book review
The Passion of the Greeks: Christianity and the Rape of the Hellenes,

Mediterranean Quarterly, 19:1 (Winter 2008): 97-106.

Book Review


Evaggelos G. Vallianatos, The Passion of the Greeks: Christianity and the Rape of the Hellenes, (Harwich Port, Cape Cod: Clock & Rose Press, 2006), Hardcover, 245 pp. ISBN: 978-1-59386-039-4 Reviewed by Christos C. Evangeliou.


This book was a pleasant surprise for me. Its title, The Passion of the Greeks, reminded me of a statement I had made in the Hellenic Philosophy, published ten years ago.[1]I had stated then that: “By the Hellenic definition of philosophia, understood as a free inquiry and unfettered speculation about both nature and culture, “European philosophy” becomes simply a case of homonymia. For this kind of “philosophy” has been deprived, for historical reasons, of that essential freedom of spirit, which is absolutely necessary for an authentic and genuine philosophy to be born and flourish…. [It] had the misfortune to serve, alternatively or simultaneously, three very non-Hellenic musters: dogmatic theology, scientific technology, and political ideology. Hence, what I have termed “the passion of philosophy,” which the forthcoming volume will attempt to bring to light, by critically analyzing the phenomenon of the historical transformation of Ancient Hellenic philosophy in Christianized Europe and the West.”

                So, while I was still trying to figure out the details of “the passion of philosophy,” that is, what happened to Hellenic philosophy in Christian Europe, Vallianatos’ book came to address such larger questions as: “What happened to the Greeks? When did the Greek Gods become “myths” and their people, the most highly evolved in the Mediterranean “pagans”? Why are their statues mutilated and their temples smashed? Why was so much of their knowledge destroyed? This book tells the secret story of the Greek genocide at the hands of the Christians between the fourth to the sixth centuries CE... At a time of religious conflict between Christianity and Islam, this book highlights the intolerant nature of monotheism, the hidden history that plunged the West into the Dark Ages. This book is pleading for another Renaissance, another love affair with the Greeks, so as to reinvigorate our civilization with Greek values.”

                Written with great passion, by a passionate Greek scholar, this impassioned book recounts with graphic details the historical “passion” of the pagan Greeks at the crucial time, when they encountered the fanatic hordes of missionary monks and Christianizing Roman Emperors. They tried to convert the remaining Greeks too to the new, fanatical, and fashionable faith at the time, willy-nilly. This book is unlike other books, which present the Christianizing of Greece and of the Mediterranean region as some kind of felicitous meeting and mating of the philosophic spirit of Hellenism and the prophetic spirit of the new and ecumenical religion of love and peace. For it chronicles, with boldness and candor, the other and more hideous side of this tragic story. The meeting of Christianity and Hellenism was not peaceful and pious, in the eyes of the author, but bloody and brutal, and has been kept secret and hidden for a long time.

This challenging and truthful tale, therefore, will probably offend the sensibilities of Christians and Greeks, who have been taught the other aspect of the story for so long that they have come to believe it with fanatic faith. They even feel proud of what they refer to, with equal passion, as the great and glorious synthesis of the Greco-Christian heritage, historically facing the menace of Islam. For, as Prof. Thanasis Maskaleris has put it: “[The] book dramatically portrays the immense conflict between Christianity and Hellenism from its beginnings to the present, and is structured with a backbone of extensive documentation. It also estimates our great loss for essentially abandoning the political and humanistic principles the Greeks shaped for a civilized sustenance of our world. One wishes that more books were written in the same vein, for the wisdom of the Greeks can provide the guidance we desperately need…”

                More praise for this good book comes from distinguished Professors, like Apostolos Athanassakis and Phillip Mitsis. They have stated respectively that: “The Passion of the Greeks is a book which proposes to sail into the highly controversial early centuries when the Christian faith made every possible effort to prevail over the deeply-embedded Hellenic religion…. However, violence, political conspiracy, and downright destruction of the great religious centers of antiquity were much more the order of the day….” And, “His plea for reason, moderation, liberty, and a general world view that he finds best defended in the traditions of Hellenic philosophical thought is especially timely in a world increasingly disturbed by religious fanaticism and sectarian violence. Rather than giving into despair, however, Vallianatos tries to chart an optimistic map of human and political possibilities and calls for a general renewal of individual and societal reason based on modern pagan principles.”

