The Levant: cradle of religions, culture, science and democracy

The Levantine example of interreligious co-existence and the historical experience gathered in this area can become sources of inspiration for the contemporary social co-existence

The first panel of the conference, in the first session, was moderated by academy member Răzvan Theodorescu, president of the Arts, Architecture and Audio-Visual Section of the Romanian Academy, and included eight speeches on various topics such as: Levantine urban model; essential principles of interreligious and intercultural co-existence; perpetuation of the art of medicine of Greek and Roman tradition in the Levantine influence area; political and economic interests of the great world empires and powers in the Middle East, in the past and now; the Syriac area, a transition environment of Greek philosophy to the Semitic culture and its subsequent translation into Arabic; analysis of the transition from paganism to Christianity in late Egyptian antiquity; assessment of religious functions and responsibilities of female royalty members in the ancient Syrian area; archaeological analysis of ancient Troy sites.

Dr. Fatih Saracoglu, the secretary general of Marmara Group Foundation in Istanbul, offered an image of multi-ethnical and multi-linguistic dynamism in the Ottoman Levantine area where, in addition to Turks, Armenians or Jews, there were numerous Italians or Spaniards. The prominence of classical Levantine cities, Izmir, Beirut, Alexandria and the culture of co-existence and communication they promoted, noted in the printing workshops which produced books in various languages or in the schools which focused on learning Occidental languages, such as Italian, French and Spanish, confer this environment the status of unique paradigm of the capacity of inter-ethnical, inter-cultural and inter-religious co-existence of humanity.

Prof. Dr. Adrian Lemeni, from the Justinian the Patriarch Faculty of Theology and director of the Centre for Dialogue and Research in Theology, Philosophy and Science within Bucharest University, had a speech on “Identity and dialogue in the current context”, emphasizing the concepts of religious identity and inter-religious dialogue, stressing the axial value of faith as identify factor, and later discussing the influence of consumerism on contemporary cultural and religious inter-relationships. The Levantine example of interreligious co-existence and the historical experience gathered in this area can become sources of inspiration for the contemporary social co-existence. In the area where the three monotheist religions were formed and primarily manifested, the culture of permanent dialogue was and is based on acknowledging religious identity; thus, dialogue never failed in compromise, and identity was not a synonym for isolation. On the contrary, taking dialogue for the mere exchange of concepts or information leads to an overflow of information, which is incapable to create a culture of co-existence. Therefore, the need to maintain faith becomes an essential component of co-existence, whose purpose is not the mere economic and social sustainability or peace, but on the one hand the acknowledgement of limits and human capacities, and on the other hand the creative stimulation to meet the other.

Prof. Dr. Luiza Spiru, from the Carol Davilla Medicine University, showed in her speech “Benchmarks in the history of medicine in the Levant area” elements on how the practice of medicine became crystallized in Wallachia, Banat and Transylvania, how the members of the profession organized in guilds, how primary surgery started to take place, and the development of modern medical academic education, in the nineteenth century. Under the aegis of Greek and Roman therapeutic art, developed in the Levant area, the practice of medicine which developed in the Romanian countries may be reassessed now as one which preserved fundamental principles on the assessment of the psychological and physical human structure, some of which have completely disappeared in modern societies.

Prof. Dr. Daniel Barbu, from the Political Science Faculty of Bucharest University, in his speech “At the gates of Levant: empire, nation-state and pluralism”, radiographed the history of the Middle East in the nineteenth and twentieth century, assessing the inter-war and post-war involvement of the great global powers in the configuration of the political map of Levant, the Occidental trends to replace the traditional religious and ethnical pluralism, specific to this area, with national states with a monolithic ethnical and religious nature. At the same time, he emphasized the danger and negative consequences of perpetuating these artificial visions into the contemporary world, by ignoring the fragile balance and millenary sensitiveness in this area. The efforts of area reconstruction after the brutal military interventions in the last years are difficult, oftentimes political solutions of a purely pragmatic nature continuing to create difficulties and fuelling a potential for conflict which exists here, by eluding a fundamental reality of the Levantine geography, which is that “the past is still alive and present”.

Mr. Cătălin Ștefan Popa from Georg August University of Gottingen had a speech on “The dynamics of philosophical and theological cultures in the Syriac Levantine area (sixth - ninth centuries)”, emphasizing the phenomenon of transmission of Greek philosophy, in particular the works of Aristotle, but also other works under the name of the great Greek philosopher, in the Syriac language and then of retranslation from Syriac into Arabic. The context generated by the translation of these works, namely the need to use them as instruments of dialectic argumentation to promote the non-Calcedonian doctrine, would be repeated with the advent of Islam. The translation of Greek philosophy from Syriac into Arabic lead to the advent of Islamic dialectic theology (kalam), providing the essential premises to develop the Islamic culture and thinking. The Levantine area thus became a place where a phenomenon of great value for the history of human civilization took place, taking into account that, later, these philosophical works will be retranslated from Arabic into Latin by the Jewish translators in Spain and Andalusia, and will reach the Occident, thus crystallizing the European philosophical thinking.

