Dimitrios Plapoutas

Dimitrios_Plapoutas

Hero of the Greek War of Independence (1786 – 1864)

Dimitrios Plapoutas was a general of the Greek army who fought in the Greek War of Independence of 1821. One of the greatest and most heroic figures of the war, Plapoutas’ deeds and bravery are often overshadowed by those of Theodoros Kolokotronis, with whom they fought side by side in almost every battle. He played a decisive role in numerous battles, most notably in the Battle of Valtetsi as well as during the civil war against Ibrahim.

Plapoutas was from a family of heroes with a military background. He was employed by the Ottoman army as a kapos (commander) in Karytena. He had also served the English army in Zakynthos prior to the start of the Greek War of Independence.

A flaming patriot, he was initiated in the Society of Friends (Philiki Hetaereia). Together with his father and brothers in 1821, Plapoutas hoisted the Greek flag of independence in Gortynia and gathered an army of 800 warriors. From that point onward, Plapoutas never stopped fighting, partaking actively in numerous major battles of the Greek War of Independence.

Plapoutas fought in the victorious Battle of Valtetsi in 1821, together with Theodoros Kolokotronis, Nikitaras, Mitropetrovas and Anagnostaras. The same year he fought in the Battle of St. Vlasios of Tripolitsa and the Battle of Tripolitsa, in which the Ottoman forces were decimated. He participated in almost every battle of Peloponnesus together with Kolokotronis’ son Ioannis Kolokotronis. He was the first to face Dramali outside of Argos in 1822 with his army, during the latter’s expedition in Peloponnesus. Of course, Plapoutas could not have been absent from the most important battle of the Greek War of Independence, the Battle of Dervenakia, where together with all the major generals of the war he granted one more victory to the Greeks and halted Dramali’s descent to southern Greece.

During the Civil War, Plapoutas and Kolokotronis’ affiliations were temporarily compromised. Nevertheless, with Ibrahim’s arrival in Greece in 1825 on the side of the Ottoman Empire, Plapoutas and Kolokotronis rejoined forces and took out Ibrahim’s forces in many subsequent battles.

After Greece’s independence, Plapoutas served John Kapodistrias loyally and occupied several political positions. Following Kapodistrias’ assassination, Plapoutas, alongside Kolokotronis were charged with conspiring against King Otto, imprisoned and sentenced to death, only to be made innocent by two judges Georgios Tertsetis and Anastasios Polyzoidis. He later became general, member of the Parliament and aide-de-camp of King Otto.

Plapoutas is remembered today for his glorious victories, philopolemic attitude and insuperable courage. He was one of Kolokotronis’ most worthy warriors and his participation in the struggle for freedom was crucial and influential. He possessed a rare charisma in battle and an ethos rivaled only by a few.

Bibliography:

  1. Πλαπούτας Δημήτριος ή Κολιόπουλος (1786-1864). Αργολική Αρχειακή Βιβλιοθήκη Ιστορίας και Πολιτισμού. www.argolikivivliothiki.gr. March 12, 2009. Web.
  2. Δημήτρης (Δημητράκης) Πλαπούτας: Ο ακούραστος κλέφτης αγωνιστής.  Arcadiaportal.gr. December 20, 2014. Web.
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Dimitrios Plapoutas

Draco

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Lawmaker (c.650 BC – c.600 BC)

Draco was the lawgiver of Athens, the first statesman who wrote down the laws of the city since the mythological era when Thesaeus reigned as king of Athens. He was a political reformer who changed the political system of Athens, implementing laws which were very strict at the time. Revered by many, Draco was considered a very important statesman in the history of Athens and is now among the greatest lawgivers of antiquity, alongside Solon and Lycurgus.

Before Draco, Athens’ laws were not written anywhere. Even though they existed, they were not available to the public hence citizens could not refer to them anywhere. Athens had been experiencing a period of long political decline, social instability and a crisis of values. It was around 621 BC when Draco was assigned to write down the laws of Athens so that they become available to the public. In addition, Draco passed down significant reforms of the law, implementing changes in criminal law and private law.

