Distinguished classics professor Paul Cartledge received an NYU professorship, created in part by the Greek Parliament, on Wednesday night at an event held at NYU’s Silverstein Lounge.
The event featured the inauguration of NYU’s Hellenic Parliament Global Distinguished Professorship, which the university created with the Greek Parliament to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the signing of the Greek constitution. Cartledge, a former Greek history professor at Cambridge University, called the position “an immense professorship of the very imaginative kind.” He will hold the new professorship, which aims to open more discussion on the state of global democracy, for two years.
“This is the first time I know of that a European parliament established a chair at a university,” NYU Hellenic studies professor Phillip Mitsis said at the event.
College of Arts and Science Dean Richard Foley and Greece’s first female head of parliament, Anna Benaki, said at the event that NYU was a natural choice for the professorship, as it is situated in a city known for global interaction, change and diversity.
A lecture portion of the event focused on the trial of Socrates and the large political implications of its verdict. Cartledge said the Athenians were right top order the philosopher’s execution for ideas then deemed too radical.
Cartledge also dispelled other “common misconceptions” by stating that Athens was a comparatively abnormal and radical Greek city in crisis and that there were actually 501 members of the jury, which is much larger than originally thought.
“My point is to defend the ancient Athenians against their critics,” Cartledge said. “Some people think the Athenians were completely stupid. ... Their democracy was different, and under it, Socrates was guilty.”
Third-year graduate student Kyle Johnson said that whether or not one agreed with Cartledge, the lecture was still worthwhile.
“It was stimulating and provocative,” Johnson said. “Beyond agreeing with the message, the explication was insightful.”