Saturday, 20 June 2015

staatsbesuch oder order of precedence

When the Queen and her consort come on a state-visit to Germany next week, they’ll be thronged by some adoring fans and followers. I wonder what sort of gifts will be exchanged. These two powerful women have everything but surely it will be something a little more dear and thoughtful than a bundle of DVDs her Majesty got that one time.

In the history of diplomacy, a lot of treasure, tribute and artefacts have been presented on state receptions, pandas, china, but probably the most priceless present was given by a scholar and magistrate of Constantinople called Gemistus Plethon during a council (summit) in the city state of Florence in 1430 to Cosimo d’Medici in the form of the complete works of Plato. These dialogues had been lost to Western academics for over a thousand years, since the fall of the Roman Empire in Europe and theological, scientific and philosophic thought had been governed by the teachings of Aristotle, Plato’s student. Medici, patron of the arts and scholarship, however, recognised the value of this trove of forgotten knowledge and commissioned priest Marsilio Ficino to translate the whole parnassus and provide commentary. The undertaking took decades (during which time it is also rumoured that Ficino may have tweaked the notion of a Platonic-relationship in order to excuse his own proclivities, and by the way, probably invented tarot card divination out of an interest for numerology he discovered in these new dialogues) but was probably the singular gift-exchange that sparked and sustained the Renaissance by shifting one’s perception of classical thought first in Italy and then beyond. This might be a tough one to top but I bet the Chancellor will present something meaningful.