# Eupalinos

Engineer (6th century BC)

Eupalinos was an engineer from Megara, best known for his monumental engineering achievement, the Eupalinian aqueduct, a 1 km tunnel dug through a mountain.

During the 6th century BC, the tyrant of Samos Polycrates requested the construction of an underground aqueduct that would supply water to his city. The tunnel would have to be underground in order to prevent any possible siege from pirates while also providing possible retreat to citizens. This meant that the tunnel had to cross a total distance of 1 km under a 250 meter mountain. Polycrates hired the only engineer he considered capable of constructing it, Eupalinos.

To achieve this difficult task, Eupalinos used the necessary geometric solutions to figure out the tunnel’s route and angle. What is astounding for its time, is that the tunnel was simultaneously excavated from both ends of mount Castro (amphistomon), meeting at the middle.  He used trigonometry to measure the distances around the mountain and calculated the exact course of the tunnel from both ends. Eupalinos then charted the tunnel’s route on top of the mountain in order to keep track of its construction underground.

The construction was done using simply picks, chisels and hammers. The tunnel’s height and width were 1,80 m and 1,80 m respectively (5.9 ft).  To avoid subsidence, he added curves rock plaques on the ceiling that formed an arch. To measure the distances, the workers wrote the decadic numerals of the Greek alphabet every 10 fathoms. He also built a small 70 cm trench where pipes were placed to carry the water to the city. The pipe channel extended outside the tunnel from both ends, covering a total distance of 2,5 km. He gave it a small inclination  in order for the water to flow constantly.

The tunnel was completed between 550 and 530 BC and came to be known as Eupalinian aqueduct. It took a total of 10 years and 4000 workers to complete. Proud of his achievement, Eupalinos wrote the word ”ΠΑΡΑΔΕΓΜΑ” inside the tunnel, which means ”example” or ”model”. Ultimately, it covered a distance of 1 km under the 250 meter mount Castro. It was used extensively to carry water to the city of Samos for 1100 years, until it was abandoned during the Byzantine era.

Today it stands in the exact same way it was designed and constructed. It stands as a marvel of human engineering and Eupalinos is considered one of the greatest engineers in human history.

Bibliography

1. “Eupalinos”. Helios New Encyclopaedic Dictionary. Passas, I. Athens, 1946. Print.
2. NIKitas Mikas. ”Τα μαθηματικά υδρεύουν τη Σάμο”. Online posting. Youtube.com. Youtube, 9 Mar. 2013. Web. 30 Jun. 2017.
3. Πηλεύς Ορέστης. ”Ευπαλινειον Όρυγμα στη Σάμο The Eupalinos Tunnel Samos”. Online posting. Youtube.com. Youtube, 1 Jun. 2010. Web. 30 Jun. 2017.

# Georgios Joakimoglou

Physician (1887 – 1979)

During a council in Greece, a German professor said: “You can sleep quietly because Joakimoglou remains sleepless to ensure the safety of your medicine.”

A pioneer of modern pharmacology, he is credited as the first person to combine modern medicine with experimental pharmacology as well as the first person to prove the potential hazards of drugs and modern medicines. His research expanded to fields that had never been researched before.

He was born in Asia Minor in 1887 to an affluent family. He studied medicine in the University of Berlin and chemistry under Nobel prize winner Emil Fischer. He was appointed curator of the pharmacology lab in the University of Berlin in 1913 and Associate Professor of pharmacology in the Medical University of Berlin 1918. He became professor of pharmacology at the same university and then served as director of the university’s pharmacology lab.

In 1928, he was appointed Professor of experimental pharmacology in the University of Athens, director of the biochemical lab at the Greek hospital Evangelismos and became a regular member of the Academy of Athens, among many other honors. He also took over and the Athenian Pharmacology Lab, saving it from closing down.

Throughout his academic career, Joakimoglou published a series of books on pharmacology and numerous papers in medicine. Indicatively, 123 of his papers referred to pharmacology, 10 to physiology, 16 to microbiology and 9 to chemistry and toxicology. He also published several articles on hygiene, microbiology, chemistry, physiology and toxicology in German scientific magazines. At the time, he was one of the most respected and cited academics in Europe.

His biggest contribution was in the field of pharmacology and research. He was the first person to medicate arsphenamine in order to treat syphilis that was plaguing Smyrna. He developed groundbreaking methods of tracing poisonous substances in drugs. These methods were established in the international pharmacological bibliography and made Joakeimoglou a renowned pharmacologist.

