MОDЕRN GRЕЕK СULTURЕ

Introduction and significance of the topic: We could easily claim that we all are Alexandrians.
HISTORY
First we have to understand the importance of approximately 600 years of History (300BC-300AD): The creation of Alexander’s the Great Empire, the expansion of Greek Language and Culture around Mediterranean and beyond and the establishment of a uniting Hellenistic Culture, which will be spread around the globe for the centuries to come. In the same context we have to include the creation and expansion of the Roman Empire which will replace the one created by Alexander the Great. Particular emphasis will be given to the dynasty of Ptolemies, who ruled from Alexandria from 323 to 30 BC (last queen being the famous Cleopatra).

THE CITY
The creation of a new city by Alexander, Alexandria: Alexandria was the first metropolis of the world and its global significance could be compared to the significance of modern Metropolis like New York, London, Paris. It is important to understand the politics and the policies 2,200 ago, that made Alexandria a reality. To understand the importance of this city we have to discuss a) the cosmopolitan vision of the Ptolemies b) the “multicultural” character of the city c) the creation of powerful institution in the City with universal significance, like The Library, The Museum, The Serapium, Pharos etc. Thought these institutions philosophy, arts, sciences and literature were flourishing and created the most fertile cultural environment for the future.

THE ONE
Alexandria and Athens and the idea of ONE CREATOR: It is important to connect both cities, in particular through philosophy. To do so we have to discuss one of the most significant philosophical texts of all times: the platonic dialogue of Timaeus, where the creation of the universe by the ONE was discussed. This dialogue will not only influence the Alexandrian era but also will transcend the western culture and civilization until today. There is a particularly important connection we have to make here between Timaeus and the creation of a new philosophical movement in the 3rd century AD: Neo-Platonism. Both will create the right settings for broader theological discussions which will support the establishment of Christianity.

OLD TESTAMENT
Alexandria and Jerusalem: One of the most significant decisions of the Ptolemies was to translate the Old Testament (The Bible) from Hebrew to Greek. Through this translation for the first time this significant text will be available not only to Greek speakers but also to the western world, in particular when another translation will be available through Latin. It is believed that without this translation Christianity could not succeed in replacing the old pagan religion with the new monotheistic one. Neo-Platonic ideas of course were equally important.

CHRISTIANITY
The rise of Christianity: There is no doubt that the expansion of Christianity changed forever the world. In this section it is impossible to discuss the history of 2000 years of Christianity. We are going to focus on the 3-4 first centuries AD, when Christianity was introduced to the humanity. Here we are going to examine in particular the importance of Alexandria and the Alexandrian theologians/philosophers who contributed to the Christian success.
At this point the final synthesis of the contribution of four cities (Alexandria, Athens, Jerusalem, and Rome) will become clear.

AESTHETICS
In order to better understand history, culture and development of ideas we should always include the arts. Regarding Alexandria the most important example of artistic approach to the Alexandrian legacy is Constantinos Cavafy. Two weeks will be dedicated to the poetry of this amazing poet where history, aesthetics and cultural ideas will be discussed and will give us the opportunity to experience the Alexandria from an artistic point of view in an almost fulfilling atmosphere.

