Isaiah of Salona

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Hero of the Greek War of Independence (1778 – 1821)

Isaiah (real name Elias) was the first protopriest to fall in battle during the Greek War of Independence in 1821. A flaming patriot overwhelmed by a sense of freedom, he sacrificed himself to spark patriotism to the Greeks as well as the Church to join the battle of the Greek War of Independence.

He was born in Desphina of Delphi. Wanting him to become a priest, his father sent him to the monastery of Prodromos to become a deacon and learn some letters. Elias continued his studies in Constantinople with the help of Ali Pasha, who upon meeting him in Ioannina saw great virtue in him. There, he came into contact with the Phanariotes and the Patriarcheion of Constantinople. Patriarch Gregory V became a close affiliate to Elias, whom he would strongly support covertly during the outbreak of the Greek War of Independence. On January 1821, the two would meet once again in Constantinople in order for the Patriarch to instruct him on the preparations of the War.

In 1818 Elias was appointed bishop of Salona and adopted the name Isaiah. He was initiated into the Society of Friends (Φιλικὴ Ἑταιρεία) and began gathering large sums of money as well as weapons and hiding them without the Turkish authorities’ suspicion. After a last trip in Constantinople and his return back to Salona, everything was arranged accordingly and on March 27, 1821, Isaiah of Salona hoisted the Greek flag signaling the outbreak of the Greek War of Independence in the region of Viotia.

Isaiah fought alongside Athanasios Diakos and Panourgias, whom he considered Isaiah as his right-hand man. He had joined as a mere soldier in Panourgias’ army and was member of the Administrative Commission of the War of Sterea Hellada. On the 23rd of April, Isaiah had a protagonistic role in the Battle of Alamana, where he led into battle the few-numbered Greeks against the army of Omer Vryoni. During the battle, Panourgias’ force was disbanded, he himself was injured while Isaiah fell heroically, after ordering his soldiers to leave him wounded and save themselves. The next day, Athanasios Diakos was impaled alive by the Turks and alongside him were impaled numerous other heads of fallen Greeks. Among them was that of Isaiah of Salona.

Isaiah was the first and at the time the only man of a religious title to not only grab arms and fight in the Greek War of Independence, but to sacrifice himself in the name of freedom. Even though the Battle of Alamana concluded with a defeat of the Greeks, it is remembered today principally for the death of Isaiah, which shook the Greeks, increased their esteem and inspired them to imitate his example and join the war. To this day, he is regarded as a symbol of the Greek War of Independence.

Bibliography:

  1. “Isaias Salonon”. Helios New Encyclopaedic Dictionary. Passas, I. Athens: 1946. Print.
  2. Ησαΐας Σαλώνων. Σαν Σήμερα. Sansimera.gr. January 19, 2019. Web.
  3. Κραββαρτόγιαννος, Δρόσος. Ο Επίσκοπος Σαλώνων Ησαΐας. Ελευθερία ή Θάνατος. Anthoulaki.blogspot.com. August 29, 2010. Web. January 19, 2019.
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Isaiah of Salona

Theodore of Cyrene

Mathematician, Philosopher (c470 BC – c390 BC)

One of the greatest mathematicians of antiquity, Theodore was considered by his contemporaries as a geometrist of significant impact on mathematics. He was born in Cyrene of North Africa and was a contemporary of Hippocrates of Chios. Even though none of his works survive, it is known that Theodore was involved not just with geometry but also with irrational numbers.

Ancient writers account Theodore as a student of Protagoras and teacher of Plato in mathematics in Athens. It is postulated that when Plato went to Cyrene, he met Theodore, who taught him on irrational numbers. Most aspects of his life, including the exact date of birth and death, are unknown.

Credited by numerous ancient writers such as Xenophon, Jamblichus, Diogenes Laerius, Plato and Proclus as a master of his art, Theodore’s major contribution to mathematics was that he proved that the square roots of numbers 3,5,7,8,10… 17 are irrational numbers. How he was able to prove this is not known. It is hypothesized that he used geometry as a base for the proof. Furthermore, Theodore constructed the so-called Spiral of Theodorus, a spiral composed of right triangles placed edge to edge, which now bares his name.

