By Ian Morris"Fair Greece! Sad relic of departed worth!" So said the poet Byron in the 1810s, little knowing that in the 2010s Greece's departed worth would be measured in the hundreds of billions of euros.
While I was in my 20s I spent well over a year in Greece, mostly on archaeological excavations. I then took a long break, but in December 2009 I found myself back in Athens to give a lecture. While I was there, Prime Minister George Papandreou publicly admitted that the previous government's lies about the size of Greece's debt had been much worse than anyone had realized. That year's deficit, he conceded, stood at 12.7 percent of gross domestic product, more than four times what the eurozone allowed. The Greek stock market fell by nearly 10 percent in the next two days; all the major ratings agencies downgraded Greek debt; and the long Greek nightmare began.