing changed, the Balkans would remain subject to the  conflicting political aims of each country’s leadership and subject to the whims and machinations of the European powers who had been interfering in the Balkans on a regular basis ever since the collapse of the Ottoman Empire.  He formally proposed his Balkan plan at the World Congress of Peace in Athens and Delphi in 1929.

The First Balkan Conference was held in Athens from October 5th to 12th  1930 under the aegis of the International Peace Bureau. Its express aim was to identify and eliminate any casus belli that might arise. Regular yearly meetings of each country’s foreign ministers were proposed as was the resolution of disputes by conciliation, arbitration, or reference to the court at The Hague and, lastly, the consideration of the situation of ethnic minorities in each member state was also placed on the agenda.  This last was insisted upon by Bulgaria but agreed to by all.

More conferences were held, in Constantinople in 1931, in Bucharest in 1932, Thessaly in 1933, and many issues of common interest were discussed. All this led to a Balkan Pact being signed on February 8, 1934 in Athens, although only 4 Balkan countries actually signed: Turkey, Romania, Greece, and Yugoslavia. Two of the issues agreed upon were to respect existing borders, to respect international law, and to avoid hostile military activity.  Ominously, Bulgaria and Albania abstained.


 

Bulgaria and Albania abstained...

Why did nothing come of it?

There were many reasons. Each Balkan State had come to the table with a different perspective on what could or should be achieved. Newly created Yugoslavia was apparently most interested in economic possibilities including a negotiated corridor to the Mediterranean via Thessaloniki, Romania was concerned with the importance of cultural ties, and Bulgaria was concerned about protecting its minorities in Romania and western Thrace – and wanted a corridor to the Aegean.  Then, the resolutions made at these conferences did not bind their governments to accept them. Venizelos ever the pragmatist, was not against the conferences but, unlike Papanastasiou was cautious as to what could be achieved. He was critical of the 1934 pact and thought it might even be both dangerous and not in Greece’s interests. He preferred bi-lateral agreements with other heads of state. Papanastasiou, on the other hand,  favoured agreements  of a  pan - Balkan character.  Regardless of who was right or wrong, the Balkan Pact never really got off the ground although Romania commemorated it with a stamp.

 

In the thirties, each Balkan State retreated into its own brand of political chaos. Greece became a battleground between the royalists and Venizelists which was temporarily resolved by the coup d’ état of March 1st 1935.  Papanastasiou had tried to mediate but failed. His proposal had been a government of national unity to avoid a civil war similar to the civil wars that had destroyed Hellenism in ancient times. He reiterated his belief that above all the parties and any person is Greece; its future and the life of its people.

Brave words, futile in the climate of 1936, and horribly prophetic too.

The Elections which followed the revolution on Oct 10 1935 resulted in the return of the king on Nov 25 of the same year. Then on August 4, 1936, the king invited Ioannis Metaxas to be prime minister although he had won only a small percentage of the vote. The dictatorship of Metaxas began. (5)

Papanastasiou was placed under house arrest because he refused to accept the Metaxas dictatorship with these words: 

The freedom that was given to us by our fathers, shedding rivers of blood, must not tolerate now Metaxas and the king who have deprived us of our freedom making us slaves and we shall sit calmly by and not fight against this tyranny?  I cannot. I cannot bear it. With every ounce of strength I will not stop fighting them.


 

The Metaxas Dictatorship had distinct German overtones...

Papathanasiou died of a heart attack on November 16, 1936 while still under house arrest and irony of ironies, Metaxas, wanted to have him buried with the honours of a Prime Minister and at public expense. The very people who had betrayed his ideals were prepared to bury him (and his ideas) with honours! His sister refused at first - until Metaxas threatened that if she did not accept, she would be the only person allowed at his burial.

Summary

Papanastasiou could be forgiven if he died, like Keats, believing that his name was ‘writ in water’. He did not live to see his ideal state or Balkan solidarity and it is hard to imagine what he would have made of the Greek civil war, the cold war, and the present relationships between Balkan states. Perhaps it is better that he did not know. Greece has not been kind to its political idealists. I am thinking of Giorgios Lambrakis, for example, but their courage, and liberal principles have remained a beacon for many. He never gave up and, in my opinion, died a hero, a martyr to his cause of creating a better way of life for his people.

Afterword: There is a museum dedicated to Papanastasiou in Levidia in Arcadia. Among other exhibits, his brain is exhibited floating in some sort of preservative. I am not sure why that was considered a good idea, but the same fate awaited Einstein so he is in good company.  The exhibit below is more edifying than the brain...


 

                                                          Plaza Number 39

 

The Map


 

Footnotes

 

 (1)    His colleagues were Constantinos Triantafyllopoulos, Alexandras Mylonas and Panagiotis Aravantinos.

 

(2) Ironically, after the land was redistributed. Many of the new owners became conservatives!

(3)   The struggle between royalists and republicans was a hallmark of the era and destabilized so many efforts. It was always bubbling under the surface.

(4) He also served as prime minister for a few days in 1932. Many of his colleagues, like himself, were educated in Germany and imbued with the ideas of social democracy.

 (5) It was this power of the king that had been a bone of contention throughout the monarchy – that he could choose a prime minister who had received very little public support but who could be counted on to support the monarchy.

Sources in English

For Balkan Pact: https://www.istorikathemata.com/2018/08/conferences-for-creation-of-federation.html