The photograph on the front page of the neo-fascist Golden Dawn’s website last week was a collage by the photographer Nelly’s, produced as propaganda for the Metaxas regime and displayed in the Greek Pavilion at the 1939 New York World’s Fair. There’s a ruined temple in the background, and in the foreground the ancient bronze statue known as the Artemision Zeus or Poseidon, next to an elderly modern Greek shepherd who looks remarkably like the classical god. The message of racial continuity between ancient and modern Greeks that the regime was keen to project, alongside its tourism campaign, could not have been more obvious. The Golden Dawn headline above the picture claims that ‘the 4000-year racial continuity of the Greeks has been proved’. The article is based on a study published in Nature, ‘Genetic origins of Minoans and Mycenaeans’, by Iosif Laziridis et al. It was reported in the international as well as the Greek press, and the emphasis in most headlines was on the genetic continuity between people in the Bronze Age Aegean and contemporary Greeks: ‘Minos, our grandfather’, for example.
On Monday, six days before the general election, the Greek Ministry of Culture published a preliminary report by the osteo-archaeological team studying the skeletal remains found in the mound of Amphipolis in northern Greece. The bones were found in November, since when there had been a lot of speculation about who they might have belonged to. Alexander the Great’s name came up a lot, as did his mother’s, Olympias.
In the early hours of Thursday 17 January, 26-year-old Shehzad Luqman rode his bicycle from the Peristeri suburb of Athens to the farmers’ market (or bakery, according to other reports) in Petralona, not far from the Acropolis, where he’d been working for several months. He was paid 20 euros a day, most of which he sent back to his family in Pakistan. He’d been in Greece for six years, and now had a ‘pink card’, granting him temporary residence. Not far from the market, he was knifed to death by two young Greek men on a motorbike. They then unscrewed their number plate, put it under the seat and drove calmly towards Syntagma Square.
Since the weekend, the Greek police have rounded up around 6500 immigrants in Athens. About 1500 have been found to be without documents and are currently imprisoned awaiting deportation, in overcrowded detention centres where conditions are ‘dire’. More than three-quarters of the people targeted by the police are completely innocent. But most of the media (even the Guardian) have described it as an operation against lathrometanastes or ‘illegal’ immigrants.