He became the first person to research the chemical components of drugs and warn of their addiction and dangers both within and outside the medical establishment. He was responsible for banning by law several drugs and toxic medicines in Greece, including hasish and heroin 25 years earlier than Germany.  He was also able to predict the disastrous hazards of the teratogenic drug thalidomide, which caused over 10,000 infants around the world to die from phocomelia. Thanks to Ioakimoglou, the drug was banned in Greece, saving thousands of lives.

He also became one of the first people to declare legal war against drugs. He served as vice-president and later president of the drug control division of the World Health Organization, inspecting and banning several drugs and hazardous medicines. Furthermore, he proved that several food colouring chemicals caused cancer and objected to their import in Greece.

Joakimoglou’s contribution to the science of medicine and pharmacology was recognized around the world at a very early stage of his life. In 1920, he was invited by prime minister Eleutherios Venizelos to establish and organize the University of Smyrna along with renowned mathematician Constantine Caratheodory. When he presented himself to the high commissioner of Smyrna, the commissioner remarked: “You are very young!”, to which Ioakimoglou replied: “Indeed sir, it is a setback. But trust me, it will improve over time“.

Bibliography

1. Cosmote Tv. Those Who Dared. Cosmote Tv, 2016. Film.
2. “Ioakeimoglou”. Helios New Encyclopaedic Dictionary. Passas, I. Athens, 1946. Print.
3. Laskaratos, Giannis. “Αφιέρωμα Ο Ελληνικός 20ος αιώνας τα πρόσωπα”. Ta Nea, 1999 Web. 29 Jun. 2017.

# Romanos the Melodist

Hymnographer, Musician (c.490 – c.556)

The greatest hymnographer of the Christian Orthodox Church, the “Pindar of Christianity” as he was called, was Romanos the Melodist, active during the Golden Age of the Byzantine Empire. He is renowned for being the greatest poet of the Byzantine era and has been canonized by the Greek Orthodox Church. His feast is on October 1st.

Romanos was of Graeco-Syrian origin and was born in Homs, Syria. He became deacon in the Church of Resurrection in Beirut and later went to Constantinople, where he served as presbyter (elder). Romanos was a musician; he is credited as having composed almost 1000 kontakions, which are ecclesiastical hymns honouring a certain religious event of figure such as apostle, saint etc. They are a form of sermon verse accompanied by music. Only one tenth of his work survives to this day. The music that accompanied the chanting of the hymns also does not survive. All of them were written in Ancient Greek.

With his work, Romanos honoured almost all saints of the Orthodox Church as well as all of the major religious events in Christianity. Among his most notable works are the troparion to Virgin Mary (Theotokos), the kontakion on Christ’s Nativity, the Last Judgement, Adam’s Lament, the Martyrdom of St. Stephen including hymns on Christmas, Easter and the Resurrection. His masterpiece, however, is the Akathist Hymn. It is a hymn to Theotokos (Virgin Mary) that was believed by the citizens of Constantinople to have protected their city from the siege of the Avarians in 626. Its name means the unseated hymn, because it was always chanted while standing. The Akathist is recognized as the greatest hymn written for the Orthodox Greek Church.

The eminent Byzantinologist Karl Krumbacher wrote about Romanos the Melodist: “In poetic talent, fire of inspiration, depth of feeling and elevation of language, he far surpasses all the other melodists. The literary history of the future will perhaps acclaim Romanos for the greatest ecclesiastical poet of all ages”.

Bibliography

1. Michael G. Farrow. St. Romanos the Melodist. Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America. Antiochian.org. Web. Retrieved on June 23, 2017.
2. Ρώτα, Μαίρη. Ρωμανός ο Μελωδός. Ο Μεγάλος Χριστιανός Ποιητής. Κοινή Γνώμη. Koinignomi.gr. Web. April 14, 2016.

# Konstantinos Tsiklitiras

Athlete (1888 – 1913)

The greatest athlete in the history of track and field of Greece and the greatest Greek Olympian, Konstantinos Tsiklitiras wrote history as one of the legendary Greek athletes who won 4 medals in the Olympic Games of 1908 in London and 1912 in Stockholm. He possessed a rare talent in multiple sports as well as a sense of patriotism.

He played several sports on competitive level such as football, high jump, javelin throw and polo, but he is most remembered for his performances in standing long jump and standing high jump. His achievements began in 1906 when he won third place in the Panhellenic games in standing long jump. In 1907 he won three golden medals in the Panionian Games of Smyrna in high jump, standing high jump and standing long jump as well as two more golden medals in the Panhellenic games that year. In the years 1907, 1908 and 1910 his team won the Panhellenic football championship. Tsiklitiras was playing as their main goalkeeper.

