chapter  1
28 Pages

THE INVENTION OF HUMANITY

The Parthenon, the ancient temple of the warrior-goddess Athena that dominates the limestone crag of the Acropolis in Athens, is certainly one of the most illustrated buildings in the world. But among the innumerable images of that famous ruin there is one which haunts the memory. In the background stands the eastern facade of the great temple, its eight Doric columns and broken pediment catching the early sun, with the Athenian suburbs and the Aegalean hills faintly visible in the haze to the west. In the foreground, on a circular floor that once supported a temple consecrated to the Roman emperor Augustus, a dozen men in uniform are standing around a makeshift flagpole, up which a large flag, swelling gently in the morning breeze, is being raised. Over the centuries many soldiers – Persians, Spartans, Macedonians, Romans, Goths, Byzantines, Franks, Catalans, Venetians, Ottomans, Bavarians – have stood on that spot. But

this is different. The date is 27 April 1941; the soldiers wear the uniform of the sixth armoured division of the German Wehrmacht; and the flag that billows above the occupied city bears the insignia of Adolf Hitler’s thousand-year Reich, the iron cross and the swastika.1