                The book deserves all this praise and more because it is written not only with great pathos, but also with clarity of thought and lucidity of style. What he said about Zosimos, one of his favorite Greek historians, applies to Vallianatos work as well: “He wrote in the great Greek historical tradition—of honesty, conciseness, insight, originality and moving narrative.” (p. 87) The book combines historical erudition with a personal touch, as the author tries to understand what happened to his beloved Hellenes and to him personally. His journey took him from a war ravished Greek island, Kephalonia, to America, where he discovered himself and his Hellenic roots through the study of history, with help from Adamantios Koraes, an enlightened and inspired Greek scholar on whom he wrote his doctoral dissertation.

Life in Valsamata, the village where Evaggelos was born and raised, in the post war Greecewhich was also torn apart by civil war, was tough and determined by the interplay of shadows. On the one hand were the shadows cast by mountain Ainos, with the ruins of the shrines of Zeus, Apollon, Athena, and Pan; and on the other, the shades coming from the monastery of St. Gerasimos, with its Church bells, festivals and icons. He explains in the prologue of the book the conflict within this tradition and in his inner soul:

The ideal of what Greece was in “ancient” times and the ideal of what it should be in my time clash violently with what Greece is, in fact, in the dawn of the twenty-first century. I love passionately all that is still Greek in Greece. I say this with sorrow, for Christianity radically remade Greece to the point that the real Hellaswas buried for more than a millennium, indeed it is still buried, in the country, which calls itself Hellas or Greece…. The Christians made the whole country a cemetery, which quite unintentionally preserved the aftermath of their plunder and genocide of the Greeks and Hellenic civilization…. The products of Christian culture—the bible, the liturgy, the miracles of Jesus and the saints, the dogmas of sin, paradise and hell, the icons of the religious hierarchy—come from a world that has nothing to do with the Parthenon and the philosophy and piety of the Greeks, who built this greatest masterpiece of Greek and Western culture in order to honor the Greek virgin goddess Athena. (pp. 4-10)

Between the long prologue (pp. 1-26) and a short epilogue (pp. 2001-207), the author has arranged

eleven chapters that make up the bulk of the book and house his passionate narrative of the passion of the Greeks. He chronicles the tragic transformation of the Hellenic and Greco-Roman civilization in the crucial time o f the 4th and 6th centuries. As he sees it, this civilization (rational, beautiful, good and humanistic) was replaced, for the most part violently, by the monstrosity of a theocratic Christian Empire, which was based on a fanatical and intolerant faith, with its foolish hopes and irrational fears of an after life.

                Chapter one, “Greek History: From Marathon to Korinthos,” covers the historical period falling between the glorious battle of Marathon, which marked the first Greek victory over the Persians in 490BC, and the infamous battle of Corinth in 146BC, which the Greeks lost to Romans. It made mainland Greece a province of the expanding Roman Empire. Of special interest here is the theory regarding the relation between Hellenic historia (history) and mythologia (mythology), or “early history.” The author explains, “God Prometheus comes to us out of what we call “mythology”. Greek mythology, however, is not a fairy tale or a legend—this is a pernicious lie the Christians invented to denigrate the Greeks. Mythology, for the Greeks, is early history or history lost in time, and it is the fundamental key to understanding the world, how it works, and where we humans fit in.” (p. 29) In support of this theory he refers also to the work of an expert in the field of Classical Greek Studies, Dr. Mary Lefkowitz.[2]

