St. Theodore of Tarsus

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Philosopher, Theologist, Archbishop of Canterbury (602 – 690)

Theodore was a Byzantine Greek born in Tarsus of Asia Minor. Serving as the 7th Archbishop of Canterbury for over 20 years, he created the English Church and laid the foundations of the Anglo-Saxon philology. He was called “the first archbishop whom all the English obeyed” because he became the first to control the whole English Church as one. He has been canonized by the Catholic Church.

He studied mathematics, philosophy and astronomy in Athens and Constantinople and earned the title of philosopher. His work as a reformer of the English Church began at age 60, when he was called up by Pope Vitalian from Rome to become Archbishop of Canterbury following his predecessor’s death. Theodore set out for England, only to find the Church completely disorganized as a result of the crisis that had broken out because of local pagans.

His first move was to organize the country; he made visitation to all churches of the English nation and divided the country into parishes and dioceses, appointing capable priests and bishops in charge. With the Council of Hertford in 673, he passed numerous reforms that put order and discipline back to the Church, the monasteries and the people and passed legislations forbidding bishops to interfere with other dioceses. Moreover, he made Easter an obligatory celebration, disconnected the Church from the movement of the Monothelites and implemented the teaching of music and sacred learning in the churches. Thus, Theodore managed to create one single, unified Church out of the many, heterogeneous ones that existed independently throughout England.

Theodore not only possessed strong administrative skills, but was also a cultivated man of letters. He founded schools throughout the entire country, the most famous school of Greek and Latin being in Canterbury, and promoted art and sciences in the monasteries. Theodore, together with Abbot Adrian, taught all the sciences themselves, including astronomy, Greek language and philosophy, music and arithmetic. Thanks to his reforms, the English Church became a center of culture that helped the development of Christianity as well as the dissemination and integration of the Greek language in England. None of his successors ever made any changes to the system which he had created.

Bibliography

  1. Theodore, Archbishop of Canterbury. New Advent. Newadvent.org. Web.
  2. Νέος Συναξαριστής της Ορθοδόξου Εκκλησίας”, υπό ιερομονάχου Μακαρίου Σιμωνοπετρίτου, εκδ. Ίνδικτος (τόμος πρώτος – Σεπτέμβριος, σ. 205-206)
  3. Rev. Alban Butler (1711–73).  Volume IX: September. The Lives of the Saints. 1866. September 19, St. Theodore, Archbishop of Canterbury, Confessor. Bartleby.com. Web.
  4. The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. Saint Theodore of Canterbury. Encyclopaedia Britannica. Britannica.com. Web.
St. Theodore of Tarsus

Romanos the Melodist

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Hymnographer, Musician (c.490 – c.556)

The greatest hymnographer of the Christian Orthodox Church, the “Pindar of Christianity” as he was called, was Romanos the Melodist, active during the Golden Age of the Byzantine Empire. He is renowned for being the greatest poet of the Byzantine era and has been canonized by the Greek Orthodox Church. His feast is on October 1st.

Romanos was of Graeco-Syrian origin and was born in Homs, Syria. He became deacon in the Church of Resurrection in Beirut and later went to Constantinople, where he served as presbyter (elder). Romanos was a musician; he is credited as having composed almost 1000 kontakions, which are ecclesiastical hymns honouring a certain religious event of figure such as apostle, saint etc. They are a form of sermon verse accompanied by music. Only one tenth of his work survives to this day. The music that accompanied the chanting of the hymns also does not survive. All of them were written in Ancient Greek.

With his work, Romanos honoured almost all saints of the Orthodox Church as well as all of the major religious events in Christianity. Among his most notable works are the troparion to Virgin Mary (Theotokos), the kontakion on Christ’s Nativity, the Last Judgement, Adam’s Lament, the Martyrdom of St. Stephen including hymns on Christmas, Easter and the Resurrection. His masterpiece, however, is the Akathist Hymn. It is a hymn to Theotokos (Virgin Mary) that was believed by the citizens of Constantinople to have protected their city from the siege of the Avarians in 626. Its name means the unseated hymn, because it was always chanted while standing. The Akathist is recognized as the greatest hymn written for the Orthodox Greek Church.

The eminent Byzantinologist Karl Krumbacher wrote about Romanos the Melodist: “In poetic talent, fire of inspiration, depth of feeling and elevation of language, he far surpasses all the other melodists. The literary history of the future will perhaps acclaim Romanos for the greatest ecclesiastical poet of all ages”.

