George Seferis

seferis

Poet (1900 – 1971)

George Seferis was a poet, translator and diplomat, widely regarded as one of the greatest men of letters in modern Greek history. As the main representative of the “Generation of the 30’s”, a group of writers who made their debuts in the letters in the 30’s, Seferis dominated the world of literature and poetry at his time, becoming a figure of international influence. He was the first Greek to be awarded the Nobel Prize.

He was born in Smyrna. He studied in Athens and in Paris, where he obtained a degree in law. Upon his return to Athens, he was admitted in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. This was the start of a long and successful career in diplomacy. Throughout his career, he held important posts, most notably Royal Ambassador to the United Kingdom.

Seferis’ first major work published was Strophe (Turning Point) in 1931, which indeed would mark a turning point not just in the author’s life but also on the world of modern literature. The interest that was sparked by the poem helped establish young Seferis as an important and promising poet, thus gaining acceptance from the higher echelons of literature, in spite of some inadvertent controversies from certain circles.

Seferis’ poetry inaugurated a new era of literature in Greece. 1935 marked an important year in Seferis’ life, with the publication of his work Mythistorema, a collection of 24 short poems alluding to works and myths of the grandfather of world literature, Homer. Indeed, Seferis’ mature poetry draws inspiration from Greece’s ancient past and it is through his poetry that the ancient Greek miracle translates into the present world.

Beginning from the 50’s Seferis’ work was translated and published abroad, further boosting his fame worldwide. He wrote essays, though fewer in number than his poems, as well as compiled translations, most importantly the works of T.S. Elliot. By 163, George Seferis had been recognized as the “representative Hellenic poet”, with his monumental poetry being a product of the ancient Greek thought and spirit.

He died in 1971 during the junta and his funeral became a national outcry against the regime in Greece. He was one of the few poets to enjoy recognition while he was still alive. Throughout his life, he received several honorary doctorates from international universities, was elected Honorary Fellow of the Modern Language Association as well as Honorary Foreign Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 1963, the Swedish Academy awarded him with the Nobel Prize of Literature “for his eminent lyrical writing, inspired by a deep feeling for the Hellenic world of culture”.

Bibliography:

  1. George Seferis. Poetry Foundation. www.poetryfoundation.org. November 27, 2018. Web.
  2. Giorgos Seferis – Biographical. NobelPrize.org. Nobel Media AB 2018. Tue. 27 Nov 2018.
  3.  Γιώργος Σεφέρης. Σαν σήμερα. Sansimera.gr. Web. Retrieved November 27, 2018.
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George Seferis

Markos Vamvakaris

μαρκος

Musician (1905 – 1972)

Markos Vamvakaris was a famous bouzouki player and pioneer of the rebetiko style, regarded as one of the founding fathers of the rebetiko music. With a career spanning over 50 years and collection of over 200 songs, Vamvakaris became Greece’s most recognizable voice in the music industry of his time.

He was born in the island of Syros as the first of a family of six children. He did not graduate from school but instead, at the age of 12 he went to Piraeus where he worked various jobs to earn a living, namely as a butcher, coal-worker, paper boy, shoe-polisher and greengrocer before being captivated by music, being played in the taverns where he hanged out. He decided to become a musician, namely the greatest autodidact bouzouki player in the world.

He started writing his own songs as soon as he was discharged from the military and by 1933 he had written over 50 songs, which he recorded on disk under the company Odeon. These were the very first disks on rebetiko music ever published in Greece. As Vamvakaris’ name started becoming a household, he formed a music band together with 3 of his friends called The Famous Tetrad of Piraeus, which performed their songs.

1935 was the year Vamvakaris wrote his most famous song Frankosyriani, a classic love song that would solidify his dominant position in the world of music. During World War II, he composed songs to stimulate the soldiers’ esteem and inspire patriotism. He later held concerts all over Greece, touring in Thessaloniki, Trikala and Larisa multiple times. His discs were highly sought and garnered enormous success.

Vamvakaris continued to be a prolific songwriter and performer with a massive audience until 1954 when he stopped playing the bouzouki due to health problems. When he attempted to make a comeback a few years later, his music was considered outdated and he was disregarded by the music industry. This changed in the 60’s when fellow bouzouki player Vasilis Tsitsanis published a collection of Vamvakaris’ songs sung by him and numerous other acclaimed singers. This re-established Vamvakaris’ fame and allowed him to continue his career. From that point onward, he attended multiple concerts and worked with famous music talents such as Grigoris Bithikotsis.

Markos Vamvakaris, the Patriarch of Rebetiko as he came to be known passed to eternity in 1972, becoming a musical legend, leaving behind him a musical legacy unparalleled by any other rebetiko musician. He remained loyal to the music he served, choosing not to blend with politics of any sort and to leave his name unstained. Greece honours him today in several ways, namely with post stamps and with his own museum, while his songs continue to be published in disks.

