Simplicius

Philosopher, Scholar (c.490 – c. 560)

One of the last Neoplatonic philosophers during the advent of Christianity in the Roman Empire, Simplicius of Cilicia was one of the most important commentators on the works of Aristotle, who sought to bridge together the differences between Platonic and Aristotelian philosophy.

Originally from Anatolia, Simplicius travelled to Alexandria, where he was educated by philosopher Ammonius Hermiae. He settled in Athens where upon joining the Academy, he became a scholar and worked closely with his teacher Damascius, then Headmaster of the Academy until 529, when Emperor Justinian ordered the closure of all schools of philosophy. This forced all of the remaining Neoplatonists to flee to the court of the Persian King Khosrow, where philosophy had found refuge and was allowed to flourish. Following a peace treaty between the Persian king and the Byzantine Emperor, Simplicius returned to Athens, where he continued and finalised his works.

Of greatest significance are Simplicius’ Commentaries. These include commentaries on EpictetusEnchyridion, on Euclid’s Elements, numerous works of Plato, and specifically on Timaeus as well as many of Aristotle’s treatises for instance De Caelo, Physics and De Anima. Simplicius also quotes numerous excerpts from the works of other important scientists namely Eudemus,Eudoxus, Sosigenes, Geminus and Poseidonius, thanks to which we have evidence of their existence and their contribution.

As a Neoplatonic philosopher himself, Simplicius did not restrict himself into providing a plain explanation of Aristotle’s teachings, but rather, he attempted to find a common line between Platonism and Aristotelianism. He disagreed with his fellow predecessor Plotinus in that there is no spirituality in the works of Aristotle as there are in Plato’s and seeks to find the metaphysical aspect that is common in both philosophies. As such, all of Simplicius’ surviving commentaries are original critiques made by himself, which, however, he never endorsed as being fully correct, as he accepted the fact that there is always another level of interpretation to the texts, left to be discovered by other readers.

One can conclude from the writings of Simplicius that he possessed great knowledge on both Platonic and Aristotelian philosphy. His works, characterized by modesty, provide unique explanations to the works of master philosophers and this helped pave the way for future philosophers, who built on what Simplicius and the other Neoplatonists wrote.

Bibliography:

  1. O’ Connor, JJ, Robertson, E.F. Simplicius. School of Mathematics and Statistics, University of St. Andrews, Scotland. mathshistory.st-andrews.ac.uk. Web.
  2. K.N. Simplicius. Helios New Encyclopaedic Dictionary. Passas, I, Athens: 1946. Print.
  3. Σιμπλίκιος. Η Εγκυκλοπαίδεια του Πλάτωνα. n1.intelibility.com. Web.
Simplicius

Ptolemy I Soter

bbd3ff2607356d91f1cd9cc035341bf4

General, Diadochos of Alexander the Great, Pharaoh of Egypt (c.367 BC – 282 BC)

Ptolemy was one of Alexander the Great’s most trusted generals and personal friends. He was the son of Lagos of Macedon, hence also being known as Ptolemy of Lagos. Others have claimed he was the illegitimate of son of king Philip of Macedon and therefore brother of Alexander. Following Alexander’s death, Ptolemy was one of Alexander’s Successors, the so called Diadochi, who became Pharaoh of Egypt and founded the Ptolemaic Dynasty, which ruled over Egypt for hundreds of years until its conquest by the Romans. His reign, which lasted a total of 23 years, was characterized by an unprecedented cutural and spiritual development of Egypt and the surrounding countries.

Serving as an Alexandrian General from the beginning of the campaign, Ptolemy partook in every single battle. He played a decisive role in the conquest of Sogdiana, fought against the satrap of Bactria Bessus, who was responsible for the assassination of Darius, and the Indian king Porus as well as fended off the Cossaei and the Oxydarks. His name Soter, meaning Saviour, is said to have been given to him during a battle with the latter, when Ptolemy rescued a severely wounded Alexander. Another possibility is when he helped the Rhodians during the siege of Demetrius.

