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

Pytheos of Halicarnassus

Architect (4th century BC)

Pytheos of Halicarnassus, also known as Pythius of Priene, was the architect who, together with Satyros constructed the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. The megastructure was built as a tomb to house the body of Mausolos, a satrap of Persia. Its name became synonymous to any large funeral monument used today as a tomb.

Almost nothing is known about Pytheos aside from some of the temples he constructed. By far the most famous one if the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus, built between 355 and 350 BC. The whole structure was built on a base podium, on top of which was placed the crypt, surrounded by the temple, which had 36 Ionian rhythm columns around it. The roof consisted of a climactic pyramid of 24 steps, on top of which Pytheos placed a giant statue of Mausolos riding a chariot with 4 horses. The podium’s steps were decorated with scenery from the Titanomachy, Amazonomachy and Centauromachy while the outside of the crypt was decorated with sculptures of the best sculptors of the world, namely Leocharis, Bryaxis, Scopas, Timotheus and Praxiteles. At a height of 55 meters, the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus became one of the most magnificent structures of the ancient Greek spirit.

Pytheos also constructed other temples. The Temple of Artemis Cybele in Sardes, which bears similarities to the Temple of Artemis in Ephesus was designed and constructed by Pytheos as a replacement of the one destroyed in 497 BC. In addition, he designed the Temple of Athena Polias in Priene, which was ordered by Alexander the Great.

His architectural works were described in detail in a series of books that he wrote called Scholia. These books, which today have not survived, were some of the most important sources of ancient Greek architecture, on which Vitrivius also based his description.

Today, almost nothing remains of the wondorous mausoleum or any of Pytheus’ monuments, but rubbles, stones and pillars, a reminiscent of what used to be one of the greatest architectural masterpieces ever built by the Greeks, the ones who perfected architectural science.

Bibliography:

  1. Georgakopoulos, Konstantinos. Ancient Greek Scientists. Georgiades: Athens, 1996. Print.
  2. Cartwright, Mark. “Mausoleum at Halicarnassus.” Ancient History Encyclopedia. Ancient History Encyclopedia, 26 Jul 2018. Web. 27 May 2019.
Pytheos of Halicarnassus

Epimenides

epimenides

Philosopher (7th century BC)

Epimenides was a seer, a mystic, a prophet and a spiritual teacher of the early 7th century BC from Knossos of Crete. He excelled both as a lawmaker and a poet and is regarded as one of the most important representatives of Orphic theology and philosophy. Many aspects of Epimenides’ life and work remain either obscure or have been blended with myth.

Ancient accounts of Epimenides describe him as the prime practitioner of the “cathartic arts”, meaning a form of healing or cleansing of the soul. He possessed the ability, through theurgical rituals to cleanse physical and psychic miasmas, something referred to as Psychurgy.

Epimenides was a student of Pythagoras, whom he met when Pythagoras travelled to Crete in search of the initiates of Morgos. Epimenides took him to the Diktaean Cave where he performed him a spiritual cleansing and initiated him to the local Mysteries. In another account, when the city of Athens was plagued by an epidemic, the people sought help from the Oracle of Delphi, which told them to refer to Epimenides. When Epimenides came to Athens, he performed rituals to appease the Gods as well as to cleanse the city.

He is the author of multiple treatises on chresmos, instructions on cathartic and purification practices, on theurgy and rituals, each based upon the teachings of Orphic theology. Moreover, Epimenides wrote a Theogony although it is unknown to which extent it was similar to that of Hesiod. Together with Melampous and Onomacritus they form the triad of primary representatives of the Orphic Mysteries and was responsible for establishing the Eleusinian Mysteries and the Mysteries of Samothrace.

Epimenides is said to have slept in a cave for 57 years and that he died at the age of 154 or 299. Many Greeks accepted him as a favourite of the Gods as they believed that during his slumber he had communication with the Gods. From this myth came the expression Epimenidean Sleep, used when someone sleeps for extremely long time. In another myth, Epimenides is said to have advised Solon on the lawmaking of Athens. He was considered as the seventh of the Seven Sages of ancient Greece by some, instead of Periander. To him are attributed several quotes, the most famous one being the Epimenidean paradox «Κρῆτες ἀεὶ ψεῦσται» (Cretans always lie), since he himself was a Cretan.

