Yiannis Ritsos


Poet (1909 – 1990)

The poet of Romiosyni, Yiannis Ritsos, who was born in Monemvasia, is one of modern Greece’s most highly-read and beloved poets as well as an internationally acknowledged literary figure. His work, which spans over 100 poem collections, 4 theatrical plays and 9 novels, has been translated in 40 languages.

Ritsos wrote his first poems at the age of 8. He made his first debut in the literary world in a magazine called Children’s Formation in 1924. He suffered from hardships due to the loss of his brother and mother from tuberculosis and the loss of their fortune due to his father’s gambling. This forced Ritsos to try to earn his living by working as a subeditor, an actor and even a dancer.

Tractor became Ritsos’ first major publication of his collection of poems under the pseudonym Y. Sostir (his actual name spelled backwards). This marked an important beginning in Ritsos’ career. In the following years, he would write some of the most renowned poetic collections in the history of Greek literature and would earn the chrism of Kostis Palamas, modern Greece’s national poet.

He wrote the Pyramids, a collection of poems which were followed by the highly acclaimed Epitaph in 1936, The Song of my Sister, Spring Symphony and Embaterion of the Ocean. He also wrote Old mazurka in the rhythm of the rain and Trial, two collections of poems, followed by the novel In the Foothills of Silence. During the Greek civil war in 1948, Ritsos was arrested exiled in Lemnos and Macronesos. There, he continued publishing poetic collections.

1954 marked the year of publication of Ritsos’ monumental masterpiece Romiosyni, together with The Lady of the Vineyards. The former was met with widespread acclaim internationally and was set to music by Mikis Theodorakis, as was the Epitaph. In 1956, Ritsos published the Moonlight Sonata, for which he was awarded the National Prize of Literature, together with Aris Dicteos. In 1962 he published a series of collections of short poems – monologues with themes from ancient Greek tragic poetry The Dead House and Under the Shadow of the Mountain. Numerous other poems followed until his worldwide recognition in the 70’s, most notably Gignesthai, a collection of 32 poems published between the years 1970 and 1977.

In 1970 he was elected member of the Academy of Literature of West Germany. In 1972 he was awarded the Great International Award for Poetry in Belgium, the Georgi Dimitrov international award in Bulgaria and the Great Prize for Poetry Alfre de Viny in France in 1975 while in 1976 he received the Etna-Taormina international award in Italy. In 1986 he was awarded the Peace Poetry Award by the United Nations and in 1990, a few months before his death, he received the Joliot-Curie award by the World Peace Council, the highest distinction for world peace.

Ritsos was not only a poet. He was a playwright, a painter, an idealist, a revolutionary of the left, recognized worldwide by accomplished poets as one of Europe’s greatest poetic voices of the 20th century. He was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature 9 times and was awarded the Lenin Peace Prize, which, he considered more important for him than the Nobel Prize. He was awarded an honorary doctorate by numerous distinguished European universities. Nevertheless, he remained a humble man throughout his entire life; he referred to himself as a “simple worker” with an easy-to-pronounce name: Yiannis Ritsos.


  1. The Poet of Romiossyni. Ellines.com. Web. Retrieved on January 10, 2017.
  2. Γιάννης Ρίτσος 1909 -1990 Ο ποιητής της Ρωμιοσύνης. Thehistoryofgreece.blogspot.bg. Web. September 5, 2013. Retrieved on January 10, 2017.
Yiannis Ritsos

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