First International Conference “Ferekidis”
Modern Western Civilisation and its Greek Points of Reference
June 7-9, 2019 Ermoupolis, Syros Island
At the beginning of the 16th century, Baltassare Castiglione, in his work “The Book of the Courtier”, urges his Italian contemporaries, who aspire to be promoted to the highest administrative positions, to, amongst other things, take to the study of Greek. A century and a half earlier, the Florentine Academy had successfully sought to appoint the Byzantine scholar and diplomat, Manuel Chrysoloras, Professor of “grammaticam et litteras graecas” in the Tuscan capital. Moreover, the decisive influence of George Gemistos, also known as Plethon, in the establishing of the Academia Neoplatonica by Cosimo de’ Medici has been well-documented.
References to Ancient Greek Classical culture and education are present throughout the Renaissance. It is this correlation with Ancient Greek Classicism that inspired and allowed for the use of this historical term, of the “re-naissance”, “re-birth” of the classical period; as if Classicism were making a comeback with the intent to grace the Italian peninsula, initially, and the whole of Europe thereafter, with its culture. However, it should be noted that this tendency to return to such previous cultural reference points is not solely restricted to the Arts & Letters, to the classicism of visual art and architecture. It is also closely tied to modern Europe’s inclination, which goes as far back as the Renaissance, to espouse the political prestige, the political glory of Ancient Greek Classicism and to veer thenceforth toward Athenian democracy as the primary source of origin of modern urban politics. The aforementioned promotion will serve to triumphantly solidify, particularly during the Age of Enlightenment, the relationship with the cultural and political models of Ancient Greek Classicism and to extend its influence, without notable decline, to the Romantic Era as well.
It is precisely in the context of this inextricable relationship between modern western political vision and Greek reference points, that Hyperion ought to rise shedding his light upon a free Greek land and that the democratic Marianne of the French Revolution is visually transported from the Parisian street barricades to the historic Exodus of Messolonghi.
Detractors may, of course, make disparaging comments pointing out that, according to modern history, various political trends of authoritarian nature have attempted to associate themselves with these ancient cultural reference points, often with detrimental effects on political and social mores globally. Our rebuttal would be that these negative approaches do not in any way discredit the initial paradigm; but rather they merely serve to delineate its power and to recount the attempts of both the scrupulous and unscrupulous alike at associating with its prestige. We would further counter that precisely at this time of crisis, not only for Greece but also, on a wider scale, for the entire Western world, the reminder of the previous described ancient source of inspiration suggests the need for cultural and political reassessment and, of course, critical appraisal. The 1st International Conference “Ferekidis” on the topic of “Modern Western Culture and its Greek Points of Reference” aspires to achieve precisely this. It is this aforementioned reassessment and appraisal that is proposed, having as venue of choice the emblematic city of Ermoupolis, birthplace of this nation’s modern mores following its liberation, a city built with the exemplary, for these mores, contribution of Neoclassicism.
The conference is under the aegis of the President of the Hellenic Republic and comprises three discreet units under the following headings:
1 – Greek paradigms and the constitution of modern politics1.1 – Αncient Greek democratic paradigms and the political modern West
1.2 – References to antiquity and their overall influence on global social norms
1.3 – Western symbols of beauty and power: the formation of Renaissance classicism and the contribution of neoclassicism to Enlightenment ideals
1.4 – Modern Greek culture and Greek ideals: Positive contributions and distortions
2 – Greek ideals in the history of modern aesthetics, arts and architecture2.1 – Modern references and tributes to ancient Greek architectural and landscape paradigms.
2.2 – Greek paradigms in literary, fine art and performing art contexts.
2.3 – The transcendence of locality and the formation of international aesthetic ideals: Greek paradigms in the design of buildings, cities, landscapes and objects. 3 – Modern Greek Urban & Bourgeois Cultures/heading]
3.1 – Defining modern Greek urban cultures
3.2 – Syros, a birthplace for bourgeois culture in modern Greece
3.3 – Post-revolutionary Syros and the formation of its modern commercial and shipping activity. Economic conditions and issues of political and cultural identity.
3.4 – Ermoupoli as a historic & internationally renowned centre for shipping
3.5 – Ermoupoli, model neoclassical city
3.6 – Turning back in time: Ano Syros and the island’s lasting links to the European West.
3.7 – Ermoupoli and Ano Syros: A two-fold example of architectural conservation
More details will be presented in due course in the relevant page on the Syros Institute website: http://syrosinstitute.eu/diethnes-sinedrio-ferekidis/