The 11 units of study and key questions to be discussed are outlined below.
Chapter 1: Before and after the Battle of Actium (31 BC)
• Question: Why the Battle of Actium is one of the most important of the human history?
Chapter 2: Alexandria and Ptolemies
• Question: Why, according to some authors, is Alexandria the first metropolis? Do you agree?
Chapter 3: The Library of Alexandria
• Question: 1.How was knowledge institutionalized in Alexandria? What is the significance of this institutionalization?
• Question: 2. In which way were the Alexandrians leading the way for the knowledge to be scientifically advanced?
Chapter 4: Connecting Athens: Plato: Timaeus
• Question: What are some of the features of Plato’s hypothesis that the universe is divinely created. Discuss this topic.
Chapter 5: Connecting Jerusalem: Translation of the Old Testament
• Question: What is the importance of the Septuagint?
Chapter 6: Connecting Athens, Alexandria and Rome: Neo-Platonism
• Question: What is the One? How, according to Plotinus, are we supposed to know of its existence? In what sense does Plotinus think there can be proof that it exists? How does Plotinus think it can be apprehended without argument?
Chapter 7: Christianity : Historical introduction and Neo-Platonism
• Question 1: What is the relationship between Platonism/Neo-Platonism and Christianity?
• Question 2: What is the importance of Alexandria regarding the successful development of Christianity?
Chapter 9: Kavafis 1: Alexandrian History
Chapter 10: Kavafis 2: Alexandrian Culture
• Question 1: What evidence can you find to prove the importance of Alexandria in Cavafy’s poetry?
• Question 2: What evidence can you find to show the cosmopolitan character of Cavafy’s poetry from the point of view of Alexandria?
Aim 1
The first section deals with the broader understanding of approx. 600 years of history (300BC-300AD). All began with the military expedition of Alexander the Great and the establishment of his empire; his decision to create Alexandria in Egypt; the establishment of the Ptolemaic Empire in Egypt, after Alexander’s death. The end of the empire after one of the most significant battles of all times at Actium (Greece), 31BC which will mark the end of the Ptolemaic rule in Egypt and the beginning of the Roman rule. The last queen of the Ptolemaic dynasty is the famous Cleopatra.
After studying this week’s materials, you should understand:
• The historical importance of the Battle of Actium (31BC)
• The important historical events that shaped history, in particular around Mediterranean, before and after the creation of Alexandria
Aim 2
The second chapter will focus on Alexandria itself. A general historical overview will be provided about the history of the city following of a summary of approx. 300 years of Ptolemaic Alexandria (323-30 BC). The important role of major public cultural institutions will be discussed.
After studying this chapter, you should:
• Comprehend the importance of Alexandria as first metropolis of the western world
• Understand that the creation of powerful cultural institutions in the city contributed a lot for Alexandria to became the focus city of the world
• Be aware of the cultural and scientific leadership of the city
Aim 3
The third chapter will focus on a particular institution in Alexandria, the famous Library of Alexandria. There are two sections: the first one is about the establishment, development and destruction of the Library and the second one, more extensive, will focus on some of the most important scientists of the Library leading in all areas of knowledge but in particular in geography, astronomy, mathematics, anatomy, literature and poetry.
After studying the third chapter, students should:
• Understand the history and the politics behind the establishment of the first Library in Alexandria with a universalistic spirit
• Understand that controlling the word and its destiny begins by controlling the knowledge
• Understand that what was achieved in the area of knowledge in Alexandria was made possible again in Europe many centuries later, after the Renaissance, and that the knowledge of our times owes a lot to the Alexandrians
• Learn the names and achievements of some of the most important Alexandrian scientists

