Platsis Endowment

Arthur and Mary (Seiradakis) Platsis-flickr

Arthur and Mary (Seiradakis) Platsis-flickr

The Arthur and Mary (Seiradakis) Platsis Endowment for the Greek Legacy was given to the University of Michigan by George Platsis to honor the memory of his parents.The Arthur and Mary (Seiradakis) Platsis Endowment for the Greek Legacy was first announced at the official opening of Hellenic Cultural Month in October of 2001.

Arthur and Mary (Seiradakis) Platsis, immigrants from the island of Crete in Greece, exemplified the finest traditions of modern Hellenism, including hard work, service to their adopted homeland, and a commitment to education. Arthur Platsis demonstrated his devotion to the United States by proudly volunteering for military service with the 32nd Michigan Infantry in World War I. Upon his return, he served as head chef at the American Legion Hospital in Battle Creek, Michigan that cared for veterans who suffered the effects of poison gas attacks. Like many immigrants, Arthur Platsis labored to support not only himself but also family members in Greece. He helped accumulate dowries for his four sisters. Mary (Seiradakis) Platsis also demonstrated her desire for serving others through volunteering for the Red Cross, founding the Battle Creek Friends of Greece during World War II that shipped clothes to her wartorn homeland and providing relief to the orphanages of Kandanos and Sougia, the village of her grandfather, from 1945-1947, under the United Nations Relief and Reconstruction Act.

It is in the spirit exemplified by these two individuals that their son, George Platsis, created the Arthur and Mary (Seiradakis) Platsis Endowment. Funds from this endowment serve two main purposes: an annual symposium and student prizes for original work relating to the Greek Legacy. Mr. Platsis expressed his aspirations for the Platsis Endowment thus: "Our hope is that the symposia and prize contestants will successfully explore the beauty and significance of the Greek tradition and its relevance to contemporary life and learning."

Platsis Symposia and Papers
Symposia explore the  values and virtues associated with the Greek Legacy such as the Greek language (precise, descriptive and mobile), humanism (love), the pursuit of excellence (arête), rationalism (reason with enduring principles), moderation (nothing to excess), self-knowledge (know thyself), endless curiosity (man is the measure of all things), idealism (conscience), democracy (community), rule of law (republican government), individual freedom and personal responsibility to the community.

2013: Minoans +


Inventing the Minoans by Dr. Kenneth Lapatin, Associate Curator of Antiquities, The J. Paul Getty Museum.  

Even if Arthur Evans (1851–1941) was not the first to discover the Minoans, it might still be argued that he invented them.  Others had explored the prehistoric civilizations of the Aegean before him and much knowledge has been gained since his death but his synthetic vision of ancient Crete remains pervasive: a peaceable island kingdom spreading civilization across the Mediterranean through extensive mercantile networks. Is this a convincing reading of the ancient evidence or the imposition of preconceived notions, many of them formed at the height of the British Empire?

Minoan Monotheism: was Sir Arthur Evans Right by Nanno Marinatos, Professor and Head, Department of Classics and Mediterranean Studies, University of Illinois at Chicago.  

In the period between the two great European wars, the British archaeologist Sir Arthur Evans produced a revolutionary theory: Minoan religion was monotheistic. What exactly did he mean by this word? Was he right or wrong? The majority of scholars are skeptical about Evans’ theories but the excavations at Akrotiri, on Thera (Santorini) have fully justified his model of monotheism. Recently restored paintings of murals show that one goddess is the dominant deity and she is most definitely a Minoan one.

2013 Program

2012: The Greek Background of Natural Law +


Lloyd L. Weinreb, Dane Professor of Law at Harvard Law School

The doctrine of natural law originates in the idea of normative natural order, which emerged clearly in fifth century Athens.It affirmed that nature—what there is—is ordered normatively.  This idea is expressed in the great tragedies, most notably those of Sophocles. After the fifth century, it was incorporated into the Stoic doctrine of the Logos. It was picked up by Cicero, whose Latin expression of it in the first century gave rise to what may properly be called a doctrine of natural law, later adapted by Thomas Aquinas to the teachings of the Christian church. Today, natural law is widely regarded as a school of jurisprudence which affirms that true law conforms to moral precepts and that a rule that does not so conform is not law properly so called. The original Greek notion of normative natural order persists not in the doctrine of natural law but in the idea of justice.

