ECHO Content ECHO Technology ECHO Network ECHO Policy
Search Anthropology Archaeology Art and Optics Bibliotheca Polyglotta Buddhism Chinese Sources Copperplates Cuneiform Tablets Folk Religion Greek Science 1600-1821 Historical Maps Historical Travel Guides History of Architecture History of Chemistry History of Cosmology History of Demography History of Mathematics History of Mechanics History of Modern Physics History of Optical Drawing Instruments History of Pre-Modern Physics History of Science History of Ship Construction Intuitive Physics Islamic Sciences Jesuit Sciences Legal History Life Sciences Literature and Popular Science Music History Natural History Opere di Alessandro Volta Philosophy Pratolino Garden Reference Works Scientific Revolution Scientific Voyages Sign Languages Spatial Concepts

INTRODUCING NEW SCIENTIFIC IDEAS

At the outset of the 18th century representatives of the Fanariots the name given to the Greeks living in Constantinople were appointed by the Sublime Porte as governors and hospodars in Wallachia and Moldavia. The Fanariots would soon take the lead among all the other Greeks dispersed in the Balkans; their political dominance would reinforce the already strong influence of the Greeks in the economic as well as cultural spheres in these regions, while at the same time as administrators and as diplomats they would take the line commonly referred to as enlightened despotism.

Politically and socially, the first three quarters of the 18th century was characterised by three interdependent developments. First, the increasing involvement of this group of Greeks in the administrative affairs of the Ottoman Empire undermined the almost ex-clusive role of the clergy in mediating the relations of the Christians with the Court. The second characteristic of this period was the increasing receptivity for the new ideas coming from Europe by the Fanariots, whose relative autonomy from the Patriarchate was further strengthened by an agenda of Europeanization . The third characteristic was related to the rise of a new social group. In addition to the Fanariots, a new class of merchants started to assert themselves socially and played a rather significant role in the intellectual orientations of the period.

The symbiotic relationship between the mer-chants and the quasi-administrative group of Fanariots was not always without conflict. Often, for example, they were at odds concerning the exertion of influence on the Patri-archate. The social and economic prominence of these groups slowly led to the weaken-ing of the absolute control the Church had on the schools and in determining their curric-ula.

At the same time, Greek scholars started moving all over Europe. Italy ceased to be the almost exclusive place for their studies. Greek scholars started travelling to the Ger-manic countries, Holland, and, Paris. They were, thus, intellectually influenced by a multitude of traditions and schools and that was true for their training in the natural sciences as well. Interestingly, it was during that period that we witness a strong ten-dency of the scholars to return back after the completion of their studies abroad.

From the middle of the 18th century, the economic well being of the Greek communi-ties within the Ottoman Empire with the accompanying social transformations brought about a number of changes in the educational system. The reception and appropriation of the new scientific ideas was being realized within an environment of social unrest and ideological confrontations. One cannot talk about educational reform, since the attempts were local initiatives rather than a centrally dictated policy to be applied to a homogene-ous educational system. While in the seventeenth and at the beginning of the eighteenth centuries all schools were religiously oriented, the coming years saw the emergence of schools whose curriculum could cater for the social and political agendas of the mer-chants or the Greeks involved in the administration of the Ottoman state. The system-atic introduction of the sciences was reinforced by renewed faith in man's ability to ac-quire knowledge of the world with his own means, and all these found support in the expectations of the assertive merchants and in the political ambitions of the Greek offi-cers of the Danube region.

But the French Revolution did not sit well with the Fanariots' political agenda. Many of them considered the Revolution and its consequences as endangering their prospects of increasing influence within the Ottoman Empire. As the French Revolution was more and more projected as the realisation of the political and social ideas of the Enlightenment, the Fanariots' belief in and attachment to the ideas of the Enlightenment started to weaken. Also, as the anticlericalist positions of the Revolution were associ-ated with the spirit of the Enlightenment, many scholars who, on the whole, were men of the Church became less and less willing to be identified with the ideas of Enlightenment. There was, of course, no radical change which was adopted by all concerned: quite a few scholars, especially teachers, continued to remain strong adherents of the new sci-entific ideas. But, at the same time, there was a change of heart among many scholars in their strong backing of the ideas of the Enlightenment something which allowed a greater leverage to those in the Church who were strong opponents of these ideas from the very beginning.

Ideological and political contingencies of Christian societies under Ottoman rule during the Enlightenment, together with the dominance of the Greek scholars in the Bal-kans, called for an emphasis not on the break with the ancient modes of thought, but rather, on establishing the continuity with ancient Greece. The Greek scholars saw the new developments in the sciences in Europe as evidence of the triumph of the program-matic declarations of ancient Greek thought with its emphasis on the supremacy of mathematics and rationality, rather than a break with the ancient mode of thinking and the legitimization of a new way of dealing with nature. The developments in the sciences were not viewed as an intricate process which among other things involved a break with Aristotle, but rather, as developments which came to verify the truth of the pronouncements of the ancients.

The introduction of the new scientific ideas in the Greek speaking world was a proc-ess almost exclusively directed to their appropriation for educational purposes. The ap-parent aim was to modernise the school curricula, but this did not mean a neutral atti-tude as to the possible ideological uses of these new ideas especially the need to es-tablish contact with the heritage of ancient Greece. Thus the predominantly productive role of the scholars in the thriving communities of natural philosophers in Europe has to be contrasted with the predominantly educational role of the scholars in the Greek speaking regions. The educational agenda of the scholars played a rather decisive role since the discussion and the dissemination of the sciences was being exclusively realised within the educational institutions and many a times in reference to issues pertaining to education.

The jurisdiction of the Church over educational matters, its initiatives for sending scholars to Europe to be educated and the kind of dynamics created as the intended and, most interestingly, the unintended result of their scholarly work whether by writing books or teaching all need to be assessed within the overall particularities of the Greek case. The content, though, of what was taught was not solely determined by the Church. It was, rather, the confluence of largely similar but at times conflicting aims of the relig-ious hierarchy, of the social groups with significant economic activity and of the schol-ars themselves. There appeared many different trends, each claiming ideological or po-litical leadership of this process aimed at preserving religious identity and inspiring na-tional consciousness. These trends were at times in conflict with each other and at times they were complementary. Scholars following the scholastic Aristotelian tradition co-existed with neo-Aristotelians. Scholars adopting the ideas of the Enlightenment came into conflict with those who viewed these ideas as undermining the conditions for relig-ious and ideological survival. The introduction of the sciences and their subsequent teaching necessarily reflected a confluence of all these trends. The developments of the new sciences in western Europe became an interesting but expected corroboration of the programmatic declarations of Aristotle.

   CONTACT   IMPRESSUM   Last Update: August 2014