Pnyx is the name of a low (357 feet high) hill about 450 yards to the west of the Acropolis in Athens. The word "Pnyx" means "tightly crowded together." The "crowding" refers to the male citizens (also known and as "demos") of classical Athens, who assembled, in the open, on the northern side of the hill of Pnyx to discuss politics and make political decisions; kind of a contemporary Parliament or Congress. The "crowd" was usually around 5,000 citizens, out of a population of 18,000 and the assembly was held early in the morning to avoid the rather "strong" Athenian sunshine. The word "demos' is the first part of the word "demo-cracy", the second being "cratos," which means "power," that is "power of the people." In practice the latter was achieved by having each citizen represent ONLY himself. There were no representatives, senators, etc. The "trick" of representatives was contrived later by the Romans to marginalize the rabble, that is the "demos."
During the Pericles period, 5th century BC, the citizens were standing or sitting on the gently sloping side of the hill. The speaker, or orator, was standing at the foot of the slope, where a level area was formed through the construction of a retaining wall, the area back of which was filled with soil. This arrangement held up to the 2nd century after Christ when it was reversed by having the orator at the top of the hill by chiselling a platform and a podium out of the limestone rock at the top of the Pnyx hill. It seems that that became necessary because the retaining wall failed either during a very heavy rain or during an earthquake. Among the people that spoke during the period of the original arrangement, with the orator at the foot of the hill, were, Demosthenes (the famous orator), Aristides (the Just), Pericles (of the Golden Age), et al. One should note that St. Paul preferred to address the Council of the Areopagos, an aristocratic legal body, on another low hill about 200 yards east of the Pnyx, and not address the "rabble" at the Pnyx, when he visited Athens to propagandize the religious system he had constructed.
Clinton, inspired by democratic ideals, decided to speak at the Pnyx, from the chiselled platform at the top of the hill, or so the Greek media inform us. The occasion will be Clinton's visit to Athens on November 13-15, 1999. Also the media inform us that Clinton, according to reliable sources, intends to announce to the world from the Pnyx the toppling of Milosevic. But it is doubtful that he will accomplish that, as there are only 14 days left to the 13th. However, that is not the only problem that Clinton is facing in relation to his imminent Grecian visit. It seems that his big problem will be the "Polytechnic."
The "Polytechnic," or the National Metsovion Polytechnion, is the most important technical University of Greece. A significant number of its graduates are teaching in the most important technical Universities in the US, As a matter of fact, one of its graduates, a guy named Theofilos (I do not remember his first name) a mechanical engineer who turned to physics, was the originator of the Star Wars idea through an electromagnetic shield (or something) around the earth. Big stuff (mostly top secret) some of which one can read in the US press (e.g. Time) in the late fifties. No mention of him after that, as far as I know.
On November 14, 1973, during the US imposed dictatorship in Greece, there was a spontaneous uprising of the Greek students at the Polytechnic campus. (Not much of a campus, 7 buldings crowded in a rather small court in downtown Athens). The rebelling students, not only from the Polytechnic but also from the other Universities in Athens, were quite a few thousands. An equal number of citizens were around the Polytechnic in solidarity to the students. On Friday, November 17, the army with its tanks and the police invaded the Polytechnic complex. To this day the number of the dead is unknown. The official number is 34 dead and 1,103 wounded, mostly citizens. Also, there were 2,061 people arrested, mostly students.
Personal testimony (made public for the first time): A few weeks after the end of the dictatorship, in 1974, and while things were still in a flux, I took my car to a mechanic's, where during a conversation with another customer about the number of dead at the "Polytechnic" I was told with emphasis by him that the dead wrere not in the hundreds, as people were saying, but they were only 46. When the man left, the mechanic told me that the man was a policeman in civilian cloths and that he was the personal driver of the infamous Giannis Lambrou, the head of the Security Police and master torturer for the dictatorhip. That was before the announcement of the official number.
For 25 years the Greeks every November 17 honor the dead of the 1973 student uprising and protest the US imposed dictatorship by marching from the Polytechnic to the US embassy, a distance of a little less than 2 miles. During the first march, in 1974, there were more than a million people that marched and demonstrated. After a couple of years the facade of the embassy was splashed with red paint (there was no protective fence at the time). During the years that followed, a huge high security fence, almost 15 feet high, was erected around the embassy and the Greek government, then under Karamanlis, was assigned the job by the US to put an end to what by then was known as the "Polytechnic March" to the US embassy. The most effective way was to scare people away from participating in the march through the presence of violence during the march. The next few years during the march the police beat to death a young man and a young woman and shot dead a 16-year old boy. Thus, the government succeded to have a march of tens of thousands of people instead of the hundreds of thousands of the first years. The march lasts for hours and the main slogan shouted is: "The Americans are murderers of peoples."
Back to Clinton and his problems. Immediately after the anouncement of the Clinton visit, the media ridiculed the whole project and protested about the cost of mobilizing 12,000 (twelve thousand) policemen for Clinton's protection, to be paid by the tax-payers. However, things took a more serious turn. A great number of political and social organizations demanded that the 17th of November march should be moved to November 13 or 14 to coincide with the presence of Clinton in Athens. A rather "difficult" situation, with hundreds of thousands of very angry people demanding punishment of Clinton for his "humanitarian" bombing of Kosovo and Serbia. Actually, the reaction against Clinton will start on November 8 with a public "trial" of Clinton in Syntagma Square, the historic center of Athens. The charges against him have been compiled by prominent Greek jurists and lawyers. Also, some of the students of the Polytechnic uprising (now in their late 40s) prepared a "speech," in the spirit of Aristophanes, to be delivered at the Pnyx. In the speech Clinton is referred to as the "Caesar of Kosovo." (Eleftherotypia, Oct. 31, 1999, p. 16)
A couple of days ago there was a rumor that Clinton decided to cancel or postpone the visit. Yesterday (October 30), there were reports from Washington that Clifton will visit Athens no matter what. The Greek government declares that the US is a friend and an ally and its President should be respected and received as a head of state. Also, today, some conservative papers make an effort to support the position of the government.
Following the developments of the Pnyx- "Polytechnic March" story, during the next 15 days, will be an interesting and instructive engagement.