                Chapter two, “Power and Importance of Greek Religion,” builds upon and elaborates this theory. It addresses the important questions of how the Greeks and their gods are literally inseparable, and “why religion, in the form of piety for the gods expressed in athletics, the tragic theater, the oracles, and the festivals, helped the Greeks to maintain their Greek identity?” He insists that, “Greek piety, the veneration of the Greeks for their gods, was at the core of how the Greeks understood the universe, nature, the rest of the world, and themselves. In fact the religion of the Greek people was their culture, which was full of gods but did not have a creed, holy book or church…. All agricultural festivals were propitiation to the gods for increasing the fertility of the land, for a good harvest.” (p. 42) He concludes with the insightful observation: “So the Greeks started their grand political experimentation in the gymnasion-palaistra of each polis with a combination of training the beautiful nude body of young people with rigorous physical exercises, and educating their mind with a command of the Greek language, music, philosophy, mathematics and science. The nude athletic games of Olympia…. were a sort of final exams, an offering of piety to the gods, all in one political act and celebration of common Greek culture.”(p. 48)

                In chapter three, “Apollonios of Tyana: Hellas is the World,” he discusses the special case of the sage Apollonios of Tyana, his travels all over the world, his many exploits, as well as the rivalry between his Hellenic movement and the early Christian cult. In him, the author sees an archetype with which he can identify. For, like Evaggelos, “He passionately tried to preserve Hellenic culture by choosing its ascetic and scientific version worked out by Pythagoras 700 years before his time… He urged the Greeks and Romans to stand by their traditions, studying nature and medicine, offering piety to their gods….Christianity did to Apollonios what it did to Greek culture—it obliterated his works and influence…. Apollonios, however, made a difference among the Greeks, offering a model of inspiration and resistance to them, which they used to preserve and protect their culture for many hundreds of years.” (pp. 59-60)

                Chapter four, “The Treason of Christianity,” is one of the longest and most passionate. It narrates the failure of the Roman State to deal effectively with the serious danger that the rapidly growing, the “insidious and seditious,” Christian sect represented, although the authorities were aware of its devious, anti-social behavior. One Roman Emperor after another underestimated the threat of Christianity, until it was too late to stop it in the 4th century, when they embrace it and used it for their interests. Of course, “What happened to Rome eventually reached Greece: Tremors in Rome became earthquakes in Greece. [But] it took time for the cultist tremor of Christianity to become a political and cultural earthquake.”(p. 62) 

                Several pages of this chapter are devoted to Celsus or Kelsos’ sustained attack of the new religion, as well as the reactions to it of leading Platonic philosophers of the 2nd and 3rd centuries BCE, such as, Ploutarchos, Plotinos, and Porphyrios. According to Kelsos, “Christianity had nothing original or divine in its history and theology. It was a stolen piece of Judaism modified to fit the fiction of Jesus. This was a Jewish sorcerer whom the Jews rejected because he claimed to be their messiah. The Jews, however, expected a messiah-prince to free them of Roman rule, but Jesus had nothing to do with princes or revolution. The Christians, nevertheless, made Jesus, a secretive, untrustworthy sorcerer, into a god. …Christian teachers sought their converts among slaves, women, children and fools. This was no accident but a consistent policy because they feared educated people. They considered science and learning dangerous and evil, and thought of knowledge as a disease of the soul.” (p. 68) All these conclusions the author derives from Origenes’ response to Kelsos’ attack of the Christian Church. In the eyes of Hellenic philosophers and Roman authorities, the Christians appeared as “atheists and impious and criminal.” This is attested by Christian Eusebius, among other authors, in Preparatio Evangelica (1.2. 1-4).