Mr. Silviu Anghel, from the Bucharest “National Museum of Old Maps and Books”, analysed in his speech “Conflict or peaceful transition? The current debate on the transition from paganism to Christianity in the late Ancient Egypt”, the process of transition from paganism to Christianity in the fourth century Egypt, showing the current status in Alexandria. The erosion of paganism and the advent of Christianity still is a debatable phenomenon, taking into account the vitality and religious competition existing in the Alexandrine Levantine area. The affirmation of Christianity was possible by taking over specific traditions of the Egyptian area among which, in particular, the burial cult and rituals.

Dr. Isabela Popa, from Bucharest University, presented in her speech “The ritual role of queens in Ancient Syria” the particular religious roles and functions of Syrian female royalty in the ancient era. The distinctions of feminine ranks in the royal family, their liturgical involvement (undertaking of ritual, oracular and oratorical responsibilities), general affinity for female divinities lead to the conclusion of a prominence of the statute and value of the woman in the cultic domain in North-Western Syria.

Dr. Cătălin Pavel, from Kennesaw State University of the United States, showed in his speech “Homer’s Troy - between the Mycenaean and the Hittites” the status and results of archaeological research in the sites of the former city of Tory, on the Western coast of Asia Minor. He showed and assessed the topographic location, various artefacts belonging to successive historical periods, pre-suppositions on the evolution of civilization in this area based on data extracted from Homer’s epic works, as Homer, “although not a historian, appears to have relied upon historical grounds”.

At the end of the first session, academy member Răzvan Theodorescu concluded on the diverse nature of communications and issues under review, affirming that they all contribute to sketching the profile of Levantine civilization, culture and religion, and to identifying the complex identity which crystallized in this area of exceptional uniqueness in the history of mankind.

Valentin Ilie, Facultatea de Teologie Ortodoxă, Universitatea din București Raportor



Valentin Ilie,
Faculty of Orthodox Theology, University of Bucharest




Levantul, leagănul religiilor, culturii, ştiinţei şi democraţiei




Răzvan Theodorescu Vicepreședinte al Academiei RomâneProf. Dr. Răzvan Theodorescu
Vice-President of the Romanian Academy

“I have the privilege to moderate this afternoon session, which is the first panel of our conference, devoted to a tremendously important topic of the world history. It’s about the role, the place of Levant, the role and place of this magnificent space where there is the origin of some civilizations, some major civilizations, the ancient empires, the Abrahamic religions, the Islamic science and so on. And this space, called the Levant, is the main topic of our conference organized by the new born Institute from Bucharest.”



Fatih Saracoglu Secretar-general al Fundației Marmara Group, IstanbulDr. Fatih Saracoglu
Secretary General of the Marmara Group Foundation, Istanbul

“The Contribution of the Levantines in Turkey”

“Le Levant, The Levant or Il Levante literally means Earth where the sun rises. Geographically, the Levant lies from Egypt to the Eastern Mediterranean shore - Israel, Lebanon, Syria, Turkey and Greece. This area host three important cities – Izmir, Alexandria and Beirut. In my speech today, I would like to present the Levantine newspapers in Izmir, their culture and their life together as a calendar sheet of history. But firstly, I want you to know that the Levant was the center of trade and diplomacy. Anatolia was rather a political center, less an intellectual one. Izmir was both Ottoman and European. A further comparison with Anatolia shows that global and religious cohabitation was characteristic of Izmir. Izmir, also known as the Levantine pearl, hosted Armenian churches in the XVIIth century. Five languages of Levantines were spoken in Izmir: Turkish, Romanic, French, Armenian and Spanish. Spanish was spoken by the Sephardic Jews. The Romanic was in the majority at a high level. Romanic was taught besides Turkish in school. The purpose of this was that the Ottoman government employees to become bilingual. The Ottoman authorities were enforced to learn and speak Romanic. Some Catholics used the Latin writing of the Romanic, Latin being known as lingua franca. As it happened in Alexandria and Beirut, it was replaced by French, Italian and lingua franca. Since the 1840s, it has become the most common language. In 1863 the Italian general consul claimed that even among the Italians, the Italian language had almost disappeared. The citizens of Izmir spoke French with an accent like singing a song. In the Jewish school of Izmir, certain professors were set for Turkish lessons, but even more effort was spent for teaching French. The chief Rabbi demanded everyone in the community to learn French. Born outside Izmir in Urla, in 1900, the Romanic poet George Seferis was taught French besides Romanic. He communicated in French with his father.”

