3rd International Student Byron Conference

General Theme: “Byron and the Olympic Spirit”
May 16-24, 2004

Messolonghi Byron Society – Byron Research Center
Honorary President, The Earl of Lytton

The Research Center of the Messolonghi Byron Society held its first International Student Byron Conference May 11-19, 2002. Organized by Rodanthe-Rosa Florou with Byron Raizis and Peter Graham as academic advisors, the conference brought together seventeen students–a diverse group representing seven nationalities, eleven universities, and academic levels ranging from undergraduate to doctoral dissertator. The Messolonghi experience was part symposium, part pilgrimage, and part cultural event. It gave students a chance to exchange and develop their ideas on Byron, to discuss their work with established Byron scholars who also offered lectures, to deepen their personal and scholarly understanding of Byron’s life and work by visiting places known and loved by him, and to gain an understanding of the land and people of Greece. Along with the indefatigable and ever-gracious Messolonghi Byron Society, many people and institutions supported this venture, among them the District Governor of Aetolia and Arcanania, the mayor and deputy mayors of Messolonghi, the mayors of Aitoliko and Dodona, the Technological Educational Institution of Messolonghi, the University of Athens, and Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. Participants in the conference found themselves media stars–a fate far commoner for Byron than for those studying him–as local, regional, and national papers and television channels covered various activities.

Saturday May 11 was a day of arrivals that involved organizational meetings involving the professors of the International Advisory Board who were then present (Byron Raizis, Drummond Bone, and Peter Graham), a dinner reception at the lagoon-front Theoxenia Hotel offered by the Messolonghi Byron Society, and, for those not overwhelmed by jetlag, a casual stroll culminating in a visit the nightspots of Messolonghi’s central historic district.

Sunday brought conference registration at the three-room suite of the Messolonghi Byron Research Center at 1 Eleftheriou Venizelou Street and a chance to see the center, which in its eight-months’ existence has grown to include a library, an administrative office, and a technology room in which the center’s holdings are being catalogued online. A walking tour then allowed the participants to visit the Cathedral of Agios Spyridon as Byron did, to see a special exhibition of original engravings of the Greek War of Independence at the the Christos and Sofia Moscandreou Modern Art Gallery, and to visit the house of the Greek national poet Kostis Palamas, still furnished as it was in the poet’s day. Following lunch, the group boarded a coach and traveled to the historic village of Katochi in the municipality of Oiniades. First stop: the ancient theatre of Oinades (carved into its sheltering hillside, not built) and its Homeric-era port. Next, a visit to the workshop of Mr. Nikos Plakidas, maker of beautiful and authentic ethnic costumes. During this visit three lucky students (Kristina Stankeviciute, Linda Neiberg, and Evan Gurney) were dressed in Greek finery Byron himself would have envied. A walk along the Acheloos River led to a waterfront restaurant, where Mr. Gerassimos Nestoratos, the Mayor of Oiniades, offered a dinner featuring musical entertainment by the Plucked Orchestra, a string ensemble of young people directed by Mr. Spyros Holevas.

Papers began Monday May 13, when Dr. Theodoros Veltsistas, President of the Technological Educational Institution of Messolonghi, welcomed the group to campus, where he graciously provided classroom space and free lunches. Steven M. Lane of the University of British Columbia and Malaspina University College, inaugurated the formal academic portion of the conference with an astute examination of place in Wordsworth’s and Byron’s poetry. Likening Wordsworth’s sense of place to a police map and Byron’s sense of place to a hypertext, Steven’s talk set a precedent for perceptive interpretation upheld throughout the rest of the papers. Peter Allender of the University of Bristol then offered a cogently argued and admirably detailed comparative study of Hazlitt’s and Byron’s responses to the political transformation of post-Napoleonic Europe. Cheryl A. Wilson of the University of Delaware followed in a similarly comparative vein, carefully contrasting the Greek origins of Byron’s and Letitia Elizabeth Landon’s of poetic identities. While Byron found his poet-rebel persona in the Greek wars of independence, argued Cheryl, Landon located a female poetic identity in the classical figures of Sappho and Erinna. The session’s chair Professor Peter Myrian, President of the University of Indianapolis-Athens, capped the first series of presentations with a probing consideration of Byron’s influence on the Greek poet George Drosinis. Myrian’s talk culminated in a close examination of Drosinis’ poem “The Death of the Swan”.