Brad Inwood, Professor of Philosophy and Classics at the University of Toronto

Why should one be virtuous? Always a tough question, but even tougher if what we’re really asking is why one should go through all the hard work and training demanded to acquire a virtuous disposition. Ancient moral theorists made it clear that virtue, though natural in some sense, doesn’t come without effort. The reason why people should go to the trouble of learning to be good is often thought to be obvious in a eudaimonistic context. If happiness is the human telos it is the natural fulfillment of our nature. Who wouldn’t want to fulfill their nature? It might be the case that the motivating reason for the pursuit of virtue was thought to be too obvious to need discussion, but nevertheless it is striking how rarely ancient writers provide a substantive, non-question-begging account of the psychological motivation for acquiring virtue (as opposed to the philosophical motivation one might have for promoting a virtue-based moral theory). One later Aristotelian author actually provides an explicit argument on this point, in chapter 3 of the doxographical account of ethics found in Stobaeus’ Anthology (often called ‘doxography C’). Though largely neglected, this theory persuasively connects the reason one has to become virtuous to a standard and plausible ancient account of human nature. In this paper I present the argument, show how it is meant to work, and defend it as the most explicit and plausible strategy for connecting a theory of human nature with the demands of virtue offered by the mainstream ancient philosophical tradition.


9-23-12 DVD from UM Classical Studies on Vimeo.

2012 Program    

2011: Ancient Conscience +


Ideas of moral conscience in antiquity and their later effects
by Professor Richard Sorabji, Honorary Fellow
Wolfson College, Oxford

The original terminology for moral conscience, found in the Greek playwright on the fifth century BCE, and continued in Latin, has not been well understood in its Greek or Latin versions. First, it included the metaphor of a divided personality. Secondly, it implied self-awareness of a failing, often a moral one. We shall find these two themes recurring through the vicissitudes that the concept underwent over the centuries, even as many new roles were added. Early Christians repeatedly appropriated Graeco-Roman ideas. Conscience was originally in ancient Greece, and is now once again, a largely secular concept, but its value is none the less for that.

The Limits of Free Speech and the Right to Self Expression in Ancient Greece
by David Konstan
Professor of Classics at New York University, and Professor Emeritus at Brown University

The Greek democracy is celebrated for its liberal attitude toward free speech, or parrhesia; but was parrhesia a right? What happened when freedom ran up against popular opinion: did it take precedence over one's duty to the community and respect for traditional values? How does ancient Greek parrhesia compare with modern conceptions of free speech? And what has freedom of speech to do with conscience? These are some of the questions that will be addressed in the talk.

Student Prizes

Alekos Syropoulos and Mike Malis
Collection of original and arranged music

Eli Schlatter
Presentation of set design for Aeschylus' Agamemnon

Penelope Filyo
Excerpt from the essay "Greece's Symbolic Capital and the Media"

2011 Program | Video

2010: Why Teach Thucydides? +

This year, the symposium will address ways in which Thucydides matters in liberal arts education today. It featured two distinguished scholars of Thucydides who have also played significant public roles: W. Robert Connor, who besides his scholarly work on Thucydides and other Greek historians has been director of the National Humanities Center and president of the Teagle Foundation, and Clifford Orwin, Professor of Politicial Philosophy at the University of Toronto, who has written The Humanity of Thucydides and is a regular contributor to Canada's national newspaper, The Global and Mail.


Thucydides and the Unexpected
by W. Robert Connor
Former Director of the National Humanities Center
Senior Advisor of the Teagle Foundation

Why Teach Thucydides Today?
by Clifford Orwin
Professor of Political Philosophy
University of Toronto

Why Teach Thucydides? Because he's there, because students love him, and because he has so much to say to us today (as he has for 2,400 years now). There is so much in the work that there's plenty of room for each generation to find whatever in it speaks most loudly to them. For us, it seems to me, Thucydides' most timely lesson is that almost nothing is permanent but change, nor is there is any institution however solid that doesn't contain the seeds of its own destruction.

Watch the lectures on YouTube.

Student Prizes

Paul Dooley
Encaenia for Solo Flute, Violin, Viola, Cello and Percussion

Michael-Thomas Foumai
English Opera based on the Greek Tragedy Oedipus the King

2010 Poster

2009: Honor and Shame +


Shame in the Homeric Poems
by Professor Douglas Cairns, Professor of Classics, School of History, Classics and Archaeology
University of Edinburgh, Scotland

This paper will offer a general survey of the importance of shame in Homer, with the intention of showing that what has been regarded as an archetype of the agonistic, honour-based society in fact demonstrates the potential richness of concepts of honour and shame as central factors in ethical, social, and political beahviour.

If 'shame' is an emotion that is concerned to protect one's self-image, based on a sense of the visibility of what we do and how we are, then shame was a powerful force in Homeric society. Equally, the role of honour in the motivation of Homeric characters and as a central factor in Homeric values can scarcely be underestimated. But this in itself does not mae Homeric society a 'shame-culture', if that is taken to mean a society in which wrongdoing is deterred by external sanctions alone.