As one of the Successors of Alexander the Great, Ptolemy was given Egypt to rule over, which he eventually expanded to include Syria and Cyrenaica. He moved the capitol to Alexandria and he heavily fortified with a powerful army of mercenaries and a navy. Alexandria became a significant commercial center of the Mediterranean, which Ptolemy ensured to decorate with palaces and public buildings of exceptional beauty, including the construction of the Lighthouse of Alexandria, one of the Seven Wonders of the World. Numerous Greek cities were built while Greek became the official language spoken even by the peasants. Ptolemy’s respect for the religion of the Egyptian priests allowed them not only to rebuild their temples destroyed by the Persians, but also to practice it freely.

Thanks to Ptolemy Egypt was transformed into a Greek province. It flourished to such an extent that at that time, Egypt held the reins of the most culturally and inteletually advanced center in the world. He introduced the worship of Zeus Serapis “the healer” to Egypt by transferring the statue of Zeus Serapis from Sinope. He disseminated the Greek civilization to all of Egypt, cultivating the Greek letters and sciences, he himself devoting his time to writing books. Most importantly, Ptolemy constructed the first museum and the first library of Alexandria, which housed thousands of manuscripts of literature, science and theology from all over the world, making it the world’s first global archieve of knowledge. Ptolemy died in -282 and was succeeded by his son Ptolemy II Philadelphus.

Bibliography:

  1. Plevris, Konstantinos. The King Alexander. Hilektron publications. Athens: 2015. Print.
  2. Ptolemy I Soter. Helios New Encyclopaedic Dictionary. Passas I. Athens: 1946. Print.
  3. Wasson, Donald L. “Ptolemy I.” Ancient History Encyclopedia. Ancient History Encyclopedia, 03 Feb 2012. Web. 23 Dec 2019.
Ptolemy I Soter

Callippus

Mathematician, Astronomer, Philosopher (c.370 BC – c.300 BC)

A lesser known astronomer compared to Aristarchus and Eratosthenes is Callippus of Cyzicus. His work in creating the Callippic Period or Callippic Cycle made the determination of the length of the solar year more accurate. It subsequently replaced the Metonic Cycle and was adopted by all later astronomers starting from as early as 330 BC.

He studied in Cyzicus. He was a student of Polemarchus and Eudoxus, both great astronomers, the later of whom he succeeded as director of the School of Cyzicus. According to Simplicius, Callippus settled in Athens where he worked close to Aristotle. The two collaborated in correcting and perfecting Eudoxus’ works.

Callippus is responsible for introducing thr Callippic Period, otherwise known as the Callippic Cycle in astronomy. Before him, Meton of Athens had calculated that one year is comprised of 365 days. The Metonic Cycle consisted of a 19-year period during which certain celestial phenomena such as lunar and solar eclipses repeated. This meant that Meton had estimated the year slighlty longer than it actually is. Callippus on the other hand gave a more precise estimation, determining that one year is comprised of 365,25 days. He noted that for a more accurate calculation of the duration of the year, the period should be four times that of the Metonic Cycle minus one day. This time period of 76 years came to be known as the Callippic Cycle.

Another important contribution to astronomy was the correction of Eudoxus’ system of homocentric spheres. Adding 7 more spheres, one to each planet, to Eudoxus’ proposed system increased the total number to 34. In this manner Callippus increased the accuracy of Eudoxus’ model and enabled a better understanding of the motion of the celestial spheres in the solar system. Furthermore, Callippus discovered that the duration of the seasons were not equal, rather: spring 94 days, summer 92 days, fall 89 days and winter 90. His discoveries were all written down in his books, none of which survive except from their titles.

Overall, Callippus’ discoveries contributed much to the development of astronomy, perhaps mostly for the future astronomers to make more accurate theories and estimations. Today a lunar crater is named in his honour.

