Dicaearchus

dicaearchus

Philosopher, Mathematician, Astronomer, Geographer, Historian (c.370 BC – c.285 BC)

Dicaearchus was a Peripatetic philosopher, a contemporary of Aristoxenos, tutor of Aristotle and colleague of Theophrastus. Sometimes credited as a philosopher and a rhetorician more than a geometer and geographer, Dicaearchus was a poly-scientist who made significant contributions to several disciplines, as was common at the time. His name means “the one who rules with justice”.

He was born in Messene of Sicily. He lived and worked most of his life in Peloponnesus. Highly admired by Peripatetic and Latin philosophers alike, Dicaearchus compiled treatises on geography, philosophy, politics, ethics and religion. Unfortunately, only excerpts remain as a legacy of his work, still enough, however, to appreciate the magnitude of his thinking.

His greatest work in geography and cartography is Circuit of the Earth, a book that contained tables and maps drawn by himself of the then known world, based on descriptions by Diogenes Laertius. In his book Enumeration of the mountains of Greece, Dicaearchus writes down the height of all the mountains of Peloponnesus that he measured using diopters. Among his greatest works was Life of Greece, a book which provided descriptions on the lives of Greeks from the very ancient times to the times of Alexander the Great. The book also contained descriptions on the culture, religion, lifestyle, theatres and music of the Greeks, as well as political aspects, topography and the city-states of the Greek world. He was one of the first to compile a treatise on geodesy.

Other works of Dicaearchus include philosophical dialogues such as Lesviakos and Politiakos, political treatises such as Tripolitikos (Three City Dialogue), a work where democracy, aristocracy and monarchy are compared between them, biographies of Pythagoras, Plato, Alcaeus and the 7 Sages, On Musical Games, Hypothesis on the Myths of Sophocles and Euripides and several books on ethics. As a scientist, Dicaearchus studied the effects of the sun on the ocean waves and attempted to measure the distance between Gibraltar and ancient Messene. In addition, he attempted to measure the length of the Earth’s equator.

Dicaearchus, even though one of the most prolific philosophers of antiquity with an exquisitely rich bibliography, remains one of Greece’s lesser known geniuses due to most of his work having been lost. Had his work been preserved, many parts of the ancient Greek culture which remain unknown today would have been revealed.

Bibliography:

  1. “Dicaearchus”. Helios New Encyclopaedic Dictionary. N.I. Luvaris, Passas, I. Athens: 1946. Print.
  2. Georgakopoulos, Konstantinos. Ancient Greek Scientists. Georgiades: Athens, 1996. Print.
  3. Φιλίστωρ, Ιωάννης. Δικαίαρχος: Ἐνας αρχαίος Μεσσήνιος φιλόσοφος και γεωγράφος. Θέματα Ελληνικής Ιστορίας. Istorikathemata.com. November 4, 2013. Web. December 5, 2018.
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Dicaearchus

George Seferis

seferis

Poet (1900 – 1971)

George Seferis was a poet, translator and diplomat, widely regarded as one of the greatest men of letters in modern Greek history. As the main representative of the “Generation of the 30’s”, a group of writers who made their debuts in the letters in the 30’s, Seferis dominated the world of literature and poetry at his time, becoming a figure of international influence. He was the first Greek to be awarded the Nobel Prize.

He was born in Smyrna. He studied in Athens and in Paris, where he obtained a degree in law. Upon his return to Athens, he was admitted in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. This was the start of a long and successful career in diplomacy. Throughout his career, he held important posts, most notably Royal Ambassador to the United Kingdom.

Seferis’ first major work published was Strophe (Turning Point) in 1931, which indeed would mark a turning point not just in the author’s life but also on the world of modern literature. The interest that was sparked by the poem helped establish young Seferis as an important and promising poet, thus gaining acceptance from the higher echelons of literature, in spite of some inadvertent controversies from certain circles.

Seferis’ poetry inaugurated a new era of literature in Greece. 1935 marked an important year in Seferis’ life, with the publication of his work Mythistorema, a collection of 24 short poems alluding to works and myths of the grandfather of world literature, Homer. Indeed, Seferis’ mature poetry draws inspiration from Greece’s ancient past and it is through his poetry that the ancient Greek miracle translates into the present world.

Beginning from the 50’s Seferis’ work was translated and published abroad, further boosting his fame worldwide. He wrote essays, though fewer in number than his poems, as well as compiled translations, most importantly the works of T.S. Elliot. By 163, George Seferis had been recognized as the “representative Hellenic poet”, with his monumental poetry being a product of the ancient Greek thought and spirit.

