History

Gregory Markopolous, The Illiac Passion, 1964–67

Gregory Markopolous, The Illiac Passion, 1964–67

Under the leadership of the Center’s inaugural director Nick Demos, the Center for Hellenic Studies capitalized on Georgia State University’s world-class College of Music to make public concerts a significant part of our programming in the first several years of our existence. That unique musical component will remain a highlight of our annual programming.

But we also wish to inform a broader public about the many artistic contributions made by modern Greeks in other media. Greece has produced two Noble Laureates in the tumultuous years since the Second World War and the Greek Civil War: George Seferis (1963), and Odysseas Elytis (1979). Perhaps even more noteworthy is Constantine Cavafy (1863-1933), a Greek poet who lived his entire life in Alexandria, Egypt, and produced poetry with such a unique voice that T. S. Eliot, one of his early promoters, deemed him the greatest poet of his generation. UNESCO recently recognized Cavafy’s unique importance by declaring 2013 as the Year of Cavafy. We hope to contribute to that event in the spring of 2013.

Constantine P. Cavafy (1863–1933)

Constantine P. Cavafy (1863–1933)

Some Greek novelists are better known than the poets, such as the Cretan-born Nikos Kazantzakis (Zorba the Greek, The Greek Passion, Report to Greco), and the Detroit-born Jeffrey Eugenides (The Virgin Suicides, Middlesex). Greece has also long enjoyed a prominence in film, and not only for the beautiful land-and-seascapes that provide the backdrop for films such as Never on Sunday, Zorba the Greek, Black Orpheus, Mama Mia, and Shirley Valentine. Greek filmmakers such as the late Theo Angelopoulos, Elia Kazan, and the avant garde figure, Gregory Markopoulos, have made lasting contributions to global cinema, and contemporary filmmakers like Tassos Boulmetis (A Touch of Spice) continue to do so. In that spirit, we hope to organize a Festival of Greek Cinema in the 2013-2014 academic year.

Our museums proudly display the sophisticated taste and lingering impact of ancient Greek art on modern audiences. The Carlos Museum at Emory University boasts one of the richest such collections in the southeast, and the High Museum continues to attract visiting collections of great richness and importance from prominent world museums like the Louvre. Of even greater immediacy, important modern movements like the Olympic revival we just witnessed again in London remind us of Hellenism’s unique power to attract and to inspire.

Stele of Glaukotas Greek, ca. 470-460 BCE Carlos Collection of Ancient Art

Stele of Glaukotas
Greek, ca. 470-460 BCE
Carlos Collection of Ancient Art

But there is more to Greece than her antiquity, important as that history is. And there is more to Greece than archaeological sites and sun-kissed islands. Greece is in some fascinating ways the sum total of everything that she has been, historically speaking, for two and one half millennia. What we see in Greece today is the rich and subtle mixture of complex cultural influences from the Byzantines, the Normans, the Venetians and the Ottomans, among others, artfully woven together in matters as diverse as music, dress, viniculture and cuisine. Greece is a cultural palimpsest, and yet the language has endured, such that there are remarkable continuities between the vocabulary Homer used, and words one still hears spoken in Greece today.

We are pleased to invite you to join us in our annual programming designed to celebrate this rich, and always-unfolding cultural legacy.