After a break for lunch and perhaps a swim for the speedy, the second session opened with Yioshie Kimura of Liverpool University, who thoroughly examined Byron’s metaphor of rape in “The Curse of Minerva” and its relation to Byron’s personal outrage concerning the Elgin Marbles. Kao (Pamela) She-ru of the University of Bristol surveyed Byron’s use of figures from his personal history, including Ali Pasha, in his formulation of such literary figures as Lambro and Don Juan and argued that Byron’s reworking the character of Ali Pasha in these literary characters reveals an ambivalent, even Oedipal, attitude. Kristina Stankviciute of Vilnius University then offered the theories of Michel Foucault as a lens through which to understand the character and sexuality of Don Juan. The chair, Professor Jonathan Gross of DePaul University, closed the second session with a improvisational talk touching upon a range of topics, from the anatomizing of body parts in Byron’s life and poetry to Thomas Jefferson’s intriguingly Byronic spirit. Dinner at the T. E. I. or in town and a free evening concluded the day.

A tour of picturesque sites around Messolonghi, some of them with particular Byronic associations, began the activities of Tuesday May 14. The group proceeded by coach along the lagoon causeway to Tourlida in the Gulf of Patras, then up the slopes of Mount Arakinthos to visit the 18th-century monastery of St. Simeon. Back in the lowlands, the group visited the island chapel of Panayia Finikias (the Virgin of the Palms). This little church, once the goal of Byron’s habitual equestrian excursions from Messolonghi, is today a beautiful site with melancholy associations of his “last ride.” Another ascent of Arakinthos followed: this time to the sublimely situated ruins of ancient Pleuron overlooking Messolonghi and the lagoon–a city with vestiges dating back to Neolithic times. Gazing out toward the Ionian Sea from the theatre’s stone seats, the group enjoyed Byronic readings and recitations offered by Cheryl Wilson, Gerry Lake, and Robert McColl.

Lunch at the T.E.I. preceded the third round of papers, held in downtown Messolonghi at the beautiful Diexodos Center of Art and Culture, a restored stone building containing a distinguished collection of contemporary art. The Diexodos Center was kindly offered for conference use by its president, Mr. Nikos Kordosis. Professor M. Byron Raizis of the University of Athens took the chair, and Stella Osborne of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State Universtiy led off with a highly useful bibliographic overview of contemporary reactions to Byron’s death. The published accounts Stella surveyed reveal that despite his checkered reputation during the last years of his life, Byron was overwhelmingly viewed as a Greek national hero when he died in 1824. Shannon Siggerman of the University of Delaware followed with an exploration of Byron’s largely unsung role as translator. Robert McColl of Liverpool then spoke on the subtleties of Byron’s poetic sense of place and space, a topic particularly well suited for exploration in Messolonghi and its environs. Closing the session, Greek author Loula Alexandropoulou, retired principal of Messolonghi High School, offered an informative and evocative slide lecture recounting the historical details of Byron’s arrival in Messolonghi. Afterwards, the coach departed for “the Venice of Greece”, Aitoliko–an island town visited by Byron. Exploring the twisty warren of narrow lanes offered glimpses of picturesque cottages and gardens and a chance to view the lovely and simple church of St. George with its walled rose garden. Then came a tour of the cathedral dedicated to the Panayia, known for its icon of the Holy Mother said to be painted by St. Luke and for the spring of fresh water that appeared after a Turkish bomb exploded there during the Revolutionary War. Concluding the evening was a dinner reception at which the group was welcomed by Mr. Evangelos Koltisdas, Mayor of Aitoliko, and entertained by the Cultural Society of Aitoliko, whose members (among them Rodanthe-Rosa Florou) dances to old mainland and island songs that sirenlike drew many conference participants onto the dance floor.

Wednesday May 15 offered a chance to juxtapose some of the many successive layers of Greek civilization on a coach tour that covered ground explored by Byron and Hobhouse during their time in western Greece. Climbing through mountain roads past the famed Bridge of Arta and the Ambracian Gulf, the group arrived at ancient Dodona, whose theatre Byron had admired en route to Ioannina without knowing its identity. After visiting the ruins and and the oracular oak sacred first to the Great Goddess of pre-Olympian times and subsequently to Zeus, the group enjoyed lunch on a terrace with sweeping prospects of Mount Tomaros. This hospitality was offered by Mr. Giorgos Papadiamandis, mayor of Dodona. Like Byron and Hobhouse, the group descended from the heights to the lakefront city of Ioannina. A short caique trip on the lake led to the island that served as Ali Pacha’s refuge during the last hours of his life. Here the group toured the house that was his final stronghold. Back on the mainland, there was time to explore the ruins of the castle before proceeding to the Xenia Hotel for a reception provided by Mr. Anastassios Papastavros, Ioannina’s mayor.