Draco’s laws were originally written on wooden tablets before being chiseled on stone slabs and placed in public view. They were said to have been written with human blood. Even though most of his laws are not known, Draco’s legislature was extremely strict, punishing even the simplest of crimes, such as theft being punished with death. His most well-known was the law of homicide, which was the only one kept by Solon when he succeeded Draco as lawgiver of Athens. Among some of Draco’s laws were the implementation of the Ecclesia of the people, the passing down of political rights to all men who could be mobilized for war, the reduction of the jurisdiction of the Areios Pagos, the court of Athens concerning the preservation of laws and the ability of citizens to report the decisions of the Areios Pagos as unfair.

In spite of their severity, Draco’s laws made every citizen of Athens equal before the law, regardless of their wealth or status. He succeeded in stabilizing Athens’ political and social condition for almost half a century and highlighted the importance of discipline, which was eclipsing from the Athenian society. His laws combated crime and imposed order to an astounding degree. As a predecessor of Solon, Draco contributed significantly to the re-establishment of democracy in Athens and while his laws may have only lasted for almost half a century, they were necessary for putting Athens back on its former track.

Bibliography:

  1. “Dracon”. Helios New Encyclopaedia of the Sun. Passas, I. Athens: 1946. Print.
  2. Ο Νομοθέτης Δράκων. Αρχαίων Τόπος. Theancientwebgreece.wordpress.com. November 16, 2017. Web
  3. Dhwty. The brutal Draconian laws of ancient Greece. Ancient Origins. Ancient-origins.net. November 20, 2014. Web.
Draco

Ctesibius

Mathematician, Engineer, Inventor (285 BC – 222 BC)

Ctesibius was a mathematician and engineer, founder of the Polytechnic School of Mathematics and Engineering of Alexandria. Together with Philon of Byzantium and Heron of Alexandria, he is one of the initiators of the automata as well as one of the greatest inventors of antiquity together with Archimedes.

Ctesibius worked in Alexandria during the Hellenistic era, when it was ruled by the Ptolemy dynasty. Alexandria was humanity’s greatest spiritual center at the time, which attracted scholars, mathematicians, artists, astronomers from all over the Greek world. Great minds such as Aristarchus, Conon, Apollonius of Rhodes, Apollonius of Perga, Hipparchus and Philon of Byzantium acted there. Ctesibius was part of this group of scientists who comprised the Museum of Alexandria, right next to the famous Library of Alexandria. Though not proven, Ctesibius is thought to have been the first headmaster of the Museum.

He is considered as one of the founding fathers of the automatic machines, as well as the Father of Pneumatics, the science that uses compressed air for operating machines. Ctesibius wrote the very first treatise on pneumatics and their application in pumps, but unfortunately none of his writings survive, although they are mentioned by numerous scientists such as Vitruvius, Athenaeus, Heron of Alexandria and Proclus. His writings include Pneumatica, Hypomnemata Mechanica, Velopoeetica and Memoirs.

The machines he invented were numerous. They ranged from water pumps, cranes and weapons to automatic machines, clocks and musical instruments. Below are listed some of his most notable inventions:

  • The Hydraulic Clock, a marvelous automation that could operate continuously without human intervention. The machine operated with a series of containers one on top of the other, filled with water, a float and a statuette holding a pointer, which could show the exact hour and date on a rotating drum that contained a trace of hours of day and night.
  • The Musical Mirror, a mirror that could be adjusted in height, produced music through mechanism of a closed vertical tube inside of which were musical pipes. The movement of the weight caused pressure to increase within the pipes thus producing the desired notes. It was used in his father’s barber shop.
  • The piston force pump was a double suction force piston pump used for fluids. It was also known as siphon. It operated with the help of pivoted levers, handles, two vertical cylindrical containers and valves. The device is still used extensively to this day by firefighters, albeit in different forms.
  • The Hydraulis, constructed during the 3rd century BC was the very first keyboard instrument ever created. It used water and compressed air, the latter delivered through a series of pipes that produced music, depending on the 24 keys pressed on the keyboard. The Hydraulis is the forerunner of the church pipe organ used today. A contemporary replica of the Hydraulis survives to this day.
  • Cranes that could lift very heavy objects; worked using a system of compressed water.
  • Cannons that operated with compressed air and hydraulic catapults.
  • Automations for entertainment, such as a singing cornucopia and a statue that stood up and sat down continuously using a cam-operated mechanism. Although a simple act, the statue produced a lot of excitement, at a time when the power of the toothed gear was being researched.

