Dimitrios Papanikolis

Hero of the Greek War of Independence (1790 – 1855)

Dimitrios Papanikolis was a naumachos (warrior of the sea) of the Greek navy who fought against the Ottoman Empire during the Greek War of Independence. He distinguished in the seas, most notably in the Battle of Gerontas in 1824 where he became a hero as a pioneer in the use of fire ships in the war. He is one of the heroes of the Greek War of Independence alongside Constantine Canaris and other admirals referred to as μπουρλοτιέρης (burlotieris), meaning he who manages the explosives or he who lights fire (from French burler meaning to burn) indicating his role in the war in handling fire ships to destroy enemy ships.

Born in the island of Psara, Papanikolis’ family had been traditionally involved with ships and trade. He would be employed to his father’s ships and often take part in battles against pirates in the Algerian coast. With the outbreak of the Greek War of Independence he set his ship to the service of the war after arming it with his own expenses. On May the same year Papanikolis set sail to Eressos in Lesbos where, jointly with Georgios Kalaphatis built a fire ship and detonated the Turkish two-decker warship “Behtas Kaptan”. This marked the first successful attempt a fire ship was used in battle against the Ottoman navy.

Later that year in July he took part in a number of battles along the coasts of Asia Minor with his own ship. He was one of the admirals sent to Lesbos in order to defend the island from the incoming fleet of the Ottoman Empire, however, the battle was avoided when the Ottoman navy suffered enormous casualties from Constantine Canaris and his fleet and retreated to Marmara Sea.

In 1824 Papanikolis joined admirals Miaoulis, Matrozos, Nicodemus and Pipinos in the Battle of Gerontas off the coast of Didim in Asia Minor, regarded as the most important victory of the Greeks in the sea during the war. During the battle 70 ships bearing the Greek flag confronted an armada of over 250 flagships and warships of the Ottoman Empire and Egypt. On the final day of the battle, which proved to be the most decisive in its outcome, the Greek ships mingled with the Ottoman and the Egyptian fleet enabling the use of fire ships by Papanikolis which blasted the enemy’s frigates. By the end of the Battle of Gerontas Papanikolis had cemented himself as one of Greece’s most glorious heroes of the war alongside his fellow sailors.

After Greece gained its independence, Papanikolis returned to his career as merchant, until King Otto offered to purchase his ship and in return appointed him as member of the royal fleet. He served as president of the maritime court of Greece until his death and held other positions of power such as captain of the corvette “Amalia” and plenipotentiary of Psara. In honour of his services to the freedom of Greece, the navy named 3 ships after him, one of which was used during the Second World War.

Bibliography:

  1. Lycoudis, S.E. Papanikolis Dimitrios. Helios New Encyclopaedic Dictionary. Ioannis Passas, Athens, 1946.
  2. Η Ναυμαχία του Γέροντα. Σαν Σήμερα. Sansimera.gr. Available at :https://www.sansimera.gr/articles/662
  3. Γιαννόπουλος, Νίκος. Πώς τα πυρπολικά εξελίχθηκαν σε ένα τρομερό πολεμικό όπλο στα χέρια των Ελλήνων ναυτικών του 1821. Οι κυβερνήτες τους Παπανικολής, Πιπίνος και Ματρόζος έδωσαν τα ονόματά τους στα θρυλικά υποβρύχια…Μηχανή του Χρόνου. Mixanitouxronou.gr. Available at: http://www.mixanitouxronou.gr/pos-ta-pirpolika-exelichthikan-se-ena-tromero-polemiko-oplo-sta-cheria-ton-ellinon-naftikon-tou-1821-i-kivernites-tous-papanikolis-pipinos-ke-matrozos-edosan-ta-onomata-tous-sta-thrilika-ipovrichia/
Dimitrios Papanikolis

Polykleitos

Sculptor (5th century BC)

The greatest sculptor of antiquity following Pheidias and Praxiteles, active during the 5th century BC when Athens and the whole Hellenic world experienced the golden age. He was from the city of Argos, where he had based his sculpture workshop. A favourite of the Romans, Polykleitos was hailed as a master of his craftsmanship and the man who perfected Pheidias’ art of sculpture. His name not coincidentally means “vey glorious”.

