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Painting by Vryzakis Theodoros supporting seminar from Cambridge Centre for Greek Studies



Date: Tuesday, 30th November, 2021 - 17:00h GMT
Event location: Boys Smith Room, Fisher Building, St John's College, 26-27 Magdalene Street, Cambridge, CB3 0AF
Also streaming online: see below


Greek Dialogues returns as a live event with this fascinating seminar from distinguished Cambridge alumnus, Professor Roderick Beaton FBA, FKC, Commander of the Order of Honour of the Hellenic Republic. Presented in partnership with The Fitzwilliam Museum, to mark the bicentenary of the struggle for Greek independence in 1821, Professor Beaton examines the role of those in Britain and Europe who supported the revolution.

Once the Greek Revolution had begun in 1821, the ‘philhellenes’, as they soon became known, were volunteers who risked and often lost their lives fighting in a war far from home. Many more were active back in their own countries, to stimulate public awareness through the press and pressure groups, and to influence policy-makers in their governments. In the USA, as early as 1824 Congress debated whether to recognise the independence of Greece – though in the event it would be three of the most conservative regimes in the Old World that would be the first to do so, in 1830. What motivated those volunteers to risk everything, and supporters of the cause to mobilise in so many different countries? Some have suggested that the philhellenic movement in the 1820s marked the beginning of what we now call ‘humanitarian intervention’. Others have seen the volunteers as deluded idealists, adventurers, or even spies.

In this talk, Prof. Beaton argues that the philhellenes were prepared to risk their lives in somebody else’s war because they believed that they, too, had a stake in the conflict. The Ottomans stood in the way of an emerging new Europe, built on classical foundations, that the philhellenes saw as their own. In the end, though, it was not by winning battles that the philhellenes influenced the outcome of the conflict, but rather as the wedge in the door that forced the governments of the European powers to take a hand. The involvement of the philhellenes, right from the beginning, ensured the internationalisation of the Greek struggle – and therefore, ultimately, its outcome in the creation of the independent Greek nation-state that we know today.

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The Reception of Lord Byron at Missolonghi, 1861 by Theodore Vryzakis (1819 - 1878) courtesy of The National Gallery (Athens)

Tuesday, 30 November, 2021 - 17:00 to 18:00
Event location: 
Fisher Building, St John's College, Cambridge and Online