By Catherine Tsounis
Greece is a global society with diverse nationalities and languages. Arcadia, the heartland, homeland of the 1821 liberator Theodore Kolokotronis, continues to hold the beacon of Hellenism alive. Dr. John P. Anton’s 2009 book “Arcadika: Speeches and Studies” is a unique bilingual Greek compilation of speeches given at various occasions, meetings, conferences, lectures of Arcadian and other societies primarily in the United States. Dr. Anton attended High School in Dimitsana and the Pedagogical Academy of Tripolis. His education includes a B.S., 1949, M.A. 1950 and Ph.D. 1954 from Columbia University. He is a distinguished Professor of Greek Philosophy and Culture at the University of South Florida, where is the Director of the Center for Greek studies and Center for Neo Platonic Studies. The philosopher has four honorary Doctorates from the University of Athens, University of Patras, the University of Ioannina and the Aristotelian University of Thessaloniki.
This is the first book sponsored by the International Society for Arcadia, an organization dedicated for the study of the Arcadian world legacy, the Arcadian Museum for Art and History in Levithi, Greece, the Arcadia International Network and the Militos Editions. Dr. Anton, One of the brilliant philosopher’s of our time gives numerous examples in Greek and English, that shows Arcadia connotes simple, attainable happiness and a return to a joy of life. Arcadia is promoted as the legendary land of myths and history and a reachable utopia.
The author’s chapter on “The Arcadian Vision, Tradition and Mission” describes the famous Latin phrase “Et in Arcadia ego”. This quote refers to the beauty of the Arcadian landscape that makes one feel that he too was born in Arcadia. The Arcadian tradition was spoken in Plato’s Symposium. It is the basic love of creation that evolves into the human mind’s pursuit of truth, beauty and good. These lessons have shaped the Arcadian Mission. Through two thousand years of misfortunes and suffering, the minds of our ancestors resisted pollution. Nothing touched the Soul of arcadia. The philosopher believes the Arcadian people proved that the love of freedom is strong as the magic song of Pan (god of shepherds and flocks, of mountain wilds, hunting and rustic music). His thesis is now the present must be faced. Arcadia must be made safe for the future and for all mankind.
“The first generation of Arcadians in this country is but a handful of old timers,” he said. There are the second, third, fourth and fifth generations who must be told what being an Arcadian means and what is behind the ‘Et in arcadia Ego’. The Arcadian Pan guided the generations that came later on how to find the rich tradition of ritual and fertility. Diotima, the priestess from Mantinea taught Socrates of Athens, as Plato explains in his dialogue ‘The Symposium’. Diotima turned the Arcadian myths into wisdom about nature and knowledge of what is the best cause to pursue all walks of life. We are asking the same question that the priestess Diotima of Mantineia posed 2,500 years ago. Where do we go from here?’ We must have education and the best form of civilized life.”
Dr. Anton poses the question how does the Arcadian vision recast the purpose of education so that we may advance? The scholar believes that Democracy was first born in Arcadia, not Athens. This rule of government was practiced in the confederation of the Arcadian tribes through their cooperation as equals long before the Athens of Pericles consolidated the rights of the Athenian citizens. He further contends that there are two Arcadias. The geographical one is in Greece with its idyllic beauty. The second Arcadia lies outside of Greece from California to New York. “The world needs all of arcadia: its ideas and traditions to contribute to the good of our public life, eliminating crime, protecting America from degrading human life through the drug culture, abuse of technology and thoughtless globalization,” he contends.
According to the philosopher, “the Arcadian tradition gives one strength to make life worth living in a culture where noble ideas count as much as material wealth. The measure of real success lies in what we are able to give back to society in quality.” Topics on Arcadia’s role in history stem over the course of two thousand five hundred years. I was unaware that the ancient Greek historian Polybius was from Megalopolis, a city in Arcadia. Polybius, an expert in Aristotle, transmitted the ideas of the mixed constitution to Rome. From there, the constitutional ideas were transmitted to Europe, England and the colonies.
“Adams, Hamilton and Jefferson knew this,” said Dr. Anton. “Arcadia is in the bloodstream of our United States constitution. Arcadian ideas and our constitution have become one tradition. Arcadia must stay in our hearts, out school, our institutions and public documents.” The volume continues to explain how myths ere developed in the geography of Arcadia. One myth is the Gigantomachia, the battle of the Olympian Gods. A movie on this myth is opening in Movie theaters in March.
The author believes the dynamic Pan Arcadian Federation must establish a building to preserve the documents of the Arcadians in America, through a collection of family records, establishing family trees. The history of every village and town in Arcadia must be collected and made available. The Pan Arcadian Federation must mainstream in American society by establishing professorships, scholarships and research funds to Universities. The survival is culture depends on the expansion of the study of Modern Greek language and literature across the country. In my opinion, in the face of the demise of minor languages, such as Modern Greek, this depends primarily on college administrators and advisors who are sympathetic towards Hellenism. Financial grants are often refused because of the negativity of those in power.
Dr. John P. Anton’s “Arcadika: Speeches and Studies” volume has revealed a new image of Greece. Nikos Kalteziotis, president of the INTERNATIONAL SOCIETY FOR ARCADIA can be reached at www.isarcadia.org for more information.
http://www.cas.usf.edu/philosophy/faculty_pages/anton_page.htm – Biography of Dr.Anton.
http://www.dryades-arcadia.gr/museum.php?s=3&l=2&id=4 – Arcadian Museum of Art and History.
http://www.helleniccomserve.com/arcadiashapinghistory.html- Arcadian Museum of Art and History.
http://www.greeknewsonline.com/?p=11285 – Arcadian Museum of Art and History.
http://www.hellenicnews.com/readnews.html?newsid=10818&lang=US – Arcadian Museum of Art and History.
http://www.helleniccomserve.com/arcadiashapinghistory.html – Arcadian Museum of Art and History.