Polykleitos was a student of Pheidias and roughly 17 years younger than him. He had achieved similar fame as his teacher in his hometown for creating the frieze and marbles of the Heraion, a temple dedicated to goddess Hera. The frieze depicted the birth of Zeus, the Titanomachy and events from the Trojan War. Upon becoming a respected sculptor in all of Greece he set workshops throughout different cities and worked by commissions. He studied next to prestigious sculptors Agelas and Myron and had met and befriended Socrates and his students while in Athens.

With a few exceptions, almost all of Polykleitos’ sculptures were made of bronze. He was known as the greatest bronze sculptor of his time with his specialty being depicting young male athletes. Rather than placing emphasis on vividness of emotional expression, Polykleitos decided to perfect the symmetry and the beauty of the human body. Nowhere is this more evident than in his sculpture Doryphoros estimated to have been created in 450 BC. It depicts a young man standing on his right leg, holding a spear on his left. This statue was the most copied statue in antiquity by the Romans and was referred to as Kanon, the prototype or standard on which’s symmetry and beauty all future sculptures would be based on as Galen had pointed out that Doryphoros‘ beauty’s lies in its proportions of mathematical accuracy. Marble copies of it exist today, the most famous one being exhibited in the Museum of Naples.

As none of Polykleitos’ original bronze statues survive today, ancient writers commemorate many of his works in their writings, among them Pliny. Some of his most important works were Diadoumenos estimated to have been sculptured around 420 BC. Its marble replica in the National Archaeological Museum of Athens depicts a young athlete tying a headband around his forehead. It exhibits all the virtues that Doryphoros conveys. The statue of Hera in the the temple of Hera of Argos was the counterpart of Pheideias’ giant statue of Zeus in Olympia. This 8 meter tall statue was the only one of Polykleitos’ statues not made of bronze but instead of golden ivory. The acclaimed geographer and historian Strabo considered the statue of Hera superior in beauty to Pheideias’ statues of Zeus and Athena in Olympia and the Parthenon respectively. Similarly the statue of the Wounded Amazon was considered as the best statue that depicted an Amazon in the entire world. The statue, which was situated in the Temple of Artemis in Ephesus, was awarded the first prize in Ephesus with Pheidias placing second.

Cyniscus was one of the statues that embodied Polykleitos’ expertise in crafting statues of athletes. So were the statues of famed Olympian athletes Aristion, Thersilochus, Antipatros, Xenocles and Pythocles, all of which were found in Olympia. Polykleitos sculpted athletes in various positions such as the Apoxyomenos, a young athlete cleaning himself from the dust of the Pankration, and the Astragalizontes, a pair of youths playing a game with dice. Apart from athletes, the Divine was a big part of Polykleitos’ inspiration. He sculpted the statue of Heracles Hegetor (Hercules the Leader), Heracles Hydroctonus (Hercules killing the Hydra) and the marble complex featuring Apollo, Artemis and Leto in the temple of Artemis Orthia.

When Greece became occupied by the Romans, the Greek statues were seen with immense enthusiasm by the Roman aristocracy. They were collected and exhibited in their premises while multiple copies were created and sold. Polykleitos’ name was thus very common among wealthy Roman citizens; it was said that while he may not have succeeded in portraying the humans with the magnificence of the Gods as Pheidias had done, Polykleitos achieved the perfection of the human body and made it more beautiful than it is in reality.

Bibliography:

  1. Theophanides, B.D. Polykleitos. Helios New Encyclopaedic Dictionary. Ioannis Passas, Athens, 1946.
  2. Harris, B., Zucker, S., Polykleitos, Doryphosors (Spear-Bearer). Khan Academy. Accessed on June 10th, 2020. Available at: https://www.khanacademy.org/humanities/ap-art-history/ancient-mediterranean-ap/greece-etruria-rome/a/polykleitos-doryphoros-spear-bearer
  3. Συγγραφικὴ ὁμὰς τῆς Ἀργολικῆς Ἀρχειακῆς Βιβλιοθήκης. 2009. Πολύκλειτος. Ἀργολικὴ Ἀρχειακὴ Βιβλιοθήκη Ἱστορίας καὶ Πολιτισμοῦ. Argolikivivliothiki.gr.
Polykleitos

Speusippus

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Philosopher, Mathematician, Biologist, Scholar (407 BC – 339 BC)

Speusippus was Plato‘s nephew, who succeeded him as headmaster of the Academy. A Platonic philosopher with strong inclination to Pythagoreanism, Speusippus was primarily involved with philosophic arithmology as well as zoology and botany. As all of his works have been lost, it is difficult to draw an understanding of Speusippus’ philosophic thought and his work is known to us through the works of other philosophers.