In Homer, the nearest thing to our notion of 'shame' is aidôs. But, unlike shame, aidôs also responds positively to the status of others, rather than simply focusing on the vulnerability of the self. This reciprocity of aidôs underlines the inclusiveness of Homeric concepts of honour and shame: it is shameful to fail, but also to let others down and to pursue one's own interests so shamelessly that one's disrespect for others shames oneself. The Homeric usage of aidôs, moreover, is exclusively prospective, ideally preventing dishonourable conduct before it occurs, though sometimes also including a retrospective awareness that one has done something discreditable. Such aidôs focuses on the reactions of others, even of those whose opinions one regards as worthless. But even where concern for how things look and what people say is pronounced and explicit, aidôs can also depend on internalized standards.

Shame in the Homeric Poems, lecture by Douglas Cairns, University of Edinburgh, Scotland (PDF)

"Towards a Poetics of Personhood": Beyond Honor and Shame
by Dr. Jill Susanna Dubisch
Regents' Professor of Anthropology
Northern Arizona University

The concept of "honor and shame," once used by anthropologists and other social scientists as a paradigm for the analysis of the cultures of the Mediterranean, has in recent years fallen into disuse. At one point, however, this paradigm dominated the anthropological study of the region, offering an analytical leans with which to view both the past and the present and suggesting an unchanging regional cultural essence. The critique and gradual abandonment of such a paradigm represents not simply the changes that have occurred in this region - though these have figured as well - but more importantly the changing views of how to approach the analysis of culture of behavior. A revisiting of the concepts of honor and shame, then, can tell us much about our changing understanding of the complexity, fluidity, and adaptability of culturally constructed human action, and about the role of human agency in culture. Using material derived from many years of anthropological research in Greece, I propose the concept of a "poetics of personhood," which looks at culturally framed performance as an alternative to the static and essentializing paradigm of honor and shame.

Towards a Poetics of Personhood: Beyond Honor and Shame, lecture by Dr. Jill Susanna Dubisch, Northern Arizona University (PDF)

Student Prizes

John Espinosa
"Andromahi's Journal" (Translation and transcription of Grandmother's Poetry)

Matthew Pfaff, Graduate Student, Classical Studies and English Language and Literature
"Day and Night: Conversations with Sapphic Desire"

2009 Program

2008: Uncovering Greek Science with Modern Technologies +


Archimedes in Bits: Ten Years of Work on the Archimedes Palimpset
Dr. William Noel
Curator of Manuscripts and Rare Books
Walters Art Museum, Baltimore

The Archimedes Palimpset is a medieval parchment manuscript which contains unique texts by Archimedes. Obliterated in the 13th century, these texts have now been more fully recovered than ever before in a ten year program of conservation, imaging and scholarship. Entirely new texts from the ancient world have also been found. William Noel, Director of the project, will discuss the findings of the last few years, and discuss their imminent presentation to the public.

Newest Discoveries on the Antikythera Mechanism
by Emmanuel Roumeliotis
Professor in the Department of Technology Management
University of Macedonia, Thessaloniki, Greece

For the last 50 years, most of what we knew about the Antikythera Mechanism came from the studies of Derek de Solla Price. However, since the science of examining artifacts advanced quite a lot during those years, a new look into the mechanism was warranted. The research based on specialized computer tomography and polynomial texture maps derived from reflective imaging. The study resulted in a slightly different teeth count for some of the gears, replaced the differential gear with a gear train computing the moon orbit anomalies according to Hipparchus writings, and enabled researchers to read much more of the text inscribed on the mechanism. In fact, the mechanism came with a complete user's manual describing how to use it to compute the solar and lunar eclipses according to the Saros and Callippic cycles. Based on these findings, a new 3D model of the mechanism was created, both as an animation and as an interactive simulation.

The Antikythera Mechanism: Decoding an Ancient Greek Mystery
by Dr. Antony Freeth
The Antikythera Mechanism Research Project
London, UK

Ever since its discovery by Greek sponge divers in 1901, there has been a long struggle to understand the extraordinary mystery that is now known as the Antikythera Mechanism. The first hundred years of research - with the seminal work of Derek de Solla Price and subsequent research by Allen Bromley and Michael Wright - made important progress in understanding the Mechanism but left unsatisfactory theories and much that didn't appear to make sense.

Initiated in 2000 by Mike Edmunds (Professor of Astronomy at Cardiff University), the Antikythera Mechanism Research Project (AMRP) is an Anglo-Greek collaboration that has transformed our knowledge about the Mechanism. As a key member of this research team, I would like to convey the excitement as we carried out new scientific investigations (digital surface imaging and high-resolution 3D X-rays), analysed the data and made a series of breakthroughs that have resulted in two research papers in the prestigious science journal, Nature. We have developed an entirely new model of the Mechanism, which shows that it was an eclipse prediction machine and it included a mechanism of genius for tracking the variable motion of the Moon. All the gearing (with the exception of a single surviving gear) can now be explained in terms of two ancient cycles of the Sun and Moon - the Metonic and Saros cycles. We have deciphered more than a thousand new text characters that are part of the 'Instruction Manual' that covers its external surfaces. We now understand the mathematical organization of its calendar and eclipse prediction dials. And most recently we have uncovered completely unexpected cultural and social links - with a surprising Olympiad Dial and powerful evidence of a Corinthian cultural origin that might mean it is part of a heritage that started with the great Archimedes. 

