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YPO in Athens – Stoicism for Modern Life and Business

Plato’s Academy Centre (PAC) recently provided a helping hand to the YPO and Aurelius Foundation, who organized a historic four-day Stoicism event in Athens.

The YPO is an international business networking organization for young CEOs. The Aurelius Foundation is a nonprofit dedicated to spreading Stoic wisdom, through the four cardinal virtues, including doing outreach in universities and prisons. The Aurelius Foundation organized this unique event in Athens in collaboration with the YPO, and PAC were pleassed to offer some advice on local venues, etc.

Reception: Gennadius Library Gardens

The opening reception was held on the evening of 22nd September in the beautiful east gardens of the Gennadius Library. Tassos Economou, the emeritus chair of YPO, set the tone perfectly for the event. Lina Mendoni, the Minister for Culture and Sports, was out of the country but kindly sent a letter expressing her support for the event. Adonis Georgiadis, the Minister for Development and Investment, and George James Tsunis, the US Ambassador to Greece gave rousing speeches about Stoicism. They were followed by Bettany Hughes OBE, author of The Hemlock Cup, who got everyone excited for all the philosophy and history to come over the next few days.

Lina Mendoni, the Minister for Culture and Sports, was unable to attend, unfortunately, as she was abroad, but she forwarded a statement of support for the event.

Organizing “Stoicism in Business” in Athens, the womb of classical Greek culture, hosted by the Aurelius Foundation and the YPO, combines and connects humanities with business in an exemplary and original way. In recent years, more and more successful business executives, organizational and administrative managers are expressing a strong interest in humanities and especially philosophy. […] I welcome you to Athens, the city whose history of thousands of years is everywhere visible and legible. I would like to warmly congratulate the initiators and organizers of this inspiring conference and wish you success in your endeavours.

Lina Mendoni, Greek Minister for Culture and Sports

This was followed by a joint networking event with the YPO Aegean / Macedonia chapter in the National Gallery. VIP guests on the first evening were Dr. Maria Georgopoulou, Director of the Gennadius Library, and Pantelis Panos, General Manager of the American School for Classical Studies at Athens (ASCSA).

Kasey Robertson with the statue of Pericles, outside City Hall, Athens

Main Conference: Cotsen Hall

The main conference was held the following day in Cotsen Hall, with support from the American School for Classical Studies at Athens (ASCSA).

Donald Robertson, of the Plato’s Academy Centre, and Justin Stead, of the Aurelius Foundation, hosted the event, which featured keynotes from Dr. John Sellars (“Modern Stoicism”), chair of the Modern Stoicism nonprofit, and Angie Hobbs (“Stoicism and the Good Life”), professor of the public understanding of philosophy at Exeter University.

Our other speakers included Karen Duffy, author of Wise Up; Artemios Miropoulos, author of The Nameless King; Pat Cash, a former Wimbledon tennis champion; and Tim LeBon, research director of Modern Stoicism, who organized workshops on Stoicism and emotional resilience. We also had a panel discussing Stoicism in Business, including Tassos Economou, Michalis Michael, Justin Stead, and Greg Galant.

Donald Robertson and Karen Duffy, on Mount Lycabettus

Conference: Plato’s Academy Park

We are especially grateful to the mayor and municipality of Athens for permission to hold an open-air event, under a marquee tent, in the historic location of Plato’s Academy Park. Keynotes on 24th were by Bettany Hughes OBE (“The roots of Stoicism – Socrates, Confucius, Buddha”) and Donald Robertson (“Plato’s Academy Park: The Past and Future”), with presentations from Andy Small, about Stoicism in UK prisons; Anthony Magnabosco, on Street Epistemology; and Mark Tuitert, an Olympic gold medallist in speed skating. We also had a panel (“What can we learn from classical wisdom?”) featuring Angie Hobbs, Bettany Hughes, and John Sellars.

Kostas Bakoyannis, the Mayor of Athens, spoke to the audience, and stressed his support for the event, and his desire to see it return to this historic location in the future. The conference was followed by tours of the Ancient Agora and Acropolis.

Meeting Mayor of Athens with YPO
Donald Robertson, Justin Stead, Kostas Bakoyannis, Pat Cash, and Michalis Michael, at Plato’s Academy Park

Regarding the event at Akadimia Platonos, Minister Mendoni, wrote in her speech:

Over time, there have been different influences on philosophical currents. However, the space of the Academy echoes the principles of Plato’s “State”. The grove of the Academy was one of the three important groves of ancient Athens. The archaeological site of Plato’s Academy coincides with the ancient “Gardens of Academus”, a verdant idyllic place, in the western suburbs of ancient Athens, where in the 6th century BC. the Gymnasium of Akadimia had been founded.

In this area, where there were sanctuaries of the Muses, Athena, Zeus Morius – patron and guardian of the sacred olive trees of Athens – , Hephaestus, Hercules, etc., Plato founded in 387 BC. his philosophical school, named Akadimia, after Academus. It was a place dedicated to education and sports, the first university in history, which also gave the concept of having a campus to universities all over the world.

Lina Mendoni, Greek Minister for Culture and Sports

Cruise to Cape Sounion

The event concluded on the 25th with a boat trip to Cape Sounion and the ancient Temple of Poseidon. We had a mini conference on the boat with talks from Mick Mulroy, of the Lobo Institute, on Stoicism in the military, and Eugenia Manolidou, of Elliniki Agogi, on philosophy and the power of the ancient Greek language.

There was also a panel of young Stoics, discussing Stoicism and leadership, including Sukhraj Gill, Ross Paton, Dhruv Makwana, and Lori Huica.

The Temple of Poseidon, Cape Sounion

The event seemed to be a huge success overall, based on the feedback we’ve had so far, and we learned many things that will benefit us when running future events in Athens. We already have plans for several new events in Athens, which will be open to everyone.  If you want to be notified about them, just subscribe to our email newsletter or follow our social media accounts.

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