John Lycoudis

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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.

Bibliography:

  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.
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John Lycoudis

Michael VIII Palaiologos

Michael_VIII_Palaiologos_head-598x330

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.

Bibliography

  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

Ρήγας-Βελεστινλής

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”.

Bibliography

  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

Aristotle

aristotle

Philosopher, Mathematician, Physicist, Astronomer, Biologist, Writer, Scholar, Rhetorician, Statesman, Psychologist, Naturalist (384 BC – 322 BC)

Aristotle is one of the most polymath philosophers to have ever come to this world. He has given humanity an immortal consignment, which extends to almost every science and art. He is the founder of the Peripatetic School of Philosophy, which gave birth to Aristotelianism, the philosophy which defines Aristotle. While there have been conflicts throughout the ages between Aristotle’s and Plato’s philosophy, Aristotle does not decline much from Plato’s philosophy. He does not ascend to Plato’s Theory of Ideas, but is most powerful at the level of humanity’s physical field.

He was born in Stagira. At age 17 he went to study philosophy in the Academy of Athens following a pronouncement from the Oracle of Delphi. There he became a student of Plato for almost 20 years. He also took lessons on rhetoric from Isocrates’ school. Following Plato’s death, Aristotle was nominated for successor of the Academy but the position was ultimately taken by Speusippus. Aristotle left for Assos, where he remained for 3 years until he was invited to Mytilene by Theophrastus to work as a teacher. Following an invitation from Philip II of Macedon, Aristotle became a tutor of Alexander the Great for 6 years. He then returned to Athens and founded the Lyceum. It was the start of Aristotelianism.

The Lyceum was founded with the financial aid of Alexander the Great. Aristotle built the first major library of the school, which would become the paradigm of the Library of Alexandria and accumulated important works on natural sciences. The Lyceum was where Aristotle taught his philosophy, which covered a huge spectrum of sciences.

Aristotle was not just a philosopher. He was a scientist, a homo universalis who individualized each science from philosophy and gave it its own standpoint. His attributed works are estimated to have been 400, 142 of which survive. He wrote treatises on philosophy, metaphysics, logic, mathematics, physics, biology, zoology, phytology, politics, ethics, psychology, rhetoric and many more.

According to Aristotle, it is in man’s nature to incline toward knowledge. Science is the main tool by which man achieves knowledge. It differs from art in the sense that science is concerned with knowledge. Its goal is to unveil the unchangeable laws of the universe. Aristotle defined wisdom as the highest perfection of science. It is the knowledge of the primordial causes and principles of the being, the inalterable laws that define the stable nature of the being. To the philosopher, wisdom is achieved when the characteristics of science are raised to their highest possible level. Wisdom (σοφία) is only God’s privilege. If man cannot attain wisdom in its fullness, then he can strive to achieve it by becoming a friend of wisdom, a philosopher (φιλόσοφος). Hence, philosophy is the struggle for wisdom. This struggle equilibrates man with God. Philosophy is man’s ultimate mission and it is in accordance to his nature. It liberates man from his double ignorance. Philosophy, therefore, is only for the free people.

For Aristotle, every science is philosophy. For this reason, he uses the terms science and philosophy interchangeably. Every science and philosophy must be a logos on beings to be worthy of its name. One of his greatest achievements was that he defined how research is conducted to prove a thesis in science. Aristotle’s analysis of the method that sciences use to prove things is the most perfect in scientific thought. For this reason, he is credited as the Father of the methodology of science. He taxonomized sciences into three types: theoretical, practical and poetic. He became the founder of the history of philosophy and the history of sciences as a discipline. Mythology, according to the philosopher himself, is part of philosophy.

Even though Aristotle did not compile detailed studies on mathematics, he was involved in the methodological syntaxis of the mathematical science. In mathematics, he studied the infinite and the continuous function in an innovative way. He also studied astronomy, since it is connected with philosophical cosmogony. His treatise On the Heavens, consisting of 4 books, is an ecthesis of astronomical theories and phenomena. He describes the universe, the planets of the solar system, the shape of the Earth, the stars, geographic and meteorological data, including the theory of chemical change, on comets, meteorites and metals. Some of these were used by Greek Christopher Colombus to travel to the Americas.

