The Third Hellenic Civilization
In the campaign of Metaxas for a “new Greece”, his attempt to consolidate the shape of the “Third Hellenic Civilization” held a primary place. It concerned a vague policy, aiming at the long-term elevation of the Greek race and at civilizing the rest of the world, while it drew his inspiration from the pagan values of ancient Greece and the Christian ones of Byzantium. The theorists of the Fourth of August stressed especially the concept of “Nation” as a source of authority, without identifying it though with the “Greek People”, considering the former a separate transcendental entity, standing above the people.
On a theoretical level, the ideology of the Metaxas regime condense the “Third Hellenic Civilization”. This spiritual creation would be exclusively a Greek affair. “We want to make a purely Greek civilization”, Ioannis Metaxas told the audience during a speech in Komotini on October, 7, 1936. “We do not want foreign cultures. We want our civilization, which will rise us above the other cultures from this corner of Europe”.
The “Third Hellenic Civilization “constituted a rejection of “foreign morals and customs”, a new baptism in the “beautiful Greek traditions” and a return to the “eternal springs” of Hellenism, combining the finest elements of Greek Antiquity with Byzantine tradition. During his speech at the peripheral administration of EON in Ioannina on 13 June 1937, Metaxas said: “From now on you have to be carefully prepared for your role. You will ignite the Third Hellenic Civilization. The first went away and ye can not bring it back, and it isn’t your job either. It was a culture that had a great spirit. But it lacked religious faith. Then the second Greek civilization (the Byzantine Empire) came. It may have brought not great works. But it had deep religious faith. And now you come and you refresh in both of these cultures from within and from a very deep religious faith will look at how to contemplate the works of the great ancestors, emulating them from within the religious faith which we have as Christians”.
Although the concept of the Third Hellenic Civilization was central in the ideology of the Fourth of August state, the relatively short period of Ioannis Metaxas’ stay in power prevented deeper elaboration of this concept. Additionally, because it was shortlived, this ideological construct had a low impact on the overwhelming majority of the Greek people.
The Third Greek Civilization certainly surpassed traditional values and became sort of a “cultural racism”. Metaxas cultivated the perception of the Greeks as the chosen people who had as mission to civilize the world.