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.
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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

Bucephalus

bucephalus

War horse (356 BC – 326 BC)

No other animal in world history has ever had the distinction Bucephalus had of sharing part of his rider’s eternal glory and subsequently being immortalized in the world of myth. As the most loyal companion of Alexander the Great in battle, Bucephalus accompanied him throughout the entirety of the campaign to Asia, being present in every major battle. He is widely regarded as the greatest and most glorious horse in history.

The story of how Bucephalus and Alexander met is recalled by Plutarch. In 346 BC, Philip II, Alexander’s father, was in Pharsala, Thessaly when he was offered Bucephalus as a horse for 13 talants. Unlike any other horse, he was wild and untamable, causing Philip to decline. Alexander, then aged 13 accepted his father’s challenge that if he tamed him, he would pay for the horse. Alexander, seeing that the horse was afraid and running away from its own shadow, turned him towards the sun, took the reins on his hands and mounted him amidst an awe-struck crowd. To his amazement, Philip told Alexander “O my son, look thee out a kingdom equal to and worthy of thyself”. Alexander named him Bucephalus, meaning having the head of a bull. From that point onward, the two became inseparable companions in war.

Bucephalus accompanied Alexander throughout the entire campaign to Asia and fought in every battle together with him, from the conquests of the Greek city-states to the battles of Gaugamela, Issus and Aornos Rock. He saved Alexander’s life countless times in battle, most notably from drowning when Alexander and his army were crossing Granicus river. Bucephalus’ final battle was the Battle of Hydaspes. He died from injuries after the battle according to some historians, while others state that he died of old age from natural causes. He was 30 years old. In his honour, Alexander built the city Bucephalia, named after Bucephalus, which is situated in modern-day Pakistan. Coins were minted which bore his head and his name, in his memory.

As did Alexander after his death, Bucephalus was immortalized, serving as a source of inspiration to many writers and artists. He is depicted on the now famous Alexander Mosaic with Alexander battling against Darius and is the subject of numerous paintings illustrating his taming by Alexander, among them those of Benjamin Robert Haydon, Nikos Eggonopoulos and Andre Castaigne. Alexander and Bucephalus’ exemplary friendship is beautifully portrayed by Giambattista Tiepolo’s painting Alexander and Bucephalus while Bucephalus’ bravery is immortalized in Charles le Brun’s painting The Passage of the Granicus. Other than paintings, Bucephalus is commemorated as a statue in Edinburg and has been listed in multiple catalogues as the most famous and heroic animal companion in history. As his rider, Bucephalus passed to the world of legend, becoming a mythical hero equal to the horses of Achilles.

Bibliography:

  1. Hola, Camila. Bucephalus: the horse that conquered the world, with his most faithful friend Alexander Magnus. Zombieresident. Zombieresident.wordpress.com. July 25, 2017. Web. October 26, 2018.
  2. Manistakis, I.S. “Bucephalus”. Helios New Encyclopaedic Dictionary. Passas, I. Athens:1946. Print.
  3. Wasson, Donald L. “Bucephalus.” Ancient History Encyclopedia. Ancient History Encyclopedia, 06 Oct 2011. Web. 26 Oct 2018.
  4. Σαατσόγλου-Παλιαδέλη, Χρυσούλα. Ο Βουκεφάλας του Αλεξάνδρου. Ελλήνων Δίκτυο. www.hellinon.net. October 26, 2018. Web.
Bucephalus

Orpheus

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Philosopher, Astronomer, Physicist, Poet, Theologist, Musician (c.11.800 BC)

Orpheus the Thracian was the leader and founder of Orphism, a religious and philosophical mystery school concerned with the ancient knowledge of the universe and the Divine. He is also the author of the Orphic Hymns, a collection of hymns that only recently have been acknowledged to express a highly advanced philosophic and scientific knowledge on physics and astronomy. A teacher and a mystic, he has been regarded since antiquity as the Theologist of all the Greeks and the first to compile a comprehensive theogony. His teachings exerted tremendous influence to all subsequent philosophers of the ancient world, from Homer to Pythagoras and Plato.

