Eurybiades

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Admiral (5th century BC)

Eurybiades was the Spartan general who commanded the Spartan naval forces in the Battle of Artemisium and the Battle of Salamis in 480 BC. Together with the wise Themistocles and the just Aristides they are hailed as the great leaders who orchestrated the victory of the Battle of Salamis during the second Persian invasion in Greece.

Not much is known about Eurybiades’ life. Prior to being chosen as an admiral of the Spartan fleet, he had acquired great naval battle skills as well as experience in the sea. His position imbued great respect and his orders were always followed without hesitation. The first major battle in which he is accounted to have played a decisive role was in the Battle of Artemisium against the Persian fleet, during the second Persian invasion of Greece in 480 BC. The battle resulted into the Greek forces retreating to the island of Aegina after the arrival of the news that the Greeks, led by Leonidas and the 300 Spartans had fallen in the Battle of Thermopylae and the Persians were marching toward Athens.

In Aegina, the council of generals gathered and discussed their strategies. Themistocles proposed that the Greek fleet strike the Persian fleet at the straits of Salamis while the Peloponnesian navarchs objected the idea, insisting on retreating and facing the Persian fleet in Southern Italy. Eurybiades initially objected Themistocles’ plan but was persuaded afterwards, thanks to the later’s eloquence. Prudent as he was, Eurybiades could foresee the consequences of future events as well as understand the genius of Themistocles’ plan.

It was this simple decision that the Greeks united remained in Salamis and fought victoriously against Xerxes’ fleet, rescuing from Persian rule not only Greece but all of Europe. This simple decision, which changed the entire course of history, was the reason Eurybiades was glorified and was awarded an accolade for his bravery, while Themistocles an accolade for his wisdom.

After the Battle of Salamis, Eurybiades lived a peaceful life, choosing not to redeem his glory for a career in politics as did other Spartan generals. He kept a distance from public affairs not to spoil his reputation, at the prize of retaining his eternal glory in one of the greatest battles in history.

Bibliography:

  1. Βολωνάκης. Ἰωάννης. Τῆς Ἀρχαίας Ἑλλάδος οἱ Μεγάλοι Ἠγέται. Εκδόσεις Γεωργιάδης. Ἀθῆναι: 1997. Print.
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Eurybiades

Antisthenes

Term of Antisthenes. Rome, Vatican Museums.

Philosopher (c.445 BC – c.365 BC)

Antisthenes was a philosopher and the founder of the Cynic School of philosophy. Credited as one of Socrates’ most loyal students and Diogenes’ teacher, Antisthenes was concerned not with Plato’s metaphysics, not with Aristotle’s logic or with Anaxagoras’ nous. Rather, he was interested in the practical aspects of philosophy and its ways of achieving true happiness through virtue.

He was born in Piraeus to a poor Athenian father and a Thracian slave mother. As a result, Antisthenes was considered an “illegitimate” citizen of Athens, something that stigmatized him throughout the entirety of his life, which he lived in complete poverty and disregard. As a child, Antisthenes admired Socrates and hence approached him to become his student. Socrates accepted him not just as a student, but as a friend. He remained very loyal to Socrates, the two exhibiting immense courage when they fought together in the Battle of Tanagra and the Battle of Amphipole. Antisthenes was present during Socrates’ final moments when he drank the hemlock, standing beside him during his death.

Following Socrates’ death, Antisthenes went to Cynosarges, a suburb located outside the walls of Athens where the Gymnasium of the “poor” was located, a place where all the illegitimate children of Athens exercised. There he founded his own philosophic school known as the Cynic School of philosophy, to indicate that just like the illegitimate children of Athens, he as well was an outcast of the Athenian society. His school’s fame would eventually cross the borders of Athens and become known to all of Greece.