Academics dominated Thursday May 16. In the morning session at the T.E.I., Eleni Kalyva from Aristotle University of Thessaloniki opened with an exploration of Byron’s “Darkness” in relation to notions of entropy-a topic that engendered lively discussion. Peter Stein of DePaul University then offering a lucid close reading of Byron’s “On this Day I Complete My Thirty-Sixth Year.” Evan Gurney of the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill complemented Peter’s talk with a penetrating examination of the dichotomy of public duty and private feelings shown in “On this Day” and Byron’s other two last lyrics, the three poems he wrote in Messolonghi. Reverting to the theoretical emphasis that opened the session, Linda Neiberg of the City University of New York offered the ideas of Georges Bataille as a fresh way of understanding violence and death in Byron’s Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage. Professor M. Byron Raizis, session chair, concluded the morning by carefully examining the influences of Byron and Shelley on the later writings of Greek poet Dionysios Solomos.

After a break that meant lunch for some, a swim for others, and naps for those miscreants who had expended precious nocturnal hours imbibing the Grecian nightlife, the final session of papers was held at the Diexodos Center, where English majors and faculty from Aristotle University joined the group. Professor Peter Graham of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University chaired the session, which was begun by Maria Schoina of Aristotle University, who considered Byron’s complex Anglo-Italian identity. Drawing upon various critical approaches, Maria contended that Byron saw identity as an active process of identification and detachment. Michael Edson of Virginia Tech followed by urging a reevaluation of Byron’s late satire The Age of Bronze. The poem’s biographical circumstances of composition and its preoccupation with the Greek insurgency suggest that it merits designation as a philhellenic poem. Next, Gerry Lake of Virginia Tech vigorously spoke about Byron’s personal embodiment of his freedom-seeking heroes’ values in joining the Greek struggle for independence. Given the theme of the conference, Gerry’s talk honoring this last phase of Byron’s life–the “last canto,” as Gerry phrased it–was an especially fitting way to conclude the student papers. Peter Graham then closed by exploring the various ways Byron served as mask, muse, and model for three women poets: Elizabeth Barrett, Anne Isabella Milbanke, and Lady Caroline Lamb. At the conclusion of this session, the group strolled through Messolonghi streets backlit by a particularly fine sunset to a terrace garden reception offered by Mr. Nikos Kordosis. The evening concluded with a restaurant dinner generously offered by the T.E.D.K. and its president Mr. Thymios Sokos.

English majors and faculty from Athens University joined the group on Friday May 17, which began with a televised wreath-laying ceremony at Byron’s statue in the Garden of Heroes and a tour of the memorial garden enclosed by the defensive walls that sheltered the town from Turkish invasion. After placing flowers at Byron’s marble feet and visiting the monuments to Philhellenes of various nationalities, the conference participants toured the Municipal Museum of History and Art, with its collection of art, artifacts, and sacred objects associated with the town, the Greek Revolution, and Byron. Mr. Kostas Repassos, Mayor of Messolonghi, welcomed the group and presented the town’s medal to Professors Jerome McGann, Byron Raizis, and Peter Graham-an honor bestowed on Drummond Bone earlier in the week. The tour of Byronic sites continued to site land where Byron’s Messolonghi house stood until 1826, its place now marked by a memorial column erected by the University of Athens to honor the centennial of Byron’s death. The group also visited the waterfront Byron House, a handsome stone building recently built to resemble the Messolonghi house where Byron had breathed his last. A lunch provided by Mr. Dimitris Stamatis, Governor of Aetolia and Acarnania, followed.

