Since the days of Homer's legendary King Odysseus, fated by the gods to make a 10-year odyssey on his return from the Trojan War. Greeks have wandered the world in quest of opportunity and fortune.
Today for better or for worse, they've begun returning home.
As opposed to the 1950s and 1960s when chronic unemployment and lack of opportunity forced hundreds of thousands to emigrate, now workers are returning from West Germany having fulfilled their short-term financial objectives or because of restrictive West German labor laws.
Greek businessman are fleeing Africa, where they long flourished to escape upheaval in Rhodesia and South africa and black nationalism in other African states. Others are returning from canada mostly Quebec following the recent electoral victory of separatise forces and the introduction of French as the official language.
Contary to the usual pattern of permanent emigration to Australia and the United States there are now 20,000 retired American here and the U.S. embassy dispenses $35 million in Social Securioty retirement checks each year.
On the tiny island Erikousa, all 300 inhabitants are Ameriucan citizens of pensioners. The 250 families of Anerion, or Karpathos, are completely dependent on Social Security benefits and on their share of ownership in a New Jersey diner chain.
Of the 3 million Greek workers business and professionals scattered abroad, excluding those presiumed to be permanently settled in Australia and America 1 million could come home one day.
During the past three years more than 100,000 have, and, though there has been no problem absorbing them yet government officials caution that there could be.
"If we speak of 250,000 returning all workers in Germany, for example, coming back en masse, then there would be a tremendous upheaval and we would have real social problems" a government banker said.
"These people return with greater expectations. They bring back both culture and ideas from abroad. They're impatient and easily frustrated. Politically, they're been exposed to progressive ideas and if they're unhappy and they organize they could become a potential force."
"Economically," he continued. "Investment has fallen drastically since 1976. . . Emigration has kept unemployment at a controllble level around 3 per cent. But underemployment is already ya real problem.
"These people, through their foreign currency remittances are much more valuable to the country remaining outside Greece."
Faced with a chronic balance of payments deficit. Greece's depends for foreign currency on tourism shipping and remittances from abroad. Last year, remittances totalled $803 million in addition to $225 million from the 130,000 seamen of the country's merchant marine.
The exodus of Greek workers has denuded of the countryside, where sun-baked villages have been abandoned or are inhabited only by children and old people. The population has remained a constant 9 million.
There is also a brain drain as professors scientists and economists continue to go abroad.
The government is now studying the selective repatriation of specialists needed for the country's development.
Social scientist Gerasimos Notaras thinks Greece should welcome the return of the emigrants.
"What we critically need is both labor and investment and they go hand in hand," he said. "The fact that there are half a million Greek workers outside the country has without question, retarded development here."
"But," Notaras cautioned, "job opportunities must be created. There must be an overall program, which there is not today. At the moment, those who have returned are unproductive in terms of the general economy. They're all involved in self-oriented schemes."
The independence of the Greek character and the quest for social recognition on returning from abroad have led most of those returning to buy taxis candy stores or apartments. There is a distaste for the agricultural life they left behind and the dismal factory conditions they encountered aborad.
In one village in northern Evros, which has a high number of returness, there are 75 tractors for a population of 400. Since it is primatrily a wheat-growing area each tractor though a sign of wealth and position, works an average of only 10 hours per year.
In nearby Alexandropoulos, however, there is unique experimental scheme. The West German company Sebastian Otto repatriated 74 of its Greek workers and establishes a successful spinning mill in 1975.
Economists, bankers and government officials agree that similar projects would be the ideal answer for the country and for those coming home.