The Ghost of Athens in Byzantine and Ottoman Times

Speros Vryonis


Among early Byzantines the history of the Athenians retained some
interest for the history of education and the last phase of the performance of
pagan religious ceremonies. After the reign of Justinian even this restricted
history disappears, and Athens lives on as a kind of mythic survival of the
Byzantine literary cult of ancient Hellenism. Still the use of both forms of the
Greek language (learned, popular) continued as is evidenced by the Parthenon
inscriptions and the writings of Byzantine classicizing bureaucrats. This
“ghost” of classical Athens became even more diluted in Ottoman times. It
was in the writing of two historical memories by two Athenians that the Ghost
of Athens and its actual contemporary history were reunited at a time of the
influence of the European Enlightenment and the expansion of capitalist institutions
(maritime commerce). The two authors were the Athenians Benizelos
and Skouzes, the former a classicizing teacher and the latter a merchant
marine captain.

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