Later in the afternoon came the scholarly high point of the conference, the public keynote lecture at Messolonghi’s Trikoupis Municipal Cultural Center. After preliminary remarks by Mrs. Rodanthe-Rosa Florou, Peter Graham read a letter of welcome sent to the conference participants by the Earl of Lytton, Honorary President of the Messolonghi Byron Society’s Research Center. Next came the keynote lecture by Jerome J. McGann, the John Stewart Bryan University Professor of English at the University of Virginia, who was introduced by Byron Raizis. Speaking on “Romantic Scholarship and Culture, 1961-2001: A Byronic View,” McGann brilliantly blended personal narrative and professional anecdote, intellectual history and literary allusion as he traced the developments of Byron scholarship, an enterprise in which he has been crucially involved, through the last four decades. Following the lecture, Messolonghi’s Philocallitechnicus Society of choral singers presented a concert of vocal selections that included Byron lyrics set to music by Mr. Christos Vlachogiannis. A dinner reception offered by the mayor of Messolonghi followed at the Theoxenia Hotel: food, drink, song, and dance.

Saturday May 18 began with a short concluding session at which the International Advisory Board and the student delegates discussed their experiences at the conference and laid plans for future events. Free time occupied most of the day, which concluded with a lagoon sunset, the farewell dinner Mr. Sokrates Koufos, president of the Commercial and Industrial Society of Messolonghi, graciously sponsored at a Tourlida fish taverna and, for many of the participants, a final excursion to Messolonghi’s nightspots. On Sunday May 19, the participants in the Messolonghi Byron Research Center’s first student conference dispersed into the wider world. They left enriched with new friendships, keener appreciation for Byron’s works and the scholarship surrounding them, and deep gratitude for the warmth, kindness, and overwhelming hospitality of the Greek people.

(written by Dr. Peter Graham and Mr. Michael Edson)

General Theme: “Byron and the Olympic Spirit”
May 16-24, 2004
Messolonghi Byron Society – Byron Research Center
Honorary President, The Earl of Lytton

The Third International Byron Conference, based at the Messolonghi Byron Society’s Byron Research Center, was held May 16-24, 2004. In keeping with the pervasive climate in Greece as the 2004 Olympics approach, the general theme was “Byron and the Olympic Spirit.” As in previous years, the conference blended scholarship with sightseeing, sessions devoted to academic papers with excursions to places of interest to lovers of Greece in general and devotees of Byron in particular. And as in years past, the conference drew Byron students of all levels: presenters ranging from undergraduates to graduates, dissertating doctoral candidates, and junior and senior faculty, plus interested auditors from the local, national, and international community.

The conference started in Athens, a city in overdrive to prepare for August’s upcoming games. The first official event was tea at the British Embassy, graciously hosted by Sir David and Lady Madden. After tea and talk came a pedestrian excursion to Plaka, guided by that knowledgeable Athenian Byron Raizis, who pointed out many picturesque, historic, and interesting sites. Monday brought a visit to the National and Historical Museum of Athens, where the Byron Collection is on display at the Philhellenic Department, a short archaeologist-guided visit to the Acropolis, and then a 1:00 departure for Messolonghi by coach and ferry, with a chance to view the Corinth Canal and, some hours later, the new suspension bridge spanning the Gulf of Patras, a structure to be inaugurated with the passage of a runner carrying the Olympic torch. A dinner reception offered by the Messolonghi Byron Society welcomed the participants to the Theoxenia Hotel at the harbor of Messolonghi.

Tuesday May 18 saw the academic side of the conference begin. After registration at the Messolonghi Byron Society’s handsome new headquarters, the Byron Research Center in Messolonghi’s replica Byron House on the lagoonside, the participants were welcomed by the society’s President Mrs. Rosa Florou, the Deputy Prefect of Aitoloakarnania Mr. Nikos Mourkousis, and the chair of the Municipal Committee of Culture Mr. Nasos Gouvas. The first session of papers, chaired by Peter Graham, struck notes and quoted passages that recurred throughout the week. Naji Oueijan of Lebanon’s Notre Dame University led off with “Byron and the Land of Olympia.” He offered an eloquent presentation of Byron’s interest in reviving the Olympic spirit in his personal life and in the Hellenic homeland of Olympia. Chris Murray of Bristol University spoke next on “Byron, Sport, and the Classics.” This witty and trenchant analysis of Byron’s sporting interests in relation to his reading, writing, and personal life emphasized the crossing of the Hellespont and the “Stanzas Written after Swimming from Sestos to Abydos” and showed that Byron’s sporting activities have relevance to Byronists as more than mere anecdotes. Peter Graham of Virginia Tech ended the session with “Jocks and Jocularity: Byron and Athletic Banter,” a loosely sociolinguistic appraisal of how Byron, in life and art, appropriated the rhetorical conventions that have come to govern the announcement of one’s own athletic prowess: humor, disarming self-deprecation, and ostensible nonchalance, the art that hides both art and sweat.