Speusippus was the son of Plato’s sister Potone. He was educated from a young age by Plato himself who, in spite of seeing flaws in his character, chose him as his successor to his Academy in 348 BC. Speusippus was at his core a Platonic philosopher. He taught that one must possess a collective understanding of the whole in order to gain knowledge on a certain subject and that the general ontologic knowledge of the universe is a prerequisite to understanding reality. He believed in the immortality of man’s soul, that itself had three parts, the epithymitikon (instincts and desires), the thymoides (emotions) and the logistikon (reason) and that man must live in accordance to nature (κατά φύσιν ζῆν) in order to achieve eudaemony. In turn, eudaemony, the true form of happiness is mediated through the practice of the four virtues: sophrosyne, valour, prudence and justice. These theses are elaborated in his book Homoia (Same Things), which does not survive today albeit only in the works of Athenaeus. In the same book he devises a classification of animals and includes detailed descriptions of different animal species.

The theory of “scientific sense” and “scientific logos” were postulated by Speusippus, according to which the senses, if guided by the scientific method can give us a false perception of reality as they hide the essence of the sensible objects. On the contrary, the noetic or intellectual objects or beings can only be perceived by the scientific logos. This second method is what can give man a clear perception of the reality of the intellectual beings.

Speusippus continued Plato’s research on mathematics, focusing more on the philosophic and metaphysical nature of numbers similarly to the Pythagoreans, a field called philosophic arithmolgy. This sparked great controversy from Aristotle and his disciples as evident from Aristotle‘s texts. Furthermore, Speusippus was involved with the study of geometry, in particular on triangles and pyramids. His innovations on the field, however, are lost.

Speusippus died in 339 BC and his seat as headmaster of the Academy was passed to Xenocrates. He suffered from rheumatism during his older years, which nonetheless did not restrain him from practicing his academic duties. When Diogenes the Cynic once saw Speusippus being carried on a litter due to his inability to walk, he deplored him saying that it is not worth living in such a condition. Speusippus replied saying “Man, Diogenes, does not live by his legs but by his mind”.

Bibliography:

  1. Pleures, Konstantinos. 2014. Greek Philosophers. Hilektron Publications. Athens. pp. 119-120
  2. Georgoulis, K.D. Speusippus. Helios New Encyclopaedic Dictionary. Ioannis Passas, Athens, 1946.
  3. Γεωργακόπουλος, Κωνσταντίνος. 1995. Ἀρχαῖοι Ἕλληνες Θετικοὶ Ἐπιστήμονες. Ἐκδόσεις Γεωργιάδης. Β’ Ἔκδοσις. Ἀθῆναι.
Speusippus

Hippocrates Dakoglou

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Engineer, Writer, Researcher (1915 – 2016)

Hippocrates Dakoglou was a civil engineer who gained worldwide recognition as one of the most erudite researchers of Pythagoras and his philosophy. He was the one who succeeded in deciphering the secret code of the Pythagoreans and whose research, spanning over 90 years, provided the modern world with the most knowledgable and insightful wisdom of Pythagoras’s teachings to date. His research elucidated a huge part of Pythagorean philosophy and unveiled groundbreaking and innovative aspects not only on the advanced science hidden within his teachings but subsequently of the entire ancient Greek spirit, knowledge that had not been seen since 2600 years of research. Today, Dakoglou is one of the most respected authorities on Pythagoras in the world.

He was born in Constantinople. Since he was a child he was intrigued by Pythagoras’ mysticism, which led him in collecting every written document he could find on Pythagoras and which would eventually prove decisive in his research. Dakoglou’s first major breakthrough was his book entitled The Secret Code of Pythagoras and the Decipherment of his Teachings first published in 1988 as the first tome of the series. In it, Dakoglou had discovered the method by which Pythagoras communicated his teachings to his disciples. He argued that the Pythagorean sayings had a numerical value conferred to by their words and that these values could be expressed by geometry. Dakoglou proved that Pythagoras could convert verbal messages into geometric shapes and in that manner words could reveal images. In turn, these geometric images unveiled the true meaning behind Pythagoras’ teachings. This method he termed “symbolic logic”, based on arithmolexy and the geometric symbols.

