Zosimos of Panopolis


Alchemist, Mystic (c.350 – c.420)

As the greatest alchemist of the ancient world, Zosimos is regarded as the father of chemistry, whose extensive work inaugurates the inception of chemistry as a science. Significantly influenced by Aristotle before him, Zosimos was also a mystic and a philosopher, responsible for imparting a higher level of mysticism and spiritualism to alchemy.

Born in the Greek city of Panopolis in Egypt, Zosimos studied in Alexandria where he also lived and worked for most part of his life. He was the first to establish the term chemistry and the first man to produce beer. His groundbreaking discoveries in chemistry were unparalleled for his time, rendering his craftsmanship almost legendary.

He wrote a total of 28 books on chemistry, which he dedicated to his sister Theosevia. He compiled extensive studies on metals and their properties, most importantly on vitriol (sulfuric acid). He discovered that sulfuric acid dissolves metal and conducted experiments by which he produced oxygen from hydrogen oxide. In his book On the Evaporation of the Divine Water that Fixes Mercury, Zosimos studies the properties of mercury and asbestos, while in his book Treatise on Instruments and Furnice he describes multiple chemical instruments used for his experiments as well as practical aspects of his experiments conducted. His book On the Production of Zythos contains the oldest recipe of beer production in the world while his book On the Sacred and Divine Art of Gold and Silver Production, Zosimos describes a recipe he discovered of how to convert noble gases into gold. This discovery caused immense commotion throughout the Byzantine Empire, forcing it to be kept in complete secrecy.

Zosimos’ books were available only between members of the royal family and did not circulate outside the palace. For this reason, his books contain numerous references on the secret he had sworn not to reveal and other phrases such as “Silence teaches virtue”.

Perhaps, however, Zosimos’ fame as an alchemist rose to considerable extent not solely as a scientist but for his involvement in the mysteries and the occult. Some of his works deal with the philosophical aspects of chemistry while others with the practice of magic. Zosimos was the first of a series of enthusiasts who sought the philosopher’s stone, as detailed in his book The Stone of Philosophy. One of his main philosophical principles was that the universe is an expression of different symbols and numbers, which bestow certain forces on everything. Furthermore, the celestial bodies have significant influence on man and chemistry. Other aspects of his philosophy include the origin of life, the philosophy of matter and the virtues of the philosopher’s stone. Zosimos’ most influential books on philosophy and the occult include the Book of the Keys of the Work, Imuth, The Stone of Philosophy and The Book of Pictures.

With his philosophical works, Zosimos is responsible for bestowing the mystical and mythical dimension to alchemy that we know today. His works exerted tremendous influence in the Arab world during the Golden Age of Islam, resulting into his works being translated into Arabic. Numerous other writers were involved with his work, namely Michael Psellos, Photios, Synesius of Cyrene and Ibn Umail, who characterized him as the “pinnacle of philosophers”. His discovery of transmuting noble gases into gold is said to have been taken by Marquise de Sade centuries after the Fall of Constantinople, with which he achieved doubling within a short period of time the gold of England.


  1. Παπαζήσης, Ἰωάννης. Ἡ Ἐπιστημονικὴ Ἱστορία τοῦ Βυζαντίου. Ἐκδόσεις Ἥλεκτρον. Ἀθῆναι: 2018. Print.
  2. Zosimos of Panopolis.” Complete Dictionary of Scientific Biography. Encyclopedia.com. 21 Apr. 2019 <https://www.encyclopedia.com>.
Zosimos of Panopolis

Domenikos Theotokopoulos


Painter, Sculptor, Architect (1541 – 1614)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Nicephorus Gregoras


Philosopher, Theologist, Mathematician, Astronomer, Rhetorician, Writer, Historian, Statesman (c.1295 – 1360?)

Nicephorus Gregoras, a polyhistor with special declension towards philosophy, was one of the most significant figures in the world of letters of the Byzantine Empire’s 1100 years of existence. A polymath whose work covers an extraordinarily large spectrum of fields, he is most well known for his work Roman History, a vast collection of books concerned with the history of the Byzantine Empire.