Antikythera Mechanism Research Project
The research on the Antikythera Mechanism has been carried out under the aegis of the Ministry of Culture (Greece) and with the collaboration of the National Archaeological Museum in Athens.

The core academic team of the AMRP consists of:
Professor Mike Edmunds (Cardiff)
Dr. Tony Freeth (London)
Professor John Seiradakis (Thessaloniki)
Professor Xenopohon Moussas (Athens)
Yanis Bitsakis (Athens)
Dr. Agamemnon Teslikas (Athens)

More recently, we have been joined by:
Professor Alexander Jones (New York)
Dr. John Steele (Durham)

The Antikythera Mechanism: Decoding an Ancient Greek Mystery, lecture by Dr. Antony Freeth, The Antikythera Mechanism Research Project (PDF)

Student Prizes

Ezra Domer
Excerpts from Antigone - an opera

Rosario Lionupakis
Greek Dance History as it relates to the empowerment of women

Priya Bali
Exploration of the ways in which the Acropolis has evolved through historic and modern interventions

2008 Program

2007: Iconoclasm: The War on Images +


Presentation by Michael R. Kapetan, Artist

In America today the liturgical arts flourish, limited only by the boundaries self-imposed by each community of faith.

New church construction and historical church renovations keep pace with the post war expansion of America's population from 160 million to 300 million. The great question facing me as I began working for churches became: How does an artist, born into post WWII era of ideological strife, sectarian conflict, liberation politics, quantum physics, genetic biology, existential philosophy, and committed to the notion of avant-garde art, find a language suitable to speak with ancient visions of God?

No definitive answer to that question has arisen during my twenty-seven years of working with thirty churches, one synagogue, and nearly a mosque.

Each denomination and parish has their vision of spiritual art, their sense of place within the iconographic tradition of their faith. I join them in conversation to gauge their willingness to explore new possibilities. I have willingly become, or striven to become, the eyes and hands of these people, asking only that they join me in a sincere effort to bring something new, fresh, and vital to their worship spaces, because as God created us in His image and likeness, He created us creators.

Iconoclasm in the Byzantine world - myths and realities
by John Haldon
Professor of Byzantine History
Princeton University

The iconoclast controversy is generally seen as a period of traumatic internecine ideological conflict in the Byzantine, or eastern Roman, empire of the eighth and ninth centuries. In fact, a careful review of the evidence, and re-contextualizing of the debate in its wider political and cultural setting raises substantial doubts about this view. In this paper I will re-examine some key facets of the iconophile case against the iconoclasts, and of the evidence more broadly, and suggest that the generally-accepted picture is not just fundamentally incorrect, but is also the result of a deliberate effort to rewrite the past, undertaken by churchmen and hagiographers in the ninth century, a program which reflected a new stage in the relationship between church and state, between emperor and patriarch, inaugurated by the ecumenical council at Nicacea in year 787.

Iconoclasm in the Byzantine World - myths and realities, lecture by John Haldon, Princeton University (PDF)

Eikonomachia: The Afterlife of the 'Iconoclastic Controversy' in Byzantium
by Charles Barber
Associate Professor of Art History
University of Notre Dame

My paper will discuss the implications of a continuing and rich discourse on icons throughout the history of Byzantium. In particular, I will consider how the theories of the icon produced during the iconoclastic era were returned to and debated throughout the remaining centuries of Byzantium's existence. In so doing, I will discuss writings from the ninth, twelfth, and thirteenth centuries. These will allow me to show that despite the annual reiteration of iconophile doctrine during the Feast of Orthodoxy, the question concerning the icon remained far from settled and produced a variety of perceptions regarding what an icon could be and could do.

Eikonomachia: The Afterlife of the Iconoclastic Controversy, lecture by Charles Barber, University of Notre Dame (PDF)

Student Prizes

Undergraduate Level
Efrat Bloom
"The reader of the book," a poem by the Iraqi exile Sargon Boulos

Ian Flora
"Aiming for Ethos," an investigation of Aristotle's theory of persuasion through character

Graduate Level
Emily Mahan
"Narcissus Waking," a poem retelling the myth of Echo and Narcissus

Whitney Crutchfield
"Generations of Entanglement: Weaving Traditions and their Transformations through Women of modern Greece"

2007 Program

2006: Citizen Socrates +


Performance of Plato's The Apology of Socrates
by Yannis Simonides

Plato's The Apology of Socrates reenacts Socrates' defense in the Athenian court and his rebuttals to a guilty verdict and sentence of death. This treatment transports the viewer from ancient times to our contemporary world, and in doing so reaffirms the relevance of Socrates' thoughts in today's society.