Bibliography

  1. Michael G. Farrow. St. Romanos the Melodist. Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese of North America. Antiochian.org. Web. Retrieved on June 23, 2017.
  2. Ρώτα, Μαίρη. Ρωμανός ο Μελωδός. Ο Μεγάλος Χριστιανός Ποιητής. Κοινή Γνώμη. Koinignomi.gr. Web. April 14, 2016.
Romanos the Melodist

Marcus Musurus

μουσουρος

Philosopher, Scholar, Printer (c.1470 – 1517)

Marcus Musurus was one of the greatest humanists and most important representatives of the Renaissance. An erudite philosopher with profound knowledge on the Greek and Latin literature, he exerted extraordinary influence in Italy, where he worked as an academic in the most prestigious universities. As a long-life collaborator of Aldus Manutius, Musurus helped disseminate the works of the ancient Greek philosophers throughout Europe and preserve the ancient wisdom throughout the dark ages.

He was Cretan. He studied Greek language in the school of St. Catherine of Sina and continued his studies in Florence next to his teacher Janus Lascaris. In 1494 he settled in Venice where he met Aldus Manutius, the founder of the Aldine Press and the leading printer of all Italy. The two became close affiliates and would eventually publish numerous works of the Ancient Greek philosophers making them widely available to the public. These included the works of Aristophanes, Euripides, Sophocles, Manuel Chrysoloras, Pindar, Callimachus, Aristotle, Homer, all the works of Plato as well as 25 other Classical and Christian writers.

Musurus worked incessantly to promote the ancient Greek philosophy and sciences to the West. Besides his work as a printer, he taught Greek language and philosophy in the New Academy of Carteromachus and Gregoropoulus and in the Platonic Academy of Venice. As a professor of Greek language, philosophy and literature, he held the department of Greek language in the University of Padua where he also taught Homer, Hesiod and Theocritus. He was appointed the title of “Publica Graecarum Literarum Officina” by the Council of Venice. In this way, he was in charge of approving which Greek book would get published. In addition, he served as bishop of Hierapetra of Crete and of Monemvasia, appointed by the Pope himself.

Musurus envisioned a free Greek nation. He wrote a Platonic ode and dedicated it to Pope Leo X, whose father was a student of John Argyropoulos, in an attempt to persuade him to help the subjugated Greeks. In 1513, he helped his teacher Janus Laskaris organize the Greek Gymnasium of Rome, where he also taught Greek. In 1515, the Council of Venice entrusted Musurus with 800 of Bessarion’s manuscripts. These he taxonomized together with Battista Egnazzio and placed them in the newly founded Library of St. Mark, which formed the basis of Biblioteca Marciana.

His unexpected death in 1517 caused great sorrow to the humanists of the West. He was honoured and respected for his tireless struggle to enlighten the world with the works of the ancient Greek philosophers. He had a vast number of eminent students who continued his work and founded departments of Greek language and philosophy in European universities. Among them were Johan Conon, Girolamo Alexandro, Lazaro Bonamico, Germain de Brie and the famous Desiderius Erasmus, who said about Musurus:”… a polymath and panepistemon, key-holder of the Greek language and an excellent connossoir of the Latin voice”.

Bibliography

  1. Condylis, Thanos. Μουσούρος Μάρκος. Αργολική Αρχειακή Βιβλιοθήκη Ιστορίας και Πολιτισμού. Argolikivivliothiki.gr. Web. August 2, 2011.
Marcus Musurus

Julian

julian

Philosopher, Byzantine Emperor (331 – 363)

Flavius Claudius Julianus was Caesar of the Roman Empire and Emperor of the Byzantine Empire during the latter’s first years of establishment. He was also a Neoplatonic philosopher with rich philosophic and scientific work. The Christians gave him the name “Apostate”, which they use to this day, because he did not accept Christianity. He was the only Byzantine Emperor who opposed Christianity as the new state religion and struggled to revive the Ancient Greek religion, philosophy and spirit, in spite of being Emperor only 20 months.

He was born in Constantinople and was the nephew of Constantine, the first Byzantine Emperor. He studied philosophy, rhetoric and science in Athens, then returned to Constantinople where he served as Caesar of the Roman Empire from 335 to 360 together with Constantius II and then alone from 361 until his death in 363.

