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We Are Part of a Continuum

March 4, 2016

During assembly on Friday, March 4, UMSL's Michael Cosmopoulos launched International Week. He spoke to students about the cultural and political continuum which links us with the ancient Greeks — specifically about the birth and operation of early Greek states, which deeply influenced the design of our federal system of government.

Dr. Cosmopoulos is an archaeologist, classicist and art historian, specializing in religion and states in ancient Greece. He is Professor of Archaeology and holder of the Hellenic Government-Karakas Foundation Endowed Professorship in Greek Studies at UMSL. He is also the director of the excavations of the Athens Archaeological Society at Iklaina in Pylos, which he said is the earliest recorded state in western civilization.

Cosmopoulos's work in Iklaina has unearthed monumental construction and tiny artifacts — from building complexes, roads and sewers to frescoes, tools and figurines. But the discovery of "accounting" tablets has provided the most detailed look at how the government/bureaucracy worked.

His team has concluded that the government center, surrounded by residential structures, was violently destroyed in 1400 BC — at the same time as the palace of Nestor (one of the great heroes of the Trojan War) was expanding. They have deduced that Nestor took over Iklaina and converted it to an industrial station, i.e., the smaller village became a district of a larger state — that in Greece, more than 3000 years ago, our modern-day federal two-tiered system of government was born.