Heraclides of Pontus

Philosopher, Astronomer (4th century BC)

Heraclides descended from a wealthy family from Heraclea Pontica. He was a philosopher and astronomer, the first to propose a mixed geo-heliocentric system of the universe. His vast bibliography, which unfortunately does not survive today, spanned the fields of physics, astronomy, metaphysics and meteorology.

He studied in the Academy of Athens where he became one of Plato’s students and later a student of Aristotle in the Lyceum. In the Academy he befriended Speusippus, the successor of the school. Upon Speusippus’ death, Heraclides was one of the candidates for headmaster of the Academy, but lost to Xenocrates. He returned to his hometown Heraclea where he founded his own philosophic school. Heraclides possessed profound knowledge on Pythagorean philosophy and was a proponent of Demorcitus’ theory of the atom.

Heraclides was active primarily in astronomy. He proposed the mixed helio-geocentric model of the cosmos according to which the sun, the moon and the planets of the solar system rotate around the Earth, except from Venus and Mercury, who orbit the Sun. Heraclides also postulated that the Earth completes a rotation around its axis in 24 hours. He was the first philosopher to hold such a belief. This model proposed by the philosopher is believed to have served as the basis for the astronomical model of Tycho Brahe.

Heraclides was a prolific writer. Like most of his contemporaries, he wrote a book On Nature, a treatise on physics. Furthermore, he wrote the philosophical books On the Pythagoreans, On Hades and on Uranus, On Findings and Zoroaster, books on the philosophy of physics, literary critiques, books on mysticism and books on theurgy or medicine. As a Platonic philosopher, Heraclides endorsed the concept of the immortality of the soul as well as reincarnation. According to him, the soul is made of light (φῶς) and aether (αἰθέρα). It originates from the Galaxy.


  1. Georgakopoulos, Konstantinos. Ancient Greek Scientists. Georgiades: Athens, 1995. Print.
  2. J.G. Toomer. Heraclides Ponticus. Encyclopaedia.com. encyclopaedia.com. Web.
  3. Κάλφας, Βασίλης. Ηρακλείδης Ποντικός. Η Εγκυκλοπαίδεια του Πλάτωνα. N1.xtek.gr. Web.
Heraclides of Pontus



Painter (c.370 BC – c.306 BC)

The greatest painter of antiquity, widely considered as the equivalent of Pheidias in painting, Apelles succeeded in depicting the perfect, with extraordinary realism, colours and symbolism, while excluding all hyperboles. Many of today’s most famous paintings are in actuality recreations of Apelles’ paintings.

His hometown was either from the island of Kos from Colophon. He studied art for 12 years in the Sicyon Art School next to multiple renowned painters of his time. From there he went to Macedonia, where he became acquainted with Alexander the Great. Apelles, together with Lysippus worked in the royal Macedonian court. Alexander also took him with him during his expedition in Asia. It is said that Alexander allowed only Apelles to portray him in paintings because of his remarkable talent.

Apelles was renowned for the richness of his colours. He created his own revolutionary method which consisted of mixing pigments out of plant extracts and burning of ivory, transfusing an unparalleled vividness and expressivity in his paintings. His art was praised by Pliny for its ingenuity and innate grace (ingenium et gratia). He pioneered the use of symbolism in paintings, being the first to portray allegories and personifications such as ignorance, contempt, sycophancy, justice and truth. He was hailed as one of the greatest painters by his contemporaries as well as being a perfectionist. Pliny, from whom we get a significant amount of information on Apelles, said that it was Apelles who surpassed all the painters that preceded him and all those that followed.

Although most of his paintings do not survive, there have been descriptions of them as well as faithful replicas. One of these is the mural in the house of Vetii in Pompeii depicting Alexander the Great battling against Darius in the Battle of Issus. It is based on the original painting by Apelles of Alexander wielding a thunderbolt in the image of Zeus found in the Temple of Artemis in Ephesus. Another mural found in Pompeii, that depicts the birth of Venus is based on Apelles’ Aphrodite Anadyomene (Venus Rising from the Sea). This painting served as an inspiration to a multitude of paintings during the Renaissance that revolved around the birth of Venus, including Botticelli’s famous The Birth of Venus. In a similar manner, Apelles’ Calumny became the basis for Zuccaro’s and Botticelli’s Calumny of Apelles. Other paintings include a portrait of Artemis surrounded by maidens based on an episode from Homer’s Odyssey, the Sacrifice in Cos as well as many other portraits of Gods and mortals alike.