Orpheus’ undisputed historicity is verified by at least 30 different writers of antiquity who have preserved some of his writings. He was born in Pieria and according to some he was an ancestor of Homer. He travelled to Crete, Egypt and Libya where he was initiated into the mystery schools and, according to other writers, introduced his own philosophical teachings to Egyptian worship. He furthermore founded the Dionysian mysteries in Thrace. The introduction of the Eleusinian Mysteries has also been ascribed to him. Orpheus wrote the theogony of the Greek mythology thousands of years before Hesiod, and as such, considered to be the Father of the theogony of the Greeks.

The Orphics’ primary teachings revolved around the worship of God Dionysos, who represented the savior (Διόνυσος Λυσεύς). Initiates of the Orphic Mysteries sought to unite themselves with God by means of ecstatic worship before undergoing katharsis of their souls. This was thought of as a form of lytrosis. The Orphics were the first to include the concept of man’s dual nature in their philosophy, which was later integrated into Platonic philosophy. Man’s body derived from the earth while his soul was of Divine origin and came from the stars (Γῆς παῖς εἰμὶ καὶ οὐρανοῦ ἀστερόεντος). The soul derives from eternity and returns to it during death. Orphism, one of the most ancient mystery schools in the world, was a higher level of initiation and its teachings accessible and understood only by the initiates.

Man’s purpose during his time on Earth is to prepare his soul through a series of acts so as to achieve this spiritual union with the Divine. Initiates of the Orphic Mystery Schools were subjected to a process of spiritual cleansing by means of ritualistic rites, worships, divine teachings, most importantly living a life according to virtue and perhaps through Greek Meditation (Ἑλληνικὸς ΔΙΑ-Λογισμός) in order cease the endless cycle of reincarnation and to achieve union with the Divine in the afterlife.

All of Orpheus’ teachings were written in the form of hymns, in a hidden manner as to be understood only by those initiated into the Mystery Schools. These hymns simply known as the “Orphics” are hymns to Gods, deities, heroes and personified forces, representing philosophical concepts or properties of nature and the universe. The Orphic Hymns were written by Orpheus in 11.835 BC as proven mathematically by astronomer C.S. Chassapis in 1967. They revealed to the initiates truths from a higher divine plane of existence concerning the nature of the Divine, the creation of the Universe, the relationship between man’s soul and the Divine as well as the mysteries of life and death. His cosmogony describes the birth of Gods, their succession, their generations and their divine powers, all of which are allegories of properties and situations of the soul and the creation of the world. Hymns and myths were therefore a central part of the teachings of Orphism.

Apart from the philosophical and theological aspect, Orphism possessed an insuperably advanced knowledge on astronomy and physics that only recently has modern science managed to validate its accuracy. In the Orphic Hymns, Orpheus wrote about the flow of time, the photon and its properties (Hymn of Phanes) and the aether, the fifth element that fills space beyond the atmosphere and which modern science has still to acknowledge. He wrote about the creation of the universe from the cosmic egg in the Hymn to Protogonos, the Big Bang and the principle of duality.

Orpheus and the Orphics had conceived the heliocentric idea, knew about the equal time duration of the Earth’s rotation and the celestial spheres and attributed the motion of the world around the Sun to its attraction, something that millennia later Isaac Newton would prove. In addition, the Orphics knew the global shape of the sky as well as the first laws of the apparent motion of the celestial spheres, knew the ecliptic motion of the Earth around the Sun, that the rotation of the Earth around its axis and around the Sun are the result of natural laws, distinguished the stars into “fiery” and “shooting”, knew about the seven planets, which they named after today’s names and hence are of Orphic origin, introduced the zodiac, introduced the names of the zodiac as well as the names of numerous constellations. They developed astrology, introduced several “ancient” astronomical terms, determined the duration of each season, knew that the diffused light, the light of dawn and that of twilight were due to solar light and the presence of the atmosphere, accepted the existence of mountains on the Moon, used the lunar calendar of twelve conjunctive months, knew about the lunar phases as well as the Moon’s influence on the Earth, knew about the physical properties of lenses and accepted that all phenomena were governed by the universal law, which ensures the stability of the existence of the earth.

