Wednesday, June 27, 2018

8 - Book Review: "Protestant Patriarch: The Life of Cyril Lucaris (1572-1638), Patriarch of Constantinople"

Protestant Patriarch:
The Life of Cyril Lucaris (1572-1638),
Patriarch of Constantinople

By George A. Hadjiantoniou
160 pp. Richmond, John Knox Press, 1961.

Cyril Lucaris, Greek Orthodox Patriarch successively of Alexandria (1601-1630) and of Constantinople (1630-1638), is a noble, tragic, sometimes enigmatic figure, a man of exceptional gifts, of towering courage, and of saintly life. Educated in Italy, and in personal contact with the ambassadors in Constantinople of the Protestant powers, he sought to reform the Greek Church along the lines of the Reformation in Europe and published a Calvinist Confessio which has become celebrated. The foreign envoys supported him - and sometimes used him as a pawn in their own diplomatic projects. Inevitably Lucaris, made enemies - notably the Jesuits in Constantinople - and they finally achieved his ruin. He was falsely accused of treason and strangled by order of the Sultan, and his body was thrown into the Bosporus. He is remembered for having made a present to King Charles I of England of the Codex Alexandrinus, as a token of his esteem of the English ambassador, Sir Thomas Rowe.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

7 - Book Review: "The Christian Parthenon: Classicism and Pilgrimage in Byzantine Athens" by Anthony Kaldellis

The Christian Parthenon: 
Classicism and Pilgrimage in Byzantine Athens

By Anthony Kaldellis

Reviewed by Nassos Papalexandrou,
University of Texas at Austin

Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2009.12.18

A monographic study of the Christian Parthenon is long overdue. It is ironic that Kaldellis' bold and provocative book was published simultaneously with the pompous inauguration of the New Acropolis Museum at Athens, a cultural institution that decisively concretizes the Parthenon as the great masterpiece of Classical Antiquity. Kaldellis is a byzantinist who takes issue with this monolithic and fictional construction of the Parthenon in both popular and scholarly imagination since the eighteenth century. His argument is that the perceptual filters of Classicism, distorting, disorienting, and culturally contingent as they have always been, have diverted attention from the illustrious career of the monument as a Christian church. Consequently he sets out to rehabilitate the monument in its former, hitherto neglected glory as a pilgrimage site of universal appeal and as a focus of attention, cult, and intellectual preoccupation that have no match in Classical antiquity. He does so with expository verve and an often polemical tone that militates against the prevalent neglect and misunderstanding of the rich intellectual heritage of Medieval Hellenism. It is time we discovered the riches and complexity of post-antique Hellenism, Kaldellis argues. His book provides a paradigm for how to go about this, especially how to formulate questions and methods of approach that defy the suspicious assumption that Hellenism after antiquity was orientally decadent, derivative, and second-rate. It is no accident that this revisionist project has to start with the Parthenon. At once a blessing and a curse, this tyrant of a monument has to be deconstructed along with all the ideologies it has come to epitomize in Western civilization. The undertaking is daunting, but Kaldellis's book shows that it is well worth the effort.

Monday, June 11, 2018

6 - Book Review: "Grand Strategy of the Byzantine Empire" by Edward N. Luttwak

By Nicholas D. Rosen

Blame it on reading Gibbon's Decline and Fall back when I was young and impressionable. I did go on to read other books, notably Runciman's Byzantine Civilization, but I nonetheless had a rather soured view of the Byzantines. They squabbled over fine points of theology, while failing to fight with the courage of their Roman predecessors, making their history one long, sad decline; and they lacked a sense of individualism, an idea of the freedom and worth of each human being, unlike the West, flawed though it has been.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

5 - Book Review: "Occult America: The Secret History of How Mysticism Shaped Our Nation"

'Occult America' Shows What a Fertile Place This Nation Has Been for Homegrown Religious Movements

Reviewed By David M. Kinchen

The first Europeans to arrive in what is now the United States came to practice their religion in peace -- and all too often to deny others the same freedom. Mitch Horowitz explores the influence of spiritualism, Freemasonry and transcendentalism in America in "Occult America: The Secret History of How Mysticism Shaped Our Nation" (Bantam Books, 304 pages, $27.00).

Exhaustively researched (and yes, there's an index! as well as notes on sources) and written in a very accessible style, "Occult America" devotes much of its space to spiritualism, mesmerism, divination, channeling and other movements that have often been dismissed out of hand by experts, Horowitz says.