Apelles’ legacy endured strongly during the Renaissance, which was a spiritual child of Hellenism. Numerous painters followed in his footsteps in an attempt to emulate him. The most notable example is Botticelli, who himself believed that he was the reincarnation of Apelles. It can be concluded that Apelles’ impact on the painters of the Renaissance was undoubtedly enormous, serving as their quintessence. He is depicted in Raphael’s The School of Athens, Willem van Haecht’s Alexander the Great Visits the Studio of Apelles and Apelles Painting Campaspe, Charles Meynier’s Alexander the Great Gives Campaspe to Apelles, Charles Beranger’s The Hemicycle and in Paul Delaroche’s The Hemicycle, where he is sitting on a throne in the center of an amphitheatre, in between Ictinus and Pheidias. Apelles is among the many great Greeks offering his tribute to Homer in Ingres’ The Apotheosis of Homer. His reputation as the one who perfected the art of painting has well withstood the test of time.


  1. Απελλής. Ἰδρυμα Μείζωνος Ελληνισμού. Asiaminor.ehw.gr. Web.
  2. Bompart, Malvina. Απελλής, ο διασημότερος ζωγράφος της αρχαιότητας ,πρότυπο των μετέπειτα γενεών. ΑΡΧΑΙΟΓΝΩΜΩΝ. Ellinondiktyo.blogspot.bg. Web. June 7, 2015.
  3. hoakley. The Story in Paintings: Apelles, the Oldest Master of All. The Eclectic Light Company. Eclecticlight.co. Web. June 9, 2016.

Manos Hadjidakis


Composer (1925 – 1994)

His name is known all over the world. He is one of the greatest pioneers of modern Greek music who set the foundations of classical and folk Greek music as well as Entekhno, a new style of music. His eminence in the Greek musical world is comparable to that of Mikis Theodorakis.

Hadjidakis started playing the piano at the age of 4. He studied music and philosophy in the University of Athens but did not obtain a degree. During the axis occupation in WWII, he worked as a heaver, an ice salesman and a nurse assistant. During that time he met many important literary figures such as George Seferis, Odysseus Elytis, Angelos Sikelianos and Nikos Gatsos. Gatsos would play an important part in his career as the two became close friends and worked together for the majority of his life.

Hadjidakis’ debut in music was in 1944 when he composed music for the plays of Carolos Koun in the Art Theatre of Athens. This collaboration, which lasted 15 years, opened Hadjidakis’ path to composing music for theatrical plays for the National Theatre of Greece. Furthermore, he composed music for multiple ancient comedies and tragedies such as Medea, Assemblywomen, Lysistrata, Birds etc.

Hadjidakis composed classical music, music for ballet and put into music the works of famed Greek writers like Nikos Gatsos. In 1959 he helped introduce the music of Mikis Theodorakis to the public. Over the years, he scored multiple Greek and international films, most notably Michael Kakoyiannis’ Stella and Dragon, Elia Kazan’s America-America and Dusan Makavejiev’s Sweet Movie. In 1960 he was awarded the Academy Award for Best Original Song for the song Never on Sunday from the film with the same name by Jules Dassin. It marked the first time such a distinction was awarded to a non-American composer.

In 1966 Hadjidakis went to USA where he scored the Broadway musical Never on Sunday based on the aforementioned film. Additionally, he composed several unique compositions. His career in the United States further boosted his fame internationally. Upon returning to Greece in 1972, Hadjidakis occupied important cultural positions. He became director of the State Orchestra, director of the radio station “Third Program”, served as deputy director of the National Opera, and founded his own festivals and competitions to give prominence to future stars of music. Hadjidakis founded his own record company, named Sirius, and printed his own magazine dedicated to music and culture.

In 1989 he founded the “Orchestra of Colours”, a symphonic orchestra with himself as conductor. The orchestra gave 20 concerts and 12 recitals featuring renowned Greek and international soloists.

Throughout his entire lifetime he was in the epicenter of Greek music. He helped significantly rise to fame some of the most important musical figures of Greece such as Mikis Theodorakis, Nana Mouschouri and Iannis Xenakis. Until the end of his life in 1994, Manos Hadjidakis remained highly respected among the musical world and recognized as a musical genius, whose work influenced modern Greek culture more than anyone.


  1. Manos Hadjidakis Biography by Steve Huey. All Music. Allmusic.com. Web.
  2. Μάνος Χατζιδάκις. Σαν Σήμερα. Sansimera.gr. Web.
Manos Hadjidakis


Mathematician (c.200 BC – c.140 BC)

Zenodorus of Paiania was a mathematician, founder of the theory of isoperimetric figures in geometry. He lived during the end of the 3rd century BC and taught in the Museum of Alexandria, the greatest spiritual center of humanity at the time.