The following conclusions can be deducted from Orpheus and the Orphics. Orpheus was a spiritual leader of mankind, bringer of divine knowledge from the aetheric planes. A significant part of the Orphic philosophy was integrated into Pythagorean and Platonic philosophy. Every major philosopher of the ancient Greek world, from the Pre-Socratics to the Neoplatonists including Hesiod, Homer, Pythagoras, Heraclitus, Empedocles, Socrates, Plato, Aeschylus, Pindar, Pletho were all initiates of Orphism. Homer, the immortal poet of all the oecumene deeply inspired by Orphism borrows multiple verses from Orpheus, as well as several concepts of his philosophy and cosmogony as seen in the Iliad and the Odyssey. Plato, righteously regarded as the greatest successor of Orphic philosophy adopted the symbolism of the black and white horses and the henioch representing man’s instincts, emotions and logic respectively. This comes to show that the Greek philosophy and religion is one continuum, constantly picked up by each successive philosopher and further developed, thus remaining unchanged in its core.

Orpheus was the first to speak of one God. The origin, therefore of monotheism is Orphic, not Jewish. The fact that Orpheus wrote the Orphic Hymns in 11.835 BC proves that the Greeks possessed their own writing system thousands of years before what is accepted by modern historians and that their language was highly evolved to the point where it could express all this knowledge in a poetic manner. It further confirms that at that distant time in the past, when history and mythology blend together, Greeks and especially the Orphics possessed an inexplicably advanced knowledge on the universe and astronomy when scientific instruments and technology were unavailable. That the Assyro-Babylonian priority on astronomy against the Greeks is false and completely unsupported by evidence, since they developed astronomy many thousands of years later and never reached the level that the ancient Greeks did. Greeks never inherited astronomical knowledge from the Assyrian, Babylonian and Egyptian astronomy, but on the contrary Greeks influenced the Babylonian, Assyrian and Egyptian astronomy in the distant past. Astronomy as a science originated from Greece, especially by the Orphic initiates.

Perhaps, however, the greatest conclusion to bear in mind is that Orpheus and his disciples are an undisputable example that proves what the Greek thought was concerned with. In such an ancient epoch, when other nations’ and tribes’ primary concern was survival, Greek thought was involved with the secrets of the universe.

Bibliography:

  1. “Orphics”. Helios New Encyclopaedic Dictionary. N.I. Luvaris, Passas, I. Athens: 1946. Print.
  2. Passas, Ioannis. The Orphics, Including English summary of the main remarks on the Orphic Texts by the astronomer K.S.Khassapis. Helios Encyclopaedia Publications. Athens, 1967. Print.
  3. Αϋφαντῆς, Γεώργιος. Ἄνθρωπος καὶ Ἐπιστήμη: Ἐνημέρωσις. Εκδόσεις Ἑλληνικὸν Σέλας. Ἀθῆναι, 2009. Print.
Orpheus

Peisistratos

ΠΕΙΣΙΣΤΡΑΤΟΣ

Tyrant (6th century BC)

Peisistratos, son of Hipparchus of the House of Philaidae was a Tyrant who ruled Athens for almost 30 years. A charismatic and ingenious leader, Peisistratos ruled with prudence and justice until his death, converting Athens into a thriving city-state unlike any other. Many of Athens’ works and temples were built under his supervision.

