ATHENS: One of the consequences of the fall of Constantinople in 1453 was the biggest brain drain in early European history. Greek intellectuals left the Byzantine Empire in droves, with numerous settling completely in Italy, bringing with them their vast understanding and valuable collections of manuscripts.
Their presence contributed considerably to the rediscovery of classical Greek literature and philosophy, which they strengthened through teaching, translations and publications. The European Renaissance owes an excellent financial obligation to them.
While doing so, Venice became the center of the Greek intelligentsia and mercantile class, which organized themselves into a strong neighborhood.
By contrast, the former lands of the Eastern Empire got in a darker age, which could have obliterated Greek culture completely were it not for the Orthodox Church, maintaining the Greek language through its liturgical texts and events and local autonomy institutions, secure the sensation of belonging to a community.
Under the influence of Reformation concepts, Loukaris looked for to inform Greek clerics to defend versus the aggressive proselytism of the Catholic Church.
From the late 17 th century onward, many schools opened throughout the southern Balkans, nearly all of them teaching courses in the Greek language. Many of the most prominent schools were developed in significant centers of Hellenism: Smyrna, Ayvalik and Chios.
Chios hosted a library containing some 12,000 volumes. Ayvalik, an abundant city with a solely Greek population numbering 30,000, had a modern school with more than 300 students, managed by a liberal clergyman called Benjamin of Lesbos.
This movement to establish schools was driven by an informed monk called Kosmas of Aetolia. He took a trip throughout the southern Balkans, from eastern Thrace and the Aegean Sea to the Ionian Islands and from Macedonia to central Greece, emphasizing the requirement for education and a strong grasp of the Greek language.
His impact was incredible and his followers numbered in the thousands, including Greeks, Albanians and even Turks. Before his arrest and beheading by the Ottomans, he and his followers had established more than 200 schools.
But it was not simply the quick spread of schools that helped maintain Greek culture. The curriculum became richer, emphasizing reasoning, mathematics, the natural sciences, viewpoint and the classics.
Lots of Greeks discovered French, Italian and other European languages. Greek nobles (Phanariots) and merchant families sent their sons to Europe to continue their studies while their children were home-schooled.
Although lots of bad boys were also able to reach Western Europe to study on scholarships, the hero of the Greek Revolution, Theodoros Kolokotronis, saw this outward circulation of the brightest and best as yet another brain drain.
” The third class, the merchants, these diligent Greeks, the bulk of our nation however also the informed Greeks, left their nation and they deserted the poor individuals to a terrible situation,” he as soon as said.
Most of the new schools were supported by the Orthodox Church and regional neighborhoods, which offered them a source of funding and a type of legal protection against the abuses of Ottoman authorities. But with time, Greek merchants, guilds of artisans and emigres ended up being significant sponsors.
Greek schools were also established outside the Ottoman Empire, not only in Venice but in major European cities such as Vienna and Moscow. New books were released on nonreligious subjects, much of them translations, contributing to a lively cultural exchange.
According to historian George Finlay, Greek dominance of economic life, religious beliefs and education provided an unequalled advantage over every other Orthodox citizenship.
” Literary education, and those who dispensed it, enjoyed a moral influence in society second just to the clergy. Greek priests and Greek instructors have transfused their language and their concepts into the majority of the informed classes amongst the Christian population of European Turkey,” he wrote.
” They have actually therefore constituted themselves the representatives of Eastern Christianity, and put themselves in popular opposition to their conquerors. All news was normally transmitted through a Greek medium, colored with Greek hopes and bias, or perverted by Greek interests.”
It was time for the bourgeoisie to prosper the Church in its intellectual management. Rich Greek merchants, particularly those among the diaspora, started funding not only the churches and schools, however likewise translations and papers.
The Greek intelligentsia moved from Venice to Vienna as the latter became a thriving center of Greek commerce, together with Trieste and Budapest. With this came a second wave of modern-day Greek knowledge, which was radical, mainly liberal, secular and nationalist.
Key figures in this new age consist of Rigas Feraios (the Greek Jacobin) and Adamantios Korais (the primary liberal intellectual of the period). These guys and their contemporaries transferred the radical Enlightenment ideas of the American and Reign of terrors to the Greek elites.
It was a time of renewed interest in the classics, the age of romanticism, and the appeal of ancient Athens and Rome.
” The Turks did not either discover or unlearn anything since the conquest of Greece,” Spyridon Trikoupis, a primary author of his day, wrote in his “History of the Greek Transformation” in 1860.
For them, the four centuries from the fall of Constantinople passed as 4 days.
” However the Greeks, due to the fact that of their ancestry and religion, associated themselves with the wise and industrious European countries through shipping and commerce. This association protected them material wealth and spiritual knowledge.”
Trikoupis stressed this asymmetry between the two nations as the chief reason that the Greek Revolution was unavoidable.
” It is not possible for two countries, residing in the same lands, to have their political relation steady, when the one, which dominates, remains stagnant and the one dominated is making progress,” he composed.
” The political change in their relationship ends up being even more specific, when these countries have different origins, represent a different faith, speak different languages, live separately without interethnic marriage, they both consider the other as sacrilegious and they simply hate each other,” he added.
” This was the position of the Turks towards the Greeks and vice versa. The modification of their political positions referred time and situations. When the suffering mankind, while feeling the cruelty, realizes at the very same time its own power, the urge for the enhancement of its lot is unstoppable.”
Aristides Hatzis is a teacher at the National and Kapodistrian University of Athens, and director of research at the Center for Liberal Research Studies (KEFiM). He is a member of the National Committee for the Event of the Bicentennial of the Greek Transformation.