In Georgios Steiris, George Arabatzis & Sotiris Mitralexis (eds.), The Problem of Modern Greek Identity: From the Ecumene to the Nation-State. Cambridge Scholars Press. pp. 201-214 (2016)

Authors
Athanasia Theodoropoulou
National and Kapodistrian University of Athens
Abstract
Nine years before the fall of Constantinople, in 1444, cardinal Bessarion in his third and last letter addressed to Constantine Palaeologus, Despot of Mystra, expressed his deep concern about the economic, political, cultural, social and moral crisis, maintaining that the multidimensional crisis would inevitably lead to Byzantium’s decline. Bessarion stresses that the aristocracy’s biased policy, the burdensome taxation, the low level of business activity, the complete lack of technological advancements and the deficient education system not only shaped the Peloponnesian state but also transformed the once brave, conscientious and studious Greeks into a cowardly, indolent and ignorant people. Realizing that the constitution of Greek society and the behavior of its citizens are impediments to modernization and to cultural progress, Bessarion proposes a series of reforms based on a revival of Ancient Greek culture and on technological advances of West that would lead to a well-governed, self-sufficient and independent Greek state. On 23 April 2010, 566 years after Bessarion’s letter, the Greek government requested financial assistance from the European Support Mechanism in order to avert the probability of default in Greece. The fiscal deficit, the swelling sovereign debt and the global financial recession shape Greece in crisis. The aim of this paper is to give an interpretative presentation of Bessarion’s letter with reference to modern Greece; to analyze the causes of the Byzantine Empire’s decline and the recommended reforms in comparison to the causes of the financial crisis in Greece and the implementation of austerity measures. I will prove that nowadays modern Greeks face the same problems with the Greeks of Peloponnese such as political corruption, administrative incompetence, excessive taxation, economic impoverishment, class inequality, unemployment, reduced business activity and inability to exploit natural resources. In this sense, I will show that the identity crisis of modern Hellenism was first cultivated and formed gradually from the Renaissance to modern Greece.
Keywords Cardinal Bessarion  Political Philosophy  Modern Greek Identity  Byzantium
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