General News

Harry J. Magoulias, Professor Emeritus at Wayne State University, 99

DEL MAR, CA – Harry J. Magoulias, professor emeritus of Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan, passed away peacefully at home in Del Mar, California, on February 19. He was 99.

Magoulias taught in the History Department from 1965 to 1990. As a specialist in Byzantine history, he was one of the first scholars trained in the U.S. to publish an overview of the empire and its civilization, ‘Byzantine Christianity: Emperor, Church and the West’ (1970). His subsequent publications were annotated translations of key witnesses to the conquest of Constantinople in the 13th and 15th centuries. His ‘Decline and Fall of Byzantium to the Ottoman Turks’ (1975), the translation of Doukas’ ‘Historia Turco-Byzantina,’ made a uniquely valuable account of the events leading up to and succeeding the conquest of Constantinople in 1453 available to an Anglophone readership. Similarly, the single most important eyewitness account of the Fourth Crusade, ‘O City of Byzantium’ (1984), made the capacious annals of Niketas Choniates accessible to a wider readership, thereby stimulating a more complex and nuanced understanding of relations between Byzantium and the Latin West. Additionally, he published 13 articles that are listed on his page at the website Academia.edu.

In his later years, Magoulias published a book of short stories, ‘I Tell You What Love Is’ (1993), which captures colorful vignettes of the Greek-American experience of his past generation.

Magoulias was born in Baltimore, MD in 1925 to parents who had emigrated from the Sparta, Lakonia region of Greece. His father was a Greek Orthodox priest, which proved decisive in the career trajectory of his son. As a result, Magoulias was directed to the Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology in Brookline, Massachusetts, where he was ordained a priest. There his interest in Byzantine theology and culture was awakened, and while serving as a parish priest in Detroit in the 1950s, he started taking classes at Wayne State University, where he received his BA and MA degrees. A promising student, his professors persuaded him to pursue a PhD, and with their support he received a full scholarship to Harvard, and was subsequently a research fellow at Dumbarton Oaks, where he completed his PhD thesis, ‘The Lives of the Saints as Sources of Data for Sixth and Seventh Century Byzantine Social and Economic History’ (1961).

In addition to his scholarship as a noted Byzantinist, he was pivotal in designing the Byzantine mosaics and stained glass windows of the Greek Orthodox Cathedral of St. Paul in Hempstead, Long Island, where his brother, Reverend Father Nicholas J. Magoulias of blessed memory, was the priest. Completed in 1979, the new artwork inaugurated an interest in decorating American Orthodox churches with authentic Byzantine iconography. The highlight of the work of St. Paul’s is a remarkable mosaic rendering of the Anastasis fresco from the Church of Chora in Constantinople, present-day Istanbul. Professor Magoulias is survived by his wife, Ariadne, sons, Konstantin and Michael, and grandchildren Maximus, Marcus, Genevieve and Harry, as well as nieces and nephews.


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