Like Diogenes after him, Antisthenes’ philosophy could be described as a more extreme form of that of Socrates, he himself described as a “Socrates gone mad”. Antisthenes believed that virtue and wisdom can be achieved by living a strict ascetic life, devoid of any physical or emotional pleasures. He claimed that the theoretical knowledge on philosophy was useless and that virtue can be taught. A philosopher must free himself from external obligations and self-delusions and accustom himself to physical hardships, as this brings man closer to the Divine and therefore achieves true eudaimony.

Antisthenes considered deeds and actions over words and theories in the attainment of virtue and did not require a great deal of words or learning. One must learn to abandon old habits and live a natural life, independent from the outside world. Indeed, Antisthenes put his ideas into practice in his everyday life. He was homeless, walked around barefoot with just an old tribon and carrying a stick. He had no family or property and lived a life of deliberate poverty and complete abstinence of any pleasure. He contemned glory, rejected comfort and hated riches, stating that people who scorn wealth, glory and pleasures of life are the noblest men of all in contrast to those who embrace them and are superior to poverty, ingloriousness, pain and death. Such men are wise and wise men are self-sufficient according to the philosopher.

Antisthenes remained a social and political outcast of Athens throughout his life. Even though wise and loving of his homeland, he was a strong anti-democrat, stating that laws are made for the many to follow, not for the few, who are guided b virtue instead. As founder of the Cynics, he became a public figure known as the leader of all the poor, the disregarded and afflicted members of society. Nevertheless, both he and Diogenes were very well respected individuals in all of Greece, if not admired by many for their beliefs and practices. He wrote over 60 books on his philosophy by which he exerted important influence throughout the ages. None of them survive today.

Bibliography:

  1. Βολωνάκης, Ἰωάννης Κ., Τῆς Ἀρχαίας Ἑλλάδος οἱ Μεγάλοι Ἠγέται. Ἐκδόσεις Γεωργιάδης. Ἀθῆναι: 1997.Print.
  2. Piering, Julie. Antisthenes (c.446 BC – c.366 B.C.E.). Internet Encyclopaedia of Philosophy. Iep.utm.edu. January 25, 2019. Web.
  3. Pleures, Konstantinos. Greek Philosophers. Hilektron Publications. Athens: 2014. Print.
Antisthenes

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

Mimnermus

μιμνςρμος.JPG

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

pittacus

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

dicaearchus

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

Timocharis

Astronomer, Philosopher, Geographer (c.320 BC – c.260 BC)

Timocharis of Alexandria was the first astronomer verified in history to have recorded the position of some of the basic stars known today after having calculated their distance from certain points in the sky using mathematical scientific approach.

He lived during the reign of King Ptolemy I Soter and was a colleague of Aristyllus, a notable astronomer of his time. Together, they are credited as the first astronomers to have compiled an astronomic catalogue of the celestial bodies. Their work, although most of it lost, was used by pioneers in the field of astronomy such as Ptolemy and Hipparchus to compile the most extensively accurate star catalogue of the ancient world. Hipparchus further used Timocharis measurements as a basis for calculating the precession of the equinoxes, one of the greatest astronomical discoveries of mankind.

Timocharis wrote treatises on the lunar eclipses, recorded the exact date and time at night when he observed each star, as well as the lunar occultations at the time of the observation. He is also the first astronomer to use the Callippic calendar for his observations. Furthermore, he was the first to calculate the position of 12 fixed stars in the sky, with 6 more by Aristyllus as well as the positions of planet Venus. These calculations are considered accurate to this day.

As having created the very first star catalogue in world history, Timocharis was highly looked upon, as evident by Ptolemy and Hipparchus, who further continued his work, Hipparchus completing and perfecting it. It is unfortunate that almost the entirety of his work as been destroyed, with excerpt preserved by the two aforementioned astronomers in their works, in token of their admiration to Timocharis. Today, a crater on the Moon is named after him.

Bibliography:

  1. Georgakopoulos, Konstantinos. Ancient Greek Scientists. Georgiades: Athens, 1996. Print.
  2. Timocharis.” Complete Dictionary of Scientific Biography. Encyclopedia.com. 31 Oct.2018 <https://www.encyclopedia.com>.
Timocharis