His descent was from Pontus. At the age of 20, he studied in Constantinople under the supervision of John Glycys (“the Sweet”). He became a disciple of Theodore Metochites, the Grand Logothetes of the Byzantine Empire (roughly equivalent to today’s Prime Minister), who initiated him to the science of astronomy. Gregoras was to become the spiritual successor of Metochites and wielder of his wisdom. Metochites’ library in the Monastery of Chora, which Gregoras inherited, became one of the richest libraries in the whole Empire.

He was involved in the Hesychast controversy, unwillingly becoming the leader of the Anti-hesychast movement, which, nevertheless, did not influence his work. He founded the Didascaleion, a school with the aim of preserving Hellenism and its Tetractys: Arithmetics, Geometry, Music and Astronomy. Other subjects, such as philosophy, rhetoric and physics were also taught by Gregoras himself. His school attracted numerous students and became highly successful, placing Gregoras among the most illustrious and erudite sages of his era.

As a homo universalis, Nicephorus Gregoras was a prolific writer. By far, his most recognizable work, his magnum opus is the Roman History. It comprises 37 tomes spanning the history of the Byzantine Empire from the conquest of Constantinople by the Latins in 1204 until 1358. The book covers historically significant events such as civil wars, the life and work of the Byzantine Emperors, the conflicts of the Empire as well as its enemies and its policies. The book is widely praised for Gregoras’ critical thinking as well as ability to judge the significance of certain events and their impact in the future. It has been extensively studied and translated in several languages.

Other than history, Gregoras wrote books on philosophy, theology, grammar and orthography, hagiology, commentaries and poetry. Of great historical importance is his enormous collection of 159 epistles to notable historical figures of his time. Furthermore, he was involved with the sciences. He attempted to complete Ptolemy’s Harmonica on music, which was left incomplete, wrote books on solar eclipses and on the construction of astrolabes, treatises on mathematics as well as commentaries on the works of Nicomachus.

Gregoras’ exact year of death is uncertain. Nevertheless, the Byzantine Empire lost one of its most spiritually cultivated men whose work remains unparalleled. Lover of the ancient Greek writers with profound knowledge on both Platonic and Aristotelian philosophy, Gregoras’ deep faith in Christianity never came into conflict with his love of Hellenism, which he struggled to preserve and pass on to humanity.


  1. Σκλαβενίτη, Άννα. Συμβολή στὴ Μελέτη των Επιστολών του Νικηφόρου Γρηγορά. Διδακτορική Διατριβή Τμήματος Φιλολογίας Πανεπιστημίου Ιωαννίνων, Ιωάννινα, 2014. olympias.lib.uoi.gr. Web.
  2. Νικηφόρος Γρηγοράς Η Ζωή του. Ikee.lib.auth.gr. Web.
Nicephorus Gregoras

Dionysios the Philosopher


Revolutionary (1541 – 1611)

Many believe that the Greek War of Independence marked the Greeks’ first attempt to overthrow the Turks and regain their freedom. This is far from the truth. Numerous revolutions took place before its onset. Two of the most important ones were organized by Dionysios of Triki, otherwise known as the Philosopher.

Dionysios was a metropolitan bishop and revolutionary, who in 1600 sparked a revolution against the Ottoman Turks in an attempt to liberate Greece and the whole Byzantine Empire. His attempt failed and Dionysios was captured and killed by the Turks. He was nicknamed the Philosopher for his eumathy and his great knowledge.

He was born in Greece. He studied philosophy, mathematics, medicine, logic, astronomy and poetry in the University of Padua. During his time in Europe, Dionysios came into contact with the Western hegemones, seeking help to fulfill his life-long dream: the freedom of Greece and the revival of the Byzantine Empire.

Upon his return to Greece, Dionysios was appointed Metropolitan bishop of Trikala. He quickly began organizing a revolution and funded it in secret. With the help of harmatoles and klephts he had mobilized, Dionysios started the first of his two revolutions only to result in a disastrous outcome, forcing him to flee to Italy and later to Spain and have his rank removed by the Church.

