Aegean Sea

Before I start writing about this amazing sea, first of all I have to say that this story is equally about Greece, the oldest european country and the first known civilization in Europe. Surrounded with three seas, Greece is probably the most interesting place in the Mediterranean basin ever since it is formed and filled with water many millenniums ago. Aegean sea keeps the most important part in the history of mankind being natural barrier between civilizations independently developed over the west, east and south. Once in those past times, today known as B.C. this was the center of the World. It was also the place where many amazing things are born, like science, democracy, philosophy, mathematics, culture and sport residing on one side of the stick and also those "other inventions" from the opposite side, like modern wars, forcibly conquest and defending territories, modern armies, religion and divine beings...

Aegean Sea

Ok, let me explain. It is all about geography really. I actually live in southern Serbia where four different seas are more or less equally distant from my current location and in past four decades in one way or another I visited all of them. Before, with my parents and now with my own family, every summer vacation is reserved for spending up to two weeks at the zero-level elevation of nearby sea side. After I spent several vacations on Black, Ionian and Adriatic Seas, I decided that those simply are not comparable to Aegean. Don't get me wrong here, all those three seas have their good sides and charm but Aegean is something special for me. Who knows why, maybe my inner being is somehow tuned with it or I am simply connected with it on some lower level of understanding but whatever it is I calculated that when I sum up all the time I was there I get about 400 days of vacation time spent in Greece. If I spent all those days in a row you would probably read this post in Greek instead, but the truth is, due to my perforated time spent there, I still have only basic understanding of the probably most beautiful written language in whole Europe. I can't be sure but I think my first vacation in Macedonian Greece was about at the age of 2, more than 40 years ago and until today I probably visited about the same amount of different towns, fishermen villages and tourists settlements all around northern Aegean. I literally watched Macedonian Greece growing from modest, unexplored country till the prestige destination for anyone expecting great time for short vacation time during summer break. I might have spent in Greece lots of days but my son already reached one "greek" record - his first encounter with Greece was couples of miles under the Olympus mountain when he was only couple of cells old, if you know what I mean. He was also learning to walk and swim there and I am sure you would agree that those are pretty big milestones in anybody's life.

History of Greece is one of the most colorful tale of them all. Not many nations in the World survived and built their history for that long period of time started millenniums before Christ. The ancient Greeks came to Europe almost three millenniums B.C. but maybe the common origin point when it all started is back in 8th century B.C. when they started to build a civilization known today as a cradle of Western civilization or the World we live in today. This post is too small to carry all history of the region so I will let you browse them all in below links and instead I will focus on just one period of time known as Classical Greece that flourished in couple of hundreds of years started somewhere in 5th century B.C.

Alexander the Great

It was the time when artistic and scientific thought rapidly evolved and shaped humanity as we know today. If you ask me, this was the period of time relatively free of violence and conservative influences like religion or politics. It started after fall of last Athenian tyrant or if you will, after series of dictatorships ruled the ancient Greek cities back in 6th and 7th centuries before Christ. Aristotle defined the tyrant as "one who rules without law, looks to his own advantage rather than that of his subjects, and uses extreme and cruel tactics - against his own people as well as others". Looks familiar? Hmm, it seems to me that ancient Greeks gave as dictators in heritage as well. It also looks like that Classical Greece is just a period of time where Greeks tried to recover from hundreds of wasted years and it was the time that they really wanted to change their society to the better. In a way they did just that and in a whole period of next 200 years they created a foundation of modern society and planted scientific thought deep into future generations. Sadly, this period ended with rise of military societies shaped in a form of Macedon empire and Alexander the Great (and his father Phillip II before him) who suddenly decided that their land is too small in size and the best way to defend it is to conquer the neighbors and by neighbors sometimes this meant thousands of miles away from Greece as far as India. Sounds familiar again? It definitely resembles some of nowadays governments who defend their countries far away from their borders. Military societies are direct product of development in science and engineering and it was not much surprise that rise of Macedon and later Rome empires are byproducts of inventions of new state of the art armory and transportation in both land and sea. The better army is armored and organized the more dangerous it became for the region. Same as today, only with different actors and more lethal weapons.

Carl Sagan in his famous COSMOS series, in episode VII "The Backbone of Night", described the birth of science in these Classical Greece times in the northern Aegean by telling a story of Democritus and his understanding of atoms and matter. Democritus posted his atomic theory somewhere in 5th century B.C. and like many other famous scientists of the time he is direct descendant of Ionian School founded by Thales establishing critical thinking as a foundation in modern scientific thought.