Physics, which is the study of nature, was one of Aristotle’s most beloved sciences. Aristotle’s Physics, consisting of 8 books in total, contains his entire works on physics. He dealt with the general method of science and the analytical method of research, provided definitions on nature and a distinction between physics and philosophy. He did extensive research on fundamental notions of kinetics and mechanics such as inertia, the types of movement, circular motion, the relativity of movement, change of matter, dynamic and kinetic energy, time and space relativity, relationship between infinity and the universe, time as a measure, flow of time, on void, matter and laws of gravity. Aristotle also deals with thermodynamics and sets the foundations of modern statistical science. His conclusions are based on mathematical analysis and experiments.

Aristotle is widely acknowledged as the Father of Biology, the one who established biology as a science. He also compiled studies on comparative anatomy, physiology, embryology, zoology and phytology. In his books he mentions over 500 species of animals and devises a system of animal taxonomy. His studies feature remarkable details on the organ function of animals, their movement, their reproduction, their behaviour as well as their inheritance. He studied the phenomena of life and rightly considered that the heart is the center of the soul. It is worth noting that Aristotle founded the first botanical garden in Athens, featuring a myriad of specimens from Europe and Asia, brought to him by Alexander the Great.

One of his greatest works are in the field of metaphysics, so called because they were written after his treatise on physics and nature (Μετὰ τὰ Φυσικά). Metaphysics, of which Aristotle is the founder, is the science of ontology. It did not have the meaning it has today. Aristotle calls his newly established philosophy as the First Philosophy (Πρώτη Φιλοσοφία). Metaphysics or Ontology is the study of ontologic reality, the fundamental principles upon which all sciences are based. It aims to uncover the common characteristics of all beings and to delve into the primordial principles that create the ontologic reality. His 12 books on metaphysics contain a critique on the theory of numbers as well as detailed studies on various topics that today pertain to physics, including energy, movement, matter and heat. Furthermore, it contains mathematical topics on proportionality, symmetry and mathematical axioms.

Aristotle is the most eminent philosopher of ethics, the principle founder of values. In his books Eudemian Ethics, Magna Moralia and Nichomachean Ethics, the latter being his magnum opus as depicted in Raphael’s The School of Athens, the philosopher defines virtue and categorizes it into intellectual and ethical virtues. Ethical virtues concern the emotions and actions of man. They are acquired by means of ethos. They are the mean of the two extreme states that are found on the opposite side, one being excess and the other deficiency. The ethical virtues form a 90 degree angle with both these extreme states. They are twelve in number. Intellectual virtues are acquired by means of learning. They are the virtues of logic and guide man’s emotions and instincts. Aristotle’s theory of ethics, in conjunction with Plato’s works on virtues, is the ultimate guide for achieving a healthful spiritual life.

Aristotle founded yet another philosophical science: Logic, which is one of Aristotle’s greatest contributions to humanity. He was extensively involved in rhetoric, poetry and psychology as well, compiling numerous treatises on the definition and types of souls, psychic characteristics and functions, boulisis and free will. Furthermore, Aristotle expanded significantly epistemology, the branch of philosophy that deals with the validity of science. All of his works are original, innovative and groundbreaking. They are products of Greek Meditation (ΔΙΑ-Λογισμοῦ).

Aristotle remains to this day one of the most prolific and influential philosophers in world history. His massive work evidently shows how much Aristotle was intrigued on issues that concern humanity today. Without his contribution, science would not have existed. International philosophy and scientific nomenclature uses words first defined by Aristotle, such as the word “dynamic” in economics, the words “matter” and “energy” in physics, and the word “continuity” in mathematics. It is impossible to count down all the philosophers that Aristotle has influenced over the millennia. It is worth of mention that Descartes’ quote “I think, therefore I am” is taken directly from Aristotle’s words, who said “When someone has the sensation of himself or someone else’s in continuous time, then it is impossible to not have conscious that he exists”. His ethics are an everlasting inheritance to all mankind. Their goal is for man to attain virtue, which is a prerequisite for a healthy soul. It is thanks to intellectual giants like Aristotle that Greece has held the reins of spiritual leadership of humanity.

Bibliography

  1. Altani. Το Μυστήριον τοῦ Ἀπολλωνίου Φωτός. Georgiades: Athens, 2011. Print.
  2. “Aristotelis”. Helios New Encyclopaedic Dictionary. Passas, I. Athens, 1946. Print.
  3. Georgakopoulos, Konstantinos. Ancient Greek Scientists. Georgiades: Athens, 1995. Print.
  4. Pleures, Konstantinos. Greek Philosophers. Hilektron Publications: Athens, 2013. Print.
  5. Stokes, Philip. Philosophy: 100 Essential Thinkers. Phytrakis: Athens, 2002. Print.
Aristotle

Marinus of Tyre

Geographer, Mathematician (c.70 – c.130)

Marinus of Tyre was the greatest geographer of the 1st century and the founder of mathematical geography. He exerted enormous influence on world geography up until the Renaissance. His work, which unfortunately does not survive on its own, was incorporated into Ptolemy’s Geographia in 150, making Marinus’ works available to the world. He is the inventor of the equirectangular projection, a map projection used in navigation.