Julian was the only Byzantine Emperor who was not a Christian. He reigned at a time when Hellenism was being hunted down in favour of Christianity that was quickly gaining a fertile ground and imposed as the new religion. Followers of the “old religion” were persecuted and their temples destroyed. Julian saw this as a threat against the Hellenic thought and decided to take actions to stop the dissemination of Christianity.

Aside from his military and economical reforms, by far the largest part of his politics was aimed at reviving the Greek civilization. He issued proclamation on the freedom of worshiping all religions, banned Christians from teaching in public education or occupying positions in politics and the military and obliged them to pay for the damages they had done on the Ancient Greek temples. Numerous Greek cities began regaining their former glory. Festivals and games in Olympias, Delphi and Antioch were revived, temples and cities that were mere ruins were repaired such as Athens, Macedonia, Epirus, Nicopolis, Eleusis and philosophic schools were protected by edict. Philosophers and priests were sent throughout the empire to promote the Greek civilization, which they successfully accomplished without bloodshed.

In parallel, Julian was involved with Neoplatonism, a continuation of the Platonic philosophy established by Plotinus and Iamblichus. He wrote numerous treatises on philosophy and astronomy as well as hymns and publicly supported Aristarchus’ heliocentric model.

Julian was not against Christianity; rather, he wanted to bring an order so that both religions were practiced. In his own words, he did not want the Christians to be killed, beaten or treated badly. He founded public hotels where people were treated independently of their religion. He did not forbid Christians to practice their religion nor did he persecute them, as he was against violence. Indeed, Christians were tolerant to his reforms.

During his last days as Emperor he embarked on an expedition to Mesopotamia to defeat the Persians. He was assassinated by a Christian on the way back. Shortly after, his reforms did not last and the situation was reverted back to how it originally was before his reign as Emperor. Destruction, persecutions and slaughter continued, reaching the apex with the destruction of the Library of Antioch by the Christians.

Julian remains a controversial figure who distinguished for his military and spiritual virtues. His big love for Greece and his ill efforts to reconcile the tensions between the two religions resulted to much unnecessary hate against him, even by modern scholars. The goal of his life to revive the Greek spirit would not be realized until 1000 years later by Georgios Plethon – Gemistus.

Bibliography

  1. Ayfantis, Georgios. Ο Βωμός της Ελπίδος. Hellenikon Selas: Athens, 2007. Print.
  2. Georgakopoulos, Konstantinos. Ancient Greek Scientists. Georgiades, Athens: 1995. Print.
  3. Ιουλιανός,o Μέγας. Ένας πραγματικός Έλληνας. Theasis.gr. Web.
  4. Stewart Henry Perowne, Christian Kopff. Julian. Encyclopaedia Britannica. Britannica.com. Web.
Julian

Saints Cyril & Methodius

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Theologists, Missionaries (826 and 815 – 869 and 885)

Constantine and Michael were two brothers from Thessaloniki, theologists and missionaries, who under the order of Emperor Michael disseminated Orthodox Christianity to the Slavs and created their first alphabet, the Glagolitic. While their work’s importance in Greece is somewhat negligible, they are considered as the most important saints of all in the Slavic civilization.

During the 9th century, when Emperor Ratsislav of Moravia sought help from the Byzantine Empire to neutralize the Franco-Bulgarian alliance that had posed as a threat to his empire, he turned to Byzantine Emperor Michael, who chose 2 theologists to introduce Orthodox Christianity to Great Moravia and translate its teachings to Slavic language, as part of a treaty, in return for the Byzantine Empire’s support. These two theologists were brothers Constantine and Michael. Constantine had graduated from the University of Constantinople with a degree in philosophy. Because of his ease to learn languages very quickly, he had great success as a diplomat of the Byzantine Empire with the Arabs and the Khazars. Michael, the older brother, had a familiarity with the Slavic language having worked in the monastery of Polichronos in Asia Minor.

There had been many missionaries from various kingdoms prior to the two brothers that were preaching the word of Jesus Christ. However, Constantine and Michael were the ones to successfully disseminate Christianity to them because they taught it in the Slavs’ own native language. Since there was no written Slavic language, they created the Glagolitic alphabet, the very first alphabet of the Slavs, which was used to translate hundreds of Christian works from Greek to Slavic, including the whole mystery of the Divine Liturgy. Many new words were created using Greek roots to express higher notions and meanings from Christianity. Thus, the Slavs could adore their God and perform the ecclesiastical mysteries in their own language.

