Ion Grumeza

Author, historian, educator, and philosopher

The Grexit: The Greek Exit from the Euro Zone

The Grexit: The Greek Exit from the Euro Zone
By Ion Grumeza

Everyone knows about Greece’s historical debt of over 300 billion Euros and its inability to pay it back to Western banks. According to Greece, it has been victimized by the high interest on the loans and the worldwide recession. However, by looking back one thousand years into the history of the relationship between the Byzantine Empire, led by the Orthodox Church, and Central Europe, led by the Catholic Church, one can discover an amazing similarity to today’s economic and political situation. It is basically the eternal and unsolvable conflict between Eastern and Western Europe.

In the past, numerous Byzantine emperors turned to the West for help in money and military aid, to hold the Turks at bay. In fact, they used the money to finance the good life for their court. In spite of the West having given them help, Andronicus massacred some 60,000 Western merchants who lived in and around Constantinople so Greek dealers wouldn’t have any competition. Alexius III blinded his brother emperor and basically emptied the treasury of the Empire, while the former emperor Isaac II and his son Alexius IV, who were in exile, promised an exorbitant amount of gold money to the Venetian doge. The two throne aspirants also promised to convert the Greeks to Catholicism, a pledge that that could not ever happen.

In May 1203 the knights of the Fourth Crusade gave up their mission to regain Jerusalem from the Muslims and decided to recover their loans from the Greeks. The Crusaders arrived at the impregnable walls of Constantinople, but did not receive any money from Alexius III, nor from the reinstated father and son. Nor could the newly installed Emperor Alexius V deliver the promised five thousand pounds of gold. So, a year later the Crusaders barbarously ransacked the capital that was called the “city of the cities.” In the fifty years of the Latin Empire that followed, nothing changed in the Greek mentality, and the Greeks took over Constantinople again.

The similarity between the tense situation then and today—between ambitious Westerners and stubborn Greeks who have no desire and no means to pay such a massive debt—is striking. There is only one realistic resolution: Greeks will leave the Eurozone and return to their beloved drachma to replace what they called actual currency, “Eurozero.” The repeated efforts of many politicians and economists to rectify the catastrophic debt have failed repeatedly because everyone forgets Greek history and its roots in Balkanization, which the Western World has never understood.

© 2012 Ion Grumeza