The 17th Runciman Lecture at King’s College London

Greece’s blue-and-white flag fluttered in the spring breeze on its pole at the Greek Embassy at 51 Upper Brook Street in the heart of London. A blue plaque on the building notes that this is where George Seferis, winner of the Nobel Prize for literature, lived and worked when he was the Greek ambassador to London. Greek Ambassador Vassilis Pispinis and his charming wife Regina, an active, hospitable couple, had invited a group of Greeks to dine on the occasion of the 17th Runciman Lecture. Held every year on the first Thursday in February at the Greek Studies Center at King’s College London, the lecture was established by painter Nicholas Egon. His wife, Matti Egon, is the president of the Greek Archaeological Committee (UK), which organizes lectures and events of archaeological interest. Among the company at dinner were Fani-Maria Tsigakou, curator of paintings, prints and drawings at the Benaki Museum, Athens, who delivered this year’s Runciman Lecture, Constantinos Economidis, second in charge at the Greek Embassy, Greek cultural adviser Vana Solomonidou, herself a fellow of King’s College, Stamos Fafalios, who tirelessly promotes Greek culture in London and Athens, and Byzantinist Maria Vassilaki, who is preparing an exhibition on Byzantium at the Royal Academy in October. Helbi was there for Kathimerini to cover the lecture, which attracted a crowd of academics, archaeologists, Byzantinists and historians, following an Orthodox Vespers service at the historic chapel of King’s College. Tsigakou spoke on «Philhellenic Images as Pictorial and Political Statements.» Historian and former British ambassador to Athens Sir Michael Llewellyn-Smith introduced Tsigakou. Dr Karim Arafat, head of the Center for Hellenic Studies, commented on the significance of the Runciman Lecture, which, as always, is held in honor of the late Sir Steven Runciman. In the front row, with the Greek ambassador and his wife, sat Runciman’s sole heir, his niece Ann Shukman. Also in the front row was Turkey’s ambassador to London, Mehmet Yigit Alpogan, formerly ambassador to Athens. Renowned actress Claire Bloom, a friend of the speaker, was in the audience too, with the American writer David Plante.