As noted by Jamblichus, Theodore was a Pythagorean philosopher, initiated into the mysteries of Pythagoreanism. This comes to prove the high status he possessed at his time as a mathematician. In modern times, several mathematicians have successfully reproduced Theodore’s conclusions of the irrational numbers.

Bibliography:

  1. “Theodoros o Kyreneos”. Helios New Encyclopaedic Dictionary. Evangelos Stamatis, Passas, I. Athens: 1946. Print.
  2. Georgakopoulos, Konstantinos. Ancient Greek Scientists. Georgiades: Athens, 1996. Print.
Theodore of Cyrene

Domenikos Theotokopoulos

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Painter, Sculptor, Architect (1541 – 1614)

Domenikos Theotokopoulos is renowned as the greatest Greek painter of the post-Byzantine era. As a chief representative of the Renaissance, he occupies a special position in the history of world art not only because of his extraordinary paintings and his tremendous influence in the world of art but for his role among the wisest Hellenists of the West. He is best known as El Greco (“The Greek”).

He was born in Crete. His parents had fled there from Constantinople. Crete belonged to the Kingdom of Venice at the time. From a young age he was introduced to art, literature and religion by the monks of the monastery of St. Panteleemon. He continued his studies in Herakleion and in Venice. There, he was initiated into the art of the Renaissance by prominent artists such as Tiziano Vecelli, Andrea Schiavone and Tintoretto. His love for classicism and the wisdom of the ancient philosophers led him to the circles of the most well-known Hellenists of Venice and Rome, with whom he interacted.

While in Rome, Domenikos was met with vehement opposition upon saying that were the paintings of Michelangelo destroyed in the Cappella Sistina, he himself would be able to replace them with even better ones, not lacking in anything from the previous ones. This caused him to leave Rome and settle in Toledo in Spain. By the time Domenikos Theotokopoulos went to Toledo, people had already begun calling him El Greco.

In Spain, Theotokopoulos lived for 37 years and was where he reached the peak of his career. He was a restless man who felt that nothing in art satisfied him. This made him to always seek out new ways of improvement. A deeply spiritual person with great knowledge and influence from both Byzantine and Renaissance art, Domenikos’ primary source of influence was the Hellenic flame that burned within him and which never stopped burning. All these factors led him to become a painter and an intellectual who stood out from all the others in a foreign land.

His first major works were the paintings at the church of Santo Dominguo el Antiguo in Toledo, most notably The Assumption of the Virgin. Paintings such as The Holy Trinity and Resurrection of Christ had already garnered significant attention from spectators when Theotokopoulos painted the famous Exspolium depicting the passions of Christ, one of his greatest paintings. 1586 marked one of the most important years for him as he painted The Burial of the Count of Orgaz. The painting is unanimously considered by scholars to be El Greco’s greatest painting ever produced as well as one of the greatest masterpieces of the Renaissance. With this painting, El Greco proved his spiritual magnificence over all Europe.

In the following years, El Greco’s fame became widespread as numerous students visited his workshop to follow his footsteps. As his name became known to the spiritual circles of Toledo, Theotokopoulos met some of the most important Hellenists of his era, including writers, philosophers, scholars and painters whom he frequently amazed with his knowledge during their philosophical conversations. Antonio de Covarrubias and Miguel de Cervantes were some of his admirers.

El Greco continued to produce paintings of insuperable craftsmanship and beauty as well as portraits until late in his life. His last major painting, the Pentecost, characterized by his philosophical thought and technique, was made when Theotokopoulos had reached the apogee of his spiritual reasoning. He had succeeded through courts for artists to not pay taxes to the state.

He died in Toledo in 1614 and his name fell into obscurity for hundreds of years, until the beginning of the 20th century, when his paintings, then believed to be the works of a madman, surfaced into the public eye. Nowadays, his paintings adorn some of the grandest museums and art collections in Europe. El Greco, the name he had been given by the Hellenists of the Renaissance he kept until the end of his life. Revered by many for his commitment to his beliefs and his love for a free Greek nation, which he never ceased struggling for, Domenikos Theotokopoulos achieved worldwide recognition, being called by Hortensio Paravicino “Divine Greco”.