Bibliography:

  1. Chasapis, K.S. “Callippus”. Helios New Encyclopaedic Dictionary. Passas I. Athens: 1946. Print.
  2. Georgakopoulos, Konstantinos. Ancient Greek Scientists. Georgiades: Athens, 1996. Print.
  3. J.J. O’Connor, E.F. Robertson. Callippus of Cyzicus. School of Mathematics and Statistics, University of St. Andrew, Scotland. Mathshistory.st-andrews.ac.uk. Web.
Callippus

Erasistratus

michel-martin-drolling-erasistratus-diagnosing-the-cause-of-antiochus-illness.jpg

Physician (c.305 BC – c.240 BC)

Erasistratus was a physician of the Alexandrian era, who, together with Herophilus founded the School of Anatomy of Alexandria. A pioneer in observing and describing the human anatomy and its pathology, Erasistratus’ multiple groundbreaking discoveries in many different fields of medicine as well as his methods of diagnosis and treatment of human diseases secured him a position next to Hippocrates as one of the greatest physicians in the history of medicine.

Erasistratus worked in many places throughout the Greek world, most notably in Syria, where he served as the physician of Emperor Seleucos I Nicator. Undoubtedly his most prolific years, however, were in Alexandria, Egypt, where he worked in the School of Anatomy in the Museum of Alexandria. There he taught anatomy, performed some of the first public anatomic dissections together with Herophilus and made numerous revolutionary discoveries in anatomy.

His studies on the nervous system are extensive. He established the nature of the human brain as the center of mental processes, described its gyri, the ventricles and the cerebellum. He distinguished the motor from sensory neurons and studied extensively the cranial nerves. On the cardiovascular system Erasistratus discovered the tricuspid valve and described its function. He possessed knowledge on the heart’s role as the center of the cardiovascular system as well as the flow of blood through the veins. Moreover, Erasistratus knew about the existence of amastomoses between arteries and veins, established the function of the lymph vessels, which he referred to as “white vessels”, described the excretion of bile from the gallbladder but did not explain its role and was the first to denote the function of the epiglottis, as well as prove that fluids did not pass from the trachea.

Considered as the father of comparative anatomy, Erasistratus also performed dissections on dead animals so as to compare their anatomy to that of humans. He is considered not only the founder of experimental physiology but also of pathologic anatomy. His gross pathologic descriptions of pericarditis, cirrhotic liver, hydrops, jaundice as well as of intestinal and bladder diseases were the first recorded in history and formed the basis of the science of modern pathology.

As excellent as Erasistratus was in describing and teaching anatomy, equally capable he was as a physician in diagnosing and treating diseases. Working primarily as an internist and a surgeon, Erasistratus perfomed paracentesis for the drainage of ascites, invented a sigmoid catheter for the decompression of the urinary bladder as well as a device used for artificial abortions. He restrained from using too many drugs, confining in local herbs and remedies, diuretics and induced emesis, while giving special importance to the healing powers of nutrition and hygiene. He wrote a wide range of books of which only the titles survive. Some of them where Anatomies, On Causes, On Fevers, On the Diseases of the Abdomen, On Hydrops, On Paresis and Paralysis, On Gout and On Digestion.

Even though he was against many of Hippocrates’ theories and notions, Erasistratus condemned superstition and always interpreted man’s functions and illeness with logic. He had numerous students who themselves became notable physicians. Following his death, Erasistratus was recognized as one of the greatest teachers of anatomy and as a prodigious researcher whose innovations helped in the understaning of the human body and the evolution of medicine.

Bibliography:

  1. Pournaropoulos. G.K. “Erasistratos”. Helios New Encyclopaedic Dictionary. Passas I. Athens: 1946. Print.
  2. “Erasistratos”. Suda Lexicon. Georgiades: 2010. Print.
Erasistratus

Lorentzos Mavilis

mavilis.jpg

Poet (1860 – 1912)

Lorentzos (Laurence) Mavilis was a poet, translator, Member of the Greek Parliament, chess problems composer and an impassioned patriot, considered the last representative of the Heptanesian School. A restless spirit with pure nationalist ideals, Mavilis is regarded as Greece’s most important sonet writer.