He was born in Tyrus and lived in Rhodes. He was also a cartographer and a navigation specialist. He compiled a map with cylindrical projection of the entire known world at the time, with great accuracy, described the northern part of Europe and introduced the concept of meridional parts in navigation. This map was the basis of the Mercatorian projection, usurped by Gerhard Mercator. These projections are used in navigation today.

He was the first to devise a system of navigation maps. He established the Canary Islands as the first meridian for the beginning of the measurement of the geographic longitude of the Earth. He named it the Meridian of the Fortunate Isles. He established the meridian that crossed Gibraltar and Rhodes as the beginning for measuring the geographic latitude. In this way, he created the coordinate system where one could locate his position on the map based on the longitude and latitude. Furthermore, he divided the globe into 15 meridians of time and divided the globe’s latitude into 7 zones.

He was a proponent of the geocentric system and accepted Poseidonius’ estimation of the latitude of Rhodes (32.400 km, while in reality 32.000). He calculated the Earth’s circumference as 33.300 km using a system of oblique triangles which he invented. This system is still used today in navigation. In addition, Marinus formulated the use of biogeographic data. Marinus had a particular interest in meteorology. He was the first to come up with the most scientifically correct theory on air formation and flow. The name Antarctica was coined by him.

Marinus’ works were later collected and summarized by Ptolemy in his book Geographia. Ptolemy’s purpose for doing so was to correct some of Marinus’ mistakes and because his works had almost eclipsed. Ptolemy’s admiration for Marinus is evident from the fact that he uses his works as his guide. The first book of Ptolemy’s Geographia is entirely dedicated to Marinus and includes Marinus’ books Geographia and Correction of Geographic Tables. The book was translated into Arabic in the 9th century and into Latin in 1406. Marinus’ map was used by Greek Christopher Colombus in 1492, redesigned by Paolo Toscanelli, for his travels across the Atlantic in 1492. Sadly, even though his work was the most important one in geography for centuries, this giant teacher of Geography was overshadowed by Ptolemy.

Bibliography

  1. Georgakopoulos, Konstantinos. Ancient Greek Scientists. Georgiades: Athens, 1995. Print.
  2. “Marinos o Tyrios”. Helios Encyclopaedic Dictionary. Passas, I. Athens, 1946. Print.
Marinus of Tyre

Georgakis Olympios

ολυμπιοσ

Hero of the Greek War of Independence (1772 – 1821)

Α passionate patriot and one of the most highly acclaimed heroes of the Greek War of Independence, Georgakis Olympios was Alexander Hypsilantis’ right-hand man during the war operations prior to the start of the Greek War of Independence in 1821. A true lover of freedom, whose sacrifice during the first phases of the war made him a symbol of eternal glory and patriotism in Greek history.

He was born to a family of harmatoles. At the age of 25, Olypmios led a group of harmatoles to Serbia where he joined forces with Karageorgis of Serbia and fought against the Ottomans. In 1803, he met with hegemon of Bucharest Constantine Hypsilantis where he organized a small army of Greeks. Later on, he enlisted in the Russian army. With his numerous successes against the Ottomans, Olympios earned the rank of colonel.

After several failed attempts to defeat the Ottomans in Serbia, Olympios returned to Bucharest and was initiated to the Society of Friends (Philiki Hetaereia) by Alexander Hypsilantis. He swore to fight to the death for the holy war in the name of freedom. In 1820, the Society of Friends planned the outbreak of the Greek War of Independence in Pruth. Alexander Hypsilantis promoted Olympios to commander-in-chief of the armies of the para-Danubian hegemonies. On February 1821, Hypsilantis and Olympios crossed the river Pruth and declared the start of the Greek War of Independence. Olympios led the para-Danubian armies in the Battle of Dragashani against the Ottomans but the outcome of the battle was fatal.