In the 1908 London Olympics, Tsiklitiras won two silver medals; one for standing long jump and one for standing high jump. In the 1912 Stockholm Olympics, he was the flag-bearer of Greece during the opening ceremony. There, he won the gold medal in standing long jump with a 3.37 meter long jump and a bronze medal in standing high jump. Earlier during the year he had tied for the world record in standing long jump (3.47 meters).

The 24-year-old had beaten Panhellenic records and held a world record in standing long jump. He was apotheosized upon his return to Greece and made the headlines as Greece’s most celebrated Olympian at the time. He was also offered a working place in the National Bank of Greece, since he had studied economics.

In 1912, the 1st Balkan War broke out. Tsiklitiras volunteered to fight on the first line in the Battle of Bizani. He contracted meningitis and died at the age of 25, having sacrificed his career and his life for Greece. In his memory, the Athens Grand Prix Tsiklitiria athletics were founded and continue to be held every year to this day.

To date, having won 1 golden medal, 2 silver and 1 bronze, he ranks as Greece’s greatest Olympian with the highest number of medals ever conquered by a Greek athlete, a title he holds together with Pyrros Dimas and Nikolaos Georgantas.

Bibliography:

1. Κωνσταντίνος Τσικλητήρας. Σαν Σήμερα. Sansimera.gr. Web.
2. Ο αετός του αθλητισμού –Ο κορυφαίος αθλητής και Ολυμπιονίκης Κωνσταντίνος Τσικλητήρας. Pronews. Pronews.gr. Web. January 8, 2016.

# Nikiforos Vrettakos

Poet (1912 – 1991)

Nikiforos Vrettakos is regarded as one of the greatest writers and poets of modern Greece. He lived an adventurous life with multiple struggles during some of the most difficult times of modern Greek history. He was honoured by multiple prestigious bodies inside and outside of his homeland.

He was from Laconia. After graduating from high school he enrolled in the University of Athens where he studied law. Because of his family’s hardships, however, he did not graduate and he remained in Athens, working to survive. Nevertheless, his big love for poetry did not stop him from publishing his first two poetic collections Under the Shadows and Lights and Down to the Silence of the Centuries, at the age of 17. It was not long before Vrettakos rose to fame, intriguing Kostis Palamas, who wanted to meet him in person.

During the Second World War, Vrettakos enlisted in the army and fought against the Italians in the Albanian front. He partook actively in the Resistance in the midst of the axis occupation and became member of EAM during the guerrilla war of 1946 – 1949. He was removed from the Communist Party of Greece following his disagreement with their politics. He was self-exiled to Switzerland during the junta for 7 years. When he returned to Greece he settled peacefully in Laconia.

Throughout his hard life, Vrettakos never ceased writing poems. The poems he wrote between 1929 and 1938 are characterized by a melancholic tone that reflects his life’s hardships. The second period of his literary work, which spans from 1939 to 1950, is characterized by optimism and struggle. They predominated the Second World War, the axis occupation, the resistance and the guerrilla war. The poems written between 1961 to 1974 are characterized by love and purity and are mostly about nature and the light. The final poetic era from 1975 until his death in 1991 have a similar aura. His works have been translated in several languages such as Turkish and Russian.

Numerous awards were bestowed to Vrettakos. Among them were the National State Prize of Poetry in 1940, 1965 and 1974, the Ourani Prize in 1974, the Knocken Prize of the Sicilian Society of Arts and Letters in 1980 and the Academy of Athens Prize in 1989. He was nominated for the Nobel Prize of Literature 4 times, one of which was nominated by his friend Yiannis Ritsos, with whom he was schoolmate. Vrettakos himself claimed to be a “servant of poetry” and that he would not have anything to live for if God hadn’t given him poetry. His highest virtues were love and homonoia (solidarity). He believed that with these two, man could achieve anything.

Bibliography

1.  Νικηφόρος Βρεττάκος, ο πάμφτωχος ποιητής που είπε: «Αν δε μου ’δινες την ποίηση, Κύριε, δε θα ’χα τίποτα για να ζήσω». Ο δικτάτορας Μεταξάς έκαψε το βιβλίο του, πολέμησε στο μέτωπο του ’40 και προτάθηκε 4 φορές για Νόμπελ. Μηχανή του Χρόνου. Mixanitouxronou.gr. Web.

2.  Cartali, Anna. Νικηφόρος Βρεττάκος,Ο ποιητής της ειρήνης και της αγάπης. Artic. Artic.gr. Web. January 22, 2013.

# Epicharmus

Philosopher, Comic Poet, Mathematician, Physician (c.540 BC – c.443 BC)

Epicharmus of Kos was a polymath recognized as the founder of comic poetry. He was the son of a physician, desendant of the Aesclipiads. Epicharmus immigrated to Sicily when he was very young and remained there until his death, teaching mathematics, medicine, physiology, philosophy and astronomy. Plato considered him equal to Homer.