Constantine and Michael laid the foundations of the Slavic literature; they transformed it from a language that was limited to expressing daily activities to a language that could express their God’s adoration. Michael translated the entire Old and New Testament as well as the Holy Scripture from Greek to Slavic with the help of two of his students while Constantine wrote numerous original treatises in Slavic.

Constantine and Michael received the highest honours from Pope Nicolas I for their offering to the Slavs. Shortly before his premature death, Constantine received the name Cyril while his brother Michael changed his name to Methodius and continued his work as a missionary in Moravia, preaching Orthodox Christianity and challenging many conservatives of the old religion. Even though he had a respectable amount of followers, Methodius and his students were imprisoned, tortured relentlessly and eventually sold as slaves. Their original alphabet also fell into disuse shortly after Methodius’ death due to its complexity.

The consignment of the two brothers to the Slavic world is enormous and eternal. After their deaths, their students and followers disseminated Christianity and scripture to Bulgaria, Serbia, Croatia and Russia, where they found fertile ground to grow. The Glagolitic alphabet was replaced slowly over the centuries by the Cyrilic, so named in honour of Cyril, made by Climent of Ohrid, one of Methodius’ greatest students. It is the one used to this day by over 10 nations in Europe and Asia. Both earned the title of “equal-to-apostles” and co-patron saints. They were canonized by the Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Anglican Churches and are commemorated on May 11th or May 24th.

Bibliography

  1. Άγιος Κύριλλος καὶ Μεθόδιος Φωτιστές των Σλάβων. Ορθόδοξος Συναξαριστής. Saint.gr. Web.
  2. Gonis, Dimitrios. Ιεραποστολικοί αγώνες των αγίων Κυρίλλου και Μεθοδίου-Αποτίμηση της προσφοράς τους. Βιβλιοθήκη «Πορφυρογέννητος». Apostoliki-diakonia.gr. Web.
Saints Cyril & Methodius

Ioannis Kottounios

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Philosopher, Theologist, Scholar (1572 – 1658)

Ioannis Kottounios (also spelled Johannes Cottunius) was an eminent humanist and scholar of the Renaissance. He occupied high academic positions in the Italian academia and was responsible, together with other great Greek humanists, for disseminating the Hellenism to the West that had fallen after the Fall of Constantinople in 1453.

He was called the “Macedonian Sage”, because of origin from Beroia. He studied in the Greek College of Rome, where he was appointed professor of philosophy in 1613 and in the University of Padua, where he received his doctorate on philosophy and medicine. Kottounios taught Greek philosophy in the University of Bologna and University of Padua. In addition, he taught poetry, rhetoric, politics, theology and most importantly Plato and Aristotle, including Plato’s Republic and Aristotle’s Politics.

Kottounios was a neo-Aristotelian philosopher and a prolific writer, who wrote many treatises on the works of Aristotle. His original work Greek Epigrams is a commentary on the works of Aristotle, which was used to introduce the West with Aristotelian philosophy. It is the only book that was written in Greek. The rest of the books, written in Latin, are also commentaries based on the works of Aristotle, such as Lectiones in Primum Aristotelis de Meteoris,Commentarii lucidissimi in tres Aristotelis libros De Anima, Expositio Universale Logicae and many others. Other books written by Kottounios concern Greek history and mythology.

In 1653 he founded the Cottounian College, a school that provided free food and shelter to Greek immigrants who sought for scholarship. The Hellenomuseum, as it came to be known, would also provide Greeks with Greek and Orthodox education.

Kottounios’ work had tremendous influence on West thought. A polymath and polyglot, he is recognized today for his contributions to the Renaissance and his efforts to help the subjugated Greeks. Today, a bust of him is found in the campus of the University of Bologna.