Aim 4
In this section we are going to discuss one of the most important philosophical texts: The Timaeus. We will start first with a general introduction regarding the philosophy of Plato because Plato is the author of Timaeus and also because we want to place Timaeus in a more comprehensive context of its time. Understanding the general framework of the platonic philosophy will help us to better understand Timaeus in the context of a wider philosophical development in Ancient Greece. Plato marks the golden age of the philosophy of all times. Timaeus will transcend almost all philosophical debates to today. After the general introduction to the platonic philosophy we are going to study Timaeus, where Plato is raising the question of the creation of the universe by ONE creator. This dialogue is a quite complicated philosophy about cosmology, visible and invisible world, geometry and mathematics, creation of a universal and individual soul as well as creation of matter and life. The purpose of our engagement with Timaeus is not for you to read and understand the whole dialogue in its original form. It is rather to familiarize ourselves with some of the most dominant concepts of the dialogue. A few fragments of the dialogue are included in this section and it is useful for you to read them. With Timaeus we are going to connect Athens with Alexandria and the Neo Platonic movement (closely related to Alexandria), which will be fully developed six centuries after Timaeus and will be like a bridge between Platonic Philosophy and Christianity.
After studying this section, you should:
• Understand the wider context of the platonic philosophy
• Understand the fundamental concepts discussed in the dialogue Timaeus
• Connect Alexandria with Athens
• Be ready to understand the connection between Timaeus, Neo Platonism and Christianity, which will be discussed in weeks 6, 7 and 8
• Develop a clear understanding of important concepts such as Platonism, The One, Cosmology, Dialectic, Being and Becoming, Idealism, teleology etc.
Aim 5
The 5th section deals with the translation of the Old Testament into the Greek language by Ptolemy II in Alexandria, called Septuagint. We are connecting here Jerusalem and Alexandria. This section is divided into two parts:
1. Introduction to Hebrews’ history
2. The Septuagint
1) An introduction to the history of the Hebrews (and a brief reference to their language) is essential if we want to understand the significance of the Old Testament (and Septuagint). The history of Hebrews is very complicated more than 4000 years old, squeezed between historical facts and very old oral narrations. The book where most of the old Hebrew stories are told is the Old Testament which for the Jewish people is a historical and spiritual book at the same time. In my recording I have summarized the history following a quite simple (if not simplistic) framework:
a) 2.000-930 BC: From Abraham to Solomon (including the important story of Hebrews leaving captivity in Egypt under the leadership of Moses)
b) 587 BC-1948AD
• Babylonian exile
• Return to Jerusalem
• Hellenistic period (which include Alexandria)
• Roman period
• Beginning of the Diaspora
• Byzantine period
• Arabs, Crusaders, Mamluks and Ottomans
• British rule
c) 1948-
2) Septuagint and the Old Testament: In my recording I have summarized a very long and interesting story about this extraordinary book, the Bible, the most well-known, influential and popular book based on the history of Hebrews:
• There is an old oral tradition of the Bible, of thousands of years, beginning with the creation of the world by God. It is obvious that this oral tradition (like all similar traditions) was transformed thought the centuries and continuous displacement of Hebrews. There is NO copy available.
• From one of the established texts in the 3rd century BC, Ptolemy II, in Alexandria, decided to translate the Bible into the Greek Language, the Septuagint. For the first time the Old Testament will be available to the Hellenistic pagan world and the impact will be immense for the centuries to come, in particular during the spread of Christianity
• Vulgate: Is the translation of the Old Testament into the Latin (4th century BC)
• Masoretic: is the Old Testament recognised by the Jewish people, who reject Septuagint and Bulgate
• Differences between Siptuagint, Vulgate and Masoretic are discussed
• Also a brief summary of the New Testament is introduced.
• Finally two examples of the Bible are available to students: the first one is the beginning of Genesis and the second one, a very famous poetic/erotic: Song of Solomon
After carefully studying this section you should:
• Have a quite clear understanding of the history of Hebrews and the importance of the city of Jerusalem
• Have a clear understanding of the content of the Septuagint (Bible)and the debates about the originality of the text
• Comprehend the immense importance of the Bible to understand the historical and spiritual development of human history.