After a break for coffee, water, juice, and home-baked traditional sweets, M. Byron Raizis, Professor Emeritus at the University of Athens and Joint International President of the Byron Society, presided over a session of beautifully paired papers. First Marsha Manns, chair of the Byron Society of America, offered “’To have, when the original is dust’: A Founder’s History of the Delaware Byron Collection.” She told the story of the young Byron Society Collection founded in 1995 in partnership with the University of Delaware, explained the diverse nature of the collection’s holdings–rare books and autograph material integrated with busts, statues, mezzotints, early lithographs, advertising material, and other objects–and related something of the collecting histories of the more-than-forty donors who have given all or parts of their collections to form the living and growing Byron Society Collection. In “Why a Byron Center in Messolonghi?” Byron Raizis movingly related a similar story. He explained how in three and a half years the Messolonghi Byron Research Center has, thanks to the generous efforts of Greek public officials local, regional, and national alike, philanthropists, scholars, a worldwide circle of Byronists and Philhellenes, and above all Rosa Florou, evolved from one woman’s dream for Messolonghi to its present reality: a comfortable conference center with a growing library, a small but fascinating collection of artifacts, and an ever-increasing mission of education and outreach.

Lunch at the Theoxenia Hotel preceded Tuesday’s third academic session chaired by Naji Oueijan. First up was Mary Hurst of the University of Liverpool. Her paper, “Byron and the Noonday Demons,” portrayed Byron’s Olympic spirit in rebounding from dark episodes and convincingly suggested that Byron’s periods of melancholia resembled the spiritual malaise of acedia, a “distress of the heart” with which the ancient desert fathers struggled. Moving from dark emotions to transgressive actions, Patricia Cowley of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill next presented “Mad, Bad, and Dangerous to Know’: The Effect of Extremism in the Life of Lord Byron.” Patricia’s fellow Tarheel Jeffrey Hortman followed with “Modern Athletics, Byron, and the Body’s Obstacles.” He argued that Byron’s deformed foot proved to be a significant physical and psychological impediment to his legacy and work and showed that Byron’s heroic battle with bodily limitation offers an early example of modern athletic struggle. Anthony Howell of Bristol University completed the afternoon quartet with “Byron and the Challenge of the Ocean,” a bold mental voyage exploring several maritime topics: Childe Harold as sailor-hero, the sea as a non-place in a touristic poem, the oceanic sublime in Heaven and Earth , the oceanic nature of Don Juan , and the ocean’s crucial role in shaping Byron’s psyche. Participants were on their own for dinner. Then those not exhausted by a day of nine papers proceeded to the campus of Messolonghi’s Technological Educational Institution (TEI) for an outdoor rock concert featuring Blues Wire.

Wednesday morning brought an early departure by coach to Olympia. Shepherded by a vigorously learned guide, the group toured the excavated ruins and admired the temple of Zeus, the pedestals where Olympic victors’ statues once stood, and the beautiful ancient stadium, slated to be the shotput venue for the upcoming Athens Olympics, where an undergraduate was inspired to sprint barefooted if not classically nude. Olympia’s museum offered the chance to view many treasures, perhaps the most famous being Praxiteles’ statue of Hermes with the infant Dionysos on his arm. After a short rest back in Messolonghi, the group proceeded to the central square for a cultural festival featuring ethnic dances performed by student groups from eight Greek universities and hosted by the TEI. A handful of Greece-inspired lyrics written by Evan Gurney of the University of North Carolina, recited by the poet and translated for the Greek audience by Byron Raizis, offered a meditative interlude to the lively event.