rof. univ. dr. Adrian Lemeni Directorul Centrului de Dialog și Cercetare în Teologie, Filosofie și Știință, Universitatea din BucureștiProf. Dr. Adrian Lemeni
Director of the Centre for Dialogue and Research on Theology, Philosophy and Science at the University of Bucharest

“Identity and dialogue in the present context”

“In the current context, marked by multiple challenges as to the reality of identity in general and to the religious identity in particular, it is essential to support the acknowledgement and revelation of spiritual and cultural identity, but not in an aggressive and rigid manner. Identity is not a closed and self-sufficient reality leading to isolationism and negativism. The positive confession of the specific values of a cultural and spiritual identity in a constructive and inclusive way focusing on an open identity, in dialogue with other cultural and religious traditions, with full respect for otherness. In order for the dialogue between different cultural and religious traditions to be fruitful and consistent, it is necessary to recover and promote the profound and common values of the spiritual traditions. In the current context, it is imperative to build and grow a culture of dialogue. Dialogue is not only an exercise to respect the principle of otherness, but a chance to confess one’s own cultural and spiritual identity, in a perspective of actual understanding the other. Under such circumstances, religious identity cannot be used as tool to create dissent and segregation. The confession of religious identity should be done by the rules of dialogue. Cultural and spiritual identity should represent a resource for mutual enrichment. The context of the contemporary world requires the existence and development of dialogue and international cooperation. The current society poses common problems for all religions, who are called to a joint effort to find mutual answers to such problems. In this light, which strengthens and builds a culture of dialogue, the vocation for unity and solidarity is activated and valorised. Interreligious dialogue favours the meeting of various cultural and religious traditions, contributing to the enhancement of relations between larger communities of different national identities. The cultivation and valorisation of identity is not an option to an isolationist attitude and judgment, but involves the acknowledgement of differences in a wholesome and consistent perspective. The authentic structure of identity is dialogic. In the current context, it is important to affirm the reciprocity between identity and dialogue. Interreligious dialogue and the valorisation of the religious size of intercultural dialogue may significantly contribute to finding the religious and spiritual roots of the need for other, thus strengthening the spirit of cooperation and overcoming the risk of generating fundamentalist and integrist attitudes. Interreligious dialogue is necessary, so that great spiritual traditions get to know each other, respect each other, and generate a good co-existence”.

Prof. univ. dr. Luiza Spiru Universitatea de Medicină „Carol Davila”, BucureştiProf. Dr. Luiza Spiru
“Carol Davila” University of Medicine, Bucharest

“Aspects of Medical History in the Levant”

“I want to mention that in 1694 Constantin Brâncoveanu, the ruler in Wallachia that time, was the one who founded the Princely Academy of Sf. Sava in Bucharest. The lectures were delivering in Greek that time, because the importance of the Roman and Greek civilization over Wallachia territory was very important. Later on, Alexander Ypsilantis was the ruler of Wallachia and he refounded the curriculum of Sf. Sava Academy, and the courses were in French, Italian and Latin. And later on, in 1857, Carol Davila created the first University of Medicine and Pharmacy, but it was not called like this in the very beginning. Initially it was established under the name of The National School of Medicine and Pharmacy. Dr. Carol Davila was a military doctor trained in Italy, who emigrated to Romania in 1853. Carol Davila has studied medicine at the University of Paris and then has been trained and graduated in Italy, coming to Romania in March 1853. He organized the military medical system in the Romanian army and the country's public houses system. Nicolae Kretzulescu together with Carol Davila have introduced the medical training in Romania, in 1857, by founding The National School of Medicine and Pharmacy, a really exceptional fact at that time. Davila was not only the founder of The Medical School, together with Nicolae Kretzulescu, but he also has been involved in many scientific associations in Romania, like the Medical Society and Red Cross Society or The National Science Society. He was also famous for the invention of the treatment of cholera. Only at the end of the 18th century, after the 200 years of Ottoman occupation in Banat and Transylvania, when the Austrian Empire involved very much in the medical organization, we can speak about the beginning of the medical organization in this region, about hygiene, sanitary aspects, sanitary education, the first specializations evidence based, with diplomas and coordinated training. It is very important that only in 1847 there was the first anesthesia with alcohol and in 1887 there was the first important area in Banat and Transylvania to create emergencies team and groups to take care about the patients. It is also very important that in 2015 we have an evidence book written by Ioan Hategan. This is a retrospective of the first important things that have been covering by medical point of view in a historical synthesis and for medicine few aspects are mentioned: in 1745 - the first pharmacy, in 1757 - the first hospital, in 1819 - the first administration for the antiviral vaccine in Central Europe. So, I think that we can talk about real history of Levantine influences over Wallachia, Banat and Transylvania. The most important was the Roman and Greek influence and then, the Austro-Hungarian Empire and of course, the Ottoman Empire as well. Not forgetting Dobrogea, this part of the country that has been controlled by the Ottoman Empire for 400 years and also Banat, for 200 years.”