He died in 1971 during the junta and his funeral became a national outcry against the regime in Greece. He was one of the few poets to enjoy recognition while he was still alive. Throughout his life, he received several honorary doctorates from international universities, was elected Honorary Fellow of the Modern Language Association as well as Honorary Foreign Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 1963, the Swedish Academy awarded him with the Nobel Prize of Literature “for his eminent lyrical writing, inspired by a deep feeling for the Hellenic world of culture”.

Bibliography:

  1. George Seferis. Poetry Foundation. www.poetryfoundation.org. November 27, 2018. Web.
  2. Giorgos Seferis – Biographical. NobelPrize.org. Nobel Media AB 2018. Tue. 27 Nov 2018.
  3.  Γιώργος Σεφέρης. Σαν σήμερα. Sansimera.gr. Web. Retrieved November 27, 2018.
George Seferis

Nicephorus Gregoras

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Philosopher, Theologist, Mathematician, Astronomer, Rhetorician, Writer, Historian, Statesman (c.1295 – 1360?)

Nicephorus Gregoras, a polyhistor with special declension towards philosophy, was one of the most significant figures in the world of letters of the Byzantine Empire’s 1100 years of existence. A polymath whose work covers an extraordinarily large spectrum of fields, he is most well known for his work Roman History, a vast collection of books concerned with the history of the Byzantine Empire.

His descent was from Pontus. At the age of 20, he studied in Constantinople under the supervision of John Glycys (“the Sweet”). He became a disciple of Theodore Metochites, the Grand Logothetes of the Byzantine Empire (roughly equivalent to today’s Prime Minister), who initiated him to the science of astronomy. Gregoras was to become the spiritual successor of Metochites and wielder of his wisdom. Metochites’ library in the Monastery of Chora, which Gregoras inherited, became one of the richest libraries in the whole Empire.

He was involved in the Hesychast controversy, unwillingly becoming the leader of the Anti-hesychast movement, which, nevertheless, did not influence his work. He founded the Didascaleion, a school with the aim of preserving Hellenism and its Tetractys: Arithmetics, Geometry, Music and Astronomy. Other subjects, such as philosophy, rhetoric and physics were also taught by Gregoras himself. His school attracted numerous students and became highly successful, placing Gregoras among the most illustrious and erudite sages of his era.

As a homo universalis, Nicephorus Gregoras was a prolific writer. By far, his most recognizable work, his magnum opus is the Roman History. It comprises 37 tomes spanning the history of the Byzantine Empire from the conquest of Constantinople by the Latins in 1204 until 1358. The book covers historically significant events such as civil wars, the life and work of the Byzantine Emperors, the conflicts of the Empire as well as its enemies and its policies. The book is widely praised for Gregoras’ critical thinking as well as ability to judge the significance of certain events and their impact in the future. It has been extensively studied and translated in several languages.

Other than history, Gregoras wrote books on philosophy, theology, grammar and orthography, hagiology, commentaries and poetry. Of great historical importance is his enormous collection of 159 epistles to notable historical figures of his time. Furthermore, he was involved with the sciences. He attempted to complete Ptolemy’s Harmonica on music, which was left incomplete, wrote books on solar eclipses and on the construction of astrolabes, treatises on mathematics as well as commentaries on the works of Nicomachus.

Gregoras’ exact year of death is uncertain. Nevertheless, the Byzantine Empire lost one of its most spiritually cultivated men whose work remains unparalleled. Lover of the ancient Greek writers with profound knowledge on both Platonic and Aristotelian philosophy, Gregoras’ deep faith in Christianity never came into conflict with his love of Hellenism, which he struggled to preserve and pass on to humanity.

Bibliography:

  1. Σκλαβενίτη, Άννα. Συμβολή στὴ Μελέτη των Επιστολών του Νικηφόρου Γρηγορά. Διδακτορική Διατριβή Τμήματος Φιλολογίας Πανεπιστημίου Ιωαννίνων, Ιωάννινα, 2014. olympias.lib.uoi.gr. Web.
  2. Νικηφόρος Γρηγοράς Η Ζωή του. Ikee.lib.auth.gr. Web.
Nicephorus Gregoras

Markos Vamvakaris

μαρκος

Musician (1905 – 1972)

Markos Vamvakaris was a famous bouzouki player and pioneer of the rebetiko style, regarded as one of the founding fathers of the rebetiko music. With a career spanning over 50 years and collection of over 200 songs, Vamvakaris became Greece’s most recognizable voice in the music industry of his time.

He was born in the island of Syros as the first of a family of six children. He did not graduate from school but instead, at the age of 12 he went to Piraeus where he worked various jobs to earn a living, namely as a butcher, coal-worker, paper boy, shoe-polisher and greengrocer before being captivated by music, being played in the taverns where he hanged out. He decided to become a musician, namely the greatest autodidact bouzouki player in the world.