Aim 6
The 6th section deals with the very important philosophical movement of Neo-Platonism, a complex philosophical and spiritual system founded by the Alexandrian Plotinus (204-270 AD) in Rome. Neo-Platonism was influenced by the philosophy of Plato and in particular Timaeus. Timaeus was always a very popular text thought the Hellenistic period and was studied/discussed for centuries in many cities across the Mediterranean in particular in the famous school of Alexandria. Almost 500 years after Timaeus was created in Athens, Plotinus decided to revise the dialogue in bringing it closer to a philosophic/theological discourse. Christianity is on the rise and the Roman Empire is experiencing a very profound crisis: this is the time not only for philosophy but also for a new way of spiritual life. This is why Plotinus will propose a new metaphysical system towards which humans should contemplate, away from the world of everyday senses. This up structured and eternal world is a marvellous wonder composed of three substances (hypostases in Plotinus language): The One, The Intellectual Principle (the platonic Nous) and the Soul. The ONE is perfect, free, timeless and spaceless. Nous is the intellectual force from where the Soul down flows (emanate). Soul has a double character: looking upwards and downwards. The second look brings her closer to the world of senses and human life. Plotinus teaching was published by one of his students in a book called Enneads (six studies). The influence of Plotinus theory over the last 2000 years is immense in the areas of theology, philosophy, arts, sciences etc. Christian philosophy was impossible without Neo-Platonism, as we are going to discuss in the next section.
After carefully studying this section you should:
• Understand the basic theories of Neo-Platonism
• Connect Platonism and Neo-Platonism
• Connect Athens, Alexandria and Rome
• Keep in mind also Jerusalem and start bringing in Constantinople
• Understand the importance of the Neo-Platonic movement through the last two millennia and in particular after the renaissance
• Understand the meaning of concepts like: emanation, contemplation, Logos, monism, hypostasis etc

Aim 7
This chapter will deal with the biggest cultural transformation ever: the passage from paganism to Christianity. In order to do so I decided to structure this unit around 2 themes: a) brief introduction to history of Christianity (in particular the first centuries AD) and b) introduction to life/work of some leading Alexandrian philosophers/theologians of the first Christians centuries.
a) Brief historical introduction: it is of course impossible to summarize the relevant history. This is why I decided to focus on some important event/issues that affected the development of Christianity and affected various institutional outcomes:
• Various important and decisive councils
• Difference of opinions and dogmatic discussions
• Anti-Christian and anti-Pagan Persecutions
• End of paganism
• The conversion of Constantine
• Beginning of monastic movement
• Moslem advance
• The great schism between Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox church
• Fall of Constantinople
• Reformation
b) Important Alexandrian philosophers/theologians of the first 500 years of Christian history: It is impossible to refer to all important personalities that shaped Christianity from the beginning. We are going to focus only on few personalities who were living and working in Alexandria. During the first centuries of the development of Christianity Alexandria was remaining the centre of intense engagement with both: pagan philosophy (Neo-Platonism in particular) and Christianity. The situation is not always pleasant: there are tensions, conflicts, riots, destruction and killings; there were also great philosophical/theological debates; there were interesting fusions between “ancient” and “new” ideas. In the end paganism was defeated but not without affecting the dogmatic development of Christianity for centuries to come. After the Arab advance Egypt and Alexandria became Muslim. But still there is there a significant minority of Christians: “The Copts are the native Christians of Egypt . Christianity was the religion of the vast majority from 400–800 A.D. and the majority after the Muslim conquest until the mid-10th century and remains the faith of a significant minority population. Historically they spoke the Coptic language, a direct descendant of the Demotic Egyptian spoken in the Roman era, but it has been near-extinct and mostly limited to liturgical use since the 18th century. They now speak Arabic. Copts in Egypt constitute the largest Christian community in the Middle East, as well as the largest religious minority in the region, accounting for an estimated 10% of the Egyptian population. Most Copts adhere to the Coptic Orthodox Church of Alexandria. The remainder of around 800,000 are divided between the Coptic Catholic and various Coptic Protestantchurches” (from Wikipedia).
• Philo of Alexandria
• Clement of Alexandria
• Origen of Alexandria
• John Philoponus of Alexandria

Aim 9
Chapters 9 and 10 focus on one of the most important poets of the 20th century, the Alexandrian Constantine Cavafy. In most of his poems Cavafy is dealing with Alexandria in two different ways: from a historical point of view and from a cultural perspective. Chapter 9 will deal with history and chapter 10 with culture. This is important, not only because Cavafy is one of the greatest poets but also because in his poems he is discussing historical and cultural outcomes studied through this semester from an artistic point of view. I believe that in order to understand history and culture in a quite holistic way we have to always include the arts.
The focus in Week 9 is on History. 11 poems are included for study. They cover a long historical period, from the Ptolemies to Christianity.

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