Ctesibius’ works deeply influenced the Romans and the scientists of the Renaissance. Modern day scholars have estimated that Ctesibius and the Greeks of his era were 100 years away from inventing the steam engine. Had this occurred, the Industrial Revolution would have begun almost 2000 years ago in Greece, instead of the 18th century. Today, Ctesibius’ inventions have been recreated and most of them still in use.

Bibliography:

    1. Ctesibius of Alexandria. History-computer.com. Web.
    2. Georgakopoulos, Konstantinos. Ancient Greek Scientists. Georgiades: Athens, 1996. Print.
    3. Kotsanas, Kostas. Ancient Greek Technology The Inventions of the ancient Greeks. Kostas Kotsanas: Pyrgos, 2013. Print.
    4. Πώς οι αρχαίοι Έλληνες μηχανικοί έφθασαν ένα βήμα πριν από την ατμοκίνηση, χιλιάδες χρόνια πριν από την Βιομηχανική επανάσταση και την εφεύρεση της ατμοκίνητης αντλίας το 1776. Κτησίβιος, Φίλωνας και Ήρωνας ήταν οι κορυφαίοι εφευρέτες. Μηχανή του Χρόνου. Mixanitouxronou.gr. Web.

 

Ctesibius

Proclus

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Philosopher, Mathematician, Astronomer, Scholar (410 – 485)

Proclus was the most eminent Neoplatonic philosopher, polymath scientist and theologist of late antiquity, who exerted enormous influence on Platonic philosophy and its preservation throughout the medieval times. He was the last and greatest representative of the Ancient Greek thought before its downfall, in an era where the Hellenic flame was dwindling, and the Western World was welcoming Christianity as the new religion. His works, mainly commentaries on Plato’s treatises, left a lasting impression in the Western thought and contributed significantly to the revival of the human soul.

Proclus was born in Constantinople. He studied Aristotelian philosophy and mathematics in Alexandria and continued his studies in Athens. In the Academy of Athens, Proclus was initiated into the mystery schools of the Platonic philosophy by Syrianus, the headmaster of the Academy, whom Proclus succeeded, earning the name Proclus the Successor. Proclus served as headmaster of the Academy of Athens for 50 years. Isidore of Miletus and Anthemius of Tralles, the architects of Hagia Sophia were both his students.

Proclus’ philosophical work marks the epilogue of the Hellenic spirit. He wrote many treatises, but he is most well known for his commentaries, primarily on Plato’s works. Proclus perfected Neoplatonism by providing invaluable exegeses not only of Plato’s works, but also those of Orpheus, Aristotle and Euclid. As far as concerning philosophy, Proclus did not write anything original, rather, through Greek Meditation (Ελληνικός Διαλογισμός) he compiled analyses of exceptional depth and wisdom. His commentaries on Plato’s Timaeus, which he wrote at the age of 28, Parmenides, Cratylus, Alcibiades, Republic, while even more difficult to understand than Plato’s treatises, are undoubtedly the works of a visionary, whose meaning can only be understood through Greek Meditation.

His works on mathematics, physics and astronomy include insightful commentaries on the systems of Hipparchus, Aristarchus and Ptolemy, commentaries on Aristotle’s physics, Euclid’s and Geminus’ geometry, as well as Hesiod’s theogony. He describes a method of measuring the Sun’s diameter, proves geometric theorems of his times, and preserves the treatises of mathematicians which otherwise would not have survived to this day. In addition, Proclus wrote poems, hymns and theological works, most notably Elements of Theology.

Even though he did not oppose Christianity, Proclus attempted to protect what was left of the Hellenic spirit, refine it and give it the glorious spot it once had in history. His efforts were hindered by Christianity and Proclus was forced to exile in Asia Minor. With the final blow coming in 528 by Emperor Justinian, the Academy of Athens was closed and the philosophers persecuted, thus putting an end to Proclus’ dream.

Proclus’ corpus was studied extensively during the Renaissance, when Neoplatonic philosophy underwent an upsurge and, subsequently, a revival. Philosophers such as Michael Psellos, Pletho, Bessarion, Marsilio Ficino, Thomas Aquinas and Hegel were deeply inspired by Proclus’ works, as were more contemporary philosophers Thomas Taylor and Ralph Waldo Emerson. According to Hegel, the ideas of Neoplatonists and specially the philosophy of Proclus were long maintained and preserved in the Church.