Prof. univ. dr. Daniel Barbu Universitatea din BucureştiProf. Dr. Daniel Barbu
University of Bucharest

“At the gates of Levant: empire, nation-state and pluralism”

“When President Constantinescu asked me to contribute to this conference, I just realized that we are almost on the day one hundred years after the Arab uprising, in the fall of 1917, which reshaped completely the Levant, a land under the Ottoman domination before that moment. And in the events that occurred one hundred years ago, we have - I believe - several keys to understand the present political processes in the Middle East. We don't call it today the Levant, but rather the Middle East, and my key observation would be that in the Middle East the past is still present, it is still alive and works at full speed to reshape the balance that has been established between different empires for hundreds of years. What happened in 1917, 1918, 1919, 1920 (there were seminal years for the whole region) was a clash of empires. (…) My point is that the nation state, the idea of the nation state as promoted by European powers in the 20’s, 30’s and after the Second World War, and with a new energy by the American foreign policy, attends to promote this very restricted image of a nation state unified by ethnicity and religion, which would damage the whole region and add new conflicts. You can see from Iraq to the new conflict in Yemen adding to the old conflict between Israel and Palestinians, how the whole region is moved by a kind of permanent earthquake, a political earthquake which has no end inside.”

Dr. Cătălin Ştefan Popa Universitatea Georg-August, GöttingenDr. Cătălin Ştefan Popa
Georg-August University, Göttingen

“The dynamics of the philosophical and theological cultures in the Syriac Levant between the VIth and the IXth century”

The first Syrian engaged in translation process of Greek Philosophy is Sergius of Rēšāīnā (d. 536), who studied in Alexandria, wrote on logic and science in Syriac, and translated Aristotelian texts. There was obviously a general preoccupation with the philosophical works of Aristotle which were translated or re-translated into Syriac in the course of the 6th and 7th century. This is the other side of the medal, namely, that in this period, in the Greek-speaking world, the philosophical thinking seems to get into the shadow. The scholars divided the philosophical materials in Syriac into three genres: firstly, translations of Aristotelian texts; secondly, texts that are frequently found to contain definitions; and thirdly, texts that introduced the reader into the major themes and philosophical notions. The translators of these books into Syriac, respectively the editors or improvers of previous translations are theologians and former students at the Monastery of Qenneshre. Athanasius of Balad appears as one of the most significant translators of the 7th century. Until his death in 684, he translated Aristotle’s Analytics, Posterior Analytics, Topics and Sophistical Refutations. Jacob of Edessa and George, bishop of the the Arab Tribes, are regarded as successors of this kind of literary activity: Jacob revised a translation of Aristotle’s Categories, and George of the Arabs, a first-generation disciple of Athanasius, was involved in a similar work. George is also considered an interpreter because he, additionally, prepared introductions and commentaries to the philosophical materials (Categories, On Interpretation and Analytics). To what extent, if at all, was Aristotle integrated into the task of Christian’s theological reflection?  Let’s  answer this question quoting a passage from the commentary on the Categories, written by George, bishop of the Arabs, and preserved in a manuscript from 8/9th century. For George quintessential is the question of the “end” of Aristotelian philosophy: “What is the end of the Aristotelian philosophy? We say (it is) that we may know the one principle, cause, and creator of all. For the Philosopher demonstrates in the treatise called Metaphysics (Syr. bātar kyānyātā = Gr. meta ta physika) that the principle and cause is one, bodiless, from which everything has come into being.” George and the Syriac tradition in which he stood made use of Aristotle, on one side to win debates with rival churchmen, and on the other side, to acquire knowledge of the single principle of everything. Some parts of this textual richness of the Syriac Levant has been preserved in manuscripts such as Vatican Syriac 158, which contains the following philosophical pieces: Athanasius of Balad’s Introduction to Logic; Athanasius’ translation of Porphyry’s Eisagoge; a Life of Aristotle; the Tree of Porphyry; Jacob of Edessa’s translation of the Categories; On Interpretation; and at the end, Prior Analytics I,1-7. It is quite clear that this process of translation was “institutional”. In this sense, I will mention here the well-balanced argument of Jack Tannous: “It was at places like Qenneshre and certain other high-powered Miaphysite monasteries, such as Mar Mattai and Mar Zakai, that the intellectual underpinnings of the Syriac-speaking Miaphysite movement in the seventh century were created and maintained.”  In these intellectual centres, the church leadership was instructed on the basis of the rhetoric and Greek philosophy, in order to be able to provide satisfactory answers to the questions of a confessional rival. It was the fact that in the ʿAbbāsid period the caliphate had an open minded attitude towards the scientific Greek values. Under the caliph Al-Manṣūr’s political measures, in the second half of the 8th century, several medical and philosophical text were being translated from Greek into Arabic. One of his successors, namely al-Maʾmūn, supported as well this translation’s policy, at the beginning of the 9th century. As Sebastian Brock pointed out, we can imagine, that when Syriac scholars started the second phase of this significant translation activity, in the late 8th and early 9th century, “they had a solid groundwork of experience in translating upon which to build”. This experience was accumulated through this long tradition of translating Greek literary materials into Syriac. And of course, the final stage of this process was much more complex because there were “translators, such as the physician Ḥunayn ibn Isḥāq al-ʿIbādī, who preferred not to translate directly from Greek into Arabic, but to do the work in two stages: first from Greek into Syriac, and then from Syriac into Arabic. Since there was no previous experience of translating directly from Greek into Arabic, it was found simplest to make the translation into Arabic from a related Semitic language, namely Syriac, rather than directly form an Indo-European like Greek, with a very different linguistic structure.”