Bibliography:

  1. Kyrou, Achilleus A.. “Theotokopoulos, Domenikos”. Helios New Encyclopaedic Dictionary. Passas, I. Athens: 1946. Print.
  2. Δομήνικος Θεοτοκόπουλος. Σαν Σήμερα. gr. Jan 4, 2019. Web.
  3. Ο καλλιτέχνης που αρνήθηκε να πληρώνει φόρους. Δομήνικος Θεοτοκόπουλος, γιατί έγινε καθολικός και πως προκάλεσε τον Μιχαήλ Άγγελο εξαγριώνοντας τη Ρώμη. Δεν προσυμφωνούσε ποτέ την αξία των έργων του. Μηχανή του Χρόνου. gr. Jan 4, 2019. Web.
Domenikos Theotokopoulos

Mimnermus

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Lyric Poet (c.632 BC – ?)

Mimnermus was an elegiac poet from the city of Colophon, Asia Minor, who flourished during the 7th century BC. His influence among the Alexandrian erotic poets was significant; during the Roman era he became famous for two things: a skilled craftsman of elegy and a poet of love.

He was a contemporary of the Seven Sages of ancient Greece. Mimnermus is hailed by ancient writers as the best elegiac poet and the first one to make love his first and major theme in poetry. As a pioneer of elegiac poetry, his works are responsible for connecting the Hellenistic poetry with the Roman elegy.

In his poems, Mimnermus expresses his individual emotions, his erotic pathos and his melancholy as well as sorrow on the fact that youth is shorter and old age longer. Furthermore, he sings of bravery and acts of valor. His poetry is filled with vivid imagery of nature, magical and mythological elements, overwhelmed by charm and overall an encomium to love.

In addition, Mimnermus was an aulos-player, a wind instrument prevalent in ancient Greece. He is credited by Strabo and Plutarch as having established musical laws for aulos music. Indeed, Mimnermus possessed good knowledge on music as seen from the musical rhythm of his elegies. A large portion of his poems were published as a collection under the name Nanno, the name of a aulos-player he fell in love with.

Mimnermus’ reputation rose significantly during the early Roman era and his works enjoyed a high number of readers, namely Propertius and other Roman imitators who attempted to recreate his writings. Propertius admired Mimnermus’ approach to the depths of man’s emotions and musicality of his poems.

Bibliography:

  1. “Mimnermos”. Helios New Encyclopaedic Dictionary. N.I. Luvaris, Passas, I. Athens: 1946. Print.
  2. The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. Mimnermus. Encyclopaedia Britannica. June 29, 2017. Britannica.com. December 25, 2018. Web.
  3. Καζάζης, Καραμήτρου. Ανθολόγιο Αρχαϊκής Λυρικής Ποίησης γεικού λυκείου (κατεύθυνσης). Οργανισμός Εκδόσεως Διδακτικών Βιβλίων. Ψηφιακό Σχολείο. Ebooks.edu.gr.Web.
Mimnermus

Pittacus

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Tyrant, General (c.640 BC – c.568 BC)

Pittacus of Mytilene was a general from the island of Lesvos and one of the Seven Sages of ancient Greece. Essentially an autodidact, he was revered for his military might, his political prudence and his wisdom. He governed Mytilene for 10 years, establishing himself as one of the most important historical figures of the island and of Greek history.

Pittacus first entered politics when co-operating with the two brothers of Alcaeus Cicys and Antimenidas, the representatives of the aristocracy, killed the Lesvian tyrant Melagchron and took over as the new ruler of Lesvos. A few years later he was elected general of his peoples in the war against Athens. In the battle for Sigeion, a harbour in Hellispontus controlled by the Athenians, Pittacus challenged their general Phrynon, an Olympian in pankrateion, into a duel, whom he killed. Sigeion returned to Lesvian rule and Pittacus was honoured with a portion of land, for which he agreed to receive only the size equal to the distance where his javelin would reach. This part of land became known as “Land of Pittacus”.

