This year marks the 2500 years anniversary from the battles of Thermopylae (August ) & Salamis (late September) in 480 BC during the Hellenic – Persian wars.
I am truly excited to honor the occasion with a collaboration with my good friend Ford P. Waight .
He is a British-born writer, drummer and mixed media artist who lives in France.
When I proposed the idea he just went all in!
And created the incredible ode to freedom you are about to read.
Small detail: I come from Salamis, my family has an ongoing history with the Hellenic Navy; so there is an extra level of personal involvement to the whole project.
Having said that, I could not have presented the historic gravity of the two battles better than the way Ford is doing here in his introductory post to our virtual collaboration.
A few more thoughts before we move on to the art created.
First of all: the Hellenic title “Αεί Έλλην Μαχόμενος ” is the result of a naming contest I held at Facebook, a proposal by Pavlos Karanikos.
The meaning, word for word, is Forever Hellenas fighting.
(Side note: for space economy purposes I will not add a hellenic translation of my text – for the poem is a our common decision not to do so, in order to preserve the music of the poet’s words).
If I have to identify the source of this creation/collaboration, it has to be freedom.
Look at the pandemic we are all in right now.
Is it not a difficult lesson in appreciating ?
Simple things like hugging another person, being able to look at one’s face when we talk to each other (instead of our phone screens) ?
Whether we like it or not, acknowledge it or not , we have the luxury to ” exercise the pleasure and freedom of such a simple thing as artistic collaboration” as Ford concluded, because of the freedom we inherited.
But, do we appreciate it?
Without further ado, here are the fruits of our collaborative effort.
Both Ford and I thank you for the time spent with us celebrating the appreciation of our collective inheritance of freedom.
The Breaking of Bread
By Ford P. Waight
In 480 BC, Athens, during the Greco-Persian Wars, a poet predicts the battles of Thermopylae and Salamis to come.
Despair not for those who may fall to no longer rise nor rattle nor sing.
Despair not at their broken bodies and spears, the helmets and swords,
The shields and trumpets bent and scattered about our lands.
Despair not for any dead soldier – for their blood will flow free
And course through the earth to find its channel to the rivers and sea,
Where the King of Kings lashes the waters which do not obey.
Despair not for our sailors who may rest under waves in eternal slumber,
The timbers of their triremes scattered like petals and beloved trinkets,
To bleach one day into artefacts washed ashore, reshaped into art
Which will tell its tales of the sons and daughters of Hellenes
Who each vowed to fight the one who came to conquer them.
Despair not at the cruel songs of our children – for they are young
And will taste freedom like honey scooped up in their palms,
And they will grow to learn that monsters are men after all is done,
And that beasts may be crushed with allegiances formed in the right places.
Let them sing if they must of the King of Kings – as tall and mighty as a tree –
Yet wringing wet and stripped of his jewels and unquestioning army,
How he weighs nought but a skinny bear starved a whole winter long.
Shall we watch his hordes flee and leave him as one as mortal as you and I?
Sing then, children, if it pleases you: “O King of Kings, cruel tyrant, mad dog,
Turn back your magnificent fleet, and may the mother of all storms
Sink you deep to the bottom of the sea.”
Yet, children, I would propose always and first: would that king accept
An invitation to sit at our table and drink our wine; to listen to our songs
With attentive ear, and to gaze upon our culture with eyes set not to conquer,
But to criticise freely or draw joy as he pleases;
And would he walk our sun-blessed lands in serenity and not cast his will
To claim our freedom… these are not our terms but our hospitality.
O, how we long that he might accept our gifts.
What joy to think of him as not mad and cruel, but our brother.
Yet – how long must we be patient for his hand to meet ours not in battle –
But in peace? Let him send his bejewelled emissaries each day if he chooses,
To oil our palms and grease our bones.
And we shall tell them, straight as a spear halving the breeze:
“Eat with us, or die with us.”
Despair not, children of Hellenes, the table is set for guests at all times.
Let them pull up their seats those Great Kings of Countries and Kings of Kings,
For our nourishment and song is theirs if they choose.
And despair not if an empty seat foretells of the perils to come;
Blunt visions of the dead littered across our lands and under our seas.
By absence we know our enemies are hungry not for the feast
But a bloodshed so wild it will be scored in time.
We break our bread daily,
As before we did,
O children, this is the inheritance of freedom.
Driftwood, clay with patina – 36cm x 15 cm, 37 cm height.
The clay inscription from the Thermopylae side is Μολών Λαβέ : Come and get them , the famous answer of the Spartans to the Persian demand to surrender their weapons.
The clay inscription from the Salamis side is from Aeschylus tragedy “The Persians” and is a part of the battle song the crews of the Hellenic fleet sang as they attacked the Persian fleet.
Ώ παίδες Ελλήνων ίτε.
Νύν υπέρ πάντων αγών:
Children of Hellenes go forward.
Now above everything else is our fight.
The trireme figurehead is based on the Naxos Sphinx
If you reached this far and you have the stamina to take a look at two relative creations, here you are 🙂