Reporting from the frontlines of history in Greece

Author: hwb

Harrison Blackman is a rising senior at Princeton University, where he studies the history of science, urban studies, and creative writing, with a particular focus on how these interests somehow involve Greece. A Princeton International and Regional Studies Fellow, he is the Editor-in-Chief of "Tortoise: a Journal of Writing Pedagogy" and has served as the features editor of The Daily Princetonian.

Paradise lost

By Harrison Blackman

Four months have passed since the European Union outlawed undocumented migration from Turkey, effectively trapping new arrivals from Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan in camps in Greece. As of July, United Nations statistics show that the agreement has cut arrivals by sea from the peak of 210,000 people a month in October 2015 to a markedly smaller 1,554 over the month of June.

Yet despite the relative quiet of Lesbos today,  the migration crisis continues to shadow the Greek island at the center of the storm. Frustration stews in the remaining camps, and Lesbos’ once-vibrant tourism scene has evaporated. No place on the island of 630 square miles appears to remain untouched.

“I think the island will never be the same,” said Marios Andriotis-Konstantinos, an adviser to the mayor of Mytilene, Lesbos’ capital and port city.

“But I hope the island will never be the same in a positive way.”

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St. Paul’s Day at the Areopagus

By Harrison Blackman and Amanda Blanco

The Book of Acts describes how the Apostle Paul traveled to Athens in the first century A.D. and visited town leaders on a large outcropping  below the Acropolis, at a spot known as Areopagus Hill.

Acts 17:23 quotes Paul as saying; “For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you.”

After the homily, the passage tells us, “Some of the people became followers of Paul and believed.” The sermon’s influence had been established for history.  

More than two millennia later, on June 29, 2016, the celebration of the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul was alive and well on the Areopagus Hill. 

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The heat

By Harrison Blackman

From June 15 to June 19, the daily high temperature for Athens jumped from 82 degrees to 102 Fahrenheit. From June 19 forward, the heat has been on.

Taverna operators hustle to rope overheated tourists into their air-conditioned restaurants. The city’s ubiquitous street kiosks — the periptera — are stocked with bottles of Zagori mineral water, Mythos beer and Coca-Cola. In the morning, Athenians crowd into Metro trains, looking tired with anticipation of the heat outside and above.  The city’s cafes are packed and, by the university, they are packed with students sweating in a different kind of way as they pour over textbooks and hunch over laptops, cramming for merciless exam schedules.


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Getting to know Greek literature: A look inside Aiora Press

By Harrison Blackman

While ancient Greek literature has been celebrated for millennia, outside of Greece few are aware that substantial fiction has come out of the Hellenic Republic in the last 150 years.

Many Greek publishing houses publish only in Greek, or translate international bestsellers into the local language, compounding the problem.  As result, Greek literature has never gotten the international attention of Latin America’s  magic realism or Scandinavia’s noir crime fiction.

One publisher in Athens is trying to change that. Aiora Press is extending the reach of modern Greek literature.

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