ACTOR: Emmy Award Winner Yannis Simondies
DIRECTOR: Broadway Veteran Loukas N. Skipitaris
COSTUME: Academy Award Winner Theoni V. Aldredge
ENGLISH TRANSLATION: Yannis Simonides and Loukas N. Skipitaris

The Apology of Socrates premiered in New York in 2003 and has since been performed to great acclaim at the United Nations, the Athens Agora, NBC's Today Show, and in theatres, schools, universities, libraries, and festivals across the United States and Greece.

This project is a collaboration of Mythic Media International and Theatron, Inc., both of New York City. (Last performance was December 13, 2008)

For further information, please email:

Socrates in Athens: the Patron-Saint of Moral Philosophy
by Gerasimos X. Santas
Professor of Philosophy, School of Humanities
University of California, Irvine

It is nearly impossible to separate Socrates' life in Athens from his philosophical quest. He examined lives not in the classroom or the academy but in the streets of Athens, its gymnasia, and leading houses. He insisted on a place for philosophy in the life of the city. The dramatic events at the end of his life, in court and in jail, are of a piece with his philosophy. But his subsequent influence on the life of Athens, its constitution, its politics, or its history, seems to have been at best marginal. By contrast, his influence on philosophy has been immense, but only because his brilliant pupil, Plato, chose to explain Socrates' philosophizing to later generations. We would not be here today without Plato, and Socrates would not be taught worldwide in the classroom and the academy. The talk today discusses what Plato thought was Socrates' main contribution, bringing reason into ethics - a contribution all the more convincing because Socrates practiced it in his decisions at the end of his life, when he had to defend his life and work.

Socrates in Athens: the Patron-Saint of Moral Philosophy, lecture by Gerasimos X. Santas, University of California, Irvine (PDF)

Response by Sara Ahbel-Rappe (PDF)

Socrates on Courage in Politics
by Paul Woodruff
Professor of Philosophy
University of Texas, Austin

According to Plato's Apology of Socrates, Socrates stayed out of politics because he was afraid he would be killed if he brought his opinions into the public arena. Was this his only reason? It is really likely he would have been killed? Is such a fear consistent with his views on courage and justice? Can we learn anything from Socrates' teaching or example about how to bring real courage to bear on the political life?

Socrates on Courage in Politics, lecture by Paul Woodruff, University of Texas, Austin (PDF)

Response by Evans Young (PDF)

Student Prizes

Graduate Level
Yona Stamatis
Contemporary Greek Music: The Death or Rebirth of Rebetika?, a play about Rebetika, then and now

Katie Hartsock
The Cavafy Sense, The Cavafy Sensuality, a short essay (consisting of 8 poems) with Cavafy in mind

Undergraduate Level
Adam Graham
Prometheus Hyperopic, a poem about the human side of the Prometheus myth

Amanda Nichols
Breaking Down Walls, a paper about being Greek and Turkish and how the cultures are intertwined

2006 Program

2005: Happiness / Eudaimonia +


Aristotle and the Variety of Happiness
by Stephen A. White
Professor of Classics and Philosophy
Director of the Joint Graduate Program in Ancient Philosophy
Department of Classics, University of Texas at Austin

What is happiness? How can we attain it? Why do we are about it? Or do we? And should we? Those are all typical philosophical questions, and though not much discussed in modern moral and ethical theory, they were the central questions for ancient Greek philosophy. Answers to them were supposed to matter to everyone, and discussion of them figured prominently in civic and academic life alike. Happiness, in short, was something of vital importance: not something to take or leave, as you wish, but the most basic of all questions about our "quality of life." To know what happiness is was to know the very meaning of human life - provided we adopt the term "happiness" to translate what Greek called eudaimonia. Probably the most illuminating, and certainly the most meticulous ancient discussion of these discussion of these questions is Aristotle's, and looking closely at some of this ideas can help untangle some fundamental and potentially misleading confusions. In the pursuit of happiness, what are we pursuing? Is it always what we think we're pursuing? In particular, are we all really pursuing the same thing? Or are there different kinds of happiness? In short, is there any variety in happiness, and if so, what sort?

Aristotle and the Variety of Happiness, lecture by Stephen A. White, University of Texas at Austin (PDF)

The Birth of Ultimate Desire: The Greek Invention of Happiness and the Beginning of a Great Pursuit
by Darrin McMahon
Ben Weider Associate Professor
Department of History, Florida State University

In this talk Professor McMahon will draw from his forthcoming book Happiness: a History to discuss the "invention" of happiness as the highest human end in Greek thought of the fifth and fourth centuries BCE. Launching a pursuit that would profoundly impact Western culture, the Greek invention of happiness also bequeathed to human beings, Professor McMahon argues, a desire whose final satisfaction remained elusive. Paradoxically, a necessary corollary of the pursuit of happiness may well have been the generation of discontent. 

