Ladies and Gentlemen,
I would like to thank you for inviting me to address the International Conference on Byzantium and China.
I am really sorry that I am unable to attend in person, what promises to be a very interesting discussion.
On a topic that, unfortunately, has received little attention so far.
Or at least not as much as it deserves.
On top of it, the conference takes place in the historic city of Mystras.
A city that is directly linked with the last Byzantine Emperor, Constantine the 11th, who fell defending Constantinople against the Ottoman invaders.
And in addition, a city that is linked with the late Byzantine period.
A period that has left us with some of the most beautiful frescoes in Mystras, where they have been restored and are accessible to everyone that wishes to admire them.
[Unfortunately the same cannot be said about the frescoes of the Chora Monastery.
Frescoes that constitute part of the world heritage, but are under direct threat, since the Turkish Authorities have decided to transform Chora into a mosque.]
But let’s not get carried away and focus on the topic of today’s conference.
When studying the Byzantine and Chinese Empires, one cannot fail to notice the multitude of similar traits they shared.
For instance, both empires exerted a great influence on their neighbouring cultures.
Their reputation and prosperity often made them the target of enemy raids and invasions.
Interaction between them was made possible through the famous silk roads.
Via these same routes the bonds of coexistence and cultural dialogue between West and East were founded, developed and flourished.
The above constitute just a small part of the shared aspects Byzantium and China enjoy.
As such, we welcome with great pleasure the joint Greek and Chinese academic initiatives such as the present conference.
And we thank the Greek Institute for Byzantine and Post-Byzantine Studies, located in Venice, and the Peking University, located in Beijing, for organizing this event.
They bring us one step closer to discovering and understanding the “parallel lives” of these two great civilizations.
Just a few days ago we had the pleasure to inaugurate the Greece-China Year of Culture and Tourism.
This will give great impetus to the cultural interactions between the two countries.
It will also highlight the extraordinary characteristics of two very distinctive cultures and equally influential civilizations.