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Italian philhellenism and the 1821 Revolution

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Italian philhellenism and the 1821 Revolution

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9-11 November 2021

Abstract

The struggle for Greek independence of 1821 was the first revolution against the Ottoman Empire to be crowned with success, and at the same time the first uprising in Restoration Europe leading to the birth of a modern state (1832).

Numerous factors influenced and favoured the insurrection of the Greeks against the Sublime Porte, among which the influence of neoclassicism, theorised in Rome by the archaeologist and art historian Johann Joachim Winckelmann and the painter and art theorist Anton Raphael Mengs; the presence of Catherine II in the Mediterranean area since the 1770s; the treaty of Küçük Kaynarca (1774), which significantly promoted Greek interests and favoured further expansion and strengthening development of the diaspora throughout Europe; to the formation of a Greek national consciousness inspired by the modern ideals of the Enlightenment and the French Revolution; and finally the work of numerous European and Greek intellectuals.

During the second half of the eighteenth century these important political and cultural developments did not pass completely unnoticed by European society, and indeed led to the birth of the philhellenic movement which, in the first half of the nineteenth century, had a decisive influence not only in all Europe, but also in a part of the American continent.

Especially in Italy, philhellenism experienced a great participation and a very rapid diffusion and constituted, during the first decades of the nineteenth century and especially starting from 1821, a central point of reference for many Italian intellectuals, artists, writers, historians and politicians. Such a phenomenon was certainly favoured by the geographical proximity, the contacts and the long-standing coexistence between the Italian and Greek people, from the Napoleonic wars, from the effects of the Congress of Vienna and from a number of other social, political and cultural conditions. In many cases, moreover, the struggle for independence was at the origin of intense debates that stimulated the process of political unification that led, in 1861, to the creation of the Kingdom of Italy.

Literature, theatre, history, music, visual arts and folklore studies are some of the areas in which Italian Philhellenism left indelible traces and created a cultural heritage which, without ever hiding its own political orientation, it promoted a European thought and recognized the contribution of Greek culture to the formation of a common European identity.

For these reasons, the conference intends to bring to light and study the different aspects of the Italian philhellenic movement that has a close correlation with the Greek struggle for independence, especially those which allow us to underline the European perspective of the Greek Revolution of 1821.

(Edited and translated description from organiser’s website)

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