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Culture

American Philhellenes Society Celebrates Exhibition at the Gennadius Library

NILES, IL – Friends of the American Philhellenes Society gathered at St. Haralambos Church to celebrate ‘The Free and the Brave: An Exhibition on American Philhellenism at the Gennadius Library,’ May 13.

Principal speaker for the evening was Dr. Maria Georgopoulou, Director at the Gennadius Library of the American School of Classical Studies in Athens and the guest of honor was Dr. A.G. (Tassos) Malliaris, a Sr. Professor and Department Chair of Economics at the Loyola Quinlan School of Business.

“The Gennadius library houses the collection of one man: Ioannis Gennadius. When he arrived in Athens in the 1860s I think he was very struck by the fact that the British loved ancient Greece [but] they couldn’t care less about modern Greece, and he decided to show them that the modern Greeks were as good as their ancestors, said Georgopoulou, who has been with the library since 2004.

“He did this by putting together an amazing collection of books that show the Greek genius throughout the ages,” she added.

Principal speaker for the evening was (pictured) Dr. Maria Georgopoulou, Director at the Gennadius Library of the American School of Classical Studies in Athens. Guest of honor was Dr. A.G. (Tassos) Malliaris, a Sr. Professor and Department Chair of Economics at the Loyola Quinlan School of Business.

During the event, Georgopoulou spoke of Hellenic War of Independence hero Yannis Makriyannis (1797–1864), who has a dedicated wing at the Gennadius Library since 2018.  The wing features many of the archive treasures of the American School of Classical Studies in Athens, showcased in a modern exhibition space which is free and open to the public.

Born Ioannis Triantaphyllou, Makriyannis was a Greek merchant, military officer, politician and author, best known today for his Memoirs. Starting from humble origins, he joined the Greek struggle for independence, achieving the rank of general and leading his men to notable victories. Following independence, he had a tumultuous public career, playing a prominent part in the granting of the first Constitution of the Kingdom of Greece and later being sentenced to death and pardoned.

The Greek War of Independence against the Ottoman Empire was not only of and for the people of Hellas. The struggle revived the spirit of Philhellenism throughout the world. James Monroe, the President of the United States along with his Administration, offered the Greeks material and psychological support, notwithstanding the Monroe Doctrine’s principles of non-intervention. Emissaries traveled to Greece, individually and in groups, to support the Greeks in their mission.

One of the brightest and strongest supporters of the cause of freedom was George Jarvis. Born to a large and wealthy family, he was fortunate to meet Lord Byron in Denmark where Jarvis’ father was serving as Ambassador to the United States. He asked his father permission to go to Greece and contribute to the Greek Liberation efforts. Despite his parents’ objections, he did go to Greece – to the triangle-shaped area between Argos, Nafplion, and Tripolis, which was the center of the fight for liberation.

Friends of the American Philhellenes Society gathered at St. Haralambos Church to celebrate “The Free and the Brave: An Exhibition on American Philhellenism at the Gennadius Library,” May 13.

The Greek patriots there were fortunate to have him as an ally, along with other American volunteers, including among others, Doctor Samuel Gridley Howe (founder of the Nafplion hospital) and Jonathan P. Miller.

“Our exhibition and what the society is doing is trying to appreciate, understand, and give thanks to these people who actually left their land, crossed the Atlantic, some of them more than once, in order to come to Greece and help,” Georgopoulou said. “I think we should never forget how important these personal connections are and how important it is for us to help one another.”

Opened in 1926 with the 26,000 volume collection of diplomat and bibliophile Joannes Gennadius, the Gennadius Library houses today 145,000 titles of rare books and bindings, research materials, manuscripts, archives, and works of art that illuminate Hellenism, Greece, the post-Byzantine period, and neighboring civilizations from antiquity to modern times. Rare maps of the Mediterranean, early editions of Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, and a laurel wreath belonging to Lord Byron are just some of the unique items to be found here.

The American Philhellenes Society was established to identify the Americans who supported and/or fought for the independence of Greece during the years 1810-1840 and to recognize and make known their contributions to the cause of freedom.

 

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