International Scientific Conference “Thermopylae and Salamis: Assessing Their Importance in the Modern World”
The events of the Marianna V. Vardinoyannis Foundation for the 2500 year anniversary of the battles of Thermopylae and Salamis were kicked off with an international scientific conference, attended by the President of the Hellenic Republic Mr Prokopiοs Pavlopoulos and top academics from the world’s largest universities, on Monday, 20 January, 2020, at the Stavros Niarchos Hall of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Culture Center.
The Conference was titled “Thermopylae and Salamis: Assessing their importance in the modern world”, and it was organised under the auspices of the President of the Hellenic Republic.
The Conference was declared open by the President of the Hellenic Republic, Mr Prokopiοs Pavlopoulos with his speech titled “The timeless message of the Persian Wars”: “2500 years later, the Battles of Thermopylae and of Salamis, together with the Battle of Marathon, an endless and ongoing fountain of clear historical and cultural teachings, emit in all directions without fail the same message, ever since they decided the outcome of the Persian Wars. An outcome which meant the victory of the Greeks, who were defending themselves, against the attacking Persians, as well as the victory of Freedom and Democracy against the authoritarianism and the dogmatism of the Persian despotism. This victory set the boundary, ever since, between the East and the West. This boundary was set in the sense that the dark despotism from the East failed to prevail over the known world of the time, thus allowing the West to formulate, based on Ancient Greece, the Civilisation of the Free Spirit, Representative Democracy and the Fundamental Human Rights. Essentially, this boundary between East and West served and continues to serve as an “advanced outpost” for the defence of Man in his struggle to protect his values and the unhindered development of his personality, on terms of Solidarity and Justice. In a struggle which always did and always will take place in a free “society”, and not under any circumstances, in a closed and by definition hostile to freedom “community”, Mr Pavlopoulos noted among other things.
The President of the Honorary Committee Mrs Marianna V. Vardinoyannis in her speech underlined: “2500 years ago, in a battle between light and darkness, light prevailed. This Victory was not the result of numbers but of Man. And this self-sacrifice of the brave at Thermopylae who gave their lives to stop the enemies who were bringing an entirely different world along with them, became a Symbol of Victory: the victory of Selflessness, Loyalty and Love for the homeland. It became Sacrifice – never defeat! – “for God and country”. On the other hand, the victory in Salamis was the culmination of the strategic skills of the Ancient Greeks. With Themistocles at the lead, this was the most important naval operation of antiquity which became a legend, a lesson for the nations, the beginning of global naval history, and according to the historians, the birth of Western Civilization. The Greek win, despite the incomparably lower number of Greeks, paved the way of the historical progress of the Greek City-States in an environment of creativity and independence, which provided a model and inspiration through the centuries. It gave Pericles and his Golden age the chance to flourish. Athens produced at the time some of the most important and timeless cultural works, which were then spread far and influenced Europe and the rest of the world. This was the time when the Parthenon was built, and unprecedented works of art were created, which are an integral part of the global cultural heritage. This is the land where the freedom of speech was born. This is the birthplace of democracy, which for the past 2500 years has remained the world’s ideal political system, and the longest-living heritage which the Golden Age bequeathed to Humanity. None of this would have happened if it hadn’t been for the decisive victory of the Greeks in Salamis. We humbly bow our heads before this significant heritage, with a deep sense of responsibility. Our goal is for this Anniversary to be meaningful for today’s societies, and particularly the younger generation, in modern terms, with an open spirit and respect for the age-old values which still constitute part of our identity”.
The event was also addressed by the First Lady of Cyprus, Mrs Andri Anastasiadi, and the Minister of Culture, Mrs Lina Mendoni.
“Two and a half thousand years later, these two epic battles continue to promote the global values of peace, solidarity, freedom and democracy. Values which had the chance to flourish after this great victory of the Greeks and become the foundations of the western civilization. Values which have been guiding the progress of our people through time and in our days take on the utmost importance, taking into consideration the challenges we are called upon to face as a Nation”, Mrs Anastasiadi noted.
On her side, Mrs Mendoni referred to the importance of the Persian Wars and the drastic effect they had on historical and cultural developments: “After the Persian Wars, unsurpassed ideals and institutions emerged, which were destined to last through time, serving as the foundations of the Western Civilization”.
The Emeritus Koraes Professor of Modern Greek and Byzantine History, Language and Literature at King’s College London, Mr Roderick Beaton gave a lecture titled “The Persian Wars, the Establishment of Europe and the Beginning of History”.
Professor of History at Cambridge University, Mr Paul Anthony Cartledge, spoke on the subject of: “The ‘Finest Hour’ of Ancient Greece: Salamis 2500 From a Democratic Perspective”, the Professor of Strategy in the University of Piraeus, Mr Athanasios Platias spoke about: “The high strategy of Themistocles”, Mr Giorgos Prevelakis, Professor Emeritus of Geopolitics, Pantheon-Sorbonne University gave a speech on the subject of: “The wooden walls. Geopolitical Challenges and Historical Lessons”. Mr Aggelos Chaniotis, Professor of Ancient History and Classical Studies, Institute of Advanced Studies, Princeton, spoke about: “Tell me which anniversaries you celebrate and I will tell you who you are”.
The event was moderated and the conclusions presented by Mr Loukas Tsoukalis, Professor of International Affairs, Sciences Po, Paris, Professor Emeritus, National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, President of think tank ELIAMEP.
In attendance were also the Minister of State, Mr Panagiotis Pikrammenos, as representative of the government, Mrs Sissy Pavlopoulou, the Minister of National Defence, Mr Nikos Panagiotopoulos, the Minister of Health, Mr Vassilis Kikilias, the Minister of Tourism, Mr Haris Theoharis, His Eminence the Metropolitan of Fthiotida Mr Symeon, the Hellenic Army General Staff Chief Lieutenant General Haralambos Lalousis, the Chief of the Hellenic Navy, Vice Admiral Stylianos Petrakis, the Co-Chair of the Nizami Ganjavi International Center and former President of Latvia, Mrs Vaira Vike Freiberga, the former Vice-president of the World Bank Mr Ismail Serageldin, the former Prime Minister Mr Loukas Papadimos and his wife Mrs Shanna Papadimou, Sir Magdi Yacoub, the General Secretary of The Presidency of the Republic Mr Giorgos Gennimatas, the former Minister, Mr Alekos Flabouraris and formers heads of State, members of the Nizami Ganjavi International Center, members of parliament, representatives of the academic and scientific world, of agencies of the local government.