Proclus’ mastery of the Platonic philosophy renders him an eternal interpreter of Greek philosophy, which Pythagoras, Socrates, Plato and all their predecessors brought down from the divine plane. Without Proclus, Platonic philosophy would have remained obscure.

Bibliography:

  1. Georgakopoulos, Konstantinos. Ancient Greek Scientists. Georgiades: Athens, 1996. Print.
  2. Helmig, Christoph and Steel, Carlos, “Proclus”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2015 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = <https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/sum2015/entries/proclus/&gt;.
  3. Pleures, Konstantinos. Greek Philosophers. Hilektron Publications: Athens, 2013. Print.
  4. “Proclus”. Helios New Encyclopaedic Disctionary. Passas, I. Athens, 1925. Print.
  5. Sakellariou, Georgios. Πυθαγόρας Ο Διδάσκαλος των Λαών. Ideotheatron Publications. Athens, 1963. Print.
Proclus

Spyros Louis

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Golden Olympian of the 1st modern Olympic Games (1873 – 1940)

Spyros Louis was a water carrier-turned national hero, who won 1st place in the marathon of the 1st modern Olympic Games of 1896 in Athens. His victory granted Greece glory reminiscent to that of the ancient Olympic Games.

Louis was born to a poor family in Marousi, a then suburb of Athens. He helped his father carry water across the village on foot. He was also illiterate and had failed the same class twice. Nevertheless, he made up for his mischief with his incredible speed and stamina, which were evident from a young age.

Louis joined the Greek team of the Olympics at the last moment, upon the incitement of Major Papadiamantopoulos, a judge at the marathon who also happened to be Louis’ commander in the army and who was knowledgeable of Louis’ capabilities. He participated in the marathon event, which was 40 kilometers in length, starting from Marathon and ending in the Panathenaic Stadium in Athens.

In spite of the high expectations of the public, Louis’ victory seemed improbable. Having joined without any prior training or preparation, Louis’ results in the qualifying games were disappointing, having finished 5th in the second preliminary races. Louis wore a foustanella and tsarouchia, which were unconventional for running.

The participants included 4 foreign athletes, 12 Greeks and the water carrier Spyros Louis. The French Albin Lermusiaux, who had previously won 3rd place in the 1500 meters, led the race early on. At the 32nd km, however, Lermusiaux collapsed from exhaustion and Australian Edwin Flack took the lead. Soon after, Flack, who was not accustomed to such long distances, was surpassed by Louis. The Greek entered the stadium triumphantly, where 50.000 overwhelmed spectators apotheosized him, throwing flowers and yelling his name. Louis completed the race in 2 hours and 58 minutes.

Louis received a myriad of gifts, from jewelry to a lifelong free shave at the barber’s shop. In the end, Louis got only two things he desired: a carriage to help him carry water and the hand of his beloved one, for whom he had run in the marathon.

Spyros Louis never ran again in any other athletic event, choosing instead to live a peaceful life in his village with his family, working as a water carrier, a gardener and a local police officer. He made frequent public appearances whenever he was invited to athletic events. His last public appearance was in the Olympic Games of Berlin in 1936, where he was invited by Adolf Hitler, himself an admirer of Spyros Louis. Hitler received an olive branch from Louis, a symbol of peace.

Spyros Louis remained a humble man until the end of his life in 1940, where he died in complete poverty, a few months before the Italian invasion. He gained eternal glory for being Greece’s first Olympian after 1500 years. His name has become part of a phrase in the Greek language «Γίνομαι Λούης» (To become Louis), meaning to disappear from site by running very fast.

