Greece bestows the Gold Cross of The Order of The Phoenix on Professor Dr. Maria Helena da Rocha Pereira Lisbon, 5 November 2014
On November 5, 2014, the Ambassador of Greece to Portugal, Panos Kalogeropoulos presented the insignia of The Gold Cross [i.e. the Officer rank] of The Order of The Phoenix with Professor Emeritus of Classical Studies of the University of Coimbra, Dr. Maria Helena da Rocha Pereira, a distinguished Hellenist.
The Order of the Phoenix is awarded by the President of the Hellenic Republic to Greek citizens who have distinguished themselves in the fields of public administration, science, arts and letters, commerce, industry and shipping. It is also conferred to foreigners, who have contributed to improving Greece’s stature abroad in the above fields.
The ceremony was held at the Ambassador’s Residence and was attended by the State Secretary for Culture, Mr. Barreto Xavier, Mr. Pedro Cunha representing the Minister of Education of Portugal, the President of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation – in charge for republishing the complete works of Professor Ms. Pereira – and former Minister of Education Mr. Santos Silva, foreign Ambassadors, the former Portuguese Minister of Foreign Affairs Mr. Monteiro, academics and professors of classical studies of the Universities of Lisbon, Coimbra & Porto as well as members of the local society.
Maria Helena da Rocha Pereira, Professor Emeritus of Greek Literature at the Faculty of Arts and Humanities of the University of Coimbra, an emblematic figure of the Greek Classical Studies in Portugal for more than six decades, has extensively written on Greek writers and philosophers of antiquity. Among these works, her doctoral thesis “Hellenic Conceptions on Happiness in Afterlife, from Homer to Plato” submitted in 1956, made her the first woman with a doctoral degree in the 666 years - long history of the University of Coimbra; more publications include the “Pausaniae Graeciae descriptio” in the famous Teubner Editions of Leipzig, her books “Plato’s Republic” and “Estudos de historia da cultura classica” in the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation Editions.
Furthermore, other dissertations, as the “Vasos Gregos existentes em Portugal” plus numerous lectures of her, at scientific congresses in Portugal and abroad, reveal aspects of her 60 years long research in the Classical Greek Civilisation.
During the ceremony, Ambassador Kalogeropoulos underlined in his remarks, that “it is a great honour for a Greek Ambassador to present an award of merit to a citizen of the country where he is accredited, in recognition for her sixty years long dedicated studies to a universal intangible good, such as the civilization of ancient Greece. This heritage encourages us to face our daily lives within the spirit of the values of citizenship, dignity and justice”.
In her reply, Prof. Dr. Rocha Pereira pointed out that the classical era Greeks, characterized by the amplitude of their intellectual talent in fine arts, were indeed creators of a civilisation – from science to art, as evidenced by archeological excavations. It was exactly this unique beauty and luminous precision that attracted her to study the language and the classical Greek civilisation.
She further noted that during the 18th and the 19th centuries throughout Europe, personalities as Goethe, Lessing, Schiller, Victor Hugo, Shelley and Byron, decided to make their mark to the adage “we are all Greeks”. This is the reason that the classical Greek studies used to be a prerequisite for people who wished to accede to a higher education level, the honored Prof. Pereira concluded.