Nevertheless, Dionysios was not disheartened by the revolution’s failure, let alone discouraged; he quickly regained his strength and contacted the French duke Never as well as King Philip III of Spain, prompting them to incite a revolution against the Turks. Following numerous efforts, Dionysios managed to organize a united attack with the help of Bosnia, Bulgaria, Serbia, Croatia, Montenegro and Venice.

In 1611, Dionysios and his army of 800 men reached Ioannina and started the second revolution. Unfortunately, the outcome was grim; after fleeing to a near-by cave he was captured and skinned alive by the Turks. Following hours of inhumane torments and public humiliation, Dionysios was executed.

Dionysios’ reception has been mixed. Some have accused him of provoking two needless revolutions which caused more damage than was necessary, while others hail him as a tireless hero who risked everything for the rebirth of the once powerful Byzantine Empire. What is certain is that Dionysios the Philosopher was a patriot who placed the value of freedom above his own life. He has been recognized as a Saint by the Orthodox Church and today he belongs to the pantheon of Greek heroes.


  1. “Dionysios Trikis”. Helios New Encyclopaedic Dictionary. Passas, I. Athens: 1946. Print.
  2. Ἅγιος Διονύσιος ο Φιλόσοφος. Ορθόδοξος συναξαριστής. www.saint.gr/. Web.
  3. Ἅγιος Διονύσιος ὁ Φιλόσοφος. Ὁ φλογερὸς Δεσπότης ποὺ ξεσήκωσε τὴν Θεσσαλία καὶ τὴν Ἤπειρο καὶ τὸ μαρτυρικό τέλος του. 10 Ὀκτωβρίου. Χώρα του Αχωρήτου. Choratouaxoritou.gr. Web.
Dionysios the Philosopher



Philosopher, Mathematician, Astronomer, Scholar (410 – 485)

Proclus was the most eminent Neoplatonic philosopher, polymath scientist and theologist of late antiquity, who exerted enormous influence on Platonic philosophy and its preservation throughout the medieval times. He was the last and greatest representative of the Ancient Greek thought before its downfall, in an era where the Hellenic flame was dwindling, and the Western World was welcoming Christianity as the new religion. His works, mainly commentaries on Plato’s treatises, left a lasting impression in the Western thought and contributed significantly to the revival of the human soul.

Proclus was born in Constantinople. He studied Aristotelian philosophy and mathematics in Alexandria and continued his studies in Athens. In the Academy of Athens, Proclus was initiated into the mystery schools of the Platonic philosophy by Syrianus, the headmaster of the Academy, whom Proclus succeeded, earning the name Proclus the Successor. Proclus served as headmaster of the Academy of Athens for 50 years. Isidore of Miletus and Anthemius of Tralles, the architects of Hagia Sophia were both his students.

Proclus’ philosophical work marks the epilogue of the Hellenic spirit. He wrote many treatises, but he is most well known for his commentaries, primarily on Plato’s works. Proclus perfected Neoplatonism by providing invaluable exegeses not only of Plato’s works, but also those of Orpheus, Aristotle and Euclid. As far as concerning philosophy, Proclus did not write anything original, rather, through Greek Meditation (Ελληνικός Διαλογισμός) he compiled analyses of exceptional depth and wisdom. His commentaries on Plato’s Timaeus, which he wrote at the age of 28, Parmenides, Cratylus, Alcibiades, Republic, while even more difficult to understand than Plato’s treatises, are undoubtedly the works of a visionary, whose meaning can only be understood through Greek Meditation.

His works on mathematics, physics and astronomy include insightful commentaries on the systems of Hipparchus, Aristarchus and Ptolemy, commentaries on Aristotle’s physics, Euclid’s and Geminus’ geometry, as well as Hesiod’s theogony. He describes a method of measuring the Sun’s diameter, proves geometric theorems of his times, and preserves the treatises of mathematicians which otherwise would not have survived to this day. In addition, Proclus wrote poems, hymns and theological works, most notably Elements of Theology.