Before succeeding in becoming Tyrant of Athens, Peisistratos had attempted twice in imposing himself as ruler of Athens. While his attempts only resulted in a very short-lived tyranid, Peisistratos would solidify himself as Tyrant of Athens only after his 3rd attempt. In his first attempt, he occupied the Acropolis with his army of bodyguards before being apprehended and exiled by Lycurgus and Megacles. In his second attempt, with the help of Megacles, Peisistratos used the former’s wife as a means to seize Athens’ control, but his plans were thwarted, forcing him again into exile in Eretria.

During his exile in Eretria, Peisistratos received funding and support from other city-states, who supplied him with soldiers. He was able to defeat Athens’ army and impose himself as Tyrant of Athens in 545 BC. In the time of his governance, Athens underwent a period of massive overhaul, improvement and extraordinary development.

Peisistratos kept Solon’s laws, organized Athens’ oeconomy with the money used from the Thracian mines as well as from his own lands in Euvia and supported the agriculture by establishing the agricultural loan. He vigorously supported the poor by redistributing the land, imposed heavier taxation on the rich and on every product that was sold. Furthermore, Peisistratus built streets and improved the city’s water system. His foreign affair policy with other city-states was radical at the time, with Athenian products such as wine, oil, perfumes and pottery being exported to Egypt, Asia Minor and other nations outside of Greece for the first time. He established strong connections with Sparta, Delos and Argos, large city-states of powerful influence over Greece by strengthening Athens’ fleet and cementing its authority in the Aegean Sea.

As a man of high spiritual cultivation, Peisistratos made it one of his top priorities to promote the arts and to beautify the city. One of his most important works was collecting, copying and preserving all the works of Homer and Orpheus so that they would never be lost. He reorganized the Panathenian Games, built libraries open to the public, constructed temples of insuperable beauty and renovated the Temple of Athena Polias on the Acropolis. Moreover, there was an attempt to construct the Temple of Zeus in Olympia, a plan that came into fruition many years later. So much was his love for letters that it is postulated he had the greatest library in all of Greece at the time.

Peisistratos proved to be one of the greatest hegemons of Athens, as well as of all of Greece. Under his leadership, Athens became one of the most influential city-states of the Mediterranean, proving that the importance lies not on the political system itself but rather on the statesman that governs the state. Athens had flourished with tyranid, not with democracy.

Bibliography:

  1. “Pisistratus”. Helios New Encyclopaedic Dictionary. Passas, I. Athens: 1946. Print.
  2. Πεισίστρατος (605-527 π.Χ.). Λόγιος Ἑρμῆς. www.logiosermis.net. Web. September 26, 2018.
Peisistratos

Lysippus

Sculptor (c.395 BC – c.300 BC)

Lysippus was one of the greatest sculptors of the world, together with Skopas and Praxiteles. Active during the late Classical period, Lysippus was primarily a bronze sculptor, having sculptured a total of 1500 sculptures, according to Pliny. The personal sculptor of Alexander the Great, he was renowned for his excellence in art, characterized by his extraordinary detail.

Numerous modern and contemporary historians agree unanimously that Lysippus was highly innovative in bronze sculpture. Among his main contributions were attributing a more natural appearance to the hair, making the head smaller in comparison to the body, making the body with less flesh and better proportions overall as well as elongating the limbs.

Lysippus mainly sculptured Gods, mythical heroes, athletes, armaments, animals and allegorical beings. In addition, he made busts and statues, most notably those of Alexander the Great, as he was the only one allowed by the king to depict him while Apelles the only one to paint him. Of his 1500 sculptures, very few to almost none of the originals have survived. Roman copies, however, that have survived have allowed us to know today Lysippus’ magnificent art. Of them, 35 are mentioned by ancient historians.

Some of Lysippus’ best sculptures include the following:

  • Apoxyomenos (The Scraper) is among his most recognizable works, a Roman replica of the original bronze statue found in Rome. It depicts a young athlete scraping oil, dirt and sweat from his body using a strigil.
  • The bronze statue of Agias, part of a complex of Olympians.
  • An enormous statue of Heracles in Sicyon, a smaller copy of which is the famous Farnese Hercules by Glykon.
  • Eros Stringing the Bow
  • The Victorious Youth a bronze statue now in the United States.
  • The Horses of Saint Mark, a set of 4 bronze horses
  • Famous Olympian victors such as Troilus and Coridas
  • Apollo riding the chariot of the Sun with the four horses
  • A colossal bronze statue of Zeus situated in Tarentum.