In his research, Dakoglou followed Pythagoras’ method of deciphering symbols and converting words into geometric shapes to reveal some of the most groundbreaking discoveries of Pythagoras. He described the existence of infinite planetary systems within the Universe, which itself consisted of 13 sub-universes, each comprising 12 planets and bound by the same laws of creation. Furthermore he discovered the mathematical laws for the distances of the orbits of the planetary systems as well as the mathematical laws for the distribution of mass and energy in the Universe. He proposed the existence of 3 additional planets in our solar system and gave an estimate of their distances and time of their procession. Dakoglou’s research went further to discover Pythagoras’ cosmogonic beliefs and his interpretation of the geometric and energetic Creation of the Universe. His work mentions the existence of “Black Slits”, the existence of new unknown planets and the existence of the aether, for which he compiled mathematical evidence. However, Dakoglou’s work was not limited exclusively to Greek interests. He proved mathematically that many of the traditional core symbols in different ancient philosophical systems, most notably the Hebrew Kabbalah or Tree of Life and the Chinese Yin-Yang, had Pythagorean wisdom within them and had been studied extensively by the philosopher. Moreover, he published cutting-edge research on pyramidology and on Empedoclean philosophy.

Undoubtedly Dakoglou’s greatest discovery was the grand plan of the Harmony of the Celestial Spheres, its geometric representation and its decipherment. He revealed that the plan of the Harmony of the Celestial Spheres represented the creation of the Universe as handed down by Pythagoras from the geometric solving of the Pythagorean Theorem and the Golden Ratio as modified and applied to the spheres. In 1987 in collaboration with the Iannis Xenakis Foundation, Dakoglou achieved in setting into music the melody of the Harmony of the Celestial Spheres, the sound made by the stars in the universe which Pythagoras could hear and had passed down to his teachings. Dakoglou used electronic devices to convert these mathematical models into music, which he recorded into cassettes and distributed to patients with psychiatric illnesses, a significantly large portion of whom reported satisfactory results.

Dakoglous’ unprecedented success stemmed from a number of factors. His research was completely original and came from no sources other than Pythagoras himself, whereas previous researchers relied on using secondary sources such as Pythagoras’ students. In addition, his conclusions were all mathematically proven and backed-up by geometric shapes. He was vindicated in 2003 when Sedna was discovered by Michael E. Brown, as he had proposed earlier the existence of 3 more planets in our solar system and was vindicated once more when NASA published the sound recorded from the stars. His work proved a catalyst in succeeding to unify the Greek alphabet with the esoteric meaning and metaphysical properties of numbers. Dakoglou’s accomplishment in re-discovering the laws Pythagoras had described which govern the entire solar system cannot be overstated. He helped massively pave the way in re-creating the lost system of Greek Meditation (Hellenikos Dialogismos) by setting its mathematical substrate, later expanded by philosopher Anastasios Asimakopoulos and researcher Altani Palaiogianni. He succeeded in elucidating the lost corpus Pythagoricum in what is known today in its most complete form.

Some will argue why Hippocrates Dakoglou was so immersed in what some people would regard as complete meaninglessness. He believed that the Universe is governed by numbers and numbers never lie. “The benefit of studying Pythagoras is big”, he said, “because it leads to truth, and truth transforms lives”.

Bibliography:

  1. Dakoglou, Hippocrates (1988). The Secret Code of Pythagoras and the Decipherment of his Teachings. 1st Edition. Nea Thesis. Athens.
  2. Ιπποκράτης Δάκογλου. Article on Metapedia (in Greek). Available at: https://el.metapedia.org/wiki/%CE%99%CF%80%CF%80%CE%BF%CE%BA%CF%81%CE%AC%CF%84%CE%B7%CF%82_%CE%94%CE%AC%CE%BA%CE%BF%CE%B3%CE%BB%CE%BF%CF%85#cite_note-7
  3. Συνέντευξη με τον Ιπποκράτη Δάκογλου, τόν άνθρωπο που “έσπασε” τον κώδικα του Πυθαγόρα. Οἱ ἀδιάβροχοι. April 14, 2014. Available online at: http://adiavroxoi.blogspot.com/2014/04/blog-post_14.html
  4. The author of this article used information from interviews of Hippocrates Dakoglou published in several different issues of the magazine Davlos (Δαυλός).
Hippocrates Dakoglou