Even though he did not oppose Christianity, Proclus attempted to protect what was left of the Hellenic spirit, refine it and give it the glorious spot it once had in history. His efforts were hindered by Christianity and Proclus was forced to exile in Asia Minor. With the final blow coming in 528 by Emperor Justinian, the Academy of Athens was closed and the philosophers persecuted, thus putting an end to Proclus’ dream.

Proclus’ corpus was studied extensively during the Renaissance, when Neoplatonic philosophy underwent an upsurge and, subsequently, a revival. Philosophers such as Michael Psellos, Pletho, Bessarion, Marsilio Ficino, Thomas Aquinas and Hegel were deeply inspired by Proclus’ works, as were more contemporary philosophers Thomas Taylor and Ralph Waldo Emerson. According to Hegel, the ideas of Neoplatonists and specially the philosophy of Proclus were long maintained and preserved in the Church.

Proclus’ mastery of the Platonic philosophy renders him an eternal interpreter of Greek philosophy, which Pythagoras, Socrates, Plato and all their predecessors brought down from the divine plane. Without Proclus, Platonic philosophy would have remained obscure.


  1. Georgakopoulos, Konstantinos. Ancient Greek Scientists. Georgiades: Athens, 1996. Print.
  2. Helmig, Christoph and Steel, Carlos, “Proclus”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Summer 2015 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = <https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/sum2015/entries/proclus/&gt;.
  3. Pleures, Konstantinos. Greek Philosophers. Hilektron Publications: Athens, 2013. Print.
  4. “Proclus”. Helios New Encyclopaedic Disctionary. Passas, I. Athens, 1925. Print.
  5. Sakellariou, Georgios. Πυθαγόρας Ο Διδάσκαλος των Λαών. Ideotheatron Publications. Athens, 1963. Print.

Paulus Aegineta


Physician (c625 – c.690)

Paulus of Aegina was a physician and scientist who lived during the 7th century. He was one of the last famous Greek physicians, whose work exerted significant influence on the medicine of the Middle Ages. He is mostly known for his work Epitome, a medical compendium used extensively throughout history.

He was born in the small island of Aegina and studied medicine in Alexandria, later becoming a teacher there. He was a pioneer in general surgery as well plastic and reconstructive surgery. Some of the most well-known operations he performed are described in his book; these are operations for nasal fractures, jaw fractures, treatment of gynaecomastia and hypospadias, catheterization of the urinary bladder, lithotripsy for the treatment of urinary bladder stones, surgical techniques for the treatment of inguinal hernia and liver abscess.

In addition, he described surgical operations of the eye, identified the aneurysm as a disease and wrote extensively about the cancer of the cervix and the uterus. Paulus Aegineta achieved remarkable success as an obstetrician and gynaecologist, earning the name “Al Qawabili”, meaning “The Obstetrician” from the Arabs, who recognized him as one of the greatest physicians of all time.

The book that made him a household name in medicine up until the Renaissance was the Epitome, an encyclopaedia consisting of 7 books, incorporating his own experiences with the works of Hippocrates, Galen, Aëtius, Dioscorides and other renowned physicians of antiquity. The first book is about hygiene, the second on fever, the third on internal medicine, the fourth on diseases of the external organs, mainly of the skin, the fifth book on diseases of the environment such as insect stings, bites and wounds, the sixth book was devoted entirely on surgery and the seventh book on pharmacology, which was based on the works of Dioscorides.

Paulus’ work was translated into Arabic in the 9th century thus bridging Western and Arabic medicine. Later, it was translated into most European languages and was used as the main textbook in the medical schools of Salerno and Montpellier. Its first edition was printed in 1528 by the Aldine Press. Among the people influenced by Paulus Aegineta were Rhazes, Avicenna, Fabricius, Albucasis and Hally Abas. He died in Rome in 690, leaving behind him an enormous consignment to the medical world. Even before his death, Paulus Aegineta was acknowledged as one of the greatest physicians in history.


