Thrace or Thraki is the north-eastern part of Greece. There are three administrative areas in Thrace:
Thrace is a place of many contrasts, marked in its passage down the ages by traces of the mysterious atmosphere of the East. The presence of the Greek element here goes back to the 7th century BC, and the traditions bound up with Thrace speak of the cult of the Muses and the origins of Orpheus.
To talk about Thrace is never easy. Nor should it be. Its image is not a given. We wouldn't be exaggerating if we said that the average Greek in general, and the resident of the Athens-centred city-state in particular, is ignorant of what Thrace really is:
- the Thrace of the Orphics, which Pindar, in symbolic fashion, called "the country and place of pure teaching and of poetic initiation"
- the Thema (county) of Thrace of the Byzantines,
- the Didymoteicho or Demotica of the Bulgars,
- the Xanthi or Esketze of the Turks,
- the Nestos or Saribasan
- Alexandroupoli or Dede Agats
- the Pomak villages of Rodopi, and
- Eumolpus, who still sings in the night for a nymph
Thrace which was carved up - literally and metaphorically-by the various treaties which imposed the interests of the Great and which legitimised the mistakes of the Lesser; the Thrace of 1912-13, and the Thrace of Lausanne (24 July 1923), which saw its populations exchanged like herds of animals or like merchandise; the Thrace of the myths and the reality of folk gatherings and of a lofty spiritual and intellectual tradition; the Thrace of Georgios Vizyinos and of Christos Aidonidis... Thrace is a quiet place-a stable and unspoiled landscape -but also an unexpected landscape.
It is on this ever-present antithesis that its identity is based. It is the easternmost point of Europe-that is, of the "West" of which Spengler spoke - and the westernmost part of the East. Thrace is the homeland of Bacchus - and of Democritus; of the tristesse joyeuse of the Fathers -and of the Roman Justinian; of the "barbarous" Diomedes who was torn asunder by his horses - and of Domna Vizvizaina, the Thracian Bouboulina. A knowledge of Thrace is, first and foremost, a national - not nationalistic - duty. Thrace is a dreamland which abounds in sea and rivers, and is rich in mountains, rain, sudden downpours, and uncompromising sunlight.
*BY MANOS STEPHANIDIS
Curator, National Gallery, Athens