Thursday May 20 held time for both academics and excursions. The fourth session of papers, chaired by Peter Myrian, soon to retire as President of the University of Indianapolis at Athens, ran from 9 until 10:30 a.m. Again, the presentations fit together especially well, with the common thread being comparative Philhellenism. Jeffrey Koelemay of Virginia Tech gave a penetrating and passionate account of “The work of glory’: Don Juan, Philoctetes, Heracles, and Heroic Ideals.” Comparing Byron’s unflinchingly honest and humane view of the “brain-spattering, windpipe slitting art” of modern warfare with the heroic ideal as presented in Sophocles and Euripides, Jeff wrestled with the differences between performing a heroic act and acting heroically, stressed Byron’s dislike for power games and nation-building politics, and left his audience thinking hard about what constitutes “glory.” Patrick Waters, also from Virginia Tech, spoke on “Brothers in Arms: Aeschylus, the Housmans, and Byron.” A psychological interpretation centering on literary translation and its hidden agenda, his paper showed how A.E. Housman and Byron both used translation of Aeschylus as a way to express their own emotions—fraternal rivalry with his brother Laurence in Housman’s extract from Seven against Thebes , and adolescent feelings towards the world in Byron’s translated passage from Prometheus Bound . These papers were perfectly complemented by Peter Myrian’s extempore account of “The Rise of Romantic Hellenism.” The off-the-cuff erudition of his informal presentation offered eloquent evidence of how sorely missed he’ll by students on his retirement.

The remainder of Thursday was devoted to ceremonious and athletic excursions. After a call at the office of the governor of Aitoloakarnania, Mr. Dimitris Stamatis, the group visited the gulf beach of Tourlida, the chapel of the Virgin of the Palms on an islet in the lagoon (destination of Byron’s sunset rides), and Homeric-era Plevron, where a guide from Messolonghi’s Archaeological Office pointed out highlights of the mountainside excavations five kilometers northwest of Messolonghi. After lunch at the Theoxenia, the coach departed for Halkeia borough’s picturesque seaside village of Krioneri (“cold water”) blessed by a clear and icy spring surrounded by rushes where the frogs utter Aristophanic Greek. Embarking on a fishing boat, the group sailed to a sheltered cove and labored up a stony zigzag path to the ancient cave chapel of Agios Nikolaos halfway to the summit of Mount Varassova. The exercise and salty breezes on the boat trip back gave everyone hearty appetites for the exceptionally bountiful fish feast offered by the Mayor of Halkeia, Mr. Nikos Stamboulopoulos, who warmly welcomed the group on behalf of his town.

Friday began with visits to some special sites in and near the Sacred Town of Messolonghi: the cathedral of Agios Spyridon visited by Byron, the House-Museum of the Greek national poet Kostis Palamis, the House-Museum of father-son Prime Ministers of Greece Spiros and Charilaos Trikoupis, the monument commemorating the site of the house where Byron breathed his last, Roman baths being excavated in Messolonghi’s suburbs, and the monastery honoring St. Simeon that looks down on Messolonghi from the slopes of Mount Arakinthos. A lunch featuring specialties of the region was affably hosted at the TEI by its President Mr. Leonidas Panagiotopoulos and Vice President, Mr. Evangelos Politis Stergiou.

After lunch, on to the academic sessions. The fifth, chaired by Bernard Beatty of the University of Liverpool, began with Gavin Hopps of the University of Aachen, who offered “’Neither in Jest nor in Seriousness’: Byron, Holderlin, and the Haunted Landscape of Greece”—an exquisitely nuanced discussion of the two poets’ respective representations of a ghostly mode that plays between being and non-being. Then Valerie Aoun from Notre Dame University of Lebanon spoke on “Byron and the Greek Feminine Splendor.” She asserted that Byron’s ideal of feminine beauty is mainly Grecian and that all beautiful Eastern and Western feminine characters in his works are modeled after this ideal. Finally, Timothy Webb of Bristol University addressed “Competing in the Fisty Ring: Byron and Boxing Culture” in a fresh and dazzling presenation supplemented with contemporary pictures that helped show why the ever-competitive Byron was attracted to the world of pugilism. Particular attention was paid to “Gentleman” John Jackson, Byron’s boxing coach and sparring partner, who had acted as a male model for some of the paintings of Thomas Lawrence—and to the explicit connection between the Elgin (or Parthenon) Marbles and prize fighters that shows how a British ruling-class penchant was often dignified and justified by reference to ancient Greek practices.