Arrian

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Philosopher, Historian, Geographer, Writer, General, Statesman (c.95 – c.180)

Flavius Arrianus was one of the greatest Greek polymaths of the Roman era who is widely known today as the author of Anabasis, the most important historical work documenting the life and work of Alexander the Great as well as his conquest of Asia. Referred to as the “New Xenophon”, Arrianus has been praised for his immensely valuable corpus as well as for his virtuous skills as a statesman of the Roman Empire.

He was from Asia Minor, specifically from Bithynia. He began his studies in philosophy next to his tutor and future mentor Epictetus in Nicopolis, before arriving and settling in Athens, where he completed his studies in philosophy and rhetoric. At the time, Athens was ruled by the Roman Emperor Hadrian, who met Arrian while in Athens and befriended him. In admiration for his polymathy and virtue, Hadrian sent Arrian to Rome, where he was granted a Roman citizenship and became a member of the royal family, earning the title Flavius. Arrian would eventually go on to have a very prestigious political career in the Roman Empire, becoming legatus of Cappadocia, the first time in history for a Greek to be appointed to such a rank, later consul of Rome and finally serving as a military commander of the Roman army. In 137 Arrian was appointed archon of Athens and upon his retirement returned to his home city where he served as a hierophant of the Goddess Demeter.

Arrian is the author of multiple books, whose topics span fields including philosophy, history, geography and military. He is the author of Discourses of Epictetus, a book consisting of 8 tomes on the Stoic philosophy of his mentor Epictetus. The book achieved tremendous success throughout history and was even read by the noble Roman class, particularly by Marcus Aurelius, a contemporary of Arrian and himself a Stoic philosopher. Just as Epictetus had influenced Arrian as a philosophy, Xenophon was his spiritual teacher and guide as a historian. This is reflected by the fact that his magnum opus is named after Xenophon’s Anabasis of Cyrus. Arrian’s Anabasis of Alexander is undoubtedly his greatest work to which he owes his prominence as a historian, spanning 7 tomes, recounting Alexander’s campaign and conquest of Asia, his battles, his life, his character as well as the events that took place around him. He described Alexander as a “God’s gift” and his figure unparalleled, proving his admiration for the works of great men, which he wanted to write and pass down to history so that they become immortal.

Arrian wrote multiple historical books, some of them being Ta Met’Alexandron which is about the Diadochi or Alexander’s successors, Bythiniaka, a book on the history of his homeland Bythinia and Parthica, a history of Parthia. His books on geography Indika and Periplous of the Euxine Sea provide a unique insight not only on the geography of India and the Black Sea respectively but in addition on the voyage of Nearchus, Alexander’s chief admiral on the Indian Ocean and the exploration of the shores of India and the nearby countries of the Persian Empire. Being an experienced military commander of the Roman army, Arrian wrote books on military topics, most notably the books Techne Taktikai, Kynegetikon and Ektaxis kat’Alanon. These books testify Arrian’s strong military skills and his ability to critically assess military matters. Arrian was furthermore a writer of biographies, although few of them survive.

It should not come to anyone as a surprise that to a very large extent almost all of Arrian’s corpus has survived. This is attributed to the fact that most of his treatises have been used throughout history as textbooks in schools and universities in the west and continue to be used to this day. He has been praised by many, including Pliny, Emperors Hadrian and Marcus Aurelius, by Lucian and Photios for his simple yet eloquent language, his precision in his descriptions and facts, for his critical research of original source material and for his respect to truth. While he has been named the “New Xenophon” this may be an overstatement as Arrian was never as objective as Xenophon was, referring in certain parts of his writings to divine signs, monsters and even divinations. Nevertheless, his brilliance as a writer and commander is well established as proven by his role in the Roman Empire. History as righteously hailed him as one of the greatest and most erudite historians of all time.