The Birth of Ultimate Desire: The Greek Invention of Happiness and the Beginning of the Great Pursuit, lecture by Darrin McMahon, Florida State University (PDF)

Two Senses of Eudaimonia
by Daniel Robinson
Philosophy Faculty, Oxford University
Distinguished Professor, Emeritus, Georgetown University

If, as Aristotle argued, "eudaimonia" is that for the sake of which other actions are performed, it is important to grasp that state of "happiness" envisaged. Classical sources, from Homer to Herodotus, make clear the fundamental differences between ancient and current conceptions of the flourishing life.

Two Senses of Eudaimonia, lecture by Daniel Robinson, Oxford University (PDF)

Student Prizes

Jason Boufides
Augustus Woodward and Catholepistemia, a paper about Augustus Woodward

Michael Djupstrom
Agalope, a song about the Sirens

Julen Etxabe
Why Only for a Brother? The Nomos of the Last Antigone, a paper about Lines 904-20 of Antigone

Derek Mong
Approaching (and Pouching) the Greek Fragment: Medley Translations in Lowell, Carson, and Phillips, a paper

Thomas Wisniewski
Fabled Cities, a poetry sequence

2005 Program

2004: Crete: A Meeting Place of Cultures +


The Island of Crete: Stepping Stone between East and West During Antiquity
by L. Vance Watrous
Professor of Art History, Classics, and Anthropology
University of Buffalo

Throughout history - and prehistory - Crete has been a stepping stone for travelers and intellectual currents in the Eastern Mediterranean. During prehistory most of our evidence is archaeological: imported goods exchanged between the island the the Near East, written records mentioning Cretans overseas, introduced customs and visual imagery in Crete and in the East. Earlier than any other part of Greece, Crete reestablished contacts with the Near East at the beginning of the Iron Age. Foreign materials, craftsmen and concepts arrived on Crete from Egypt and the Phoenician Levant. By the fifth century B.C. foreign workers ("guestarbieten") were so numerous at some Cretan city-states that a separate part of the city with its own shrines was set aside for them and a special magistrate was appointed to supervise them. Cretan society and values influenced Greek lawgivers and philosophers. These developments accelerated in the Hellenistic and Roman eras. During the Empire, Gortyn was the capital of Crete and Cyrenaica together, and people regularly traveled between the two areas. Epigraphical and literary documents record the arrival of businessmen and foreign gods on Crete, climaxing in the "visit" of St. Paul to the island and the establishment of Christianity (and monasticism) by St. Titus. (A short epilogue on contemporary Crete ended the talk.)

The Island of Crete: Stepping Stone between East and West During Antiquity, lecture by L. Vance Watrous, University of Buffalo (PDF)

The Art and Culture of Medieval Crete: Between Venice and Byzantium
by Maria Georgopoulou
Director of Gennadius Library at the American School of Classical Studies at Athens

The history of medieval Crete is intimately connected to the strategic location of the island at the crossroads of the Aegean and the Mediterranean seas. Following the Fourth Crusade of 1204 the island was taken by the Venetians and became actively involved in the Venetian trade system in the Mediterranean. The island became also involved in the culture of the Venetian colonial empire while keeping many of its Byzantine traditions and individual traits. My presentation will explore how the Byzantine and Venetian cultures mingled on the soil of Crete focusing on art, architecture, and civic ritual. Given the significant contribution that Crete and its inhabitants had in the dissemination of Greek literature and religious art (especially icons) to the West, I see the island as a crucial component in the formation of the cultural identity of Venice itself. Places like Crete should be in the forefront of medieval studies as they embody the essence of cultural encounters and ultimately show how the early modern world came to be.

The Art and Culture of Medieval Crete: Between Venice and Byzantium, lecture by Maria Georgopoulou, Director of Gennadius Library at the American School of Classical Studies in Athens (PDF)

Crete in Between: Still the Center of a Wine-Dark Seas
by Louis Reprecht
Professor of Ethics and Culture
Claremont School of Theology

Crete is a palimpset, and that is the greatest challenge to anyone wishing to tell the story of the hybrid modern quality of the place. If any analysis of Crete is part excavation and part lover's memoir (it is already this for Odysseus, I would argue), then how may we excavate everywhere at once? How may we love Crete, if not indiscriminately? In this lecture, I will return to the point both previous speakers have made, about Crete's fundamental geographical "in between-ness." The island lies "in between" east and west, "in between" the Balkan mainland and the coast of North Africa, "in between" pagan practices and creedal Christianity, "in between" Venice and Byzantium, and so on. What such mediating places do best (and especially when they are island-places) is to provide a place for various types of mixing - whether cultural or religious or even horticultural. Crete, of course is paradigmatically "the mixed place." But there are many kinds of mixing, may different forms which cultural and technological mixing may take. One type, "syncretism," is a term for the kinds of cultural and religious mixing which is built on the Greek root of this island's name: syn-Crete-ism.

