Today marks the official start of the 2012 Summer Olympics, with the opening ceremonies taking place in London. With all the news about Greece and its part in the European debt crisis, I sometimes forget that this is the same country that was once the pinnacle of Western civilization and the birthplace of the Olympic Games. It is said that the first Olympic Games took place in 776 B.C., and continued for almost 12 centuries before being banned by Emperor Theodosius in 393 A.D. 1200 years! The height of Greek civilization ranged for more than 800 years, during which we saw the creation and rise of democracy, the founding of the great philosophical schools of Socrates and Plato, and Hippocrates’ establishment of medicine as a distinct discipline.
What a long, strange trip it’s been for Greece. It brings to mind a word of Greek origin, hubris, meaning “exaggerated pride or self-confidence.” I’m sure the ancient Greeks could not have imagined a future that is our present day, and the depths to which their country would fall. The path to solvency for Greece will likely be difficult and painful, but European policymakers are still hopeful that they can create a plan that will keep the country in the Euro zone. Perhaps the Greeks can come to terms with austerity measures by taking comfort from Socrates, who said, “He is richest who is content with the least, for content is the wealth of nature.”
Sarah DerGarabedian, CFA
Director of Research