Bibliography

  1. Leontsini, Eleni G. Η ΕΛΛΗΝΙΚΗ ΦΙΛΟΣΟΦΙΑ ΚΑΤΑ ΤΟ 16Ο ΚΑΙ 17Ο ΑΙΩΝΑ:ΧΡΙΣΤΟΦΟΡΟΣ ΚΟΝΤΟΛΕΩΝ, ΙΩΑΝΝΗΣ ΚΩΤΤΟΥΝΙΟΣ ΚΑΙ ΕΠΙΣΚΟΠΟΣ ΚΥΘΗΡΩΝ ΜΑΞΙΜΟΣ ΜΑΡΓΟΥΝΙΟΣ. ΕΠΙΣΤΗΜΟΝΙΚΗ ΕΡΕΥΝΑ ΣΤΑ ΚΥΘΗΡΑ. ΑΝΟΙΚΤΟ ΠΑΝΕΠΙΣΤΗΜΙΟ ΔΗΜΟΥ ΚΥΘΗΡΩΝ.academia.edu. Web. Retrieved on March 21, 2017.
  2. Το ήξερες; Ποιος σπουδαίος Βεροιώτης είναι ο εικονιζόμενος;. veriotis.gr. Web. Retrieved on March 21, 2017
Ioannis Kottounios

Damascius

δαμάσκιος

Philosopher, Physicist (c.458 – c.538)

The last of the Neoplatonists and the last headmaster of the Academy of Athens before its closure by Emperor Justinian in 529. Damascius of Damascus was primarily involved with Platonic philosophy, physics, metaphysics and astronomy and had significant influence in the Neoplatonic movement of philosophy during an era when the Ancient Greek flame was slowly dwindling and the Byzantine Empire was undergoing its first steps.

Damascius studied philosophy and astronomy 3 years in Egypt under his tutor, Theon. He was also a student of Isidore and Ammonius Saccas and served as director of the rhetoric school of Alexandria for 9 years. He continued his studies in Athens, under the guidance of Marinus, Proclus’ biographer and Zenodotus. He then became a scholar in the Academy of Athens and assumed its directory. There, he taught philosophy, rhetoric and astronomy at the time when Proclus was alive, until the Academy was closed and its property seized by Emperor Justinian. Damascius departed from Athens together with 6 of his colleagues and settled in the courtyard of King Chosroes. He remained there for 2 years until departing again for Greece due to the low level of intellectuality there. Simplicius was one of his students.

Damascius wrote commentaries on the works of Plato. These were based on their interpretation by Proclus. These include commentaries on Plato’s Phaedon, Parmenides, Philebus, Timaeus – Critias as well as commentaries on some of Aristotle’s works such as De Coelo, Physica etc. He did not limit himself on writing solely commentaries. His chief original treatise Difficulties and Solutions of First Principle deals with the nature of God and the soul. It is influenced by the Neoplatonic wave of Plotinus and Proclus. Damascius continues in this flow and asserts that the One (God) is connected with the Being and Nous (Mind). He attempts to discover the first principle of the world, the One of Plotinus and concludes that there exists a principle beyond the nature of reality that man cannot perceive with his senses and that it cannot be expressed. It is holy, divine, inconceivable and indescribable. For Damascius, the One creates the Being. Furthermore, he wrote books on astronomy, most importantly Paradoxa, which deals with the heat of the sun, the solar system and the galaxy.

Damascius’ influence on philosophy was significant. However, his treatises were and still remain very difficult for philosophers and scientists to understand. Few have been able to grasp the true meaning of his philosophical system, which is involved with metaphysics. Only recently was it revealed from Stelios Giannoulis, Professor of Theoretical Physics and assistant of Nobel-prize laureate Werner Heizenberg that, according to the latter’s own accounts, Werner Heizenberg’s teachings on the existence of multiple universes, one existing inside the other, with varying temperatures and velocities were borrowed from Damascius. Today, Damascius has been recognized as one of the greatest philosophic thinkers of humanity during the downfall of Ancient Greece.

Bibliography

  1. ΕΛΛΑΣ-ΑΦΥΠΝΙΣΗ-ΤΩΡΑ. «ΕΠΑΝΕΛΛΗΝΙΣΙΣ» με τον Κωνσταντίνο Πλεύρη 21/02/2017. Youtube. February 21, 2017. Web. Retrieved on March 10, 2017.
  2. Δαμάσκιος. Η Εγκυκλοπαίδεια του Πλάτωνα. Xtek.gr. Web. Retrieved on March 10, 2017.
  3. Georgakopoulos, Konstantinos. Ancient Greek Scientists. Georgiades: Athens, 1995. Print.
  4. Pleures, Konstantinos. Greek Philosophers. Athens: Hilektron Publications, 2014. Print.
Damascius