Dr. Silviu Anghel Muzeul Național al Hărților și Cărții Vechi, BucureştiDr. Silviu Anghel
National Museum of Maps and Old Books, Bucharest

“Conflict or Peaceful Transition? The Ongoing Debate about the Shift from Paganism to Christianity in Late Antiquity Egypt”

“Perhaps a very good way to open the subject is to discuss the death of Hypatia, one of the best known moments from late Antiquity. In 415, this Alexandrian scholar, writer and professor was murdered by a mob; she was dragged by their tormentors into a church, mutilated and eventually killed. It’s interesting that we don’t know almost anything about Hypatia herself, but the violent death transformed her into a symbol. And I said “transform” because Socrates Scholasticus, the main source about this subject and the only contemporary one writes that she was killed because of local politics, a dispute between Chiril of Alexandria and a local prefect. Only centuries later, the very dogmatic chronicle of Johannes Nikiu wrote that Hypatia’s death was part of the triumph of Christianity over Paganism, connecting her death with the destruction of the Serapeum in 391 A.D. In the 17th and 18th century, in the wake of devastating religious wars, many intellectuals made Hypatia the champion of reason over religious fundamentalism, which was a cause of misfortunes in their eyes. (...) But I think the most famous commentator on Hypatia’s death is Voltaire, who, in his philosophic dictionary, was against the killing of a woman for writing books and for being beautiful and he concluded in the typical fashion: “When one finds a beautiful woman completed naked, it is not for the purpose of massacring her”. But how often was violence the agent of religious shift in late Antiquity? I can find only three examples of religious violence in the late Antic Egypt. So, the episode of the death of Hypatia was not representative, but rather anecdotal, but it is still haunting the European society today and has been recently turned in a movie. Even if the scholars are moving away from this paradigm, I say shift from Paganism to Christianity because it has been described in many ways and all the other terms are charged. For Christians it is usually called a triumph, the fulfill of the prophecy and for the Christian church triumph was an irreversible, inescapable process. If you look at, for example, the most influential work in English about that period, Gibbon’s ”The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire”, you will see that he speaks of the right of the Christianity in a very strict way. Gibbon had inherited the confrontational model of the Christianization. And after all, this is what the source depicted – a militant Christianity which gradually infiltrated in every city, in every village and in every groove, until even the remote corners of the Roman Empire were marked by Christianity.”

Dr. Isabela Popa Universitatea din BucureștiDr. Isabela Popa
University of Bucharest

“The cultic role of the royal women in Ancient Syria”

