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Comparative Civilizations

Since human societies do not lend themselves to laboratory experiments, the historical-comparative method represents for us the main approximation to experimentation. To understand modern culture therefore, we must study not only this culture itself but to place it in comparison with different cultures. The first such comparison that the Institute has attempted is the culture of Ancient Greece.

The Hellenism and Modernity Program was created in September 2003 with the support of the Greek Ministry of Culture. Its purpose is to explore the influence of Hellenism on modern consciousness. One of the main areas of emphasis is the impact of Ancient Greek political concepts on modern political culture. Other areas include the ideas of the self, reason, individual, social ethics, archaic religion, polytheism, the development of logic and scientific method, and concepts of art.

The Hellenism and Modernity Program in the academic year 2003-2004 centered around the seminar on Ancient Greek culture (UNI ID543). This seminar included several guest lectures by renowned classicists, such as Professor Roochnik’s on Book XI of the Odyssey and Homeric conceptions of death, and Professor Scully’s discussion of the Homeric Hymn to Demeter and ritual similarities of weddings and funerals; discussions of Plato’s Socratic dialogues and Aristotle’s De Anima; students’ independent work (under the supervision of Nikolas Prevelakis) on related subjects, in particular the interconnection between monotheistic traditions and Aristotelian logic. The best paper – by Xuan Vu, entitled “The monistic foundations of Early Greek Philosophy” – received the prize of a ticket to Athens, provided by the generosity of Olympic Airlines.