Crete in Between: Still the Center of a Wine-Dark Seas, lecture by Louis Reprecht, Claremont School of Theology (PDF)

Student Prizes

Natalie Bakopoulos
"Communists in the Basement, Girls on the Wall", part one of her novel-in-progress

Alex Duncan
Acharnians, An Anti-War Polemic

2004 Program

2003: Bioethics: Ancient and Modern +


Ancient Greek Views on the Goals of Medicine and Their Implications
by Georgios Anagnostopoulos
Professor of Philosophy, Associate Dean of Arts & Humanities, and Director of the UCSD Center for the Humanities
University of California, San Diego

The main goal of this presentation is to examine some of the constraints as well as requirements on medical practice that ancient Greek philosophers, and especially Plato, and writers in the Hippocratic medical tradition thought were implied by the goals of medicine. I begin with a statement about the components of medicine as the ancient Greek writers understood them - namely, the scientific and applied one - and argue that the assumption of these writers that medicine is a productive discipline, whose ultimate goal is the production of health, sets some clear limits and requirements on what physicians can or should do while giving treatment. Thus, much the ancients write about the proper conduct of the physician when applying the art of medicine depends on their views about the goals of medicine and the kind of connection they have to the art. I give evidence that they thought the connection was a necessary one and that, strictly speaking, it is not possible, to practice medicine without aiming to bring about health or by subordinating the proper goals of medicine to other ends. These views of the ancient philosophical tradition are not always in agreement with the views of some contemporary writers who tend to see the practice of medicine as the mere exercise of someone's ability or skill, over which ability or skill he has a complete right to determine for what ends and when to use it. In response to these recent challenges to the ancient positions, I summarize the broader views of the ancients thinkers about the primacy of health in human life, the natural basis of medicine, and its place in the social sphere - views that lie behind the contention of the ancient thinkers, especially Plato, that the production or improvement of health is the sole aim of the practice of the art of medicine.

Ancient Greek Views on the Goals of Medicine and Their Implications, lecture by Georgios Anagnostopoulos, University of California-San Diego (PDF)

Comments by Rachana Kamtekar, U-M (PDF)

Human Embroys: An Aristotelian Analysis
by Alfonso Gómez-Lobo
Ryan Professor of Metaphysics and Moral Philosophy, Georgetown University and Member, President Bush's Council on Bioethics

The harvesting of embryonic stem cells either from naturally generated embryos or from embryos generated by Somatic Cell Nuclear Transfer (cloning) requires at present the intentional destruction of human embryos. This raises the question whether it is morally permissible or impermissible to do so, whether we would be engaging in an innocuous operation or one in which humanity turns its destructive powers against itself. The reply to these questions depends to a large extent on what human embryos are. In this presentation, I follow Aristotle in asking what the ousia (or the substance) of a human embryo is. This requires clarification of some basic concepts in metaphysics, particularly the claim that the ousia is the cause of the being of something. The reply, I argue, should be supplied by contemporary science. If I understand correctly the idea that the DNA of an organism determines its genotype, it follows that form or ousia of an organism is the genetic program contained in the DNA. This is turn supplies a criterion to distinguish between substantial and accidental change in a human organism. It is in light of these metaphysical conclusions that we should strive to resolve the aforementioned moral question.

Science, Society and Stem Cells
by David Prentice
Professor of Life Sciences, Indiana State University
Adjunct Professor of Medical and Molecular Genetics, Indiana University School of Medicine
Founding Member, Do No Harm: The Coalition of Americans for Research Ethics

Stem cell research is one of the most promising, as well as one of the most controversial, topics in modern society. Regenerative medicine using stem cells could provide treatments for many degenerative diseases. However, when considering use of human embryos as raw materials, careful deliberation is required. Things to consider include the patients who might benefit from research, the embryos who might be destroyed, the facts versus the claims and hopes of the science, research alternatives that might actually be more promising such as adult stem cells, and even the economics of the research and its potential availability to all patients. At the root of the ethical debate regarding human embryo research is the question of how we as a society view the tiny entity, and what it means to be human. Science can inform the debate in terms of biological definitions, and examination of the public claims versus the published data regarding embryonic stem cells, stem cells from cloned embryos, and adult stem cells can dispel many of the public myths and hyperbola associated with the science.

