It was 1832 when the French romantic poet Alphonse de Lamartine saw Athens for the first time – two years before the city was declared the capital of the newly-born Greek nation-state. His description of the city was pitiless. The Athens of his dreams was, in reality, “a dark, sorrowful, black, barren, abandoned city. A weight on the heart”.
Lamartine belonged to the abundant class of western philhellene poets, intellectuals and politicians who adored and idealized the Greece of the past with its ancient ruins but who were disappointed and disdained by its “oriental” reality. It is one of the reasons, I believe, that Greeks hold a “distinct” relationship and simultaneously feel ambivalent towards Europe: “modern Europe” is the ideal which the Greek state has been inclined toward since its inception. However, at the same time, this ideal acts as a source of a victimization and inferiority complex – which usually characterizes the relationship between the colonized and the colonizer.