“What should be noted is that the religious activities registered by the sources date from the first half of the second millennium BC, more specifically until the fall of the northern Syrian Kingdoms under Hammurabi’s domination and the destruction of Mari. Unfortunately, apart from scarce inscriptions, the vast majority of the data concerning royal women’s agency in religion comes from the archive of Mari, excepting a few entries from Karana. Royal women were identified as: AMA LUGAL (mother of king), DAM LUGAL (wife of the king), LUKUR LUGAL (escort, concubine of the king) and DUMUS MUNUS LUGAL (female child of the king). If the status of princesses and that of the mother of the king are clear, we may not state the same concerning the queen. Considering the above titles, the women whose religious agency I’ll be studying further are those closely related to the king: his mother, daughters (queens), wives and concubines. The sources revealing their religious agency are quite diverse, extending from inscriptions to letters and accounting lists. Evaluating the available data, I would try to portray the religious life of royal women in the second millennium Mesopotamia, although the information is neither homogeneous, nor descriptive. Nevertheless, those ladies seem to have been involved in a large variety of cultic activities. They may bring offerings, make sacrifices, transmit prophetic messages and the content of dreams, inquire oracles (Mari). As we may see, the appurtenance to the royal family offers access to a multitude of resources and sometimes the pious gesture of those ladies are also an indicator of their power and prestige at a certain time of their lives.”

Dr. Cătălin Pavel Kennesaw State University, SUADr. Cătălin Pavel
Kennesaw State University, USA

“Homeric Troy – between Mycenaeans and the Hittites”

“These are just a few words about the city that was designed by Homer in “The Iliad”, a city where I have excavated for six years, in Troy. Whenever I say I am an archaeologist, people ask me where have I excavated, and when I say Troy, I often get the reaction – “Oh, I love Greece!” Of course, Troy is not in Greece and it was not populated by Greeks. But I find this confusion very relevant because it says a lot about how an oriental city is actually part of the European culture, is part of what we consider education. Troy was ever since the beginning of the Bronze Age surrounded by very thick walls of a kind you have never seen in the Balkans. The Trojans were not Greeks. We know they were speaking Luwian, which was related to the Hittite language, their architecture was Anatolian, and Troy was colonized by the Greeks later in the 8th century BC. But in the time of the Trojan War, this must have been an Anatolian city. The archaeologists of Troy have read Homer, loved Homer and would often have this pressure on their shoulders to wonder if they could find something from Homer’s books. We are not really interested in strictly the history of the city of the Trojan War, but in the role played by Troy somewhere in the interface between Levant, Anatolia and the mainland Greece. So, as you can see in the late Bronze Age in the 13th century BC, Troy was somewhere between worlds and you could find Lapis Lazuli from Afghanistan, ostrich egg from Egypt and amber from Scandinavia. And over thousands of years of continue occupation, it has developed more than 15 meters of debris layers that you have to dig through to understand the history of this city. And to conclude, during the research, the team working in Troy in ‘88 has installed a series of flags in front of the village where we were living, flags of Turkey, of Germany, of the United States, of the Great Britain and, because of me actually, the flag of Romania. The point is this kind of cooperation holds us together.”



The goal of the dialogue is not unity in faith and perception, but mutual understanding, respect and enrichment

Please allow me to report from the second section of Panel 1: „The Levant – cradle of religions, culture, science and democracy.“ The section contained 3 papers. I will start with the summary respecting the presentation’s order.


Dr. Adina Boroneanţ from “Vasile Pârvan” Institute of Archaeology, Romanian Academy, Bucharest, presentend the following topic: Long distance connections in the prehistory of the Iron Gates of the Danube. Dr. Boroneanț took into discussion The Iron Gates area of the Danube which yielded the largest agglomeration of archaeological sites in Southeastern Europe covering the period from the end of the Pleistocene to the middle of the Holocene. Herpresentation gave us a very comprehensiblebrief account concerning the goods, technologies and people that travelled from the Levantine area into the Iron Gates gorges area in the period of the Mesolithic (ca. 12,000-6200 BC) and the Early Neolithic (6200-5700 BC). The thesis of the presentation was that the implications from the Levant region had repercussions also in the area of the Iron Gates. Based on archaeological research Dr. Boroneanț made us aware about exchanges of goods from Mediterranean area such as snail shells in attractive colors, green rocks and exotic objects which attested a transfer of practices from the levantine region. The analysis of the excavations attested as well, a significant number of human burials which give appropriate credit to the hypothesisof an accentuated mobility of people from south areas towards The Iron Gates.

The next paper was given by Dr. Dan Tudor Ionescu fromThe Metropolitan Library, Bucharest, who puts the focus on the exciting question: why did Alexander the Great not adopt tiara in his royal use? A tiara is a jeweled, ornamental crown. Dr. Tudor Ionescu provided in his presentation important data about Quellenstand und Forschungsstand. When Alexander was proclaimed the King of Asia, he came to adopt a reformed court style that included a fundamentally new and grandiose royal costume and an impressive set of royal insignia. Although Alexander adopted persian satraps at his court, he did not assume the tiara, the full-sleeved coat dress and the baggy trousers, elements of the exotic Median or cavalry.