He was born in Corfu. He was of Spanish descent from his father’s side, while his mother was of Greek descent, and was the niece of John Kapodistria, the first Governor of Greece. Mavilis studied philology in the Universities of Athens, Munich and Freiburg and was appointed professor of classical studies in the University of Erlangen.

Mavilis occupied a high position in the Greek letters primarily as a sonet writer. A member of the Heptanesian School since his return to Greece in 1893, his writings were influenced to a great extent by Dionysios Solomos, the founder of the Heptanesian School, as well as by the German literary movements of his time. The core theme that predominates in all of Mavilis’ works is his love for Greece. His most notable sonets, including Fatherland, For the Fatherland, Olive and In the Fullness of Time are all odes to Hellenism, an encomium to all those who sacrificed their lives for Greece and the higher values of life that lead to man’s virtue.

Apart from his career in writing, Mavilis was also an avid chess player and a renowned chess problems composer, having won multiple matches, most notably the 3rd Bavarian Chess Association Congress in Resenburg in 1890 under the pseudonym Dr. L. Greco. As a polyglott, he translated multiple works, among them Shelley, Lord Byron, Virgil and an excerpt of the Indian epic Mahabharata.

Throughout his whole life, Mavilis was a fighter. Immediately after he returned to Greece from Germany, he joined the revolt of Crete as the leader of a small force for the liberation of the island from the Ottoman yoke, while in 1897 he joined the Greek army as a volunteer during the Graeco-Turkish War. His life’s highest act, however, was during the Balkan Wars in 1912 when Mavilis, having yet again joined the army voluntarily, fell heroically in the Battle of Driskon when he was fatally shot in the neck. His gratitude for the final act of his sacrifice is forever reflected by his final words: “I was expecting honours from this war, but not the honour to die for Greece”.

Bibliography:

  1. Λορέντζος Μαβίλης: «Δὲν είχα φανταστεί ποτέ ότι θα είχα την μεγάλη τιμή να πεθάνω για την Ἑλλάδα». Πεμπτουσία. Pemptousia.gr. November 29, 2017. Web.
  2. Λορέντζος Μαβίλης. Σαν Σήμερα. Sansimera.gr. Web.
  3. Lorentzos Mavilis…a poet, a fighter, a chess player. www.chess.com. March 10, 2019. Web. <https://www.chess.com/blog/introuble2/lorentzos-mavilis-a-poet-a-fighter-a-chess-player>
Lorentzos Mavilis

Pytheos of Halicarnassus

Architect (4th century BC)

Pytheos of Halicarnassus, also known as Pythius of Priene, was the architect who, together with Satyros constructed the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The megastructure was built as a tomb to house the body of Mausolos, a satrap of Persia. Its name became synonymous to any large funeral monument used today as a tomb.

Almost nothing is known about Pytheos aside from some of the temples he constructed. By far the most famous one if the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus, built between 355 and 350 BC. The whole structure was built on a base podium, on top of which was placed the crypt, surrounded by the temple, which had 36 Ionian rhythm columns around it. The roof consisted of a climactic pyramid of 24 steps, on top of which Pytheos placed a giant statue of Mausolos riding a chariot with 4 horses. The podium’s steps were decorated with scenery from the Titanomachy, Amazonomachy and Centauromachy while the outside of the crypt was decorated with sculptures of the best sculptors of the world, namely Leocharis, Bryaxis, Scopas, Timotheus and Praxiteles. At a height of 55 meters, the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus became one of the most magnificent structures of the ancient Greek spirit.

Pytheos also constructed other temples. The Temple of Artemis Cybele in Sardes, which bears similarities to the Temple of Artemis in Ephesus was designed and constructed by Pytheos as a replacement of the one destroyed in 497 BC. In addition, he designed the Temple of Athena Polias in Priene, which was ordered by Alexander the Great.

