ATHENS – “Tell me what anniversaries you celebrate and I will tell you who you are,” said Dr. Angelos Chaniotis at the Scientific Conclave in honor of the 2500th anniversary of the epic battles of Salamis and Thermopylae sponsored by the Marianna Vardinoyannis Foundation and held in the auditorium of the Greek National Opera at the Stavros Niarchos Cultural Center on January 20.
Indeed the passion that accompanied the expertise of all the speakers, prompted by the President of the Hellenic Republic Prokopis Pavlopoulos and Marianna Vardinoyannis, illustrated the point made by Chaniotis, who is Professor of Ancient History and Classical Studies at the institute of Advanced Studies, Princeton.
The learned panel included Roderick Beaton, retired Koraes Professor of Modern Greek and Byzantine History, Language and Literature at King’s College, London, who spoke on The Persian Wars, the Εstablishment of Europe and the Beginning of History; Paul Anthony Cartledge, Professor of Greek Culture at Cambridge, whose presentation was titled The ‘Finest Hour’ of Ancient Greece: Salamina 2500 From a Democratic Perspective; Athanasios Platias, Professor of Strategy at the University of Piraeus, with a talk titled The High Strategy of Themistocles; and Giorgos Prevelakis, Professor Emeritus of Geopolitics at the University Pantheon-Sorbonne, who spoke on The Wooden Walls – Geopolitical Challenges and Historical Lessons.
Loucas Tsoucalis, Professor Emeritus of European Organization, University of Athens, Sciences Po, Paris and president of the think tank ELIAMEP closed with observations on all the speeches and was the moderator.
Vardinoyannis, the president of the Foundation, welcomed the guests and Pavlopoulos prepared the audience for the presentations by highlighting importance not only for Greece’s history but for Western Civilization and contemporary society of the people and actions described in the Persian Wars of Herodotus, the Father of History.
Several speakers noted how miraculous the Athenian’s shattering Persian sea power seemed to the ancient world, although in his closing remarks Tsoucalis noted that due to the heroic stand of the 300 Spartans at Thermopylae, that defeat is more memorable than the victory at Salamis, and King Leonidas is more famous than the brilliant Themistocles who built and led the Athenian fleet.
Platias noted the importance of guile and vision in executing High Strategy by describing how Themistocles succeeded by deceiving not only the Persian enemy but the Greek allied states and his fellow Athenians. He also marveled at how he “altered the DNA of the people of Athens,” transforming the city from a minor land power to a great naval empire.