FEW subjects require more delicate and skilled handling than that of the survival of ancient in modern Greece. Resemblances between the customs, legends and beliefs of the present-day country people and the myths and ceremonies of antiquity are numerous and well known; but to assume, as investigators were once apt to do, that the former descend directly from the latter is rash, for similar resemblances can be found in countries which have no historical connexion with classical Greece at all. Also, Greece has been invaded several times since the close of the latest classical epoch (for convenience, we may take the reign of Justinian, A.D. 527-565, as the dividing boundary), and a proportion of her present population, how large is matter of dispute, is not of Greek descent. Her culture also has been much affected by foreign contact and domination, witness the numerous Italian and Turkish words which, along with a few that are Slavonic and a sprinkling from other sources, including English and French, mark the modern vocabulary. Hence, if we find something in a Greek village which reminds us of a description in some classical author, we must examine it closely to make sure that we are not faced with a story or a practice brought in by Slavs, Albanians, Italians or Turks sometime in the troubled centuries which have elapsed since Justinian died. The question has been further obscured by the natural and excusable zeal of some Greek antiquarians who, properly proud of the glorious history of their ancestors, have tried to prove everything in Greece to be Greek. Yet, when all modifications and subtractions have been made, there is a solid residue of modern material whose descent from the classical period is either quite certain or so strongly attested as to be practically beyond dispute. This chapter will confine itself to a few examples belonging to this category, omitting many interesting speculations and much that is attractive to any folklorist for its own intrinsic value, regardless of its origin.
As is to be expected, we find but few survivals of the great
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Publication information: Book title: Religion in Greece and Rome. Contributors: H. J. Rose - Author. Publisher: Harper & Row. Place of publication: New York. Publication year: 1959. Page number: 139.
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