He started writing his own songs as soon as he was discharged from the military and by 1933 he had written over 50 songs, which he recorded on disk under the company Odeon. These were the very first disks on rebetiko music ever published in Greece. As Vamvakaris’ name started becoming a household, he formed a music band together with 3 of his friends called The Famous Tetrad of Piraeus, which performed their songs.

1935 was the year Vamvakaris wrote his most famous song Frankosyriani, a classic love song that would solidify his dominant position in the world of music. During World War II, he composed songs to stimulate the soldiers’ esteem and inspire patriotism. He later held concerts all over Greece, touring in Thessaloniki, Trikala and Larisa multiple times. His discs were highly sought and garnered enormous success.

Vamvakaris continued to be a prolific songwriter and performer with a massive audience until 1954 when he stopped playing the bouzouki due to health problems. When he attempted to make a comeback a few years later, his music was considered outdated and he was disregarded by the music industry. This changed in the 60’s when fellow bouzouki player Vasilis Tsitsanis published a collection of Vamvakaris’ songs sung by him and numerous other acclaimed singers. This re-established Vamvakaris’ fame and allowed him to continue his career. From that point onward, he attended multiple concerts and worked with famous music talents such as Grigoris Bithikotsis.

Markos Vamvakaris, the Patriarch of Rebetiko as he came to be known passed to eternity in 1972, becoming a musical legend, leaving behind him a musical legacy unparalleled by any other rebetiko musician. He remained loyal to the music he served, choosing not to blend with politics of any sort and to leave his name unstained. Greece honours him today in several ways, namely with post stamps and with his own museum, while his songs continue to be published in disks.

Bibliography:

  1. Μάρκος Βαμβακάρης. Σαν σήμερα. Sansimera.gr. Web. Retrieved November 3, 2018.
  2. The Patriarch of the rebetiko song. Ellines.com. Web. Retrieved November 3, 2018.
Markos Vamvakaris

Timocharis

Astronomer, Philosopher, Geographer (c.320 BC – c.260 BC)

Timocharis of Alexandria was the first astronomer verified in history to have recorded the position of some of the basic stars known today after having calculated their distance from certain points in the sky using mathematical scientific approach.

He lived during the reign of King Ptolemy I Soter and was a colleague of Aristyllus, a notable astronomer of his time. Together, they are credited as the first astronomers to have compiled an astronomic catalogue of the celestial bodies. Their work, although most of it lost, was used by pioneers in the field of astronomy such as Ptolemy and Hipparchus to compile the most extensively accurate star catalogue of the ancient world. Hipparchus further used Timocharis measurements as a basis for calculating the precession of the equinoxes, one of the greatest astronomical discoveries of mankind.

Timocharis wrote treatises on the lunar eclipses, recorded the exact date and time at night when he observed each star, as well as the lunar occultations at the time of the observation. He is also the first astronomer to use the Callippic calendar for his observations. Furthermore, he was the first to calculate the position of 12 fixed stars in the sky, with 6 more by Aristyllus as well as the positions of planet Venus. These calculations are considered accurate to this day.

As having created the very first star catalogue in world history, Timocharis was highly looked upon, as evident by Ptolemy and Hipparchus, who further continued his work, Hipparchus completing and perfecting it. It is unfortunate that almost the entirety of his work as been destroyed, with excerpt preserved by the two aforementioned astronomers in their works, in token of their admiration to Timocharis. Today, a crater on the Moon is named after him.

Bibliography:

  1. Georgakopoulos, Konstantinos. Ancient Greek Scientists. Georgiades: Athens, 1996. Print.
  2. Timocharis.” Complete Dictionary of Scientific Biography. Encyclopedia.com. 31 Oct.2018 <https://www.encyclopedia.com>.
Timocharis

Bucephalus

bucephalus

War horse (356 BC – 326 BC)

No other animal in world history has ever had the distinction Bucephalus had of sharing part of his rider’s eternal glory and subsequently being immortalized in the world of myth. As the most loyal companion of Alexander the Great in battle, Bucephalus accompanied him throughout the entirety of the campaign to Asia, being present in every major battle. He is widely regarded as the greatest and most glorious horse in history.

The story of how Bucephalus and Alexander met is recalled by Plutarch. In 346 BC, Philip II, Alexander’s father, was in Pharsala, Thessaly when he was offered Bucephalus as a horse for 13 talants. Unlike any other horse, he was wild and untamable, causing Philip to decline. Alexander, then aged 13 accepted his father’s challenge that if he tamed him, he would pay for the horse. Alexander, seeing that the horse was afraid and running away from its own shadow, turned him towards the sun, took the reins on his hands and mounted him amidst an awe-struck crowd. To his amazement, Philip told Alexander “O my son, look thee out a kingdom equal to and worthy of thyself”. Alexander named him Bucephalus, meaning having the head of a bull. From that point onward, the two became inseparable companions in war.