Zenodorus was active a few years after Archimedes’ death, whose work “Measurement of the Circle” he accounts. He came from a wealthy family in Athens. It is believed that he was also an Epicurean philosopher. He was a close friend of Apollonius of Perga and Diocles of Alexandria.

Zenodorus first introduced the concept of the isoperimetric figures in geometry. His work is survived in his treatise On isoperimetric figures, excerpts of which are contained in the works of Pappus of Alexandria, Proclus and Theon. Zenodorus proved that of all the solid figures with equal surfaces, the sphere is the greatest, that the equiangular and equilateral polygon is the greatest in area out of all the polygons with the same number of sides and equal perimeter and that the circle is greater than any regular polygon of equal contour. Moreover, Zenodorus proved that the polygon with the most angles has the greatest area than all regular polygons with the same perimeter.

It is not known if Zenodorus wrote any other treatises, as nothing else has survived of his work. Nevertheless, his influence in geometry is evident from the fact that he is mentioned by numerous mathematicians such as Diocles, Theon, Proclus, Eutocius, Simplicius as well as multiple Arabian mathematicians. Pappus of Alexandria, who basically compares the area or volume of different geometric shapes with the same perimeter in the 5th book of his treatise “Mathematical Synagogue”, expands Zenodorus’ work on the isometric or isoperimetric figures.

Not surprisingly, Zenodorus’ work had and important impact on the mathematicians of the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries. His work opened the way for the discovery of the area of mathematics known as calculus of variations. It is worth mentioning that great mathematical minds of history acknowledge Zenodorus as an important figure in the advancement of mathematics. In one of his letters to Leonhard Euler, Joseph – Louis Langange characterizes Zenodorus as “the first teacher (τὸν πρῶτον διδάξαντα)” while Constantine Caratheodory considered him as the Father of the Calculus of Variations.


  1. Georgakopoulos, Konstantinos. Ancient Greek Scientists. Georgiades: Athens, 1995. Print.
  2. Ζηνόδωρος ο Παιανεύς Ένας Μεγάλος Μαθηματικός. Excerpt from the book Ζηνόδωρος ο Παιανεύς ( Ένας Μεγάλος Μαθηματικός). Αίθρα. Αθήνα, 2011. by Evangelos Spandagos. Eisatopon.blogspot.bg. Web.

John Lycoudis


Physician (1910 – 1980)

John Lycoudis was the physician who first discovered that gastric ulcer was primarily caused by a bacterial infection, now known to be H. pylori, and used his own treatment consisting of a combination of antibiotics to cure thousands of the disease. A man way ahead of his time, he faced extraordinary opposition from the medical and pharmaceutical establishment both inside and outside of Greece. Widely dismissed and discredited by the academia, he was justified 4 years after his death and his work accepted worldwide after almost 50 years.

Lycoudis practiced medicine in his hometown, Mesolonghi, where he was known as the “Doctor of the Poor” for not charging money for his visits. This resulted in him being very beloved by the people and was elected mayor of Mesolonghi twice. The money he earned went to a public pharmacy, which he had established for the poor.

His discovery was not my chance. Lycoudis suffered from chronic gastritis himself and in 1958 he suffered from haemorrhagic gastritis. This led him to search for a cure by himself. Believing that peptic ulcer was caused by a bacterium, he tried different combinations of antibiotics to see which would cure the disease. His discovery was patented and published in 1961 under the title “A method for the production of a pharmaceutical mixture for the treatment of peptic ulcers, duodenal ulcers and gastritis”.

The new drug which he had created, named Elgaco (from the Greek words ἔλκος, γαστρῖτις and κολῖτις meaning ulcer, gastritis and colitis respectively), was used successfully to treat an estimated of 30.000 patients suffering from peptic ulcer. Elgaco was never allowed to circulate in the market by the Greek authorities. Clinical trials were never performed by any university in the world that he had contacted to prove its efficacy. Throughout the following years, Lycoudis lectured around Greece in attempt to raise awareness about his treatment method.

The medical establishment and the academia did not remain apathetic to Lycoudis’ discovery. In spite of his enormous treatment success, the medical establishment, driven by profit and envy, sent him to court, charged him for “Creating and distributing unapproved drugs… He was using his method to attract patients to earn money from it” and fined him 4000 drachmas (11 euro).

