Kostas Charitos and the Revolt of the Caryatids


Foreign investment in Greece: supporters and opponents

In the last novel, Kostas Charitos was appointed director of the Attica police, and his position as head of the homicide division was taken over by the young and trained commissioner Antigone Ferleki. The two, a truly unprecedented “couple” of detectives, are immediately confronted with a very difficult problem (a collection of problems, really…), not only with criminal implications, but with political, social, moral, and even cultural ones.
It all starts with the arrival in Greece of some unspecified foreign investors, pursuing, according to them, a dual goal: on the one hand, to revive local tourism by multiplying classical antiquities, on the other, to reinvent (it is not clear how …) the ancient Athenian democracy. The promise (actually a little smoky) is to inject rivers of money into the Greek economy and give life to projects (mostly construction) of all kinds, and this is shared by public opinion: some are actually enthusiastic, others are skeptics, if not direct opponents.

Caryatid resistance, a series of crimes

Among the latter we find young women calling themselves “caryatids” (like the famous Erechtheion column statues), giving life to a series of demonstrations and campaigns. social to reason with the population and – to some extent – to try to convince them of the inexpediency of this “sale” of their country to foreign capital. This is followed by a series of crimes, the first victim of which is one of the most active caryatids: in fact, a point of view is being established in Greece, which sees in these girls (all very cultured and specializing in archeology or ancient history) an obstacle to the economic development of the national.
The two researchers and their collaborators, moving between cobwebs, Athenian squares, youth clubs, university faculties, gradually get to the bottom of this delicate issue: they do it with insight, firmness, but also with the humanity that Kharitos has always had, and this seems to be the most obvious trait of his young replacement.

Humanity of Charitos in the context of the yellow Mediterranean

Humanity, as they say. The same thing happens in the “family” of Charitos, in his relationship with his wife Adriana – a magnificent cook, his daughter Katerina, son-in-law Fanis, adored nephew Lambros, who in each new episode of the saga of the commissar (now director) becomes more and more more of a main character. Also by no means secondary is the presence of Lambros Zizis (namesake, even namesake of his nephew) – a communist militant and longtime “rival” Kharitos, and now his great friend – who opened an exemplary reception center for foreigners in Athens. where humanity (I repeat…) feels at home in every gesture and in every space.

Original caryatids in the Acropolis Museum.

In a word, we again have a manifestation of that “Yellow Mediterranean” (as critics sometimes define it) with the participation of various Maigret, Montalbano, Charitos, Pepe Carvalho, who not only (unlike, for example, their “Nordic” colleagues) have sensitive qualities, that allow them to communicate with victims and perpetrators, but they also have this the joy of life (especially at the table), which makes them feel close to the weaknesses of their readers. Indeed, who has never envied the orange duck prepared by Madame Maigret for her husband, stuffed with tomatoes (gemista) that Adriana Charitos cooks for the whole big family, or spaghetti with nivure of siccia that Montalbano silently eats at Enzo’s? Not to mention the intricate recipes of Pepe Carvalho and his assistant Biscoeter, which are the star restaurant’s signature dish!

Dual legacy of classical Greece

However, there is a significant change from the previous books in this book, namely the reference to classical Greece, which seems to unite both prospective foreign investors and their young rivals. But if in the first case it is obvious that we are dealing with an artificial pretext, then in the second, Markaris does not hide the fact that there may be a common thread connecting the pride of the Greeks of the era of Pericles with those who at that time openly refer back, in the title, and also in choreographic clothing. This is not an attitude of closeness to the present, but of respect for the past, which can only be taken as an identity, to make those who live in Greece jealously guard these distant memories. This already seems clear in the final part of the statement which the Caryatids attribute to the web, and thus concludes:

We will not allow Zeus, Athena, Solon and Phidias to become ornaments on a tourist train. We will also not let the temple of Poseidon become the panoramic backdrop of the marina. We will not allow the ancient Greeks, including the men who tortured us, to be sent into space in specialized spaceships. We are caryatids, but we are not ornaments, but columns. From the columns of houses we will become the columns of our civilization. Today was a day of mourning. The fight will start tomorrow. We call on everyone to rise up and fight with us (p. 58).

A recent essay by Giusto Traina

Thus, the reader, following Charitos in the Athenian movement on his Throne, reflects on how the ancients were often (and still) “dragged by the jacket” in different directions. We have also seen some examples of this in some of my past articles (among other things, one on fascism and the Roman world, and another on the use of the classics in a racist vein), and we find a much broader history of the case in the interesting volume of Giusto Traina. Will the Greeks and Romans save us from barbarism? Laterza, Rome-Bari, 2023. In the latter case, the question mark is indispensable, since the connection with the classical tradition, instead of saving us from barbarism, often served to justify it, as was the case with the Nazi regime. , who instrumentally used Greek affiliation as an archetypal manifestation of the (so-called, obviously) superior “Aryan race”. In fact, Trayna writes in Chapter I his book (Roots):

The bad was justified and is still being justified in the name of the classical roots of the West. The most striking example is the operation carried out by Hitler and other Nazi leaders against classical Greece. The key moment is the Berlin Olympics in 1936, about which Johann Chaputo rightly spoke of the “annexation of antiquity”, the real racial annexation of Ancient Greece. Thus, the traditional philhellenicism of German culture was adapted to Nazi ideology (p. 12).

If we then proceed to Chapter II, entitled The police upset usbecause we are diving into a topic that is one of the common threads of the yellow Markaris: why give policy each, for greater or lesser reasons, wanted to extract those ideas or lessons that he wanted and that were more beneficial to him. And if our great sympathies can only belong to the Caryatids, and not to starved (so “patakkari”) foreign investors, carried away by the democratic regime of the ancient policy, because we can only consider them as different sides of the same coin. A coin that symbolically represents the rethinking of the ancient through the eyes of the present; a coin that has passed through the centuries in a variety of hands and – I believe – is not destined to be placed in a piggy bank for a long time; a coin that serious scientists handle carefully, prudently, prudently, and also (fairly) with a certain amount of suspicion, but whose circulation (continues the numismatic metaphor …) they should in any case be well aware of.

In fact, the volume of Traina just mentioned also opens at the end with a broader discourse and ends with an appeal to the classics not to shut themselves up in the ivory tower of disciplinary hyper-specialism, which, in his opinion, is one of the causes before the crisis of antiquarians (pp. 84-88). However, it really seems to me that this is not the place to start a discussion on such a complex topic, to which I have repeatedly – talking with famous scientists or reading their studies – seen approaches from different points of view, indeed all worthy of attention. attention and respect: for if it is true that the excesses of technology and philology drown out the lightness of the classical tradition, then it is equally true that the risk of carelessness, which our Greeks and Romans (and even barbarians) last year that they fought…) they really don’t deserve it.

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