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The Greece-China Connection

Theresa Mitsopoulou:
The Anthropologist
The Woman

Interview by Dorian Kokas on December 19, 2001


She greeted me with a straight ouzo right at her door almost foreseeing Iíd be frozen stiff taking the way by motorbike to her apartment under the Acropolis. Once inside, I was faced with a mirage of antiquities almost carelessly placed, from China to who knows where. It was awesome. Indeed an entire article could be written on what was in there. She took me in as though I were an old friend, a hospitality one would expect from Greeks and even more.

Once in, glass in hand, I spotted a couch uncluttered by rarities , and preceded to get my papers and tape player out. No way. She took my hand and led me to the kitchen quoting an old Greek proverb: ď A hungry bear canít dance.Ē I wasnít hungry and I wasnít there to dance , but I got the meaning. Her idea of a ďmezeĒ, small something to go with her Santorini wine, turned into a three course dinner she had prepared. It was out of this world. ďNow the bear can dance,Ē she said.



Theresa, the controversy surrounding you is well documented and I donít want to get into it just yet, but tell me, how did it all start? How did you ever get interested in the Chinese-Greek connection so much that you devoted you entire life to it?

At University, I often felt there was something more to the idea that Greece was the cradle of civilization. One of my professors, in a classroom of 300 students, such were the times, offered to pay my way to China where I had felt it all began. All civilization, all roots, he said I could learn and develop there, but he died before he could pay my way. I paid for the trip alone.

So You had these ideas, at university. Were they ever accepted by your peers, colleagues?

No! there was and still is a fear in Greek society about radical ideas, especially about the origin of Greek roots and culture. Itís too daring.

Let me go on to your ideas about the snake symbolism you write about which personally I find fascinating, how do your contemporaries see it?

Suspicion, Dorian, even hate. At least disrespect. I was and still am an outcast.

Of what?

Of the archeological, academic community.

So, how did you react to this?

I wrote more books. Traveled more, learned more; now Iím absolutely convinced I am right.

Theresa, letís get down to basics: if the snake symbolizes the ultimate protector of mankind, then why is the snake feared so much? I mean when one sees a snake he/she runs in terror?

Not so in other cultures. Farmers feed snakes because they eat rats. The plague was the real terror and rats brought it on. Snakes eat rats. From the beginning, the head of the snake is heart shaped and from there we get the symbol of the heart as being the center of unity. Before Greece we see the heart shape in Chinese antiquity. You know, Dorian, the serpent eating its tail? Whatís that? The Indian ďOMí or birth death birth? Unity. The snakes in the museum at the Acropolis are a species from China, not a type found in Greece.

Ok, granted, the heart we give to our loved ones on Valentines day doesnít resemble a heart on the surgeons table, but what would our lovers think if I gave them a symbol of a snake? No pun intended Theresa?

Thatís a matter of how symbols were manipulated to serve different purposes. Itís not the truth.

Well then, look at the bible; the snake was a symbol of the devil.

Organized religion got involved and warped things.

Before the interview, you told me you had given the former prime minister one of your books on his way to China. Did he ever read it?

He called me saying that he didnít read it but promised to do so. I donít believe him.

Would you call it apathy, or fear?

Both

After all this, youíre still a tour guide, and perhaps the most famous. How do you differ from the ďtypicalĒ guides who flood the Acropolis every year?

The other guides donít understand me or donít want to. Especially one of them whom I think is out to get me. Iíve had complaints, but the fascination expressed by my visitors far outweighs the complaints; especially the Japanese. They are more open minded about such things. The younger guides tend to go by the books; maybe afraid of losing their jobs.

Theresa, after all youíve experienced, written, and taught, whatís left? I mean, how do you feel about it all, right now, with our ouzo in this cold wintry night, here?

Tired. Iíve done what I could do. Iíve proven to myself that Iím right; someday the world will see it, long after I am gone. Why canít all cultures see that we are ONE . We all come from the same source.

Some say your ideas are not founded, in fact crazy.

Thatís what they said about Einstein

(here she asked me to switch to Greek and hoped I could translate; I did)
Theresa, (after more wine and ďkourambiedesĒ) What do you usually do apart from guiding, teaching or writing; I mean, what are your hobbies?

I listen to music.

What kind?

Modern; classical modern.


Whatís that?

Western, Broadway, musicals. Not traditional classic. Not Mozart. Etc.

Theresa, in one sentence, how would you describe yourself ?

( she paused, then looked me straight in the eyes)
A Person not afraid. I am not afraid.

Now, now that youíve been through it all; what advice would you give to young students, here, now, studying Archeology in Greece and in fact all over the world. If you could talk to them now, what would you say?

Donít be afraid. Tell your thoughts to others; be brave and follow them through. Donít let the institutions of fear and ignorance stop youÖÖ..that is all.

She gave me a box of Kourambiedes as I was leaving. Into that freezing night I felt something, like something was added to me, like I learned more in a few hours than a semester in college. She would have been my favorite teacher, and probably would have been thrown out of that same school, only to have her books taught in that same school 20 years later.

Dorian Kokas was a writer/musician/teacher who lived in Athens, Greece. He died several years ago.
 Return to Theresa Mitsopoulou Index Page to read her articles

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