Bioethics: Ancient and Modern Science, Society and Stem Cells, lecture by David A. Prentice, Indiana State and Indiana (PDF)

Student Prizes

Peter Bussigel
Siren for Orchestra, a work based on the song of the Sirens

Maria Komissarova
A Butterfly and Crossroads, a story portraying a person's journey to a magical place in Greece and the spiritual transformation that occurs

Holly Maples
The Electra Project, a play drawing on works of John Barton and Chuck Mee

Despina Margomenou
A view from the "margin": Food storage, local politics and the emergence of states in prehistoric Northern Greece, a paper that discusses the Later Bronze and Early Iron Age (ca. 1700-700 BC) in Northern Greece

2003 Program

2003 Student Prizes

2002: War and Democracy (Inaugural Year) +


Exemplars of Western Civilisation? What the Spartans have done for Us
by Paul Cartlege
Professor of Greek History, Cambridge University

We're not long past the first anniversary of the events of 9/11. Those tragic events have at least also provoked a salutary spate of Western reflection on just what it is to be "Western", on what "Western civilisation" is, or should be. Some of us Westerners were provoked, specifically, into wondering aloud whether any definition of our civilisation and its cultural value would justify our dying for them, or even maybe killing for them. Those of us who are historians of ancient Greece wondered that with especial intensity. For the world of ancient Greece is one of the principal taproots of our Western Civilisation. The two best known exemplars are Athens and Sparta. Often they have been opposed to each other: luxury versus virtue in the eighteenth century, democracy against authoritarian fascism in the twentieth. The battle of values continues in our own century, and the literal battle of Thermopylae in 480 BCE, agruably Sparta's finest hour, would seem to provide an apt focus for the discussion. The downside of the Spartans' achievements, most notoriously their treatment of the Helots, cannot be overlooked. And yet the ancient ideal encapsulated in the myth of Thermopylae - the concept that there are some values that are worth dying for, as well as living for - still resonates today. 'Utopia' is formally ambiguous: it can mean either 'No Place' or 'Place of Well-Faring'. I'd like to think that a Thermopylae-inspired eutopia might not be too bad a place to be. 

Exemplars of Western civilisation? What the Spartans have done for Us, lecture by Paul Cartledge, Cambridge (PDF)

Comments by Sara Forsdyke, U-M (PDF)

Democratic Culture, Knowledge Exchange, and Military Capacity
by Josiah Ober
Magie Professor of Classics and Acting Director of the Center for Human Values
Princeton University

The paper develops three main points: First, that in ancient Athens the institutions of democracy were profoundly implicated in the processes of knowledge exchange; next, that democratic conditions of knowledge circulation constitute a primary reason for the remarkable Athenian rise to prominence as a military power in the fifth century B.C.; and finally that democratic culture's tendency to promote the knowledge sharing remains a primary reason that modern democracies are able to compete effectively with authoritarian regimes that seem to possess obvious operational advantages in terms of command and control, secrecy, indoctrination, and insulation from moral concerns. There are, therefore, urgent practical reasons for citizens of modern democracies to resist scaling back on democratic institutions when faced with new and unexpected military challenges. The more closely we attend to how military power was developed and deployed in classical Athens, the less likely we are to accept that there is a meaningful "tradeoff" between the open culture of democracy and the concerns of national security. Indeed, abandoning democratic freedoms in a time of crisis is a foolish sort of unilateral disarmament in the face of danger: embracing authoritarianism to "save" ourselves from terror risks losing both the war and the values we fight to protect.

Democratic Culture, Knowledge Exchange, and Military Capacity, lecture by Josiah Ober, Princeton (PDF)

Comments on Josiah Ober by Arlene W. Saxonhouse, U-M (PDF)

Democracy, War, and the Classics: The View from the American Founding
by Michael Zuckert
Nancy R. Dreux Chair of Government & International Studies
University of Notre Dame

The focus of the paper will be The Federalist, the most significant work of political theory produced during the American founding era. The Federalist presents itself as the product of Publius, a figure from the history of the early Roman republic, the subject of one of Plutarch's biographies in his Parallel Lives. The first task of my paper will be to uncover the meaning of this adoption of a classical persona during the debate over ratification of the Constitution. I will argue that this appropriation of the classics has a specific but limited meaning in the context of the ratification debate, and is not meant to be (as some take it) a wide-ranging endorsement of the perspective of classical republicanism or ancient political philosophy. I will then examine Publius' treatment of the issues of international politics, in which he argues for a moderate form of international realism, in a context where democratic (or republican) norms constantly stand as a challenge to that realism. I conclude with some reflections on the differences between Publius' "realism" and that of Thucydides, the ancient world's most important democratic realist.

Democracy, War, and the Classics: The View from the American Founding, lecture by Michael Zuckert, University of Notre Dame (PDF)

Comments by John Shy U-M (PDF)

Student Prizes

Louna (Luna) JH Khirfan
Historic Cities as Palimpsets: Tourism and Urban Form in Athens and Alexandria, a paper

2002  Program