Taking our questions, Dr. Tudor Ionescu concluded that the rejection of these royal pieces by Alexandre shows that the Persians had never perceived him as their own king, but as the conquering foreigner.

The last paper from the sesion was presented by Diana-Alice Boboc-Enache who made a Hermeneutics of Religion - political factor of the Ancient Levant. The speaker started with a etymology of Levant’s concept and came than to the purpose of the religious dialogue in this area. According to Boboc-Enache ,,the Levant represented a dialogue between the East and the West, and therefore, after the Muslims conquered most  of the Mediterranean in the 7th century, the dialogue was waged between Islam and Christianity, a debate which now  sounds louder than ever.“ It is very significantly to notice here an indian anectode presented by Boboc-Enache and which I believe is characteristic for the starting phases of each dialogue: namely, a father draws the number 9 in the sandbut his son sees the number 6. And this is because what you see it depends of your own position. The common point of the above presentation was the dialog, and we could conclude in accordance with the paper presented by Boboc-Enache that the goal of the dialogue is not unity in faith and perception, but mutual understanding, respect and enrichment. For this reason, the purpose of the dialogue will not be to prove that one side is right and the other is wrong, but rather to explore the respective positions in order to understand them better. When this is done, many prejudices, built on half-truths, will fall aside.

Cătălin Ștefan Popa

Pr. prof. Nicolae Achimescu Director al Centrului de Studii și Dialog Religios și Intercultural, Universitatea din BucureștiProf. Dr. Nicolae Achimescu
Director of the Centre for Intercultural and Interfaith Study and Dialogue at the University of Bucharest

"I would like to say a sincerely welcome at the second session of Panel 1, which has the theme "Levant - The cradle of religions, culture, science and democracy". It is my great honor to moderate this second session and I announce you the communicators: Dr. Adina Boroneanţ from the "Vasile Pârvan" Institute of Archeology of the Romanian Academy, Dr. Dan Tudor Ionescu from the Bucharest Metropolitan Library and Diana - Alice Boboc."


Dr. Adina Boroneanț Institutul de Arheologie „Vasile Pârvan” – Academia RomânăDr. Adina Boroneanţ
“Vasile Pârvan” Institute of Archeology, Romanian Academy, Bucharest

“Long distance connections in the prehistory of the Iron Gates of the Danube”

“My speech is on archaeology. I tried to make it as little specific as possible, to give it a more universal character. This is not a history of the Levant, but of the repercussions of what happened in the Levant area, as we see in its extended meaning nowadays, on an area reaching up to the Iron Gates. The construction of the two dams at Iron Gates I and II, a huge construction, largely influenced Romanian archaeology. It was innovative in many archaeological areas and introduced a period that did not exist in Romania before: The Mesolithic. To build the dam at Iron Gates I, in Gura Văii, constructors had to flood no less than 100 archaeology sites on the Romanian bank. They were studied by a group of specialists from the Romanian Academy and museums in the region in a very short timeframe, from 1964 to 1971, after which they were covered in water. A complex map collection of the Iron Gates was put together and everything that could be recovered in a seven years window was recovered. In terms of early prehistory research, this activity revealed a significant number of archaeology sites attributed to the Mesolithic, a period between the Palaeolithic and the Neolithic. It is the largest agglomeration of sites of this type in South-Eastern Europe. A unique case, discovered following a huge industrial undertaking. We are somewhere between 12,500 and 6,000 years before Christ, and communities are sedentary. 70% of their diet consists in fish; therefore, they do not do much apart from fishing and hunting. They have a stone tool which they use in all their daily activities, they have a specific burial ritual which didn’t change much over the 6,000 years, they have valuable artefacts which distinguish these communities from what happens in the world around them. The Neolithic occurs between 5,590 and 5,900 and is associated with the beginning of agriculture and the discovery of pottery. At the Iron Gates, this is a bit changed; communities in the area prefer to live off fishing and hunting, and to a smaller extent from growing plants and livestock. Archaeological research revealed exchanges at a quite large distance: raw materials, artefacts, technological knowledge and even people. Ornaments travel most often and come from the Aegean Sea, the Mediterranean or the Adriatic region. Rocks and minerals such as silex, obsidian, and jade also travel. Very rarely, exotic artefacts never found in other sites in Romania also travel. Surprisingly, the obsidian used here comes from Hungary, from the Tokaj Mountains, which shows that the Iron Gates are a major area for exchanges and certainly a way to transfer knowledge”.

Dr. Dan Tudor Ionescu Biblioteca Metropolitană BucureștiDr. Dan Tudor Ionescu
The Metropolitan Library, Bucharest

“The use of the tiara as a symbol of Achaemenid kingship: why did Alexander the Great not adopt it?”

