By Makis Provatas
Translated by Alexandros Theodoropoulos
#history #science #Byzantium #academics
Helene Glykatzi- Ahrweiler is a Historian, a Byzantine scholar and a prominent international university academic. She was born in Athens, in 1926, in the refugee neighborhoods of Vyronas. Her family’s origins before the Greco-Turkish war of 1922 were from Moudania in Asia Minor. She was the sixth child of her family and learned to read and write before school by watching her older siblings. 

"I was born at 21 Kolokotroni Street. At that time the street was called the League of Nations Street, later Ioannis Metaxas Street and then it became Kolokotroni Street again. For me, this is a summary of the historical destiny of the nations, which change regimes, allies and therefore their history", as she states in her biographical book "600 pencils and 10 poems".

At a young age, she took part in the resistance against the Nazi occupation in Greece. In 1945, she enrolled at the Faculty of Philosophy of the University of Athens, in the Department of Archeology. She left for Paris in 1953 to continue her studies. It was during that time when she met her husband Jacques Ahrweiler, whom she says has been the most important person in her life.

During her long life journey she got to know great personalities of the time such as Picasso, Sartre, Beauvoir, Aragon and many others. In 1964 she completed her doctoral dissertation on "Byzantium and the sea". In 1967 she became a professor at the Sorbonne University and Head of the Department of History. Nine years later, in 1976, she became the first female Rector of the Sorbonne University after 700 years of operation.

"I owe what I am to the Resistance against the Nazi occupation. I passed through all my phobias living at a very specific framework; what is that? "Discipline, I think" she said. Her work includes hundreds of publications and dozens of books. Her main academic activity concerns Byzantium as part of Hellenism and the formation of modern Greek identity. Byzantium is the bridge between ancient Greece and modern Hellenism.

Some of her most important works are: "Research on the Administration of the Byzantine Empire in the 9th and 10th Centuries", "Studies on the Administrative and Social Structure of Byzantium", "Byzantine Empire: the Country and the Territories", "The Political Ideology of the Byzantine Empire"," Byzantine Geography", "Historical geography of the Mediterranean world", "Why Byzantium" and "How Greek is Byzantium? How Byzantines are the modern Greeks?"

Helene Glykatzi-Ahrweiler has a constant desire to communicate with young children and as she tells ImpacTalk she stands up for them urging them "to have their feet firmly on the ground and their eyes in the sky". "Everything I’ve achieved throughout my life journey, everything I dreamed of, was made possible because I knew that nothing was impossible. That is why I consider it important to remain authentic in life. History is not a profession for me; it's an experience", she tells ImpacTalk. 

Helene Glykatzi-Ahrweiler is a woman who has spent her whole life embracing a statement by Rigas Feraios: "Whoever thinks freely, thinks well".