His architectural works were described in detail in a series of books that he wrote called Scholia. These books, which today have not survived, were some of the most important sources of ancient Greek architecture, on which Vitrivius also based his description.

Today, almost nothing remains of the wondorous mausoleum or any of Pytheus’ monuments, but rubbles, stones and pillars, a reminiscent of what used to be one of the greatest architectural masterpieces ever built by the Greeks, the ones who perfected architectural science.

Bibliography:

  1. Georgakopoulos, Konstantinos. Ancient Greek Scientists. Georgiades: Athens, 1996. Print.
  2. Cartwright, Mark. “Mausoleum at Halicarnassus.” Ancient History Encyclopedia. Ancient History Encyclopedia, 26 Jul 2018. Web. 27 May 2019.
Pytheos of Halicarnassus

Epimenides

epimenides

Philosopher (7th century BC)

Epimenides was a seer, a mystic, a prophet and a spiritual teacher of the early 7th century BC from Knossos of Crete. He excelled both as a lawmaker and a poet and is regarded as one of the most important representatives of Orphic theology and philosophy. Many aspects of Epimenides’ life and work remain either obscure or have been blended with myth.

Ancient accounts of Epimenides describe him as the prime practitioner of the “cathartic arts”, meaning a form of healing or cleansing of the soul. He possessed the ability, through theurgical rituals to cleanse physical and psychic miasmas, something referred to as Psychurgy.

Epimenides was a student of Pythagoras, whom he met when Pythagoras travelled to Crete in search of the initiates of Morgos. Epimenides took him to the Diktaean Cave where he performed him a spiritual cleansing and initiated him to the local Mysteries. In another account, when the city of Athens was plagued by an epidemic, the people sought help from the Oracle of Delphi, which told them to refer to Epimenides. When Epimenides came to Athens, he performed rituals to appease the Gods as well as to cleanse the city.

He is the author of multiple treatises on chresmos, instructions on cathartic and purification practices, on theurgy and rituals, each based upon the teachings of Orphic theology. Moreover, Epimenides wrote a Theogony although it is unknown to which extent it was similar to that of Hesiod. Together with Melampous and Onomacritus they form the triad of primary representatives of the Orphic Mysteries and was responsible for establishing the Eleusinian Mysteries and the Mysteries of Samothrace.

Epimenides is said to have slept in a cave for 57 years and that he died at the age of 154 or 299. Many Greeks accepted him as a favourite of the Gods as they believed that during his slumber he had communication with the Gods. From this myth came the expression Epimenidean Sleep, used when someone sleeps for extremely long time. In another myth, Epimenides is said to have advised Solon on the lawmaking of Athens. He was considered as the seventh of the Seven Sages of ancient Greece by some, instead of Periander. To him are attributed several quotes, the most famous one being the Epimenidean paradox «Κρῆτες ἀεὶ ψεῦσται» (Cretans always lie), since he himself was a Cretan.

Bibliography:

  1. Επιμενίδης, ο μάντης από την Κρήτη που κοιμήθηκε σε μια σπηλιά για 57 ολόκληρα χρόνια. Γιατί οι Έλληνες τον θεώρησαν αγαπημένο των θεών και μπήκε στον κατάλογο των επτά σοφών στη θέση του Περίανδρου… Μηχανή του Χρόνου. Mixanitouxronou.gr. Retreived on May 25, 2019. Web.
  2. “Epimenides”. Helios New Encyclopaedic Dictionary. Passas, I. Athens: 1946. Print.
  3. Σακελλαρίου, Γεώργιος. Πυθαγόρας Ο Διδάσκαλος τῶν Αἰώνων. Ἰδεοθέατρον. Ἀθῆναι: 1963. Print.
  4. Γράβιγγερ, Πέτρος. Ὁ Πυθαγόρας καὶ ἡ Μυστικὴ Διδασκαλία τοῦ Πυθαγορισμοῦ. Ιδεοθέατρον Διμελῆ. Ἀθῆναι: 1998. Print.
Epimenides