Lycoudis was ultimately vindicated four years after his death in 1980, when scientific validation came from the other side of the globe by two Australian doctors, Robin Warren and Barry Marshall. The two won the Nobel Prize of Medicine in 2005 for Lycoudis’ discovery. Barry Marshall, who had been treated in a similar way by the academia, said “If he had been accepted by the scientific community, then he would have won the Nobel Prize 20 years before myself and Dr. Warren”. When asked about the Nobel Prize, Lycoudis prophetically replied “Bring it to my grave, when it has been discovered that I was right”.

In 1999, an article was published in the eminent medical journal The Lancet titled John Lycoudis: An unappreciated discoverer of the cause and treatment of peptic ulcer disease, in honour of John Lycoudis and his work. In 2002, Barry Marshall dedicated an extensive text to him in his book, entitled John Lycoudis: The general practitioner in Greece, who in 1958 discovered the cause of, and treatment for peptic ulcer disease. Marshall would always cite Lycoudis in his lectures. He was posthumously awarded by the Academy of Athens, the same people who 50 years ago had restricted him from treating his patients.

Today, 50 years later, Lycoudis’ reputation has been restored and his name is known worldwide as the man who challenged the medical world with his radical discovery, considered the greatest medical discovery in modern Greek history.


  1. Δημ. Γουλές – Ι. Σουφλερή. Γιάννης Λυκούδης: Ο Μεσολογγίτης ιατρός των φτωχών, το ΕΛΚΟΣ και το Νόμπελ. MEGAMED. Megamed.gr. Web. November 20, 2016.
  2. Παπαβασιλείου, Ευστάθιος. Αφιέρωμα στη μνήμη του Ιωάννη Λυκούδη. Πρακτικὰ 11ου Ελληνικού Συνεδρίου για το Ελικοβακτηρίδιο του Πηλωρού, Αθήνα, 2006. eemep.gr. Web.
  3. Ρογδάκης, Αθανάσιος. Ιωάννης Λυκούδης. Πεμπτουσία. Pemptousia.gr. Web. May 26, 2011.
John Lycoudis

Michael VIII Palaiologos


Byzantine Emperor (1224 – 1282)

Michael Palaiologos (or Palaeologus) was the founder of the Palaiologos dynasty that ruled the Byzantine Empire for almost 200 years, longer than any other dynasty in the Empire’s existence. It was the last dynasty that ruled the Byzantine Empire. As Emperor, Michael reclaimed Constantinople and restored the Byzantine Empire after 57 years of Latin rule.

A few years before Michael ascended to throne, Emperor John Ducas Vatatzes had already set the ground for the reclaiming of Constantinople. Michael’s first and most difficult task as Emperor was to reclaim the lost lands of the Byzantine Empire that had fallen under the rule of a powerful anti-Byzantine alliance. Thus, in 1259, the army of Nicaea, led by Michael’s brother John Palaiologos, defeated the opposing alliance in Pelagonia, establishing its rule there.

Michael allied with Genoa to provide him with military support against Venice, which exerted the most powerful influence over Constantinople. In exchange, Genoa was granted with exemption from taxation as well as permission to build its own ports in the Byzantine Empire’s lands.

In 1261, Michael’s army defeated the Latins, reclaiming Constantinople and establishing the Palaeologian dynasty. From that point onward, Michael’s goal became to rebuild and fortify Constantinople. He rebuilt churches and monasteries, reconstructed the city’s walls and attempted to increase the city’s population. Under his diplomacy, the Byzantine Empire added a part of Morea to its lands, Mystras, which would later become the Empire’s most prestigious spiritual center, as well as most of the island of the Aegean Sea.

After the reclaiming of Constantinople, the Empire’s greatest threat came from the West. Charles of Anjou had began creating an Empire that intended to assimilate the Balkan lands of the Byzantine Empire, with the help of the Pope, the former Latin Emperor, Serbia and Bulgaria. Michael allied with Hungary, Egypt, Mongolia and Peter III of Aragon to stop the opposing empire’s procession to Eastern Europe. He spent vast amounts of money to start a rebellion in Sicily and ordered Peter III of Aragon to attack it. His operations ended successfully and Charles of Anjou’s Empire dissolved.

Throughout his emperorship, Michael fended off numerous enemies from the Byzantine Empire, both from shore and sea. A skilled diplomat, he would frequently resolve in signing peace treaties with neighbouring nations to alleviate tensions instead of going to war against them. He came into conflict with the Church when he attempted to unify the two Churches and was received negatively by his followers. Although history has shown that Michael was not as popular or likable as other Byzantine Emperors like Heraclius or John Vatatzes, he has been hailed as the New Constantine by some contemporary historians.


