Did ancient Greece's grandeur disappear? Why are Greeks of today not as influential as before?
What are the reasons for Greece's mediocrity today?
The first consideration is that the Greeks today are not 'mediocrities', unless you are willing to classify
all humans as mediocrities except that tiny handful who have made outstanding creative
contributions. Such views as your question puts forward are often expressed from a point of view of
modern western civilisation's accomplishments. But even if I were to grant your point, on the
assumption that once upon a time the Greeks were a race of brilliantly creative people who later 'lost
the plot', a simple answer would be that ever since the 'takeover' by the Romans, Greece has been
the site of numerous invasions, as a result of which their racial mix has changed completely, so that
today's Greeks have little more in common with the ancient Greeks than their political name. Now this
historical fact should give you a second lever by which to query whether there is any relevance to the
question as you've put it. The comparison between then and now, because its rests on an assumption
of identity between the people occupying Greek terrain formerly and today, is not valid.
Thirdly, and finally, the terms of your argument can easily be extended to many other cultures, which
had their day and would not feel happy at being singled out as mediocrities because they have fallen
off from a peak of achievement which is so rarely granted to any group of people. The China of today
is not what it was in Marco Polo's day; and his own Venice is not what it has been. Samarkand was
once the glory of the world, what of it now? Ditto with Rome, Florence, Nineveh, Memphis, Granada
etc etc. — In sum, "Grandeur" is an exceptional state of generally short duration; therefore let us
bless Mnemosyne, the goddess of memory, that we have them as examples of those pinnacles to
which the human race is capable of ascending, even if so far we have not discovered the secret of
making it last.
According to the German historian and politician Jacob Phillipp Fallmerayer (1790-1861) "the Greeks
of the present say are of Albanian and Slav descent with hardly a drop of true Greek blood in their
veins." Fallmerayer's view was adopted by the Nazis and used in order to justify the exterminationist
policies inflicted upon the Greek population during the WWII German occupation of Greece.. The
same view is sometimes expressed today for political purposes. However, anthropology, ethnology
and linguistics have shown that the population of Greece is basically native and that the
contemporary Greeks are descendents of the ancient Greeks.
History answers your question. All influential nations have their rise and their fall. Greeks are not the
exception. Their influence lasted long (until 1453 — the fall of Constantinople) but their fall was quite
hard. They were occupied by the Turks (Ottoman Empire) and this occupation lasted, more or less,
450 years! They won their independence in 1831. During the World War II they won the first victory
for the allied camp (1940 — against the Italians). Today they are a small nation of 17 million people
(10 million in Greece and 7 million abroad). But still they are more influential than many small nations.
Greece is an old and full member of the European Union, of Nato and of the OECD). Currently,
Greece holds the rotating presidency of the European Union.
... And Greece is still a superpower in poetry! Two of her poets, Elytis and Seferis won the Nobel
prize and she had at least ten other poets of the same class and stature (Cavafy, Ritsos, Sikelianos,
Palamas, Calvos, Solomos, Kariotakis, Valaoritis, Drosinis, Malakasis and others).