What is a tiara? The tiara is, in fact, a type of headgear, a high crown extension, worn by Persian and Achaemenid kings. We do not have an exact representation of the Achaemenid era tiara, but we have the famous Persepolis reliefs, where all the characters, whether King, Grand Vizier, throne heir or imperial guard soldiers, immortals, wear a high cover on their heads. Based on the iconographic testimonies, we cannot accurately identify an Achaemenid tiara, but later on, during the Parthian and Sasanian Persian royalty, this tiara became clearly distinctive.

After the Gaugamela battle of 1 October 331 BC, Alexander the Great is proclaimed Basileus Tes Asias, King of Asia, by his victorious troops. He shall then conquer Babylon, Susa and will ultimately reach Persepolis and Pasargadae, the ancient capitals of Persia. King Darius the Third managed to escape the battlefield, not for being a coward, as often blamed by Greek and Roman sources, but because the Achaemenid Royalty was the very symbol of cosmic order and subsequent resistance for the Persians. He found refuge in Media, at Ecbatana. Alexander waits in Persepolis doing nothing for four months, which is completely inconsistent with his usual approach of forceful and decisive military takeover. This long period of inactivity was explained in two ways. Engels’ theory says that mountain crossings were blocked by snow and ice and he could not travel out of Persida, the Fars province in South-West Iran. The second theory, by British scholar Green Hammond, says he waited to be acknowledged as king of kings by the Iranian aristocracy and be crowned according to the Persepolis ritual.(...) After this waiting period and after destroying Persepolis, Alexander forced his way through the crossings, captured Ecbatana and the last Iranian thesaurus. He followed Darius to Partia, beyond mountain crossings, and found him abandoned by his soldiers, who had killed him to spare him from being captured alive by Macedonians. Darius’ body was sent to Persepolis to be buried in the Achaemenid necropolis, with royal honours. Alexander attempts to be accepted by his subjects as successor, even informal, of their kings. He had done the same in Egypt before, where inscriptions show him as Pharaoh or incarnate deity, but we have no Greek, Latin or other source specifically saying he was crowned by the Pharaoh ritual by Egyptian priests. We are thus witnessing an acknowledgement of the heritage of the peoples he had conquered - Egyptians, Babylonians, Persians, Medes - but, on the other hand, a lack of acknowledgement of the entire crowning ritual of these peoples. (...) His not wearing the tiara is a sign that Alexander the Great was never truly a king of Persia, a king of kings, but for the Persians of his time only a foreign conqueror, who tried to be accepted by them after the harsh moment of military conquest. His short life never allowed him to be more than that”.

Diana – Alice Boboc Institutul de Studii Avansate pentru Cultura și Civilizația LevantuluiAlice Boboc
The Institute for Advanced Studies in Levant Culture and Civilization

“Religion as a political factor in the ancient Levant”

“Levant meant a permanent dialogue between the East and the West, and after the Muslims conquered the largest part of the Mediterranean Sea, in the seventh century, dialogue took place between the Islam and Christianity. The British historian Edward Gibbon called the Eastern part of the Mediterranean region “the coast that echoed so much of the world polemic”, a debate between Christianity and Islam, which now echoes louder than ever. An eloquent example of heterogeneous cities, where mosques, churches and synagogues were built one next to the other, without knowing whether most people were Christian or Muslim, is represented by the cities Smyrna, Alexandria and Beirut, which, being placed on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, were practically at the heart of Levantine dialogue, in the first line between the Ottoman Empire and Europe, between the East and the West. Levantine dialogue was also represented by the names of cities, Smyrna and Alexandria inheriting their name from their Greek past, the first city being founded by Greek colonists in 688 before Christ while the second by Alexander the Great in 331 before Christ. However, the name of Beirut originates in an ancient Phoenician word, which means “spring”. However, Levant is not only a history of three key cities, but also of the ways in which they reflected dialogues between the East and the West, between cities and states. This is also a search to find whether, as many inhabitants said, these cities were truly cosmopolitan, possessing that co-existence elixir between Muslims, Christians and Jews, an elixir that the world longs to have to this day. (...) How can religion, in its various forms and manifestations, influence the political world? How can one add religion in the discourse of international relations, thus changing their theoretical understanding? These questions may seem simple, but they are nothing like that. One can analyse a religion in various wide contexts, such contexts however sharing relations. First of all, religion is among the principles of one’s identity. And the argument that identity issues influence policy is accepted to a large extent. Religion includes a system of beliefs that influences behaviour and not many will be able to deny that religion is the source of many people’s beliefs. This concept may be applied to both leaders and masses”.2

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