Poet (1798 – 1857)
He is regarded as Modern Greece’s national poet. He was born in the island of Zakynthos as the illegitimate son of Nicolaos Solomos, a wealthy noble. As a child, Solomos studied under the supervision of several Greek scholars in Zakynthos before moving to Italy to study literature. There, he met many eminent scholars who acquainted him with the works of Ancient Greek writers and philosophers namely Plato, Homer and Thucydides. It was the beginning of his glorious career.
He returned to Zakynthos, abandoning his studies in law school to get involved in poetry. Originally, Solomos wrote his poems in Italian until he met Spyridon Trikoupis, a historian of the Greek War of Independence, who persuaded him to start writing his poems in Greek.
In his first poems “Death of the Orphan”, “Death of the Shepherd”, “To Mr. Ludovick Strank” and “The Shadow of Homer” he explores the themes of death, human emotions and most importantly nature. Despite the difficulties he had to face in writing in Greek language, Solomos made tremendous progress over a very short period of time. He went on to write his most famous work “Hymn to Liberty”. In it, he salutes Liberty and describes the harsh times of the Greek peoples during the Turkish yoke. After commemorating the glory of Ancient Greece, he describes vividly numerous victorious scenes from the Greek War of Independence and prompts the Greeks to fight for their freedom. It was the first star that was shining in the Modern Greek sky of poetry. Part of it would later become Greece’s and Cyprus’ national anthem, which is till this day.
Some of his most famous works include “To the Death of Lord Byron”, a poem in reminiscence of Lord Byron, “O Kritikos”, one of his most successful poems of which unfortunately only excerpts remain and “The Destruction of Psara”. Solomos’ magnum opus “The Free Besieged” is regarded as a hallmark in Modern Greek poetry. It is a hymn to will and debt of man, who is willing to risk everything for something he believes in, in the case of the poem, the people of Messolongi, who sacrificed themselves because they wanted to live free. The poem’s title refers to the fact that even though they are besieged by the Turkish army, they are free in their spirit. Sadly, while it took nearly 30 years for Solomos to complete his masterpiece, today only fragments exist.
Common themes in all of his works are rich and vivid fantasy, the power of imagery, the musical tone of each word, imparting a rhythm to his poem and a total harmony, religion, love towards his country and love towards the human being and nature.
Dionysios Solomos laid the foundations of Modern Greek poetry. He was the first to mix art with ethnic elements and notions. His works had enormous impact on all the poets who followed after him and for this he is the founder of the Eptanesos School of Poetry. He was one of the strongest proponents of the Greek language because through it he could convey the highest ideas of human intellect in his poems. He died in 1857 from encephalopathy at the age of 59.
- ”Solomos, Dionysios”. Helios New Encyclopaedic Dictionary. Passas, I. Athens. 1946. Print.