Renowned Greek-American historian, professor, and author Speros Vryonis, Jr. passed away on March 11 at the age of 90 in Sacramento. Professor Vryonis was born on July 18, 1928 in Memphis, Tennessee. From a young age, he was drawn to the thrills and mysteries of history, and more specifically, Hellenic history, chiefly focusing on the Byzantine Empire while also retaining a great interest in modern Greek history and Balkan history.
In 1988, Dr. John Brademas, a fellow Greek-American, announced Vryonis’ appointment as the first director of the Alexander S. Onassis Program in Hellenic Studies at New York University (NYU). At the time, Brademas was serving as NYU’s President. Prior to his appointment at NYU, Vryonis was a noted professor of history at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA).
In honor of his memory, add the following books to your reading list.
Vryonis’ The Mechanism of Catastrophe: The Turkish Pogrom of September 6 – 7, 1955, and the Destruction of the Greek Community of Istanbul is essential reading for those interested in this period in history and what happened to the once thriving and vibrant Greek community in Constantinople. Well-researched and well-written, the book offers insights into the traumatic Septemvriana which accelerated the dramatic decline in the Greek population. The events are within recent memory for many and should not be forgotten. The book, published in 2005 for the 50th grim anniversary of the events, is available in English and in Greek.
Byzantium and Europe: History of European Civilization Library is an illustrated history on the rise and fall of the Byzantine Empire. The book highlights Byzantium’s influence on Western civilization and its role as the vital connection between the ancient, medieval, and modern world. According to WorldCat, 42 editions of the book were published between 1965 and 1970 in 6 languages and are held by 1,275 WorldCat member libraries worldwide. It should be noted that WorldCat is a union catalog that itemizes the collections of 72,000 libraries in 170 countries and territories that participate in the Online Computer Library Center (OCLC) global cooperative.
The Decline of Medieval Hellenism in Asia Minor and the Process of Islamization from the Eleventh through the Fifteenth Century offers insights into this perhaps not so well-known period of history. Another well-researched and well-written volume by Vryonis, the book was first published by the University of California Press in 1971.
Also among Vryonis’ works, Readings in Medieval Historiography; The Turkish State and History: Clio Meets the Grey Wolf; Individualism and Conformity in Classical Islam; Greece on the Road to Democracy: From the Junta to PASOK, 1974-1986; The Greeks and the Sea; and A Brief History of the Greek-American Community of St. George, Memphis, Tennessee, 1962-1982.
In 1993, a two-volume festschrift was published in his honor. A festschrift from the German for “a celebration writing,” is a book honoring a respected person, especially an academic, and presented during their lifetime. It is usually an edited volume with contributions from the honoree’s colleagues, former pupils, and friends. The book, entitled To Elle?nikon: Studies in Honor of Speros Vryonis, is available in libraries in at least four countries, including the United States, the Netherlands, Germany, and Sweden.
The above-mentioned books by Vryonis are also available in libraries and online.