                The 3rd and 4th centuries were certainly stressed times intensified by ideological war between the new Christian thinkers, like Eusebius and Augustine, and traditional thinkers, like Plotinus and Porphyry. Porphyry in particular became the champion of Hellenism and Hellenic polytheism, so that he attracted the ire of the theologians. In this, the author sees a parallel to the recently ended Cold War pitting Communists against Capitalists: “This war was as nasty a war—fought between the Greeks and the Christians—as that fought in the twentieth century between the Communist Russians and the Americans. Eusebios and Augustine played the role of the hagiographers of Lenin and Stalin. No crime made any difference as long as the hero was on the side of Christianity…. After all, they spent their entire lives trying to show the Jewish prophecies and the gospels were not fiction but the word of god…. Yet the slander of Porphyrios by Eusebios and Augustine did not diminish his timely and all-important message.” (pp. 79-80) The Emperor Maximinus Daia (308-313) was probably influenced by Porphyry and picked up the message and the struggle against the enemies of the state, but it was too little, too late. Constantine had other plans in mind.   

                Chapter five is titled, “Decline and Fall of Rome--Through Greek Eyes.” The author wants to look at the decline and fall of Rome through the eyes of two Greek historians, Zosimos and Ammianus, because: “To uncover what the Christians did to the Greeks, we need to turn to the Greeks themselves—that is, we must understand Roman imperial history from the perspective of the Greeks who witnessed the smashing and burning of their culture. That is the only way to get to the truth. The Christians… whether historians, philologists, translators, editors or theologians writing in the last several centuries, including the twentieth century, are unreliable: They no longer see the Greeks as Greeks but see them as idolaters, heathens and pagans…. That is the main reason we must consult the Greeks in order to reveal the truth.” (p. 87)

                When we do consult the Greek historian Zosimos, we see that he identified the period 313-363 as the crucial time of Roman decline. Two related factors, Christianity and barbarity, combined to bring down Roman power. For the Barbarians “infiltrated the Roman world, and together with the Christians, barbarized it. Finally, the barbarians and the Christians became indistinguishable, destroying the integrity, and indeed the civilization, that had been Roman Empire.” (p. 88). This certainly happened in the western part of the Empire, but the eastern part seems to have faired a little better, perhaps in the eyes of other observers, but not in the eyes of the author of this book. For him, as for Zosimos, the emperors Constantine and Theodosius I, do not deserve the title “Great,” that Christians historians have bestowed on them, because they share “most of the blame for the catastrophe,” the collapse of the Empire. More to the point:

Zosimos disliked Constantine primarily because, by his support of Christianity, he broke irrevocably with both Greek and Roman past. Zosimos was right…. Constantine inflicted a nearly mortal wound on the civilization of Rome. He was the first Roman emperor who, by his actions, became no longer the chief magistrate of the Roman people, but a despot armed with troops and his own state religion, Christianity. He wrecked the ancient Roman tradition that the emperor, the princeps, was the legal representative of the senate and the Roman people. Instead, Constantine founded a hereditary monarchy and used religion to draw moral and political support. This, in my opinion, is the overarching reason why Constantine made Christianity a state religion…. Christianity would forever bless him and justify his rule.” (p. 93)

These insights are right on target. Christianity was ready to forgive Constantine’s many hideous

crimes, and even elevate him to the level of the Apostle, calling him isapostolos.  Ammianus was equally “disturbed by the violence of the Christians,” in the rein of Constantius, son of Constantine. (p. 99)

                Chapter six is titled, “Julian the Great,” not surprisingly, since Julian was the champion of the “pagan” party and, in this regard, the opposite of Constantine and his pro-Christian policies. His rise to power, his short rule, and his tragic fall (362-363) are described in detail following Ammianus’ account. Julian was determined to restore the worship of the gods and the honored Greco-Roman traditions. Thus, he “declared religious freedom in the empire,” although he made it public that he was not a Christian, “but a faithful follower of the Greek and Roman gods.” He “immersed himself in Greek religion with the passion of a person who waited an entire life for that moment;” he “loved Greek philosophy and the gods, for the two were inseparable.” He made a distinction between Christianity and Judaism and showed more respect for the latter. He also considered rebuilding “the sacred city of Jerusalem.” But he always saw Christianity as “an illegal, treasonous and newfangled cult and ideology that destroyed Greek culture.” (pp. 106-112)     