Bibliography:

  1. Επιμενίδης, ο μάντης από την Κρήτη που κοιμήθηκε σε μια σπηλιά για 57 ολόκληρα χρόνια. Γιατί οι Έλληνες τον θεώρησαν αγαπημένο των θεών και μπήκε στον κατάλογο των επτά σοφών στη θέση του Περίανδρου… Μηχανή του Χρόνου. Mixanitouxronou.gr. Retreived on May 25, 2019. Web.
  2. “Epimenides”. Helios New Encyclopaedic Dictionary. Passas, I. Athens: 1946. Print.
  3. Σακελλαρίου, Γεώργιος. Πυθαγόρας Ο Διδάσκαλος τῶν Αἰώνων. Ἰδεοθέατρον. Ἀθῆναι: 1963. Print.
  4. Γράβιγγερ, Πέτρος. Ὁ Πυθαγόρας καὶ ἡ Μυστικὴ Διδασκαλία τοῦ Πυθαγορισμοῦ. Ιδεοθέατρον Διμελῆ. Ἀθῆναι: 1998. Print.
Epimenides

Sophocles

sophocles

Tragic Poet (495 BC – 406 BC)

One of the greatest tragic poets to have ever lived, Sophocles, together with Aeschylus and Euripides form the holy triad of tragic poetry and theater arts. The writer of world-renowned plays such as Oedepus, Antigone and Philoctetes, Sophocles exerted enormous influence in the world of theater in the distant past when the aim of theater was not for entertainment as is today’s but for education and spiritual cleansing.

Sophocles was born in Athens to a wealthy, aristocratic family. He received an excellent education for his times, learning music from acclaimed teachers and tragic poetry from Aeschylus’ plays. As a playwright, Sophocles made his debut in front of the Greek audience in 468 BC at the age of 28 with his first play Triptolemos. His play won him his first prize, winning over Aeschylus, who had dominated the hearts of Athenian men as the greatest of all tragic poets. This signaled the rise of a new genius in tragic poetry and marked the start of Sophocles’ long and successful career.

Sophocles was an emblematic figure in the Athenian society and an exemplary citizen. In 443 – 442, following the massive acclaim of his play Antigone, Sophocles was made an honorary general and together with Pericles took part in the battle against the Samiotes. The same year he served as president of the Greek treasury. Widely popular throughout the whole Greece, he was a close friend of both of his rivals Aechylus, whom he considered his mentor and Euripides, whom he admired. Additionally, Sophocles was a good friend of Herodotus whom he also admired greatly, a feeling that was mutual between the two.

There is a general disagreement among historians concerning the total number of Sophocles’ works. It is generally accepted, however, the total number to be around 123. Sophocles won 1st place a total of 20 times and never ranked lower than second place in any competition that he participated in. His plays, which still luster with the same greatness as they did thousands of years ago, draw inspiration from the rich stories of the ancient Greek tradition, the world of the ancient Greek mythology, which relfects the states of man’s soul. It was this soul that Sophocles’ tragedies aimed to provoke and disturb and ultimately cleanse during the climax of the play, leading to its catharsis.

Not only is Sophocles a tragic poet. He is a philosopher, a hierophant, an initiate of the Mystery Schools, as was Aeschylus before him, a profound connoisseur of the Dionysean and Apollonian Mysteries, an anatomist of the human soul. The center of Sophocles’ plays is Man. In contrast, however to his predecessor, Sophocles’ characters act within the natural world and within the normal human boundaries. They are, nevertheless, braver than the average man, engulfed by the sense of justice and ethical duty, possessing ideals and principles for which they are willing at any given moment to sacrifice themselves to defend them, an iron will to overcome situations that exceed the human dimensions. In Sophocles’ plays, the characters’ actions are born from within themselves and are not a cause of an external or divine force. Hence, Sophocles’ tragedies are born from the struggle of man to overcome their nature and their fate. Through the drama, Sophocles’ ultimate goal is the apotheosis of man, which he considers the most amazing being of the universe (πολλὰ τὰ δεινά, κοὐδὲν ἀνθρώπου δεινότερον πέλει).

The innovations which Sophocles introduced in theater were numerous. He increased the total number of actors on the stage from 2 to 3, and the dancers of the chorus from 12 to 15. The chorus thus served as a protagonist and as a commentator. He furthermore introduced the Phyrgic melody in his plays. Even though an actor himself, Sophocles did not act in his own plays, as did his predecessors. He is the first to introduce the psychological aspect in the drama, with his characters seeking to shed light to their innermost, darkest places of their soul. The characters gain for the first time in theater a three-dimensional and psychological aspect and their actions imbue admiration to the spectator. It was Sophocles’ breakthrough to portray characters not as they normally are, but how they should be. That is, the idealization of the human soul.

In general, Sophocles’ works befall in the following categories: Theogony and the birth of the Gods, on the geneology of Deucalion, on the Argonauts’ expedition, on the geneology of Heracles, Inachus, Cadmus and Europe, on the geneology of the Pelasgians, Cecrops, the children of Tandalos and lastly on the Iliad and the Odyssey. Of the 123 plays, all but 7 survive only in fragments. These 7 plays are the following:

  • Antigone – About a young woman who disobeys the law to perform a righteous act.
  • Ajax – A play centered on the Trojan hero Ajax, with the themes revolving around polemic virtue and dignity.
  • Oedipus Tyrranus – A timeless classic on the tragic life of King Oedipus and his fate.
  • Trachiniae – About Deianira and the accidental murder of her husband Hercules.
  • Electra – A story of two siblings taking revenge on their father’s death.
  • Philoctetes – On the persuation of Trojan hero Philoctetes by Odysseus to join the Trojan War and fulfill the prophecy of the fall of Troy.
  • Oedipus at Colonus – The final part of the Oedipus trilogy masterpiece.

