Beauty is subjective, and history is fleeting. Greece’s best quality- really, its defining quality- is the absolute. Greece has a heat like no other, and the glory of heat has proved an inspiration for heroes and poets both. In these hottest days of the decade, we embrace the intensity of the Greek experience.
Why we would follow Alexander the Great to the ends of the earth-
“The army was marching through sand, and while the heat was already burning, since they were obliged to reach water at the end of the march; and this was some distance ahead. Alexander himself was much distressed by thirst, and with much difficulty, but still as best he could, led the way on foot; so that the rest of the troops should (as usually happens in such a case), bear their toils more easily, when all are sharing the distress alike. Meanwhile some of the light-armed troops had turned aside from the rest of the line to look for water, and had found some- just a little water collected in a shallow riverbed, a poor and wretched water hole; they gathered up this water with difficulty and hurried to Alexander as if they were bringing him some great boon; but when they drew near, they brought the water, which they had poured into a helmet, to the king.
He received it, and thanked those who had brought it; and taking it, poured it out in the sight of all the troops; and at this action the whole army was so much heartened that you would have said that each and every man had drunk that water which Alexander had poured out.” – The Anabasis of Alexander, Arrian of Nicomedia, 2nd C AD
The divine Sappho, on the sound of heat:
when the earth is
bright with flaming
heat falling straight down
the cricket sets
up a high-pitched
singing in his wings
-Sappho, as translated by Mary Barnard.
Drinking water with Henry Miller in the National Garden:
“An hour later I said goodbye to my companion and found myself a room in small hotel at double the usual price, stripped down and lay on the bed naked in a pool of sweat until nine that evening…. I have never been so hot in all my life. To sit near an electric light was torture. After a few cold drinks I got up from the terrace where I was sitting and headed for the park…. There were little tables set out along the dusty paths in an absent-minded way: couples were sitting there quietly in the dark, talking in low voices, over glasses of water. The glass of water… everywhere I saw the glass of water. It became obsessional. I began to drink water as a new thing, a new vital element of life.”
-Henry Miller, The Colossus of Maroussi
Of course, it’s tempting on such days as these to stay in an an air-conditioned room (happily for us, Miller didn’t have the option). But if it’s the elemental Greece you want to experience, now is the time. Shade was never such a haven, breeze never more welcome; water has never quenched as it will now. The contrasts of Greece- the intense light and the cool green shade, a hot dry earth and a crisp sea, will leave you with something more than mere pleasure.