He even prohibited, rightly in the opinion of the author, Christians “from teaching Greek and Roman philosophy, poetry and literature.” These were replete with references to Greek religion and reverence for the gods. How could Christians appreciate their beauty, understand their truth, and interpret it correctly? Gregory of Nazianzus, who had met Julian as a student in Athens, called him “a public and private enemy” and an “apostate,” an epithet that stack with him since. To counterbalance this, Vallianatos calls Julian “ the Great” and a “Philosopher-King.” If it was not obvious that he loves Julian, the author tells us so (p.119). Because of this love, he admits that his portrait of this tragic Emperor is “probably more one-sided than I would like it to be.” However, at this point, he is critical of Dr. Polymnia Athanassiadi who, following the line of St. Gregory, sees in Julian a fanatic man and “the very incarnation of evil.”[3]

Clearly the author identifies with Julian and his project: “He, no more than I, had no choice in growing up Christian. We dumped Christianity because it had been imposed on us by the force of the church and the government in his case, and by the force of unexamined tradition in my case. In addition, and this is the real reason of abandoning Christianity, that religion had nothing to do with our Greek culture. In fact, it turned out to be a fatal enemy to that culture. The apostates were the likes of Gregory Nazianzus who willfully ditched their fabulous and philosophical Greek tradition for an alien and treasonous doctrine.” (p. 119) With the assassination of young Julian (in 363, at the age of 32), and the intensified barbarian attacks on Rome, the Empire seemed as if abandoned by the gods, and doomed to follow “its Christian path of violent decline and fall.” This decline is covered in chapters seven and eight

Of special interest is chapter eight, “Universal Captivity of Greece,” because it provides what the author calls “chronology of murder and genocide,” a long list of dates in which policies directed against the pagan Greeks were adopted by Christian Roman Emperors. Worship of the Hellenic gods and sacrificing to them were forbidden on the penalty of death. The Eleusinian Mysteries and the Olympic Agones were ended. Teachers were forbidden to engage in Greek studies. An edict of Zeno, published in 484, reads thus: “Bishops and government agents should find and punish teachers of Hellenic studies. They should not be allowed to teach, lest they corrupt their students. But, above all, Bishops and government officials should put Greek teachers out of business, bringing the “impieties” of Hellenism to an end. No one shall leave a gift or bequeath anything to Greeks or to schools and other institutions supporting the “impiety” of Hellenism. All previous legislation against the “error” of the Greeks is reaffirmed.” (p. 139)

Dr. Vallianatos comments on the imperial order that brought an end to the Olympics, as follows:

Here was a millennial tradition of athletic competition for arete (courage, virtue, equality before the law, goodness, manliness, nobility and excellence) started by Herakles, son of Zeus and the Greeks’ greatest hero, and Theodosios, thinking like a barbarian, brought it to an end.

                The Olympic agon (contest) was much more than a struggle between outstanding men for physical excellence. It was, above all, a Panhellenic honoring of the gods. It was an extraordinary effort to rein in the Hellenes’ passions for war and bring them together from all over the world for the celebration of their common culture. The overwhelming idea behind the Olympic contest was political. The Olympic contest was an effort to build a Panhellenic polis and commonwealth, a united Hellas under democratic governance. The Olympic agon was also building better and nobler human beings. And, yet, the Hellenes’ greatest athletic contest and celebration of national identity were buried…. by a barbarian king who knew no better than listening to the fanaticism of his Christian advisors. (p. 136)