The influence of Lysippus on subsequent sculptors was significant. Most of his students went on to become prominent sculptors, most importantly Chares of Lindos, who created the Colossus of Rhodes, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Today, Lysippus’ creations decorate museums all around the globe, except from Greece.

Bibliography:

    1. “Lysippus”. Helios New Encyclopaedic Dictionary. Passas, I. Athens: 1946. Print.
    2. Lysippos (c.395–305 BCE). Encyclopaedia of Sculpture. Visual-arts-cork.com. Web. September 16, 2018.

 

Lysippus

Aratus

Aratus Cilix

Poet, Astronomer (315 BC – 240 BC)

Aratus, an Alexandrian poet and astronomer from Soli of Cilicia flourished in 305 BC until 240 BC. A resident of King Antigonos II Gonatas of Macedonia’s court, Aratus was hailed as the Homer of Astronomy for his astronomical poems, most notably Phaenomena.

Aratus had a rich education. He studied next to poets such as Theocritus and Callimachus and met philosophers such as Zeno and Praxiphanes. As an art lover, King Antigonos II Gonatas hired Aratus on his court, where he compiled his first poem Hymn to Pan.

Not only was Aratus an exquisite poet, he had also studied mathematics and possessed profound knowledge in astronomy. He was tasked by King Antigonos to make the astronomical works of Eudoxus of Cnidus into a poetic form so that they were more accessible to the peoples. Aratus used the dactylic hexameter, the same one used by Homer in the Iliad and the Odyssey in order to further glorify Eudoxus (his name meaning good glory).

The result was Phaenomena, an astronomical poem that caused sheer amazement to the ancient world, widely regarded by scholars and contemporaries as his magnum opus. In the book, Aratus describes poetically several constellations and celestial phenomena, blending elements of mythology, legends and hymns.

Following a Persian raid to the kingdom, Aratus fled to Syria where he published Homer’s Odyssey with his own commentaries. Furthermore, he compiled treatises on medicine, anatomy, pharmacology, ornithology, astrology, wrote numerous hymns as well as eulogies. When things settled, back in King Antigonos’ kingdom, Aratus returned and died soon after in 240 BC.

Aratus was recognized as one of the greatest poets of his era even during his own lifetime. His book Phaenomena garnered significant attention from numerous wise men who wrote their own commentaries on it, most importantly Hipparchus, the greatest astronomer of antiquity and Theon of Alexandria, the father of Hypatia. Among his most noteworthy admirers were Callimachus, who dedicated him an epigram, comparing him to Hesiod; Ptolemy, who hailed his works as masterpieces, saying that as the Sun and the Moon are eternal, so is Aratus.

His works continued to enjoy a long-lasting audience well into the Roman era and the Byzantine Empire. Romans such as Cicero, Ovid and Germanicus translated them into Latin, Paul the Apostle was an avid reader of Aratus while Maximus of Tyre called him a poet not less glorious than Homer. Indeed Aratus became the prime representative of didactic poetry, occupying a unique position in the world of letters across ages.

Bibliography:

  1. “Aratus”. Helios New Encyclopaedic Dictionary. Passas, I. Athens: 1946. Print.
  2. Georgakopoulos, Konstantinos. Ancient Greek Scientists. Georgiades: Athens, 1996. Print.
  3. The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. Aratus. Encyclopaedia Britannica. http://www.britannica.com. Web. September 6, 2018.
  4. Γιατί Ἄρατος Σολεὺς θεωρεῖται Ὅμηρος τῆς Ἀστρονομίας. Olympia.gr. Web. Posted on March 3, 3018.
Aratus