Following the tragic Battle of Dragashani, Olympios joined forces with Pharmakis and organized an army of 800 horsemen, in order to descend to Greece through Moldova and Wallachia. He continued fighting relentlessly until September 1821, when he was hunted down by the Ottomans in the mountains of Bessarabia, during the Battle of Moni Sekkou. Olympios and his 11 remaining men, having fought continuously for 12, closed themselves in the Monastery of Sekkos and prepared for their final stand. When food, water and ammos ran out, Olympios and his men chose to die an honourable death than to fall victims to the Ottomans. He lighted the gunpowder barrels that had remained and blew themselves up, killing multiple Turks in the process.

Georgakis Olympios was Alexander Hypsilantis’ most trusted co-fighter, a glorious and honourable man, in the words of Spyridon Trikoupis. Had he survived the Battle of Moni Sekkou he would have become one of the most capable and honest leaders of the Greek War of Independence. His admirable efforts and struggle to awaken the peoples of the Danubian territories convinced Theodore Vladimirescu, general of Wallachia, to rouse all the Balkan peoples and fight as one for their freedom.

Bibliography

  1. “Olympios, Georgakis”. Helios New Encyclopaedic Dictionary. Passas, I. Athens, 1946. Print.
  2. ΓΕΩΡΓΑΚΗΣ ΟΛΥΜΠΙΟΣ ΕΝΑΣ ΑΦΑΝΗΣ ΗΡΩΑΣ ΤΟΥ 1821.eoellas.org. Web. January 28, 2014.
Georgakis Olympios

Janus Lascaris

lascaris

Philosopher, Scholar (1445 – 1535)

One of the many Greek scholars who fled to the West during the dawn of the Renaissance to disseminate the Greek letters was Janus Lascaris of the House of Lascaris, an old Byzantine family of nobility with many distinguished philosophers. His work consists of translations into Latin, original treatises and lectures in the universities of Italy.

After the Fall of Constantinople in 1453, 8-year old Janus fled with his family to Peloponnesus and from there to Crete, which was under the rule of Venice. Under the guidance of Bessarion, Janus was sent to Venice to study classical studies. He then became a scholar in the University of Padua.

In 1472 he left Padua for Florence. The royal family of the Medici had made their court into a philosophic school where eminent philosophers from Italy and Greece gathered to promote Hellenism. Janus was welcomed there by Lorenzo de Medici, who appointed him the prestigious position of headmaster of his library. There, Janus taught ancient Greek philosophy and anthology. Marcus Musurus was his student there.

Twice was Janus Lascaris sent by Lorenzo de Medici to various places in Greece to retrieve as many ancient manuscripts as he could find. He travelled to Constantinople, Crete, Thessaloniki and Mount Athos, collecting and salvaging over 200 such ancient Greek manuscripts.

Later, upon invitation by King Charles VIII he settled in Paris, where he became his advisor and organized the royal library of France. From 1500 to 1509 he served as ambassador of France in Milan and in Venice. In 1503, he joined the Greek Academy of Aldus Manutius and became a professor of Greek philosophy. His former student Marcus Musurus was also a professor there and the two became colleagues.

In the following years, Pope Leo X appointed him headmaster of the newly founded Greek Gymnasium of Rome. Together with Marcus Musurus they founded a printing office, which further promoted the dissemination of Hellenic thought. In 1518 he was called in Paris by Francis I to take on the organization and direction of the royal library. He attempted in found another Greek school but without success.

Janus wrote numerous commentaries and printed them together with Marcus Musurus in their printing office. Janus printed the Iliad with his own commentary, as well as Sophocles’ plays. He translated works into Latin, published works such as the entire Greek Anthology and Philosopher Porphyry’s Homeric Questions as well as original works such as On canonic Law and Greek Rhetoricians.

Janus Lascaris left his last breath in Rome in 1535 at the age of 90. Together with his students and his colleagues, he had helped plant the seeds of the Renaissance. He remained a flaming patriot throughout his entire life, never ceasing his struggle to free Greece from the Ottoman rule and awaken humanity from the darkness of illiteracy the Middle Ages had imposed. On his tombstone was inscribed: Lascaris in foreign land deposided his body, and he does not blame her that she is very foreign, oh stranger. He found her sweet. But he is worried about the Achaeans (the Greeks), because their country does not cover them with free soil”.

Bibliography

  1. Αίας ο Τελαμώνιος. Άγνωστες μορφές του Ελληνισμού: Ιανός (Ιωάννης) Λάσκαρις. Λαϊκός Σύνδεσμος Χρυσή Αυγή. Xryshaygh.com. July 1, 2016. Web.
  2. “Lascaris, Ioannis”. Helios New Encyclopaedic Dictionary. Passas, I. Athens, 1946. Print.
Janus Lascaris