Bibliography:

  1. Μάρκος Βαμβακάρης. Σαν σήμερα. Sansimera.gr. Web. Retrieved November 3, 2018.
  2. The Patriarch of the rebetiko song. Ellines.com. Web. Retrieved November 3, 2018.
Markos Vamvakaris

Eugene Antoniadis

anntonniiadiisiddse00

Astronomer, Architect (1861 – 1944)

Eugene Antoniadis was the greatest Greek astronomer of the modern era and one of the greatest observational astronomers of all time. A self-taught, multi-talented scientist, Antoniadis gained widespread recognition and respect for his work on planet Mars, placing his name among those of the greatest observational astronomers, namely Giovanni Virgionio Schiaparelli and Nicolas Camille Flammarion.

Antoniadis was from Constantinople. He did not attend university and did not have a degree in astronomy. He worked for most of his life in France, being invited there for the first time in 1893 by Flammarion to become his assistant after witnessing young Antoniadis’ exceptional skills on astronomy. He served as member of the board of administration of the French Astronomical Society as well as chairman of the Department of Mars of the British Astronomical Association.

Like every great mind, Antoniadis began by challenging the beliefs that were held by the astronomical establishment. As an observational astronomer, he proved that the infamous and so-called Martian canals, which were thought to be water channels flowing on the surface of Mars, built by an ancient Martian civilization, were in fact optical illusions created by the telescope. This discovery, along with all the work he compiled on Mars paved his way to become one of the most significant scientific authorities on astronomy, especially on Mars.

As director of the Meudun Observatory, Antoniadis compiled extensive research on the surface of planet Mars, publishing numerous papers on the solar sun spots, planets Mercury, Venus, Jupiter, Saturn and his rings, the moon, Ganymedes and on shooting stars and comets. Antoniadis was the first to acknowledge the existence of weather changes such as windstorm on the surface of the red planet, years before being confirmed by NASA. One of his most significant contributions was compiling the very first accurate maps of the surface of Mars, attributing Greek names to hills, craters and mountains that have been preserved and are used to this day. Furthermore, he created the Antoniadi Scale, a system of categorizing weather conditions when viewing the stars at night.

Antoniadis was also an architect, a professional chess player, a writer, amateur archaeologist and artist. He wrote a book of three tomes on the art and architecture Hagia Sophia called Expression of Hagia Sophia, considered a monumental work in its field. He became a champion in chess by studying the moves of other professionals, ultimately winning first place in the chess tournament of Paris 1907 against Frank Marshall.

Eugene Antoniadis was awarded multiple times for his contributions in the scientific community. While never having been officially trained as an astronomer, he triumphantly became the world’s greatest amateur observational astronomer, his work accepted worldwide among astronomers. It is thanks to his extraordinary genius that modern astronomy knows so much about Mars and it is thanks to him that Mars speaks speaks Greek to this day.

Bibliography:

  1. “Antoniadis Evgenios”. Helios New Encyclopaedic Dictionary. Chasapis Constantinos. Passas, I. Athens: 1946. Print.
  2. McKim, Richard. E.-M. Antoniadi, 1870 – 1944. 2009 Paris/Meudon IWCMO Conference. Kwasan.kyoto-u.ac.jp. September 29, 2018. Web.
  3. Ο ερασιτέχνης αστρονόμος που έκανε τον πλανήτη Άρη να … μιλά Ελληνικά. Newsbeast. Newsbeast.gr. November 30, 2016. Web.
Eugene Antoniadis

Christodoulos

χρηστοδουλος

Archbishop (1939 – 2008)

Christodoulos was Archbishop of Athens and of All Greece, serving as the head of the Orthodox Church of Greece from 1998 until his untimely death in 2008. During this decade, Christodoulos struggled for Orthodoxy and Hellenism, always occupying the front lines in every religious and national issue. He was loved more than any other figure within the ecclesiastical circles and his legacy holds strong to this day.

Born as Christos Paraskevaidis, he studied law and theology in Athens, as well as foreign languages and music. He became Metropolitan bishop in 1974 and was involved with reorganizing the internal structure of the Church, as well as encouraging youths to study theology and become clerics.

As Archbishop, Christodoulos undertook a massive philanthropic work. He promoted the involvement of the Church in a wide range of social and national affairs by founding multiple Synodic Commissions, supported vulnerable social groups by establishing foundations for the families, abused women and immigrants, encouraged actions against AIDS, drug abuse and unemployment, bestowed scholarships to the children of the poor, implemented programs for the support of Greek families in Thrace, provided food for 3000 people daily and founded the non-governmental organization “Solidarity”, allowing the Church to expand its philanthropic work worldwide. Christodoulos inaugurated the digital technology into the Church of Greece. Furthermore, he showed interest in European issues, founding a representative branch of the Church in the European Union and UNESCO.

Christodoulos was a religious and national leader. He stood by the side of every individual regardless of their nationality, political ideology and religion. His unconditional love and devotion for the people drove hundreds of youths to the Orthodox Church, attracting a huge amount of young followers. His public appearances gathered thousands of followers who resonated with his fiery speech.

