There isn’t a day that goes by without some mention in the Greek media of the political refugees and the economic migrants that have kept coming to Greece over the past five years from the Middle East and Africa. There is a tendency to focus on their immediate plight in the camps and not on the total disruption of their way of life. While many of these individuals wish to go elsewhere in “Europe” a certain portion will stay and establish new lives here. In doing so, most will attempt to re-construct their cultural environment as best they can. Observance of their religious beliefs is frequently at the center of their efforts to re-create some sense of “normalcy” for their family and for their ethnic group.

For varying reasons this pattern of voluntary and involuntary geographical dispersal of members of an ethnic community from their homeland to other areas has occurred in the eastern Mediterranean and the Levant for millennia. Each new diaspora faces similar challenges and goals in dealing with such a disruption. In his lecture on Wednesday, March 14th entitled, “In the Shadow of Home: Jews, Syrians, and Religion in Delos and Corinth 200 BCE - 100 CE,” Christopher J. Cornthwaite (Ph.D. candidate, Department of Religious Studies, University of Toronto and 2017/2018 Neda and Franz Leipen Fellow at the Canadian Institute in Greece) will explore aspects of this phenomenon from a religious perspective.

The story of a roaming evangelist who made Corinth a main port of call on his Mediterranean tour is woven into our cultural mythology. But Paul’s success in Corinth came from more than his apparent passion as an itinerant preacher. The community in which Christianity spread there was formed before Paul’s arrival, already gathering as an immigrant religion at the nexus of a trans-Mediterranean trade route. Furthermore, Christianity was only one of many immigrant religions from the Levant that came west and attracted a large following beyond the boundaries of its ethnos. The sanctuary of the Syrian goddess (Atargatis) on Delos a hundred years earlier has a remarkably similar story. Brought to Delos by a Syrian priest, her worship outgrew the Syrian diaspora there, attracting outsiders as it moved on toward Rome. In his lecture Chris will compare how and why these two groups grew and attracted outsiders and how they negotiated the problems of identity that new members created. It then puts them in the broader contexts of religion and migration in the Graeco-Roman Mediterranean.

This Institute lecture on Wednesday evening will be held in the Library starting at 7:30 PM.

18th-century graffiti defacing the Propylaia!

Many of the buildings and some of the ancient monuments of Athens have been defaced in the past decade by graffiti. Most of these graffiti are tags or names of the defacers. This “Greek tradition” is an old one starting at least in the Archaic period. It has continued off and on in Greece since then. Probably Lord Byron’s carved initials on one of the columns of the Temple of Poseidon at Sounion is the best known.

On Monday, March 12th Professor Tasos Tanoulas (National Metsovian Polytechneion) will give a lecture at 7:00 PM in the Library of the Canadian Institute entitled, «Νεώτερα χαράγματα στα Προπύλαια και η δεύτερη αποστολή της εταιρείας των Dilettanti στην Αθήνα». The lecture relates to Professor Tanoulas’ ongoing architectural research on this well-known monument on the Akropolis.

In 2013 at the southwestern corner of the Propylaia scaffolding was erected to study the structural problems of the superstructure. This made possible the identification and study of various graffiti at the west surface of the three superior courses, all written during the second half of the 18th century. One of them is dated 1789 and is written by a W. Young. A second is dated 1765 and his signed by the initials R.C., W.P. and N.R. These belong to Richard Chandler, William Pars and Nicholas Revett, representatives of the Society of the Dilettanti, who arrived in Athens from London in that year.

The lecture is sponsored by the Συλλογος Φιλων Του Ιστορικου Αρχειου Της Αρχαιολογικης Υπηρεσιας. The public is welcome to attend!

David Rupp