  1. “Michael VIII Palaeologus”. Helios New Encyclopaedic Dictionary. Passas, I. Athens, 1946. Print.
  2. Michael VIII Palaiologos (1261 – 1282). Dumbarton Oaks. Doaks.org. Web.
  3. Μιχαήλ Η Παλαιολόγος. Εγκυκλοπαίδεια Μείζονος Ελληνισμού. Constantinople.ehw.gr. Web.
Michael VIII Palaiologos

Rhegas Pherraeos


Teacher of the Greek Nation (1757 – 1798)

Rhegas Pherraeos is the prime representative of the Greek Enlightenment. His actions, characterized by his flaming patriotism and thirst for freedom, resulted in the awakening of the Greek Nation and led to the events of the Greek War of Independence in 1821 and ultimately the freedom of the Greeks.

His real name was Antonios Kyriazis. He would frequently sign with the name Rhegas Velestinlis; the name Pherraeos was never used by him. Rhegas studied in the School of Zagora of Pelos, where he first came into contact with the Ancient Greek writers. He then began working as a teacher. After being involved in the murder of a Turkish officer, he retreated to Mt. Olympus where he joined his uncle’s militia of harmatoles. Shortly after staying in Mt. Athos, Rhegas settled in Constantinople where he befriended the Hypsilantis family.

His patriotic activities started when he was appointed to a governing position of Wallachia its hegemon, Prince Nicholas Mavrogenous. Rhegas’ goal was not just the liberation of Greece but the creation of the Balkan Federation, where all the peoples of the Balkan would live free from Turkish rule as brothers. Greece would hold its old dominating position in education.

In the years that followed, Rhegas Pherraeos dedicated his life to educating and awakening the subjugated Greeks. His efforts centered on restoring their morale in order to prepare them spiritually for the war against the oppressor. Further boosting his determination were the French Revolution and the successive victories of Napoleon. He became the first and most powerful preacher of Freedom and its values. He spoke publicly against all forms of oppression or slavery. For Rhegas, all slaves, regardless of their race or religion, are brothers and must be free.

Rhegas did not only preach his words, he wrote and gave out patriotic pamphlets with revolutionary notions. He envisioned the liberation not just of Greece, but all of the Balkans and the creation of a democratic federation where all the peoples of the Balkans could live together in harmony. This dream became the Map of Great Greece (Χάρτα τοῦ Ῥήγα), which included all the Balkans and Asia Minor. The Map contained the Rights of Man as well as a Constitution, which he himself had written. Rhegas also devised the military operations that were necessary to start the revolution and thus translated military works from French to Greek and organized secret meetings with official French assemblies including Napoleon himself. Having foreseen the outcome of the revolution he was devising, he wrote a democratic statute for the full function of the Balkan Federation. Finally, he wrote the Thourios, the quintessence of a patriotic hymn to rouse the Greeks.

Vienna was the city of his operations, mostly because it was the center of a Greek community of merchants and literary figures, influenced by the Enlightenment of the West. It was there that he founded a press and printed his books, translations, hymns and his map, alongside his colleagues. These were disseminated in all of the Balkans in secrecy. However, when he was about to depart to Trieste, boxes with his material were confiscated by the Austrian Police Force. Rhegas and his colleagues were apprehended and charged for preparing a revolution against their ally, the Ottoman Empire. Alongside seven of his companions, Rhegas was transported to Belgrade and sentenced to death.

Rhegas’ extraordinary efforts were mainly targeted in awakening the Greeks because he considered them the leading nation of the Balkans and thus the rightful wielders of the reins of education, learning and governance. Today, he is hailed as a revolutionary, a political thinker, a hero and most importantly a visionary who gave his life for the ultimate cause of Freedom. His last prophetic words were “I have sown a rich seed; the hour is coming when my country will reap its glorious fruits”.


  1. “Rigas Feraios”. Helios New Encyclopaedic Dictionary. Passas, I. Athens, 1946. Print.
  2. ΡΗΓΑΣ ΦΕΡΡΑΙΟΣ ΒΕΛΕΣΤΙΝΛΗΣ: Ο ΒΙΟΣ ΚΑΙ ΤΟ ΕΡΓΟ ΤΟΥ-Ο ΦΡΙΚΤΟΣ ΤΟΥ ΘΑΝΑΤΟΣ- Ο ΘΟΥΡΙΟΣ. Αντέχουμε. Antexoume.wordpress.com. Web. June 12, 2014.
Rhegas Pherraeos