Because of the dual meaning of the word μῦθος (mythos) in Greek, Epicharmus is credited with introducing either the regular plot in the comedies or comedies with mythological subject. Either way, he set the foundations of comedy, which years later the Attic poets would perfect. He taught 52 or 35 plays, mostly on mythologic subjects. Sadly, only fragments of his works survive.

His philosophic views seem to have greatly influenced Plato, primarily on the Theory of Forms while Epicharmus himself was influenced by the Pythagoreans. For this reason his comedies contain many high philosophical concepts on metaphysics, the soul, theogony and the creation of the world. It is not unlikely that his philosophical views on the latter motivated Plato to write his magnum opus Timaeus on the creation of the universe. His plays also tackled themes of ethics and politics. He believed that the mind sees and hears (νοῦς ὁρᾶ καὶ νοῦς ἀκούει), a quote that has become quite popular.

Perhaps the reason why he is included in the sages of antiquity is because he preserved and continued the ancient wisdom of the Greeks, which dates back to a very ancient civilization of undetermined time. This knowledge was perpetuated in his comedies and contributed to many of the wonders of the Archaic Period of Greece.

Bibliography

1. Epicharmus. Perseus Digital Library. Tufts.edu. Web.
2. Sarandos, Pan. ζ. Ἐπίχαρμος. Δαυλός. Issue 188-189. August-September 1997. pages 11617-11618. Print.

# Marcus Musurus

Philosopher, Scholar, Printer (c.1470 – 1517)

Marcus Musurus was one of the greatest humanists and most important representatives of the Renaissance. An erudite philosopher with profound knowledge on the Greek and Latin literature, he exerted extraordinary influence in Italy, where he worked as an academic in the most prestigious universities. As a long-life collaborator of Aldus Manutius, Musurus helped disseminate the works of the ancient Greek philosophers throughout Europe and preserve the ancient wisdom throughout the dark ages.

He was Cretan. He studied Greek language in the school of St. Catherine of Sina and continued his studies in Florence next to his teacher Janus Lascaris. In 1494 he settled in Venice where he met Aldus Manutius, the founder of the Aldine Press and the leading printer of all Italy. The two became close affiliates and would eventually publish numerous works of the Ancient Greek philosophers making them widely available to the public. These included the works of Aristophanes, Euripides, Sophocles, Manuel Chrysoloras, Pindar, Callimachus, Aristotle, Homer, all the works of Plato as well as 25 other Classical and Christian writers.

Musurus worked incessantly to promote the ancient Greek philosophy and sciences to the West. Besides his work as a printer, he taught Greek language and philosophy in the New Academy of Carteromachus and Gregoropoulus and in the Platonic Academy of Venice. As a professor of Greek language, philosophy and literature, he held the department of Greek language in the University of Padua where he also taught Homer, Hesiod and Theocritus. He was appointed the title of “Publica Graecarum Literarum Officina” by the Council of Venice. In this way, he was in charge of approving which Greek book would get published. In addition, he served as bishop of Hierapetra of Crete and of Monemvasia, appointed by the Pope himself.

Musurus envisioned a free Greek nation. He wrote a Platonic ode and dedicated it to Pope Leo X, whose father was a student of John Argyropoulos, in an attempt to persuade him to help the subjugated Greeks. In 1513, he helped his teacher Janus Laskaris organize the Greek Gymnasium of Rome, where he also taught Greek. In 1515, the Council of Venice entrusted Musurus with 800 of Bessarion’s manuscripts. These he taxonomized together with Battista Egnazzio and placed them in the newly founded Library of St. Mark, which formed the basis of Biblioteca Marciana.

His unexpected death in 1517 caused great sorrow to the humanists of the West. He was honoured and respected for his tireless struggle to enlighten the world with the works of the ancient Greek philosophers. He had a vast number of eminent students who continued his work and founded departments of Greek language and philosophy in European universities. Among them were Johan Conon, Girolamo Alexandro, Lazaro Bonamico, Germain de Brie and the famous Desiderius Erasmus, who said about Musurus:”… a polymath and panepistemon, key-holder of the Greek language and an excellent connossoir of the Latin voice”.

Bibliography

1. Condylis, Thanos. Μουσούρος Μάρκος. Αργολική Αρχειακή Βιβλιοθήκη Ιστορίας και Πολιτισμού. Argolikivivliothiki.gr. Web. August 2, 2011.