Historical Background                                                                            Ελληνικά
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The history of ideas of the Greek speaking regions in the Ottoman Empire from the fall of Constantinople in 1453 to the Greek Revolution of 1821 is invariably linked with the educational policies articulated by the Orthodox Church and the Ecumenical Patriarchate. Immediately after the fall of Constantinople in 1453, the Sultan Mohammed II recognised the Patriarch the religious leader of Eastern Christendom-- as the legal head of the Orthodox Christian millet (nation) and the Patriarchate was granted full jurisdiction over the education of the Orthodox Christian populations in the Ottoman Empire.

The Sultan appointed as the new Patriarch Gennadios Scholarios (1400-1460). Gennadios Scholarios was a well-known jurist, rhetor and philosopher, and played an important role in political life during the last years of the Byzantine era. As a philosopher, he was of Aristotelian orientation, a follower of Aquinas and an opponent of Pletho's Platonism. Gennadios undertook the task of reviving the intellectual life of the city. He founded the first official school, the Patriarchal Academy, which was the continuation of the Pandidakterion of the Byzantine era, and appointed Matthaios Kamariotis as its first director. There is no reliable data concerning the initial curriculum of the Academy.

By the end of the 16th century and within the context of counter-reformation after the Council of Trent (1545-1563), Rome defined a new policy towards the Orthodox Christian population of the Ottoman Empire, designed to prevent any rapprochement between them and the Protestants. During the early years of the seventeenth century the Patriarchates, of both Constantinople and Jerusalem, became fields of contention between the Catholics and the Protestants while the latter were trying to increase their influence in the eastern Mediterranean. Not unexpectedly, the Protestants offered support to the Patriarchates of Constantinople and Jerusalem. Their shared hostility to Catholicism brought the Protestants and the Greek Orthodox close to each other. In 1620 Kyrillos Loukaris (1572-1638) became Patriarch of Constantinople. He had studied at the Greek school of Venice, under Maximos Margunios, from 1584 until 1588 and he had completed his studies at the University of Padua in 1593. During the early stages of the 30-year war, Loukaris planned a series of political moves to consolidate the survival of the Orthodox Church. He felt that there were unmistakable signs of an impending alliance between Catholic France and the Ottomans. He saw such an alliance as the main danger against the Orthodox Church, and he sought supporters among the Protestants, especially the Dutch. Loukaris, also, proceeded to write an infamous leaflet arguing for the common theological grounds between Calvinism and Orthodoxy. Many serious theologians - and not only his adversaries - accused him of adopting Protestantism.

Being convinced that the Catholic propaganda was effective because of its emphasis on education, Loukaris upgraded the Patriarchal Academy and introduced what came to be known as religious humanism . Religious humanism was an attempt to synthesise the teachings of ancient Greeks with the teachings of the orthodox church fathers, considering the intellectual traditions originating in Greek antiquity and those of Christianity as a unity. Religious humanism became the means for moulding a kind of national consciousness by reclaiming Hellenistic roots through Greek Orthodox Christian teaching. In the prevailing conditions of intense national reorientations and regroupings in Europe, such a strategy aimed at upgrading the political role of the Patriarchate by providing an institutional expression to the ties between orthodoxy and Hellenism. Such initiatives led not only to the establishment of new educational institutions, but, eventually, to the furthering of the church s dominance through the articulation of a new ideological and political agenda.

In 1622 Kyrillos Loukaris appointed a renowned neo-Aristotelian, Theophilos Korydaleus (1570-1646), to the directorship of the Patriarchal Academy. Korydaleus had studied in Italy during the first decade of the seventeenth century. In 1604 he at-tended classes at the Greek College in Rome. He went on to study at the University of Padua, at a time when Cesare Cremonini was the dominant figure and the articulate de-fender of Aristotelianism, especially against the new science of his colleague there, Galileo Galilei. Korydaleas received his doctorate in Philosophy and Medicine, around 1608. In the Patriarchal Academy Korydaleas reorganised teaching along the ways practised in Padua. A central place was assigned to philosophy - as distinct from theology - and to the interpretation of the commentaries on the main works of Aristotle. Korydaleas' humanistic brand of philosophy contained the potential for a rupture with a strictly theological approach to nature and to human affairs. But at the same time, there was a conscious policy to contain and develop this new approach exclusively within the framework of neo-Aristotelianism, during a period when such a framework was being undermined and redefined elsewhere in Europe.