                The destructive work of Theodosius against the Greeks and their culture continued by his successors and, with real zest, by Justinian, who closed down the schools of philosophy in Athens in 529, and “brought barbarism to Greece.” According to John of Ephesus, “in 546 Justinian’s agents discovered several illustrious and noble men, grammarians, sophists, and doctors, who were worshiping the Greek gods. The government of Justinian tortured, beat, flogged and imprisoned these men who then rushed to denounce each other. Some of them admitted their “false beliefs” and became Christians. One of these rich and powerful men, Phokas, committed suicide in prison rather than face Justinian who ordered that he “be buried like a donkey.” (p. 148) Together with the pagan Greeks, the Jews were targeted too. For instance, St. John Chysostom considered them, long before Hitler, as a “disease that had to be eradicated.” (p. 154)

                Chapter nine is titled, “What has Athens to do with Jerusalem?” The question has been borrowed from Tertullian, a Christian fundamentalist and bigot, who represented an extreme version of Christianity. He expressed deep suspicion and hatred of Hellenic philosophy, which he considered the seedbed of heresy. For him, and many other Christians like him, the truth had been revealed and was to be found in the Holy Scriptures, whose origin was in Jerusalem, and not to be sought by philosophers and their theories, whose origin was in Athens, Greece. At any rate, the fact is that, although the Christianized Roman Empire retained in its eastern parts at least the Greek language and some morsels of classical literature, this was just the cell of the Hellenic culture, without the soul or vital spirit. The spirit was lost and would not be revived in the West for more than a millennium, until the coming of Renaissance in the 14-15th centuries.

But, before the Italian Renaissance, another renaissance had taken place in the Islamic world in the 9th and 10th centuries, especially in Baghdad under the Abbassid dynasty. This was primarily due to the fact that many books of Greek philosophy and science were translated into Arabic in a systematic way. The two captures of Constantinople (by the Crusaders in 1204, and the Turks in 1453) brought to the West valuable Greek manuscripts and competent Greek scholars, who gave an impetus to the Renaissance. But the light of Renaissance was soon to be dimmed by the fury of the Protestant Reformation and the Catholic reaction. Thus, the Council of Trent (1545-1563) brought effectively the Renaissance movement to a premature end. The author correctly observes that, “As a result, the religious wars in the sixteenth century, among many other catastrophes, nearly sealed the fate of Hellenic logos (reason) in European culture…. Calvinism brought an end of pleasure, the agonizing fear of sin, and hatred for nature and the earth to the Evangelical Christians. Calvin said Christians longed for death, not life. Calvin was right about that.” (p. 169)

However, the movements of Renaissance and Reformation left Greeceand its Orthodox Church unmoved, as they were covered protectively with the darkness of Turkocracy (1453-1821). To this theme the next chapter (chapter ten) is devoted and is titled, with caustic irony, “The Greek Palimpsest.” The comments, in this chapter particularly, about the Greek Church will make religiously minded people in Greece upset, and not eager to extend their Christian love to the author of this book. Consider for example:

At the dawn of the twenty-first century, Christianity is still a force to contend with in Greece. The church is an occupying and colonial and colonizing force. The church in Greeceis the highest of all conceivable corruption. It stole the identity of the Greeks and continues to muddle their minds with anti-Hellenic thoughts. The church is also the wealthiest institution of the country. It has made religion into an extraordinary profitable business…. What Christians did to the Hellenes and their culture…. is a closed and secret page of Greek history in Greece…. Most Greeks don’t know that their church collaborated with the Turks to keep them slaves for 400 years. Adamantios Koraes was straightforward. Writing anonymously in 1806, he said the priests and monks and bishops were primarily responsible for the Turkish occupation of Greece…. The country is a Palimpsest. Barbarians are writing over the scraped history and culture of Hellas…. Greek children and students sing the praises of Christian saints, some of them with abominable records of anti-Hellenism, but barely know the poetry, or even the names of, Homeros, Hesiodos, Aischylos, Sophocles…. (pp. 171-172)

