Tuesday, July 31, 2018


Long Live Greece!

Basil L. Gildersleeve (1831-1924), "My Sixty Days in Greece, I: The Olympic Games Old and New," Atlantic Monthly Vol. 79, No. 472 (February, 1897) 199-212 (at 210-211):
Sitting in one's study, it was easy enough to wax eloquent, or at any rate to wax emphatic, on the spirit of the old contests, the spirit that had flown never to return, and it was not surprising that a student should see naught in the projected games but the every-day desire for the mastery that stirs every man child born into the world, —a desire which is by no means a religious feeling. Yet the consecration was there. Even in the old times when Zeus was the patron deity, the contestant strove for his people, his canton, his city; and while the poet of the games gives due honor to the god of the games, he does not forget the claims of the land of the victor. This is the consecration that has remained after the other has passed away, and the cry "Zíto i Ellás!" (Long live Greece!) hallowed the new Olympic games, and gave them the sacredness that they would otherwise have lacked.

As I heard that cry on every hand caught up and thundered forth in the great torchlight procession even by those who knew no other Greek, I could not keep from reflecting on the disadvantage under which we Americans labor in the matter of a cry. "Hurrah for America" is too wide a call. "Hurrah for the United States" is too formal. Do people hurrah for the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland? In fact, apart from campaign cries, in which the candidates figure, the real enthusiasm of American devotion is perhaps to be heard only in the college yell. The college yell is really a remarkable return to an early form of worship, and deserves closer study than it has received at the hands of anthropologists; but I must confess that the articulate Greek cry appealed to me more forcibly, though the Greeks themselves, recognizing the Olympic spirit of the American yell, did their best to imitate it as a return for the ""Zíto i Ellás," which the foreigners were so quick to catch.

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