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October 24, 2002 Journey back to Byzantine Greece with lecture series






by Louise Solomita

The Byzantine Empire preserved and passed on ancient Greek culture long after the Roman Empire collapsed and the medieval West forgot. In keeping with this spirit of maintaining and spreading knowledge, this term, Concordia’s Hellenic Studies Unit will present a four-part lecture series on the Byzantine period.

“I searched in universities all over the world and found the four experts best suited to discuss this theme in the lecture series,” said Nikos Metallinos, coordinator of Concordia’s Hellenic Studies Unit and professor in the Communication Studies Department.

This will be the third annual lecture series organized by the HSU, a committee of professors, students and staff dedicated to promoting the study of Hellenic culture at Concordia. The series is made possible with the help of its major sponsor, Paul Kefalas, a member of Concordia’s Board of Governors and CEO of the engineering and manufacturing firm ABB.

The first lecture will be on Jan. 31, and is entitled “Byzantium: The Guardian and Preserver of Hellenism.” The speaker, Professor Antony Littlewood, teaches in the classics department at the University of Western Ontario.

Dr. Angeliki E. Laiou, a leading authority on the Byzantine era from Harvard University, will give the second lecture, “Byzantium as a Multi-Ethnic Society,” on Feb. 27. Metallinos expects her presence to draw a particularly large audience.

The third lecture, scheduled for March 26, is entitled “Nikos Kazantzakis and Byzantium,” and will be given by Dr. Theocharis Detorakis of the University of Crete.

The fourth and final lecture, “Byzantine Studies Curricula (Past, Present, Future),” will be on April 25, and given by Concordia’s own Dr. Franziska Shlosser from the Department of History.

The Byzantine era began in the fourth century AD, when Constantinople was founded, and ended in 1453, when it was conquered by the Ottoman Empire.

This considerable stretch of time was characterized by the Roman political system, the Christian religion, and ancient Greek culture. The crescent-shaped realm bordered the eastern portion of the Mediterranean Sea and was composed of various cultural regions such the Balkans, Asia Minor and Egypt.

Hellenic influences from the Classical era nevertheless remained strong within the diverse empire. Greek was the official language of the imperial court, and its inhabitants studied the literature and philosophy of the Greeks. As Metallinos put it, “The Byzantine Empire became the guardian of ancient Greece.”

Concordia University may promptly become a guardian of Byzantine studies as a part of Montreal’s Inter- university Centre for Hellenic Studies. Starting last year, McGill University, the Université de Montréal and Concordia will each specialize in one of the three periods of Hellenic civilization. McGill will represent the Classical Period, Concordia the Byzantine Period, and U of M the Neohellenic Period.

“My dream is for Concordia to have a chair of Byzantine Studies,” said Metallinos, “and for students in Montreal who want a degree in Hellenic Studies to combine courses from all three universities.”

Establishing a university chair will take considerable time and money, Metallinos explained, but he hopes that Concordia will be able to accomplish it within three or four years.

This year’s lecture series on the Byzantine period is a fitting way to move Concordia toward this specialization.

As the current coordinator of Concordia’s Hellenic Studies Unit, Metallinos continues to work to organize various projects that offer more to the university’s Hellenic community. It is estimated that there are about 1,500 students of Greek background at Concordia.