Hellenic American Cultural Association of Colorado Hosts Symposium on Byzantine Culture

On Saturday, April 14, 2007 from 1:30 to 4:30pm the Hellenic American Cultural Association of Colorado held a symposium on Byzantine Culture at the University of Denver featuring several noted speakers. In Sturm Hall on Asbury Street, Professors Kenneth Harl, Alicia Walker an Speros Vryonis, Jr. delivered lectures on the theme: "Byzantine Culture: Its Influence and Historical Significance."
Summaries of Presentations

Professor Kenneth W. Harl
“Forging of the Byzantine Cultural Identity, 610-1025”

Under the impact of invasion and religious controversy, the late Roman eastern empire was transformed into a Byzantine state and society. The Byzantine world of New Rome was in its political and legal legacy Roman, but it was orthodox in faith and Hellenic in its arts, letters, and aesthetics. The lecture focuses on main forces within Byzantine society that wrought this cultural transformation. The topic will deal with the impact of challenging and expectations in imperial patronage, of the invasions of the Byzantine Dark age, and of the religious change resulting from the Iconoclastic Controversy (726-843). Imperial coins, the Byzantine wall paintings in the rock cut churches of Cappadocia, and new archaeological evidence from Anatolia, especially from the excavations at Amorium will be advanced in tandem with the literary sources.

Professor Alicia Walker
“Byzantium and the West: Art, Architecture, and Cross-Cultural Exchange in the Medieval World”

During the medieval era, Byzantium was highly regarded as the exemplar of art and architectural achievement, greatly inspiring and influencing cultural developments within many western medieval artistic traditions. This lecture explores the formal and symbolic impact that Byzantium exerted on artistic production in the Latin West and sheds light on cross-cultural connections that bridged political and geographic barriers in the medieval world.

Professor Speros Vryonis, Jr.
“The Cultural Baggage of the Byzantine Empire and the Diffusion of Parts of it to Muslims, Slavs, and Europeans”

Among the most striking, identifying aspects of Byzantine civilization is its retention of the ancient Greek cultural tradition and the development of its Christian institutions, literature, and culture. Such items as the educational system and monasticism were both important aspects of this double cultural identity of the Byzantines and their domain. From the time that the church fathers, most notably St. Basil of Caesareia, decided that understanding of the Christian mysteries was vitally dependent upon the mastery of ancient Greek knowledge, the study, and copying of the Greek texts became an integral part of Byzantine education and higher learning. Indeed the classical texts would have largely disappeared had they not been studied and reproduced by Byzantine scholars. Thus, when the Muslims, Slavs and Italians came into contact with Byzantium’s double cultural baggage they were faced with an embarras de richesses. It does not follow, however, that many of these foreign peoples did not borrow, unguardedly, the entirety of the Byzantine cultural traditions. Rather each one of these great civilizations borrowed those elements which would find a convenient receptivity in the guest culture and civilization. This selective cultural influence was, nevertheless, marked in the civilizations of Islam, Slavdom, and the early and modern West. Each group adopted and adapted those aspects of Byzantine civilization which fulfilled certain intellectual and social functions necessary to their respective contemporary societies. The lecture will focus on the vehicle of transmission, the receptivity and or rejection of parts of this cultural tradition, and the long term effects of this influence.

About the Hellenic American Cultural Association of Colorado

The Hellenic-American Cultural Association of Colorado exists to contribute in the dissemination and preservation of Hellenic heritage and culture, past and present, to interested persons, especially the youth, and to instill an understanding of the contributions of the past, its influence on the present, and its contemporary manifestations. For more information, contact organization at 1601 Sagewood Drive, Fort Collins, CO 80525, or visit the group's website at http://www.hacac.org.

(Posting date 25 April 2007

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