The world’s first civilization in classical Greece!
That gave birth to democracy first!
Yes, the visit I had the good fortune to undertake, after a life-long quest and seeking, not just opened my eyes, the visit made me dumb-struck for days and, it looks, even by months! The one side is that I don’t know how to bring back my old self to make normal conversations with all the old friends and acquaintances. The other side is that only after the visit and after having recalled and reconnected with what I had seen and absorbed the sights and sounds and also after I had tried to reabsorb the whole lot of books and pictures, the whole story of all the civilizations I had read about, from Arnold Toynbee to Will Durant and others and also my own personal encounters with the Good and the Great, at Oxford and elsewhere, at Oxford itself, the ones like the late Sir C.M.Bowra, the greatest authority on Greece and all things Greek, from Homer to Greek way of life and much else and also many others from my own-time Oxford friends, the ones who came from Eton and studied the Greek language and literature and the ones who in fact aroused in me the curiosity of Greek and Roman civilization and of course, all through my life, from the original plans to make a visit to Rome and Greece along with my Oxford friends, the plan never came through and fell apart for many reasons and now, after some 50-60 years! It is a long stretch of time! My own dreams and imaginations!
Even after such a long time gap, I am caught up by this time gap. I am not yet able to bring myself back to the realities of the day. Why? I ask myself many times and am unable to account for my current moment of such dazzling. Anyway, what I have done after my return from Greece is to recall and reconnect with a range of questions.
India, in all its long history, never once seems to have gone back in history to the long stretch. Greece, it seems, has had a very long history from the Neolithic age to Bronze Age (5000BC to 1000 BC).
We went to see the Mycenaean civilization at Mycenaean deserted mountain today. It made me fall aside by surprise and shock. The long drive from Athens already made us tired. Once we reached the mountain range lying in between two higher mountain ranges, at the very distance of our sight I saw a slight mountain on which the humans walking, they were yes, tourists at such heights!They looked like ants! The more we neared them the more they looked remote!
At the very entrance to the stone fort, lay some dug-up pits. They were funerary sites. Yes, the whole sight of the open field looked very eerie! The rest of the story I have to leave it for another day. The period of the Mycenaean is dated 1200-1125 BC! Trojan War is dated 1250 BC! It was the classical Greece, the age of Pericles; Parthenon built 448-432 BC!
When were Indians woken up to these births and birth pangs of civilization, when was the Democracy born? I wondered. If we can say, never, would it be considered arrogance or ignorance? We talk of Bengal Renaissance, right? Would it be wrong again, if we say that the modern Indian renaissance too missed the outside world, the world outside the British trap? Yes, the British colonizers left out India and the Indians from any learning; they trapped us within the Macaulay’s narrow imperial trap. All our otherwise great men, great souls limited the Indian vision only to a narrow trap, right? I like to ask some uncomfortable questions before I bring myself to reality of the current scenarios.
I stood at the very spot where Socrates (469-399 BC) stood and walked on his very steps, his usual stopping, the shoe shop, the owner, Simon, the prison where he drank his cup of poison and passed away! What a blessing and fortune. It is exactly after 2416 years! I was dazzled and lost my senses! We in India were not told about the birth of democracy in the world.
Our historians, first, the British writers and now the Indian historians, in the pre-independent India and also in the post-independent India, we don’t seem to have realised in our study of Indian history. This is a serious lacuna in our appreciation of historical studies and in our education system.