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14th SYMPOSIUM "Cities and Citizens in Byzantine World"

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International Symposium of Byzantologists


Cities and Citizens of Byzantine World

Dr Miša Rakocija

Fourteen years prominent byzantologists from around the world gather together in Niš, with support of the City of Niš, University of Niš and Niš Orthodox Eparchy and with the blessing of His Holiness Serbian Patriarch Mr. Irinej. Lasting so many years and growing in quality of its work , the international symposium "Niš and Byzantium" has been highly ranked in the world of science and as such has become inseparable from Niš as its distinctive feature in- and outside our country borders. Just as once upon a time, Niš city became again the center of Byzantine civilization, culture and art, in which also nowadays is equally reflected their impact on Niš and on modern European civilization.

When we gathered in this place for the first time, 14 years ago, under the roof of the University of Niš, at the international symposium of byzantologists titled "Niš and Byzantium", the public was skeptical about it. They thought it was too much ambitious for the city of Niš, Niš Orthodox Eparchy and redundant to the University of Niš, since it has no study disciplines mostly represented at the Niš symposium, such as: art history, archeology, classical philology, theology. However, it turned out that right that happened to be the quality of this scientific meeting and actually a good basis to found these scientific disciplines also within the Niš University. This would be “a widely opened window to the world“, as it was beautifully said by our Nobel Prize winner Ivo Andrić on the day of University of Niš opening, on 15 June, 1965.

In this year, when we mark 50 years of the University of Niš establishing, we have to remember our monasteries as the first and the oldest “universities” that, even in the most difficult historical moments and circumstances, when we lost cities, worked on education and cultural building of our people. Let us mention the monastery of St. Djordje nearby the village of Kamenica, which in the sixteenth century was the meeting place for spiritual and intellectual elite who withdrew from the city of Niš, after the Turkish conquest. Here were written and depicted books by priest Arsenije. Monastery of St. Djordje has undertaken to be a spiritual, educational and cultural center of the region. Therefore we have right conditionally to call it the contemporary “University” of Niš, and the obligation to remember it by this.

Greetings letter from Serbian Patriarch Mr. Irinej

For this reason, this year we recall the "cities and citizens of the Byzantine world".

Emerging of the cities and acceptance of valid city laws have been inseparable from the history of ancient civilization. Inside the safe city walls Greek and Roman civilization developed and evolved; on their last layer – the ancient Roman cultural layer , in the shelter of the famous cities walls, Byzantine civilization, culture and art were grounded.

Opening of the symposium (Consul of the Republic of Bulgaria H.E. Mr. Atanas Krstin,
Niš University Vice-rector Mrs. Vesna Lopičić, PhD, Bishop of Niš Dr Jovan Purić,
Mayor of Niš City Mr. Zoran Perišić,MD, PhD; Head of Niš Police Department Mr. Srdjan Grekulović,
Niš City Councilor Mr. Jovan Stojkovć, PhD)

Byzantines learned from Aristotle that people in cities should be not only safe, but also happy. In the urban pattern of the cities of Byzantine commonwealth, one can always recognize Constantinople and Jerusalem as the image of the "heavenly city". Safe cities ramparts unified the spiritual and intellectual elite as bearers of the individual and society progress and development. Social, cultural and civilizational development of one state and one people are inseparable from its cities and citizens, both in past and now. Such urban settlements and fortifications in the medieval Serbian countries were erected in rugged and safe places, as the beacons of civilization progress. Through the history these cities were conquered, devastated and demolished many times, their ruins and debris were taken away, while today accelerated urbanization and intensive development have deleted scant remains of the past and civilizational identity. The moment when the cities vanished, and along with them the people of the cities vanished too, everything ceased.

Bishop of Niš prof. Dr. Jovan (Purić)

Urban continuity and chronologically perceived structure of the cities reflect the civilizational and cultural degree. Valid city laws and noble manners dating from the ancient Greeks and Romans, over Byzantines, also today are being part of our knowledge and behavior.

Therefore, let us remember the cities and citizens of the Byzantine world which largely owe what we are. Especially these days - let us remember the city of Niš, whose significance for the Byzantine Empire and the Serbian medieval state didn’t atract enough attention of the scientific public.

Mayor of Niš Mr Zoran Perišić, MD, PhD

Almost nothing is known about the appearance of Byzantine and medieval Serbian Niš and its Byzantine name Nisos, unlike the Roman Naissus, is almost never mentioned. What was the medieval city of Niš and its citizens like, in 1188 vividly reveals archbishop William of Tyre: "Niš is a fortified city with strong walls and towers, with combative citizens who protected access to a large stone bridge over the river Nišava. Due to its natural position and its walls, the city was well fortified, overwhelmed with citizens who were considered to be the leading to the others in terms of military skills and mind and body strength in the province.” That is how Niš looked like, and Niš citizens as well.

Miodrag Marković, PhD (Belgrade)

All these years the symposium has been held with the blessing of His Holiness Serbian Patriarch Irinej. This year, too. Due to the lack of time this year however Serbian Patriarch Irinej sent a letter of support to our conference in which he wished the participants successful work:

"My dear Niš people and respected participants of "Niš and Byzantium" symposium, I regret for I was unable to attend this year international gathering dedicated to Niš and its connections with the Byzantine Empire and Byzantine culture.

Though I am not physically present, my spirit and my thoughts are always with you. I look forward to every success of the famous city of Constantine and I wish it much success in all fields of culture and economy.

I cordially greet the participants of the symposium and wish you fruitful work.

Your former Bishop of Niš and Serbian Patriarch
Irinej “

The greeting letter was read by Reverend Bishop of Niš Dr Jovan who conveyed the blessing of the Serbian Patriarch. The opening ceremony of the symposium continued with words of welcome by the Mayor prof. Dr. Zoran Perišić. And on behalf of the University the guests were welcomed by the University pro-rector prof. Dr. Vesna Lopičić. The symposium was opened by prof. Dr. Miodrag Markovic (Belgrade). The Proceedings of 2014 was presented by Miloš Živković (Belgrade). A special joy was brought to the audience by the Niš Student Cultural Centre Choir performance. The 14th "Niš and Byzantium" symposium was closed by the official reception for the participants and journalists at the City Hall of Niš, hosted by Deputy Mayor Dr. Radan Ilić.

Participants of the symposium Niš and Byzantium XIV

Institute Of
Byzantine Research

Institute of Archaeology
Belgrade - Serbia

Institute for Byzantine Studies
Serbian Academy of Sciences And Arts

Faculty of Philosophy
Belgrade - Serbia

Macedonian Academy
of Sciences And Arts

Bulgarian Academy
of Sciences