After a series of political upheavals, Pittacus was granted complete by the people power over Lesvos, serving as general for a second time from 595 BC to 579 BC. Thus, he ruled in a system of “appointive tyranny” (αἰρετὴ τυραννίς), differing from the barbaric tyranny in that it was not based on heritage but resembled monarchy as the dictator was elected by the people.

As tyrant of Lesvos, Pittacus reformed the laws, changing the old legislation concerning monarchy and gave amnesty to all the exiled political rivals of the government. After ruling prudently for over a decade, Pittacus resigned wilfully from his position as Tyrant and died a few years later. By the time of his resignation, he had achieved fame throughout the whole Greece thanks to his wisdom and was visited by those seeking to hear his advices.

None of Pittacus’ works have survived. Multiple, however, quotes have been saved by Diogenes Laertius and Stobaeus attributed to Pittacus. Of those, the following are some of the most well-known:

«Συγγνώμη μετανοίας κρείσσων». – Forgiveness is better than pertinence. Another variant of the quote was “Forgiveness is better than revenge”.

«Ἄνδρα ἀγαθὸν ἀλαθέως γενέσθαι χαλεπόν». – “It is difficult for man to be genuinely good”.

«’Ανάγκα δ’ οὐδὲ θεοὶ μάχονται». – “Not even Gods cannot resist necessity”.

«Ἀρχὴ ἄνδρα δεικνύει». – “Power proves the man”.

«Τὰς νίκας ἄνευ αἵματος ποιεῖσθαι». – “Achieve victories without blood”.

«Σωφροσύνην φιλεῖν.» – “Love sophrosyne”.

«Συνετῶν ανδρῶν εἶναι, πρὶν γενέσθαι τὰ δυσχερῆ προνοῆσαι ὅπως μὴ γένηται, ἀνδρείων δὲ γενόμενα εὖ θέσθαι». – “It is for wise men to forsee, before the difficult things come, so that they do not happen, it is for the brave to face them, should they happen”.

Bibliography:

  1. “Pittacus”. Helios New Encyclopaedic Dictionary. N.I. Luvaris, Passas, I. Athens: 1946. Print.
  2. Ο Σοφότατος Πιττακός ο Μυτιληναίος. Ελλήνων Δίκτυο. Hellinon.net. Web. December 23, 2018.
  3. Πλεύρης, Κωνσταντῖνος. Ὁ Διωγμὸς τῶν Ἀρίστων. Ἤλεκτρον. Ἀθῆναι: 2013. Print.
Pittacus

Dicaearchus

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Philosopher, Mathematician, Astronomer, Geographer, Historian (c.370 BC – c.285 BC)

Dicaearchus was a Peripatetic philosopher, a contemporary of Aristoxenos, tutor of Aristotle and colleague of Theophrastus. Sometimes credited as a philosopher and a rhetorician more than a geometer and geographer, Dicaearchus was a poly-scientist who made significant contributions to several disciplines, as was common at the time. His name means “the one who rules with justice”.

He was born in Messene of Sicily. He lived and worked most of his life in Peloponnesus. Highly admired by Peripatetic and Latin philosophers alike, Dicaearchus compiled treatises on geography, philosophy, politics, ethics and religion. Unfortunately, only excerpts remain as a legacy of his work, still enough, however, to appreciate the magnitude of his thinking.

His greatest work in geography and cartography is Circuit of the Earth, a book that contained tables and maps drawn by himself of the then known world, based on descriptions by Diogenes Laertius. In his book Enumeration of the mountains of Greece, Dicaearchus writes down the height of all the mountains of Peloponnesus that he measured using diopters. Among his greatest works was Life of Greece, a book which provided descriptions on the lives of Greeks from the very ancient times to the times of Alexander the Great. The book also contained descriptions on the culture, religion, lifestyle, theatres and music of the Greeks, as well as political aspects, topography and the city-states of the Greek world. He was one of the first to compile a treatise on geodesy.

