Nikiforos Vrettakos


Poet (1912 – 1991)

Nikiforos Vrettakos is regarded as one of the greatest writers and poets of modern Greece. He lived an adventurous life with multiple struggles during some of the most difficult times of modern Greek history. He was honoured by multiple prestigious bodies inside and outside of his homeland.

He was from Laconia. After graduating from high school he enrolled in the University of Athens where he studied law. Because of his family’s hardships, however, he did not graduate and he remained in Athens, working to survive. Nevertheless, his big love for poetry did not stop him from publishing his first two poetic collections Under the Shadows and Lights and Down to the Silence of the Centuries, at the age of 17. It was not long before Vrettakos rose to fame, intriguing Kostis Palamas, who wanted to meet him in person.

During the Second World War, Vrettakos enlisted in the army and fought against the Italians in the Albanian front. He partook actively in the Resistance in the midst of the axis occupation and became member of EAM during the guerrilla war of 1946 – 1949. He was removed from the Communist Party of Greece following his disagreement with their politics. He was self-exiled to Switzerland during the junta for 7 years. When he returned to Greece he settled peacefully in Laconia.

Throughout his hard life, Vrettakos never ceased writing poems. The poems he wrote between 1929 and 1938 are characterized by a melancholic tone that reflects his life’s hardships. The second period of his literary work, which spans from 1939 to 1950, is characterized by optimism and struggle. They predominated the Second World War, the axis occupation, the resistance and the guerrilla war. The poems written between 1961 to 1974 are characterized by love and purity and are mostly about nature and the light. The final poetic era from 1975 until his death in 1991 have a similar aura. His works have been translated in several languages such as Turkish and Russian.

Numerous awards were bestowed to Vrettakos. Among them were the National State Prize of Poetry in 1940, 1965 and 1974, the Ourani Prize in 1974, the Knocken Prize of the Sicilian Society of Arts and Letters in 1980 and the Academy of Athens Prize in 1989. He was nominated for the Nobel Prize of Literature 4 times, one of which was nominated by his friend Yiannis Ritsos, with whom he was schoolmate. Vrettakos himself claimed to be a “servant of poetry” and that he would not have anything to live for if God hadn’t given him poetry. His highest virtues were love and homonoia (solidarity). He believed that with these two, man could achieve anything.


1.  Νικηφόρος Βρεττάκος, ο πάμφτωχος ποιητής που είπε: «Αν δε μου ’δινες την ποίηση, Κύριε, δε θα ’χα τίποτα για να ζήσω». Ο δικτάτορας Μεταξάς έκαψε το βιβλίο του, πολέμησε στο μέτωπο του ’40 και προτάθηκε 4 φορές για Νόμπελ. Μηχανή του Χρόνου. Web.

2.  Cartali, Anna. Νικηφόρος Βρεττάκος,Ο ποιητής της ειρήνης και της αγάπης. Artic. Web. January 22, 2013.

Nikiforos Vrettakos

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