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GEOPOLITICAL DYNAMICS IN THE SYRIAN REGION: multicultural past – bloody present

What are the dynamics of the geopolitical developments in the wider Middle East, from Syria to Saudi Arabia and Iran? Which is the role of the West and which is that of Turkey, especially in this most critical point in time? Equally, which are the symbolisms emerging from the destruction of the historical monuments in Palmyra? Such are the burning questions, against the backdrop of dramatic developments in Syria, that the Onassis Scholars’ Association aspires to answer, through a contemporary and exceptionally interesting single-day conference entitled “Geopolitical dynamics in the Syrian region: multicultural past – bloody present”, to be held on Sunday 13 November 2016, at the Museum of Byzantine Culture (“Stephanos Dragoumis” Amphitheatre).

Archaeologists, historians and political scientists –Onassis Foundation scholars and many others-, will be presenting civilisations that flourished in the wider geographical area of modern-day Syria from ancient times until today; they will be analysing their relationship with the ancient Greek and Byzantine civilisations; and, lastly, they will also be discussing geopolitical issues, currently transpiring on account of the war in Syria.

The single-day conference comprises two parts: in the former, brief presentations and papers shall be offered by experts in archaeology and geopolitics, while the latter will include an open round table discussion with the participation of the speakers and the audience, on the issues already touched upon during the preceding short presentations. It is a combined approach of the developments in the Middle East, starting from its archaeological identity and culture, and coming to its current geopolitical gravitas.

The aim of this event is to highlight the importance of archaeology in the geopolitical field of the Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East, on the occasion of the war in Syria and the repercussions thereof for the wider region.


Programme of Presentations

18:00 – “Palmyra, the Nymph of the Desert, 323 BC-2016 AD: Condemnation and revival of historical memory”. Speaker: Natalia Kazakidi, PhD in Archaeology, SLTS with the AUTH Department of History and Archaeology, Onassis Scholar.

The first part of the intervention focuses on the history and the monuments of the city, which was an important centre in the Hellenistic and Roman times, while the second part addresses the symbolism within the destruction of historical monuments.


18:30 – “The political, ideological and social presence of Islam in the preneoteric Middle East”. Speaker: Dimitris Papastamatiou, Lecturer with the AUTH Department of History and Archaeology.

A brief presentation of the key axes of political development of Islamic states from the 7th to the 16th century; of the ideological superstructure on which they were based; and of the social tissue of the Middle Eastern society of that same period.


19:30 – “The relations between the Sacred Monastery of the God-Trodden Mount Sinai and the Muslims in Medieval times”. Speaker: Haralambos Maheras, PhD in Byzantine Art, Onassis Scholar.

The speech revolves around the God-Trodden Mount Sinai and Islam, presenting the ashtiname (protection document) of Muhammad, protection decrees issued by Muslim leaders of Egypt and the mosque within the monastery walls. The efforts of the Sinai monks to survive the pressure of the Muslims will also be highlighted.


20:00 – “Cheap but Bloody Black Gold!”. Speaker: Nikos Hatzis, Geopolitics Analyst – 3D Negotiations Advisor, Onassis Scholar.

The dynamics of geopolitical developments in the wider Middle East, from Syria to Saudi Arabia and Iran. An analysis of the role played by the West and Turkey.

Event Details:

When: Sunday, 13 November, at 17:30

Where: Museum of Byzantine Culture (“Stephanos Dragoumis” amphitheatre), Leoforos Stratou 2, Thessaloniki)