In spite of this bleak picture of the status of Greek culture in Greece, in Europe, and the world, he is optimistic that a possible renaissance by the resurrection of Hellenic gods, especially agrarian Dionysus, to replace Christian Jesus, is not out of the question completely. To this possibility the last chapter of the book is devoted, “Dionysos for a Permanent Hellenic Renaissance.” Following on the steps of Nietzsche, he sees the difference between a Greek god and other gods: “A god to a Greek is not what Christians (and other monotheists) understand their god to be. The Greek god was sometimes an immortal being of pure goodness, intelligence, beauty, and power; but, more often, the Greek god was a mixture of human and divine elements, a human-like god or god-like human with immortality, goodness, power, beauty, and intelligence to spare—the very ideal of Greek philosophy and culture, kalon k’ agathon, the beautiful and the good.” (p. 187)

He also meditates on the relation between Greeks and Christians, and finds the combination of “Christian Greek” a kind of oxymoron. This will not please many Greeks and Greek-Americans who are proud of their Greek Orthodox Christianity. He always seems to return to the basic “anti-Hellenic impulse of Christianity” which, for him, constitutes the “Greek tragedy in Christian Greece.” This would make one wonder what a Jew would say about Christianity, which, in his eyes, took the concept of the one Jewish God, and turned it into a Trinity, using the tricks of Greek sophistry and some ideas of Hellenic philosophy. We know that Mohammed found this radical transformation of the “one true God” abominable and blasphemous. Hence the unbridgeable gap that separates these two sister religions and “faiths of Abraham.”

The author hopes earnestly that Hellenic logos and a revived Dionysus can help humanity to find its way back to reverence for nature and its gods. But, as the 9/11 and the war on terror indicate, Islam and Christianity are ready for another round in the cosmic arena for world dominion. It would be great if only fundamentalist Muslims and Christians could be persuaded to supplement the reading of the Holy Bible or the Holy Koran, with the reading of other good books like the book of Dr. Vallianatos! Then, there would be more hope for his dream to come true, a renaissance of Hellenic learning and culture. But that will take a true miracle. On the other hand, just as the Hellenes were turned into Christians, the Christian Greeks at least could be made to return to their Hellenic cultural roots with some good luck and in better times ahead.  


Dr. Christos C. Evangeliou

Professor of Hellenic Philosophy and Poet

Towson University, USA

Author of several books, including

Hellenic Philosophy: Origin and Character.

[1] Hellenic Philosophy: Between Europe, Asia and Africa, (Binghamton, NY: Binghamton University, 1997), p. iii

[2] “Greek Gods, Human Lives: What we can Learn from Myths” (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2003).

[3] Julian: An Intellectual Biography (London: Routledge, 1992), especially, pages 32 and 227-229.

Greece battles Balkan organized crime

By Ioannis Michaletos | Blog
February 14, 2008

A phenomenon that expanded during the 90’s and early 00’s is the Balkan organized one, composed by groups of people, mainly ethnic related, that commit wide-range narcotics trafficking, slave trade and all kinds of illegal actions that require systematic action and organized method of operations.

According to recent Greek police reports, there is a pervasion of Balkan groups in Greece, mainly originating from Albania, and they are considered extremely dangerous and a peril for the stability of the society. In Athens the Albanians specialize in drugs trade and organized burglaries, with some groups that have been arrested; accounting as much as 250 burglaries in a space less than a year. Moreover Turkish groups tend to associate themselves with illegal immigrants trafficking from the East (Pakistan, Middle East), Romanians with illegal prostitution and Bulgarians with forgeries and scams.

A trend to watch is the use of technology and new techniques amongst the members of these groups such as, the use of the internet as a virtual communication world, satellite phones, and offshore companies to launder capital, counter surveillance and so on. Further more and more Balkan groups use Greek territory as a regional base and invest their illegal funds in front companies such as bars, clubs, strip shows and the real estate.