After the coffee break, Professor Webb returned for another round—this time as chair. First to speak was Harvey Oueijan of Notre Dame University, Lebanon, His paper “Byron’s Perceptions of Democracy” related Byron’s democratic values and ideas to the ancient Greek founders of democracy and discussed Byron’s endeavors to reestablish democracy in 19th century Greece. Next Evan Gurney of the University of North Carolina presented “Byron and the Athlete’s Ethos,” an ingenious extended analogy connecting Byron’s poetic practices with the athletic skills cultivated by various Olympic sports. Aptly chosen, wide-ranging Byronic references grounded this bravura performance in solid fact and deep truth. The session went from strength to strength as Edward Burns of the University of Liverpool followed with an elegantly simple yet profound reading of Byron’s “Prometheus.” This paper patiently and incisively explicated the differences between Olympian and Olympic, authoritarian tyranny and titanic (or mortal) heroism. Peter Allender of Bristol University concluded the academic session—and the series of papers—on an intellectual high note with “Keepers of the Flame? Some Recent Representations of Byron.” His powerful argument claimed that recent biographies do not capture the true spirit of Byron, either as a man or a poet—that amid their certainties and surfeit of detail, these studies end up giving a diminished and even infantilized view of their subject because the biographers are unable to sympathize with Byron’s “creative doubt,” his divided, self-contradicting essence. A reception offered by the board of the T.E.D. K. of Aitoloakarnania and its president, Mr. Thymios Sokos, concluded the marathon day.

Saturday May 22 was almost as packed with incident. A wreath-laying ceremony in Messolonghi’s Garden of Heroes preceded a footrace through the streets of Messolonghi featuring conference-goers and Messolonghiots alike. Next came a visit to the Municipal Museum of History and Art, where the Mayor of Messolonghi, Mr. Giorgos Prevezanos, welcomed the group. The governor of Aitoloakarnania, Mr. Dimitris Stamatis, offered a lunch at the Radio Station Restaurant, where conference ranks were enhanced by the arrival of more than a dozen students and faculty from the University of Athens and by Mrs. Katerina P. Panagopoulos, Greek National Ambassador to the European Council for Sport, Tolerance, and Fair Play, and her party.

The conference’s official closing ceremony, attended by hundreds of people from the local and regional communities, began at 7 pm at the Trikoupi Municipal Cultural Center. The keynote lecture, introduced by Byron Raizis, featured Professor Bernard Beatty, who spoke on “Byron and the Olympic Spirit.” This lecture, which had been translated into Greek for the convenience of non-English speakers in the audience, lucidly tracked the provenance of the modern usage of “spirit” by way of the Greek translation of Hebrew which elevated spirit above soul, invoked Nietszche and how the odd the original games’ blend of athletic competition and religious reverence seems to a modern consciousness, outlined the role of eris or strife in ancient Greek culture, then threw ludus ior play into the equation. Ranging widely through Byron’s poetry and life, Professor Beatty pointed out many fairly straightforward versions of eris (athletic, literary, critical, political), and then tossed in ludus, which complicates the picture, sometimes bitterly and sometimes more benignly. His hopeful conclusion centered on how the modern Olympic games try to change international eris into world peace by means of ludus . Sharing the evening’s spotlight was Mrs. Katerina P. Panagopoulos, Greece’s distinguished Ambassador to the European Council for Sport, Tolerance, and Fair Play. Her speech on “Fair Play: An Alternative Culture for the Borderless World of Today” echoed (in Greek) a number of the sentiments articulated at the end of Bernard Beatty’s keynote address and, further, called for an international prize for Fair Play that would be awarded at Messolonghi. A concert of Greek Constantinople’s music and songs performed by students from the Department of Folk and Traditional Music of the Advanced Educational Technological Institution of Epirus concluded the event, which was followed by a dinner at the Plaza Restaurant offered by the Mayor of Messolonghi.

Sunday saw the conference participants back on their coach and back on the road for a spectacular tour of western Aitoloakarnania’s valleys, mountains, villages, and Ionian coast. Lunch was kindly offered at the seaside town of Palairos by the Mayor of Kekropia borough, Mr. Spyros Aheimastos. The route back to Messolonghi followed the coast and afforded views of the islands of Lefkada and Kephalonia, then proceeded to Astakos and Katochi, site of the ancient theatre and Homeric-age port of Oiniades. A visit to the workshop of skilled maker of authentic Greek ethnic costumes Mr. Nikos Plakidas, a walk by the mythic Acheloos River, and a dinner offered by Mr. Gerassimos Nestoratos, the Mayor of Oinades, with Mr. Spyros Holevas’s “Plucked String Orchestra” providing musical entertainment, concluded the conference’s official events.

Next year’s student conference at Messolonghi will center on “Byron the Homeric Traveller.”

(written by Peter Graham)

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