CULTURE

In London for the annual Runciman Lecture

Helbi was in London last week for the annual Runciman Lecture at the Center for Hellenic Studies at King’s College. The lecture, named for the leading Byzantine scholar and great philhellene, the late Sir Steven Runciman, was founded by Nicholas Egon, a renowned artist and president of the Center for Hellenic Studies, in honor of his friend. Since Runciman’s death in November 2000, the lecture pays tribute to the great scholar’s legacy. The lecture was held in the Great Hall of King’s College, after an Orthodox Vespers in King’s College Chapel with Father Alexander Fostiropoulos officiating and chanting the psalms along with the chapel choir, comprising Greek and Russian students at the college. Archbishop Grigorios honored the proceedings with his presence, paying tribute to that true philhellene who donated the money from the prize awarded to him by the Onassis Foundation to the monastic community of Mt Athos, where he had often carried out research in the monasteries’ libraries. Though confined to a wheelchair, he visited the exhibition of Mt Athos artifacts in Thessaloniki, held to enable a wider audience to view the monasteries’ treasures. «This is the real Resur- rection,» Runciman said at the time. The speaker at this year’s Runciman Lecture was the distinguished Byzantine scholar and member of the Athens Academy Angeliki Laiou, professor of Byzantine history at Dumbarton Oaks, Harvard University, a member of parliament and former deputy foreign minister. Speaking before an audience of British and Greek professors, writers, researchers and historians, Laiou spoke on the subject of «Brothers in Arms – Byzantium and the West during the Crusades,» exploring the difference between the «Holy War» being waged by the West, declared by the Pope, and the «Just War» proclaimed by the Byzantine Empire and its Orthodox Patriarch. The speaker was warmly introduced by the equally distinguished Judith Herrin, a professor of Byzantine history at King’s College, and director of the Center for Hellenic Studies, which this year celebrates its first decade of work in the heart of London. This Sunday, Herrin will be speaking at the Metropolitan Museum in New York on her book «Women in Purple,» now on sale in the USA, which relates the history of the three Byzantine empresses, Irene, Euphrosyne and Theodora. As always, Nicholas Egon and his Greek wife Matti (nee Xyla), who hails from the island of Chios, were true to their tradition of hospitality. The lecture was preceded by a dinner at the exclusive Athenaeum Club in London. Among the guests was the Byzantine scholar Professor Mary Vassilaki, writers and politicians from the House of Lords, and naturally, Greeks who reside in London, such as Dinos and Edme Leventis, Alexandros Kedros, Chysanthe Patera and her daughter Calliope Cavounides and Pia M. Zombanakis, who has made a study of Byzantine culture. Also present was the younger generation of students at British universities who have not forgotten their Greek heritage.