The main theme that is projected from Sophocles’ work is the highest ethical ideal of Hellenism: the harmony between the duty and freedom.

Sophocles is the primary representative of atticism, with his plays being the embodiment of everything the Athenian classicism of the 5th century BC epitomized, namely the philosophy, the religion, the ethics, the education, the Athenian land and nature and above all, all the high virtues of mankind, which Greece raised and placed in the center of man’s soul. Sophocles continued from where Aeschylus left the development of tragic poetry and brought it to the limits of perfection. He was called by many as the Homer of tragic poetry. With his works, tragic poetry and theatre arts as a whole reach their apogee. As Friedrich Nietzsche writes in his book The Birth of TragedyThe art of Aeschylus and Sophocles originate from the artistic ideal of the perfect harmony of the Dionysean and Apollonian spirits”.

With Sophocles, tragic poetry transcends the boundaries of art, becoming a means of spiritual exaltation and Greek Meditation. His immortal masterpieces are children of the Greek spirit, the Greek Miracle, which, as N.D. Korkofinis puts beautifully in the Encyclopaedia of the Sun “[The Greek art, the Greek philosophy, the immortal ancient Greek spirit] gift the entire human race its freedom from the horrors and agony of its earthly life. And this service is the highest service of the Greek world to all Humanity”.

Bibliography:

  1. “Sophocles”. Helios New Encyclopaedic Dictionary. N.D. Korkofinis, Passas, I. Athens: 1946. Print.
  2. Cartwright, Mark. Sophocles. Ancient History Encyclopedia. Ancient History Encyclopedia, 29 Sep 2013. Web. 09 May 2019.
  3. Δρακόπουλος, Ναστούλης, Ρώμας. Σοφοκλέους Τραγωδίαι – Ἀντιγόνη Φιλοκτήτης. Οργανισμός Εκδόσεως Διδακτικών Βιβλίων – Αθήνα. Υπουργείο Εθνικής Παιδείας και Θρησκευμάτων. Παιδαγωγικό Ινστιτούτο.
Sophocles

Hippasus

ipasos

Philosopher, Mathematician (c.500 BC)

Hippasus of Mentapontus was a Pythagorean philosopher, one of Pythagoras’ first students initiated into Pythagoreanism and founder of the Mathematical Department of Pythagoras’ School.

He was active during the first 30 years of the 6th century BC and is considered as one of the oldest Pythagorean philosophers, as well as Pythagoras’ first assistant. While himself Pythagorean, Hippasus’ teachings differed slightly from those of Pythagoreans. For instance, he believed that the beginning of the world is matter (fire) rather than immaterial (numbers). He wrote a book Secret Logos, which he published under the name of Pythagoras, containing his philosophy. Only fragments of his book survive today.

As a mathematician, Hippasus is the discoverer of irrational numbers, infinite decimals with no indefinitely repeating digits. Furthermore, he discovered that the ratio of a side of a pentagon to the diagonal of a pentagon is equal to an irrational number and that the length of an isosceles’ triangle shorter side is an irrational number if the length of the two equal sides is a whole one.

Not surprisingly, Hippasus was also an inventor. He is credited as having constructed containers with varying amounts of water each, including metal plates of varying thickness with which he made acoustic experiments on the harmony of sound. In Pythagoras’ school, Hippasus was not only the founder the department of mathematics, but also the founder of the “cycle of acoustic scientists”, a body tasked with conducting experiments on sound and music using the aforementioned inventions. The body studied the relationship between music and mathematics.

According to some ancient writers, Hippasus was accused of publicizing secret Pythagorean knowledge to outsiders or uninitiated people, which was strictly forbidden by Pythagorean oath and was subsequently persecuted. Nevertheless, he is held on high regards by modern day historians of science.

Bibliography:

  1. Georgakopoulos, Konstantinos. Ancient Greek Scientists. Georgiades: Athens, 1996. Print.
  2. Σακελλαρίου, Γεώργιος. Πυθαγόρας Ο Διδάσκαλος τῶν Αἰώνων. Ἰδεοθέατρον. Ἀθῆναι: 1963. Print.
  3. “Hippasus”. Helios New Encyclopaedic Dictionary. Passas, I. Athens: 1946. Print.
  4. “Hippasus of Metapontum.” Science and Its Times: Understanding the Social Significance of Scientific Discovery. Encyclopedia.com. 23 Apr. 2019<https://www.encyclopedia.com&gt;.
Hippasus