To conclude our first full week at the Center, we heard from one of the researchers who works in the Center. Ioannis Kiriakantonakis presented on the survival of Greek Intellectual Tradition in the Ottoman Period. He also explored the aspects of intellectual and social history of Constantinople, using two contrasting frameworks to illustrate the historical pendulum of late medieval/early modern Asia Minor Hellenism.
On one hand, he presented a framework of Destruction, Decline, and Fall, including the Ottoman Conquest of 1453 and the successful military onslaught and ethnic cleansing that occurred in Thessaloniki and Constantinople, among other places. He also pointed to the conversions to Islam in Asia Minor, the execution of the Byzantine elite and the destruction of churches as the reasons for the fall of Greek intellectual tradition during this period. Other reasons included the spiritual-intellectual rift , the instability of the Church due to debt, the Roman Catholic presence in the East and loss of identity, and the Ottoman policies toward Christian subjects.
On the other hand, he argued for a framework of Continuity and Survival which incorporates a strong political purpose in Church leadership and institutions. In order to demonstrate this, he showed us an icon showing a dialogue between Patriarch Gennadios and Sultan Mohammed II. This icon, currently displayed in the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Constantinople, holds significant political and religious importance. The presentation also highlighted the emerging Greek Orthodox elites, who were not necessarily part of the Church but who were archons and powerful laymen. Ottomandecline during the 17th century and Tanzimat reforms during the 19th century also allowed for economic progress of non-Muslims. Furthermore, the Greek Revolution of 1821 played an important role as it was a turning point in the creation of nation-states, contributing to the continuity and survival of ethnic communities including Greeks and Serbians.
After lunch, we discussed Ronald C. Jennings’ article, Zimmis (Non-Muslims) in Early 17th Century Ottoman Judicial Records, in which Jennings explores the legal standing of zimmis (non-Muslims) in Anatolian Kayseri. This article was particularly interesting, as it demonstrated that while zimmis paid an additional tax, called cizye, there was a due process of law that courts followed. Jennings asserts that this per capita tax on each adult male was not large enough to be a burden and prevent zimmis from advancing economically.
In the evening, we climbed the Akropolis, learning about the Parthenon and the surrounding structures as well. We also climbed the Areopagus, which offers a stunning panoramic view of the city and where Paul preachedto the Athenians. We then attended a performance of Socrates Now, performed by Yannis Simonides. After an extensive world tour in 20 countries and 415 performances, Yannis Simonides performed Plato’s “Apology of Socrates” in a small open-air theatre below the Akropolis. It was a powerful experience for all and sparked interesting discussion at dinner in Plaka afterwards.