History is always fun and not because it teaches us about ourselves and how to fix errors from the past but sadly it also show us the future. Nothing changes over night, especially human behavior and although we are living in modern technology superior time the inner core of our social being remains the same. We still have wars, dictatorships, bullies, cold wars, borders of many kinds. Well, it is time to stop with all that, at least in this post, so let's continue the main story and see how Aegean sea survived the centuries.

Geographically and also touristically speaking, northern and southern part of the sea looks very different and it is caused by one large cataclysmic event. It was the late bronze age couple of millenniums before Christ where one of the most powerful volcano literally exploded under the island of Thera, nowadays Santorini in the middle of Aegean. It is now well known as a Minoan eruption and by recent study seismologists tend to classify this explosion four times powerful than well known explosion of Krakatoa island. This eruption probably caused volcanic winter in 17th century B.C. recorded in China by "Bamboo Chronicles" with "yellow fog, a dim sun, then three suns, frost in July, famine, and the withering of all five cereals". It also caused devastation of Minoan civilization, complete reshaping of Aegean geography and birth of many myths including the one of sinking the entire island of Atlantis "in a single day and night of misfortune" recorded by Plato.

Reconstruction of the Santorini Supervolcano (© 7reasons, Michael Klein)*

Whatever happened the Aegean is filled with many islands southern than Athens comparing to its northern counterpart. Our vacations are always targeting the northern part simply because it is located less than 1000km from southern Serbia and it is cheaper and easier to get there by car in less than 10 hours of drive. If it is a family vacation this is also the best route. However, spending vacation on some Greek island is completely different experience. There are only two major (in size) islands on the north, Thassos and Corcyra. I visited both of them several times and their crystal clear beaches, small fisherman villages and unique people are simply totally different from coastline where the tourism over the years almost destroyed small towns and turned them into hotels, clubs, discos and loud streets. Don't get me wrong here, they also have their unique charm, but the vacation for me is more book-reading-silence, wave sounds and seagulls and less loud music and football match atmosphere. However, there are lots of islands on southern Aegean left for me to explore. Plenty of time. I also need one thing to confirm there - once we indeed visited southern Aegean, but from the eastern, Turkish side of the sea, and we felt couples of small tremors that originates from the middle of the sea, according to our Turkish guide. I am wondering if this is really the truth and if it is how bothering this is on the Greek islands laying exactly there in the "Santorini" area. After all there are no dead volcanoes, just dormant ones and we are still living on a very live planet, especially here where African and Eurasian tectonic plates are kissing each other on a regular intervals.

Today, Greece is facing big economic crisis, affecting millions of people, especially in large cities. Greece is probably on top of several European countries affected by world's recession(s) initiated after 9/11 event decade ago. Greek misfortune mainly happened because of organisation of Olympic Games back in 2004. Extremely large cost of this giant event forced Greece to took many credits and loans in order to fix infrastructure and build new arenas. Olympics went well but now almost a decade after, Greece is facing bankruptcy and empty state treasury. To be completely honest I am not very good when it comes to understanding world economics. I am also not good in reading between lines so I am not sure what really is in stake here, but speculatively speaking the major loans happened after world's recession could be easily predicted and I can only state big amount of skepticism that bankers and international funds keepers who actually financed Greece at the time couldn't predict world economy in next decade? I mean if there was even a shadow of doubt that something would happen, why providing credits in the first place? I am really not one of those who believe in conspiracy theories, but something is not really right here. Whether or not world crisis is manufactured or this is just one natural financial wave of recessions, I am sure Greece will survive, just like in previous three or so millenniums. Elegant bankers who loaned the money in the first place will survive too and I am sure there will be no need to exclude caviar and champagne from theirs menus. After all this is just another man made crisis, not natural disaster. It will pass.

Aegean Sea - Marble beach, Thassos

You know what else will survive? Aegean sea. It doesn't care for all human stupidities. It ironically smiled two and a change millenniums ago when Alexander the Great fought Persians in wooden galleys and I am sure it is smiling today when EU officials debate on excluding Greece from monetary euro zone.

It will stay crystal clear perfectly reflecting the mother star from sunrise til sunset.

Image ref:
* https://www.7reasons.net/?dt_portfolio=der-supervulkan-von-akrotiri&lang=en

Refs:
http://www.egeonet.gr/index_en.html
http://www.math.tamu.edu/~dallen/history/greekorg/greekorg.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Classical_Greece
http://www.thebigview.com/greeks/democritus.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Greece
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bamboo_Annals
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Plates_tect2_en.svg
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Minoan_eruption
http://www.volcanodiscovery.com/santorini/eruption.html
http://www.sott.net/articles/show/118706-Ye-gods-Ancient
http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/historic_figures/alexander_the_great.shtml


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