Bucephalus accompanied Alexander throughout the entire campaign to Asia and fought in every battle together with him, from the conquests of the Greek city-states to the battles of Gaugamela, Issus and Aornos Rock. He saved Alexander’s life countless times in battle, most notably from drowning when Alexander and his army were crossing Granicus river. Bucephalus’ final battle was the Battle of Hydaspes. He died from injuries after the battle according to some historians, while others state that he died of old age from natural causes. He was 30 years old. In his honour, Alexander built the city Bucephalia, named after Bucephalus, which is situated in modern-day Pakistan. Coins were minted which bore his head and his name, in his memory.

As did Alexander after his death, Bucephalus was immortalized, serving as a source of inspiration to many writers and artists. He is depicted on the now famous Alexander Mosaic with Alexander battling against Darius and is the subject of numerous paintings illustrating his taming by Alexander, among them those of Benjamin Robert Haydon, Nikos Eggonopoulos and Andre Castaigne. Alexander and Bucephalus’ exemplary friendship is beautifully portrayed by Giambattista Tiepolo’s painting Alexander and Bucephalus while Bucephalus’ bravery is immortalized in Charles le Brun’s painting The Passage of the Granicus. Other than paintings, Bucephalus is commemorated as a statue in Edinburg and has been listed in multiple catalogues as the most famous and heroic animal companion in history. As his rider, Bucephalus passed to the world of legend, becoming a mythical hero equal to the horses of Achilles.

Bibliography:

  1. Hola, Camila. Bucephalus: the horse that conquered the world, with his most faithful friend Alexander Magnus. Zombieresident. Zombieresident.wordpress.com. July 25, 2017. Web. October 26, 2018.
  2. Manistakis, I.S. “Bucephalus”. Helios New Encyclopaedic Dictionary. Passas, I. Athens:1946. Print.
  3. Wasson, Donald L. “Bucephalus.” Ancient History Encyclopedia. Ancient History Encyclopedia, 06 Oct 2011. Web. 26 Oct 2018.
  4. Σαατσόγλου-Παλιαδέλη, Χρυσούλα. Ο Βουκεφάλας του Αλεξάνδρου. Ελλήνων Δίκτυο. www.hellinon.net. October 26, 2018. Web.
Bucephalus

Aristotelis Valaoritis

valaoritis

Poet, Statesman (1824 – 1879)

A poet and statesman, Aristotelis Valaoritis was one of the chief representatives of the Heptanese School with profound influence on the modern Greek literature. His works are themed after the heroic struggles of the Greek War of Independence, hence the title “Poet of the Klephts”. He is regarded as one of the most significant poets of the post-Greek War of Independence era, together with Dionysios Solomos and Andreas Kalvos. Aristotelis Valaoritis is the great-grandfather of internationally acclaimed writer Nanos Valaoritis.

He descended from a wealthy family from Leucas, which allowed him to study to the most prestigious universities in Europe, including Geneva, Pisa and Paris. He was imbued by the liberal movements of Europe, which further boosted his patriot esteem. He pursued a career in politics, being elected member of the Parliament of the Ionian Islands as well as member of the Parliament of Athens. He declined the position of president of the Ethnosyneleusis and Minister of Exterior since his statesmanship was there to serve the people and not his ego.

Valaoritis was a patriot-poet, whose works clearly commemorate the acts of valor of the Greeks. As the bard of the harmatoles, he glorified and immortalized all the heroes of the Greek War of Independence with his poems, as did Homer with Achilles, Agamemnon and all of the heroes of the Iliad. Valaoritis’ lines are an ode to Greece’s struggle for freedom. He expressed a strong opposition against any foreign or domestic form of imposition to Greece, from the Ottomans to the Bavarians and lamented the state Greece was in at the time, which was very similar to today’s. He became the strongest voice against Greece’s xenomania. Through his poems and his public speeches, Valaoritis called for a renaissance of the democratic values of freedom.

Aristotelis Valaoritis was an ideologist both in literature and in politics, in theory and in practice. He stood out as the poet who stimulated the nation’s pride and raised its esteem. Together with other important representatives of patriotic poetry, Valaoritis nourished what would later become a national patriotic uprising. He was a very strong proponent of the unification of the Heptanese with Greece, something which he struggled for as a statesman, earning him the title Bridge maker.

Bibliography:

  1. Σαν σήμερα «φεύγει» ο Μεγαλοϊδεάτης, Αριστοτέλης Βαλαωρίτης. Εθνικισμός.net. ethnikismos.net. July 2018. Web.
  2. Γιώτη, Αγγέλα. Αριστοτέλης Βαλαωρίτης. Ψηφίδες. Greek-language.gr. Web.
Aristotelis Valaoritis