Other works of Dicaearchus include philosophical dialogues such as Lesviakos and Politiakos, political treatises such as Tripolitikos (Three City Dialogue), a work where democracy, aristocracy and monarchy are compared between them, biographies of Pythagoras, Plato, Alcaeus and the 7 Sages, On Musical Games, Hypothesis on the Myths of Sophocles and Euripides and several books on ethics. As a scientist, Dicaearchus studied the effects of the sun on the ocean waves and attempted to measure the distance between Gibraltar and ancient Messene. In addition, he attempted to measure the length of the Earth’s equator.

Dicaearchus, even though one of the most prolific philosophers of antiquity with an exquisitely rich bibliography, remains one of Greece’s lesser known geniuses due to most of his work having been lost. Had his work been preserved, many parts of the ancient Greek culture which remain unknown today would have been revealed.

Bibliography:

  1. “Dicaearchus”. Helios New Encyclopaedic Dictionary. N.I. Luvaris, Passas, I. Athens: 1946. Print.
  2. Georgakopoulos, Konstantinos. Ancient Greek Scientists. Georgiades: Athens, 1996. Print.
  3. Φιλίστωρ, Ιωάννης. Δικαίαρχος: Ἐνας αρχαίος Μεσσήνιος φιλόσοφος και γεωγράφος. Θέματα Ελληνικής Ιστορίας. Istorikathemata.com. November 4, 2013. Web. December 5, 2018.
Dicaearchus

George Seferis

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Poet (1900 – 1971)

George Seferis was a poet, translator and diplomat, widely regarded as one of the greatest men of letters in modern Greek history. As the main representative of the “Generation of the 30’s”, a group of writers who made their debuts in the letters in the 30’s, Seferis dominated the world of literature and poetry at his time, becoming a figure of international influence. He was the first Greek to be awarded the Nobel Prize.

He was born in Smyrna. He studied in Athens and in Paris, where he obtained a degree in law. Upon his return to Athens, he was admitted in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. This was the start of a long and successful career in diplomacy. Throughout his career, he held important posts, most notably Royal Ambassador to the United Kingdom.

Seferis’ first major work published was Strophe (Turning Point) in 1931, which indeed would mark a turning point not just in the author’s life but also on the world of modern literature. The interest that was sparked by the poem helped establish young Seferis as an important and promising poet, thus gaining acceptance from the higher echelons of literature, in spite of some inadvertent controversies from certain circles.

Seferis’ poetry inaugurated a new era of literature in Greece. 1935 marked an important year in Seferis’ life, with the publication of his work Mythistorema, a collection of 24 short poems alluding to works and myths of the grandfather of world literature, Homer. Indeed, Seferis’ mature poetry draws inspiration from Greece’s ancient past and it is through his poetry that the ancient Greek miracle translates into the present world.

Beginning from the 50’s Seferis’ work was translated and published abroad, further boosting his fame worldwide. He wrote essays, though fewer in number than his poems, as well as compiled translations, most importantly the works of T.S. Elliot. By 163, George Seferis had been recognized as the “representative Hellenic poet”, with his monumental poetry being a product of the ancient Greek thought and spirit.

He died in 1971 during the junta and his funeral became a national outcry against the regime in Greece. He was one of the few poets to enjoy recognition while he was still alive. Throughout his life, he received several honorary doctorates from international universities, was elected Honorary Fellow of the Modern Language Association as well as Honorary Foreign Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 1963, the Swedish Academy awarded him with the Nobel Prize of Literature “for his eminent lyrical writing, inspired by a deep feeling for the Hellenic world of culture”.

Bibliography:

  1. George Seferis. Poetry Foundation. www.poetryfoundation.org. November 27, 2018. Web.
  2. Giorgos Seferis – Biographical. NobelPrize.org. Nobel Media AB 2018. Tue. 27 Nov 2018.
  3.  Γιώργος Σεφέρης. Σαν σήμερα. Sansimera.gr. Web. Retrieved November 27, 2018.
George Seferis