The Albanian groups according to Greek police sources are the primal threat in the sector of organized crime combat in Greece. The proliferation of weaponry originating from Albania is a major source of concern. There are several reasons that explain the above.
There are regions in Albania such as the Kukes town where virtually thousands of weapons are sold freely on a monthly basis without any restraints. Also the existence of organized crime groups within Greece over the previous years has increased considerably the demand for handguns and submachine guns, a need usually filled by Albanian groups importing these weapons from the North.

In 2001 it was recorded that the majority (Up to 90%) of the heroin sold in Greece was managed by Turkish and Albanian groups. The percentage can be estimated at 97% nowadays, whilst the bulk originates from Afghanistan and it is transferred to Greece via Turkey or Bulgaria. A major issue is the low price of heroin in Greece which is less than 25 Euros per gram; the lowest in Europe. The reason for this is the 500% increase on opium production in Afghanistan since 2001, coupled with the increased concentration of Albanian groups in that field. It would not be risky to estimate that the specialization of Albanian groups in such a trade may have political implications as well. It is interesting to note that over the past 15 years there has been a 1,800% increase on overdose deaths in Greece mostly of young people aged 18-35 years old.

Another sector on which Albanians excel in illegal activity is the burglaries. During the first 9 months of 2007, 17 organized groups were disbanded, 15 of those were of Albanian formation and the rest 2 were composed by Greeks, Albanians and Georgians. In general 25-30% of heavy crime related activity is concentrated in the Albanian community residing in Greece, even though it constitutes less than 2.5% of the total population, excluding Albanians of Greek or Vlach origin.

Cannabis is another drug that is being imported in large amounts from Albania. It is considered of low quality and of very low price in comparison with the local production or that of the Middle East. Presently some 70% of the local cannabis trade is of Albanian origin.

Bulgarian groups tend to concentrate on electronic crime through the use of fake credit cards, document forgery, consumer goods (Mainly DVD’s) and banknote counterfeits. Another expanding trade is the illegal adoption one, whereby Bulgarian groups sell newly born to Greek couples.

Turkish groups dominate illegal immigration routes and regularly import Asians to Greece. Up to 500 immigrants trespass illegally Greek borders each week, and that is only in the Eastern Aegean front of the country. In 2004 it was noted that over one million illegal immigrants are “In transit” from Turkey towards the Western European countries. A third of them it was assumed they would be able to exit the country and head towards the European metropolis mostly, thus expanding the yearly capital profit output of organized crime groups dealing with this illegal industry.

In 2007, at least 100 Turkish citizens were arrested accused of participating in this activity, that it is also associated with document forgery in complicity with Pakistani and Iraqi groups in Greece. Especially in the Athens region, there has been a particular expansion of the reach of the above groups that also run protection rackets within their communities.

The combat of illegal immigration is a top priority for the Greek security forces that have managed to repatriate over 2, 2 million illegal immigrants over the past 15 years, along with 150,000 arrests for narcotic related offences, truly impressive figures for a nation of just 11 million citizens in the outermost end of Continental Europe.  Since the collapse of the Iron Curtain in 1989-91 organized crime became an everyday reality in Greece with armed robberies increasing as much as 500%, along with a flood of narcotics coming from the Northern and Eastern borders of the country. Moreover trafficking became a lucrative illegal trade and a recent police operation codenamed “Vitrin” that resulted in 75 arrests, proved the existence of a well-formatted Balkan group that earned as much as 30,000 Euros per day from the exploitation of the modern day white slavery.

The current article aims to point towards the understanding of underreported news from the Balkans and from Greece in particular. It has to be noted that the country still lags behind the figures relating to organized crime activity than the Western or Northern Europe and this is due mostly to the intense activity by the Greek security forces. In the future more reports could shade more light in the ongoing battle against organized crime that has its own ethnic and political ramifications apart from the unquestionable police interest.  Already the Greek authorities are planning ahead in case Kosovo becomes an independent, because it is widely assumed that this will result in the increase of organized crime related activities in the Balkan region.

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