  1. Αίας ο Τελαμώνιος. Άγνωστες Μορφές του Ελληνισμού: Παύλος ο Αιγινήτης. Χρυσή Αυγή. Xryshaygh.com. Web. September 21, 2016.
  2. Καραμπερόπουλος, Απ. Δημήτριος. «Παύλος Αιγινήτης». Karabelopoulos.gr. Web. March 11, 2004.
  3. Παύλος ο Αιγινήτης (Paulus Aegineta). Aegina.blogspot.bg. Web. August 20, 2010.
Paulus Aegineta

John Philoponus


Philosopher, Theologist, Mathematician, Physicist, Astronomer, Writer (c.490 – c.570)

John Philoponus was a Christian Neoplatonic and Aristotelian philosopher, philologist, scientist and theologist. His name means “friend of pain”, which denotes his love for hard work. Considered by many as the most educated man of his time, John Philoponus was a prolific writer, whose bibliography spans the fields of philosophy, mathematics, physics, logic, metaphysics, psychology, astronomy, theology and cosmology. Primarily renowned for his works in physics, he was the first scientist to propose the experiment of the fall of two bodies of different weight to disprove Aristotle’s long lasting theory that the heaviest of the two bodies would fall first.

Philoponus studied philosophy in the Neoplatonic School of Alexandria. His teacher, Ammonius, headmaster of the school, was a student of Proclus, one of the most influential philosophers in world history. Later on, Philoponus became a scholar in the same school and began writing commentaries on Aristotle’s works. As he started distancing himself from Aristotle’s axioms, he moved on to writing his own original treatises, unwillingly becoming one of the first critics of Aristotle and introducing his own new concepts and ideas in philosophy, a very daring act at the time.

In the field of physics, Philoponus disagreed with Aristotle that light is a static property and instead proposed that light is an immaterial action capable of heating up bodies. In a similar way, he asserted that the soul warms up the body. He deduced that light travels from light-emitting objects to the eye by means of geometric optics. Furthermore, he explained that heat is produced from the sunlight’s rays that refract and heat up the air by means of friction.

Philoponus rejected Aristotle’s theory that any three dimensional object must be a material body, redefined the concepts of void and matter, researched collisions and compiled studies on free fall. In particular, he described that during free fall of two bodies of different weight, the difference in their time of fall is not equal to the proportion of their weight, but in reality is very small. Moreover, he made significant contributions to the theory of impetus and in inertia, which changed the direction of dynamics towards a more modern form that it has today.

Concerning astronomy, he applied the theory of impetus on the celestial bodies, claimed that the sun and the stars are made of fire, that planets do not spin in perfect circular symmetry and that celestial bodies are three-dimensional. He attempted to provide an explanation for the creation of the galaxy and the universe and, while a Christian, he accepted Plato’s Timaeus of the creation of the universe as being in harmony with the Christian dogma.

Philiponus’ studies on physics influenced several scientists of the Renaissance. The most notable example was Galileo. In his first texts, Philoponus’ name is mentioned more times than Plato’s name. Galileo praises him for his ideas, most importantly on his theory of impetus, which helped Galileo develop his theory on the inertia. In addition, one can find numerous similarities between the two scientists, such as both questioning Aristotle’s theories, both believing that man will never be fully able to understand any natural phenomenon and both being condemned by the Church as heretics.

As an open-minded philosopher, his theses were not accepted by the Church or his colleagues. Accused of rejecting the dogma of the Trinity and being a tritheist, Philoponus was condemned by the Church. His sentence was revocated in 1990.

Philoponus’ works had a significant influence on Islamic, Judaic and Christian thought. They were subsequently translated into Arabic, Latin and Syrian. Perhaps his greatest achievement was that he made his thought independent from that of Aristotle, challenging the philosopher’s authority, thus allowing physics as a science to progress. His scientific genius has recently been compared to that of Isaac Newton and Galileo by modern scientists.


  1. Ιακώβου, Μαρία. Η Φυσική του Ιωάννη Φιλόπονου και ο Γαλιλαίος, Πτυχιακή Εργασία. Αριστοτέλειο Πανεπιστήμιο Θεσσαλονίκης, Σχολή Θετικών Επιστημών, Τμήμα Φυσικής. Astro.auth.gr. Web.
John Philoponus