The Marianna V. Vardinoyannis Foundation, in collaboration with the Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Interior, under the auspices of H.E. the President of the Hellenic Republic Katerina Sakellaropoulou, is creating the ‘Thermopylae-Salamis 2020” Anniversary framework. On this occasion it is taking initiatives in four areas of action to honour the 25th centennial of the Battles of Thermopylae and Salamis.
The Honorary Committee for the Anniversary Year brings together prominent figures from Greece and abroad, conveying the message of celebration throughout the world.
At the same time, distinguished scientists and artists, as well as some of the country’s major organizations, are supporting this effort by participating in a wide range of events and initiatives.
In the education sector, the Foundation is hosting competitions designed to promote children’s creativity through painting, creative writing and theatrical expression. It is also holding international conferences and scientific workshops that will highlight the historic importance of the battles.
Artists and athletes, the Greek diaspora and the Hellenic Navy will also be participating in the Anniversary cycle through major events. Moreover, in collaboration with local communities in the respective areas, the Foundation will create humanitarian projects for supporting citizens in their day-to-day lives.
Address by H.E. the President of the Hellenic Republic
Highlights from the address of H.E. the ex-President of the Hellenic Republic Mr Prokopiοs Pavlopoulos at the opening of the celebrations for the 2500 Anniversary from the Battles of Thermopylae and Salamis.
“By declaring the opening of the anniversary celebrations for the 2500 years from the Battles of Thermopylae and Salamis, allow me to refer in summary to the emblematically illustrious and always timely – as the course of History has demonstrated through the centuries – message of the Persian Wars in general.
With their victory in the Persian Wars, Greeks also defended their Culture, which they created – and which today forms the first pillar of our shared European Culture – while laying out for the first time in world History a fixed boundary between the East and the West. The reference to the ‘birth’ of the ‘West’, as the natural ‘incubator’ of Civilization and Liberty against the despotic model of the ‘East’, first appears in Aeschylus’s The Persians, where the Queen of the Persians, Atossa, asks the Chorus, shortly before the news arrives of the destruction of the Persian fleet at Salamis, where on Earth Athens, the city her son desired so, is located. And the Chorus responds: “Far from here, to the west where the last rays of our Lord the Sun set. (line 232) The East, ‘losing’ itself in the stifling fantasy of an illusory eternity. While the West would thereafter seek its own eternity, but an eternity constructed of the earthly materials of the human being, on the one hand on the more elegant scale of ‘one who looks up’. And on the other hand, and consequently, in an interminable search for the truth, every kind of truth. Which means, in and of itself, both the rejection of any dogma and, beyond that, the acceptance of the idea of constantly checking the correctness of any Knowledge gained. In other words, it means admitting that what is considered correct today necessarily differs from the eternal truth being sought.
At the same time, through their victory in the Persian Wars, the Greeks showed their vast superiority and, by extension, the categorical opposition of the rebellious and creative Ancient Greek Mind to the spirit of any illiberal form of government based mainly on individual or collective despotism. More specifically, despotism under a veil of, for example, monarchy, tyranny or even oligarchy. This observation is strengthened, from a historical and political perspective, if one looks at the way the large Kingdoms of the East, at that time, organized themselves and evolved, with the Persian Empire being the most salient example: The Mind cannot evolve or create freedom from a despotic regime that, by definition, sets limits designed to perpetuate itself. In other words, despotism, by its nature, gives rise to quasi-irrefutable dogmas or doctrines that are in no way compatible with freedom of the Mind. Despotism has a tendency to ‘enchant’ the mind. To the contrary, the Free Spirit – which the Ancient Greek spirit definitely was – has as its basic mission to disenchant the world (“die Entzauberung der Welt”, according to Max Weber). It was more or less in this manner that despotism and the Free Mind, incompatible notions, delimited the territory of the ‘East’ and the ‘West’. In Aeschylus’s Persians, Atossa, waiting for news from her son Xerxes’ campaign in Greece, asks the Chorus who the Master, the Leader of the Greek army is, (line 241) And the Chorus responds: “Slaves to no lord, they own no kingly power”, line 242)
IIΙ. The above observations as to how the Persian Wars marked, at that time, the border between East and West bring us – all things being equal in terms of history, and bearing in mind the corresponding, necessary historical distance between yesterday and today – to what is currently happening in our region. It is difficult to question the fact that Greece, faithful through the centuries to its historical legacy, remains – especially in the war-torn state of affairs in our wider region – a kind of ‘outer boundary’ of the West from the East, always representing, through its Free Spirit and Culture, the authentic and unselfish defender of Peace, of Freedom and of Democracy. But a boundary that is not designed to divide and to expand the distances between the West and the East. The opposite is the case: It is designed, in the course of its history and in its historical perspective, to build bridges of communication with the East, bridges of Peace, peaceful coexistence and collaboration. And the main bridge is that of equal and constructive dialogue, because for us, the Greeks, there is no notion of a “clash” between real Cultures. It’s just that it has always been the case, as it is in our time, that Cultures, for many and various reasons, become entrenched and isolated, creating between themselves what appears to be an ‘unbridgeable’ gulf. The mission of dialogue is to bridge this gulf between Cultures. And Greece, armed with its Historical Legacy, can and must play a leading role in this mission, and in an ideal manner.”
Prime Minister’s Address
Address by the Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis at the opening of the celebratory series of events for the 2500-year anniversary from the Battles of Thermopylae and Salamis.
“Mr. President, Ladies and Gentlemen, I would like to add a few more thoughts to the very meaningful address of the President, on occasion of this important event by which the Greek state – with the support of the Marianna V. Vardinoyannis Foundation – are inaugurating the events by which we remember again the major events which took place in this country 2500 years ago. Allow me, for start, by picking up from where the President of the Hellenic Republic left it, to agree with his last comment and underline how important it is for these historical references not to be misinterpreted in a modern reading of cultural wars. These celebrations do not aim to revive this approach/reading of today’s exceptional complex global reality. The President is right when he says that if we are lacking something today more than ever it is this dialogue between cultures, a better understanding, the open lines of communication. And the more we hide ourselves behind simplistic stereotypes which interpret complex situations the more we are at risk of becoming the victims of such stereotypes and prejudices. Today’s world is exceptionally complex to be analysed by such tools alone.
History however has its special significance, and let me start by remembering again the words of historian Vassilis Panagiotopoulos, who wrote that “In our time, people are turning again to the past, with History taking on a therapeutic role. And if that expresses an internal tendency of social self-awareness in search of ourselves, then it is truly something positive”.
My view is that our ultimate past – full of glory as well as setbacks – should be viewed in this light.
We should dig and look deep all the way to our roots, and reconnect with them. And not just simply record events which are more or less known already, as they have accompanied us from our first school years, but to revisit these events and try to interpret their meaning once more. To transform their burden into ammunition for the future.
This is the only way to bring History down from the bookshelves and outside the books. To turn it into a constructive tool for national self-awareness and the continuity of the people.
So what does this important year of 480 BC embody today? The battle of Thermopylae and mainly of Salamis in September 480 BC?
First of all, I believe, and the President of the Hellenic Republic underlined this point, that this was a very important moment of national unanimity. The Greek city states, setting aside their differences, came together to defend their most precious commodity: their freedom.
And then, as today, there were too few of us to be divided, as I note at every opportunity. This is the first great 25-centuries old lesson.”
UNDER THE AUSPICES OF H.E. THE PRESIDENT OF THE HELLENIC REPUBLIC KATERINA SAKELLAROPOULOU
IN COLLABORATION WITH THE MINISTRY OF CULTURE AND THE MINISTRY OF INTERIOR