A new Professorship dedicated to explaining what the Ancient Greeks did for us has been established at the University of Cambridge.
The A. G. Leventis Professorship of Greek Culture is the first chair in Classics to have been endowed at Cambridge since World War II. It will focus on the study of more than 1,000 years of Greek cultural achievements, and will highlight the lasting influence they continue to have on society today.
The first post-holder will be Professor Paul Cartledge (pictured), a leading authority on the history of Greek political thought and practice, especially democracy; and on the societies and economies of Classical Greece (especially Sparta). He has also examined the post-antique reception of ancient Greece and the Greeks - including the way in which they are portrayed in film and other media.
As well as being an expert in the field, Professor Cartledge has an active role in popularising the study of Ancient Greece through books, television and radio appearances. He was even a consultant on the 2007 box-office hit 300 - a gruesome depiction of the Spartan stand at the Battle of Thermopylae - by virtue of his (more accurate) book Thermopylae, The Battle That Changed The World.
His other books include the Cambridge Illustrated History of Ancient Greece and The Greeks: A Portrait of Self and Others. Forthcoming in 2009 are A History of Greek Political Thought in Action and Ancient Greece: A Very Short Introduction. He has been the historical consultant for several documentaries on Channel 4 and the BBC, and has made regular appearances to talk about his subject on radio shows such as In Our Time and Start The Week.
His work has even seen him awarded two Greek honours - he is a holder of the Gold Cross of the Honour of Order and an Honorary Citizen of (modern) Sparta. Besides the Leventis Professorship, he holds a visiting Global Distinguished Professorship at New York University, funded by the Greek Parliament.
The new chair has been endowed by a generous donation from the Cyprus-based Leventis Foundation. Established in 1979 as a result of provisions made by Anastasios G. Leventis, the Foundation aims to support educational, cultural, artistic and philanthropic causes with an emphasis on Greek and Cypriot cultural heritage.
The Leventis family has a special connection with Cambridge as the late Constantinos ("Deno") Leventis studied Classics at Clare College, where Professor Cartledge is a Fellow. The Foundation has also established a graduate scholarship fund for Classics at Clare.
Professor Cartledge said: "It is a huge honour to be named the first A. G. Leventis Professor of Greek Culture at Cambridge.
"The culture of the ancient Greeks is a pillar of western civilisation; their political ideas, philosophy, scientific enquiry, historical writing and art not only broke new ground but have inspired those who followed in their wake, from the Romans through to the present day. A central part of my role will be spreading awareness of the rich heritage that they have passed down."
Professor Cartledge will be giving his Inaugural lecture on Monday, February 16, 2009. Further details will be available one the University website news pages closer to the time.