Bibliography:

  1. A.D.N. Arrianos. Helios New Encyclopaedic Dictionary. Passas, I, Athens: 1946. Print.
  2. M. L. Chaumont, “ARRIAN,” Encyclopaedia Iranica, II/5, pp. 523-524, available online at http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/arrian-greek-historian (accessed on 30 December 2012).
  3. Μπούρας, Ναστούλης, Σακελλαρίου. 1998. Αρριανού Αλεξάνδρου Ανάβαση.Οργανισμός Εκδόσεως Διδακτικών Βιβλίων. Αθήνα.
Arrian

Polygnotus

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Painter (5th century BC)

Polygnotus was one of the most renowned painters of Classical Greece, whose works adorned some of the most sacred temples of the Hellenic world, notably at Delphi and the Acropolis of Athens. He was the son of Aglaophon, who himself was a distinguished painter. Originally from the small island of Thasos, Polygnotus settled in Athens and befriended Cimon, son of Miltiades. Polygnotus painted the frescoes in the Stoa Poikile and the Theseum. As a result of his excellent artistry, he was granted an Athenian citizenship and became one of the most successful and respected painters in the history of Athens.

Polygnotus painted two paintings in the Temple of Athena Areia in Plataeae, the first depicting the death of the suitors of Penelope by Odysseus and the second depicting Adrastus’ attack against Thebes. Both served as an allegory to the destruction of Plataeae by the Persians, the defeat of the Persians and the re-establishment of Plataeae. The Lesche of the Cnidians (the club or meeting place of the peoples of Cnidus) was one of Polygnotus’ most remarkable masterpieces. It was an enormous fresco which portrayed scenes from the fall of Troy, the departure of the Achaeans from Troy as well as scenes from Homer’s Odyssey. As mentioned by Lucian, Plutarch and Pausanias, the painting was located in Delphi. Pliny also accounts a painting attributed to Polygnotus in Thespiae, which depicted the punishment of Salmoneus in Hades. Unfortunately, non of the paintings survive today.

Athens was the city Polygnotus was mostly associated with. He painted the fall of Troy in the Stoa Poikile in the ancient agora of the city with similar themes depicted in the Lesche of the Cnidians. In the Theseum, otherwise known as the temple of Hephaestus, Polygnotus painted the battle of Athenians with the Amazons and the Battle of the Lapiths with the Centaurs, two themes which play a crucial role as philosophical tools in the Greek Meditation (‘Ελληνικός Διαλογισμός). In the Anakeion Temple close to the Acropolis, Polygnotus, together with Mikon painted the marriages of the Dioscouri. Polygnotus’ works could not have been absent from the Acropolis itself, the most sacred monument in Athens. Next to the Propylaea (the gateway of Acropolis), was the Pinacotheke , the art gallery, where paintings of Polygnotus and Aglaophon were stored and exhibited.

Widely regarded as a pioneer of art, Polygnotus was admired as an excellent ethograph (άριστος ήθογράφος) because of his ability to illustrate the ethos of the characters he depicted in his paintings using their unique facial expressions, gestures and body movement, all of which enlightened their inner mood. He is said to have painted using only four colours and their derivatives, namely black, white, yellow and red. The influence of Homer, the eternal Teacher of all the Greeks, is strongly visible in Polygnotus’ paintings. Scenes from the Iliad such as the atrocities of the Achaeans during the desruction of Troy, the struggles of the heroes Achilleus and Diomedes, scenes from the Odyssey, such as Odysseus’ descent to Hades, the death of Penelope’s suitors by Odysseus and the meeting of Nausicaa and Odysseus in the land of the Phaeaces are all testaments of the importance Homer occupied in the arts as well as how spiritually cultivated Polygnotus was.

Sadly, we will never be able to admire Polygnotus’ paintings with our own eyes, as none of his works have survived. It is thanks to Pausanias and a handful of other historians who managed to write descriptions of the paintings they once saw and pass them on to the next generations. Reading these descriptions, one can only imagine how magnificent art in classical Greece could have been, perhaps transcending all that the mortal eye has even seen.

Bibliography:

  1. Theophaneidis, Vasilios D. Polygnotos. Helios New Encyclopaedic Dictionary. Encyclopaedia of the Sun Publications. Athens, 2013. Print.
  2. Αρχαιογνώμων. 4 Μαΐου, 2015. Οι Πίνακες του Πολυγνώτου. Ellinondiktyo.blogspot.com. Web.
Polygnotus

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

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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

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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