Bibliography:

  • «Ο Σπύρος Λούης έτρεξε στους Ολυμπιακούς του 1896 για τα μάτια της ωραίας Ελένης από το Μαρούσι. Πως ο φτωχός νερουλάς μπήκε την τελευταία στιγμή στη λίστα των αθλητών και κέρδισε το χρυσό…». Μηχανή του Χρόνου. Mixanitouxronou.gr. Web. May 16, 2018.
  • Σπύρος Λούης 1873 – 1940. σαν σήμερα. Sansimera.gr. Web. May 16, 2018.
  •  Spyros Louis, the first Marathon race winner of the Modern Olympic Games, 1896. Rare Historical Photos. Rarehistoricalphotos.com. Web. May 16, 2018.
Spyros Louis

Hippalus the Governor

Geographer, Explorer (2nd century BC – 1st century BC)

Hippalus was a navigator, cartographer, geographer and meteorologist who lived in the 2nd and 1st century BC. He is mostly known for his voyages in Arabia and India, as well as being a pioneer in meteorology. His travels greatly helped the Roman Empire expand its trade to the Eastern world. While he is mentioned in Ptolemy, Strabo and Pliny’s works, Hippalus’ position in history is not fully appreciated.

Hippalus travelled from Greece to Egypt and from there to India. As a meteorologist he made numerous important discoveries. The most significant one was the existence of the monsoons, periodic winds that blew in the Indian Ocean, which changed direction from north to south one half of the year and south to north the other half. These winds are termed Hippalian winds. Hippalus was the first to utilize these winds to cross the Indian Ocean on open sea, instead of next to the shore, as was typically done by sailors. Thus, his journey was much shorter in duration.

Soon after his discovery, ships started implementing the use of the monsoons as Hippalus had done, thus creating a new trading route between India and the Roman Empire. This secured a faster and safer route for the ships, free of pirates.

As a cartographer he drew maps of the shores of the Red Sea, as well as its ports. In the book Periplous of the Erythraean Sea, he is described as the first man who discovered the route from the Red Sea to the Indian peninsula via the Indian Ocean. He wrote books, none of which survives today.

His influence in the Romans and Greeks is evident from the fact that Ptolemy, one of the greatest astronomers of antiquity named the Indian Ocean Hippalian Sea in his writings. Today, a crater on the moon bares his name.

Bibliography:

Georgakopoulos, Konstantinos. Ancient Greek Scientists. Georgiades: Athens, 1996. Print.

Hippalus the Governor

Parmenides

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Philosopher (c.540 BC – c.470 BC)

Parmenides was a Pre-Socratic philosopher from Elea. He is called the Father of Metaphysics, because he was the first who spoke about the nature of existence. Considered as one of the most influential figures in the history of philosophy, Parmenides set the principles of ontology for future Greek and international philosophers.

Initially involved with politics, Parmenides made laws for his country, until resigning to focus on philosophy. We do not know how many books Parmenides wrote, but by far his most complete one is On Nature. It is a poem, of which only fragments survive, divided into 3 parts: The first part, also named Poem describes a man’s spiritual inner journey in search of enlightenment. In the second part named Alethia (Reality), Parmenides deals with all that is real. The third and final chapter named Doxa (Opinion) deals with the erroneous ideas of man and is presented as an antithesis to the second part of the poem.

A basic concept of Parmenides’ philosophy is the being. The being, according to the philosopher, has neither beginning nor end, possesses inseparable completeness, is immovable, inalterable and indivisible. Furthermore, the being is eternal and as such, past, present and future overlap. Similarly to Heraclitus, Parmenides distrusted the senses, stating that while these change, the being does not. For him, the only reality that exists is the one we can perceive with our intellect. Reality is made of one substance, the same substance from which it came, and we, who inhabit this world, share the same substance.

Understanding Parmenides’ highly complex philosophy has proven to be a very difficult task, leaving modern thinkers and scholars perplexed as to how to interpret his theories. The enigmatic nature of his incomprehensible treatise also challenged the Pre-Socratics, few of whom understood what Parmenides really meant. His influence on his successors was, nevertheless, significant and included Melissus of Samos, Zenon of Elea and Plato, who is said to have revered him for the depth of his thought. Plato also wrote a treatise after him. The concept that intellect identifies existence was later picked up by Descartes, who said “I think, therefore I am”.

Bibliography:

  1. DeLong, Jeremy C. Parmenides of Elea. Internet Encyclopaedia of Philosophy. Iep.utm.edu. Web. Retrieved on April 29, 2018.
  2. Mark, Joshua J. “Parmenides.” Ancient History Encyclopedia. Ancient History Encyclopedia, 28 Apr 2011. Web. 30 Apr 2018.
  3. Pleures, Konstantinos. Greek Philosophers. Hilektron Publications: Athens, 2013. Print.
Parmenides