But their toilets are rubbish.
For years I’ve wondered how the birthplace of philosophy, literature, poetry, art, medicine, education, astronomy, sport and even our jury system could have overlooked the importance of an effective toilet system. One that isn’t rendered useless by a postage stamp of tissue?
When Archimedes went for a crap after a heavy morning under his lemon tree, designing the screw pump did he shout ‘Oh bugger, it’s blocked again’?
Or would Homer, struggling to find a word rhyming with saganaki to finish the Iliad, have cursed his plumber when his bowl brimmed over?
So yesterday I spent a few hours exploring the subject and incredibly, with the assistance of Google Translate, I think I’ve finally discovered why Greek bogs have such a ridiculously narrow waste pipe.
It turns out that Pythagoras, riding high after revealing that the circumference of a circle is always 3.142 times its diameter, was asked to develop a simple formula to help the plumbers of Athens to specify waste pipes that would cope with the average Greek turd plus a few crispy papyrus sheets of last week’s ‘Philosophy for beginners’.
The published formula that I found was: Po = t/w, where Po is the ratio of ‘t’ (the average turd girth) and ‘w’ (the diameter of an adequate waste pipe).
However, I believe that Pythagoras actually intended the waste pipe ‘w’ to be at least TWICE the average turd girth, not HALF, as his formula would dictate. In fact, his formula would have resulted in water pipes only half the thickness of a typical Trojan turd. So it should have been Po = w/t!
How sad it is that such a giant of mathematics, a genius whose original thinking has shaped so much of modern science, should have cocked up this simple equation. For 4,000 years the inhabitants of Greece have had to drop their wipings into a bin next to the bowl.
But who are we to complain?
(These findings have been submitted to the Institute for Classical Thought, Athens and are copyright Tim Neill 2017).