Throughout the years as Archbishop, Christodoulos strongly opposed the schemes of the New World Order, making extraordinary efforts to inform the Greeks through television, radio and public speeches about the fore coming evil. He distinguished as the strongest voice of opposition against the New World Order in Greece and a powerful proponent of Hellenism and its values, which was very rare for a Church official.

Christodoulos acted during difficult circumstances, at a time when the Greeks were devoid of any spiritual leader. He left an enduring legacy after filling this needed role. His struggle against globalization led him into multiple conflicts with the Greek government and ultimately cost him his life in 2008.

Bibliography:

  1. xristodoulos.antibaro.gr
  2. Χριστόδουλος Παρασκευαϊδης (1939 – 2008). Σαν σήμερα. Sansimera.gr. Web. July 29, 2018.
Christodoulos

Pavlos Melas

μελασ

Hero of the Macedonian Struggle (1870 – 1904)

Pavlos Melas was a Captain of the Greek Army who became the symbol for the Macedonian Struggle after sacrificing himself for Macedonia. He is one of the most celebrated heroes in modern Greek history and his influence holds strong to this day in the hearts of the Greeks.

Descending from a wealthy and historical family, Pavlos Melas rejected the luxuries and convenience offered by his high status, choosing instead a life of suffering and hardships, travelling to Macedonia to organize the freedom fighters and liberate Macedonia from the Ottoman Empire.

Pavlos Melas was a patriot. He graduated from the Evelpidon Military Academy and participated in numerous military campaigns for the liberation of the subjugated Greek lands, including the Graeco-Turkish war of 1894. A restless spirit, he was always concerned about the struggles of the unredeemed Greeks and more about Athens’ disregard on their efforts for liberation.

In 1904, driven purely by his love and sense of duty towards Greece, Pavlos Melas left Athens and travelled in secrecy to Macedonia, where he organized the Greek military forces, mobilizing men from the neighbouring villages in an attempt for immediate action in Macedonia. His plans, however, were thwarted early in the course of the operation, when during a clash with the Bulgarian militias, Pavlos Melas was shot and killed.

The death of Pavlos Melas shocked Greece. His sacrifice sparked the patriotic element of the Greeks, causing a massive number of volunteers to follow his example and flood Macedonia, fighting by the side of the Macedonian freedom fighters. The apogee of these enormous efforts was the victories of the Balkan Wars in 1912-1913.

Pavlos Melas became an immortal paradigm of the Macedonian Struggle, a man determined to sacrifice everything in order to wake up the Greeks. The fact that he was only one to leave his life behind and go to Macedonia to face an outnumbered enemy was of no concern to him, rather, to act obedient to his laws and become the example that others would follow. His heroism was sung by many, including intellectuals such as Kostis Palamas. To this day his soul resonates with the hearts of all the Greeks who defend Macedonia, yelling to the enemy across time “Famous Macedonia, the land of Alexander”!

Bibliography:

  1. Παύλος Μελάς (1870 -1904) «η Ζωή καὶ το Έργο ενός Ήρωα». ΙΣΤΟΡΙΑ ΕΛΛΗΝΙΚΗ ΚΑΙ ΠΑΓΚΟΣΜΙΑ. Greekworldhistory.blogspot.com. Web.
  2. Παύλος Μελάς (1870 -1904). Σαν σήμερα. Sansimera.gr. Web.
Pavlos Melas

Spyros Louis

louis

Golden Olympian of the 1st modern Olympic Games (1873 – 1940)

Spyros Louis was a water carrier-turned national hero, who won 1st place in the marathon of the 1st modern Olympic Games of 1896 in Athens. His victory granted Greece glory reminiscent to that of the ancient Olympic Games.

Louis was born to a poor family in Marousi, a then suburb of Athens. He helped his father carry water across the village on foot. He was also illiterate and had failed the same class twice. Nevertheless, he made up for his mischief with his incredible speed and stamina, which were evident from a young age.

Louis joined the Greek team of the Olympics at the last moment, upon the incitement of Major Papadiamantopoulos, a judge at the marathon who also happened to be Louis’ commander in the army and who was knowledgeable of Louis’ capabilities. He participated in the marathon event, which was 40 kilometers in length, starting from Marathon and ending in the Panathenaic Stadium in Athens.

In spite of the high expectations of the public, Louis’ victory seemed improbable. Having joined without any prior training or preparation, Louis’ results in the qualifying games were disappointing, having finished 5th in the second preliminary races. Louis wore a foustanella and tsarouchia, which were unconventional for running.

The participants included 4 foreign athletes, 12 Greeks and the water carrier Spyros Louis. The French Albin Lermusiaux, who had previously won 3rd place in the 1500 meters, led the race early on. At the 32nd km, however, Lermusiaux collapsed from exhaustion and Australian Edwin Flack took the lead. Soon after, Flack, who was not accustomed to such long distances, was surpassed by Louis. The Greek entered the stadium triumphantly, where 50.000 overwhelmed spectators apotheosized him, throwing flowers and yelling his name. Louis completed the race in 2 hours and 58 minutes.

Louis received a myriad of gifts, from jewelry to a lifelong free shave at the barber’s shop. In the end, Louis got only two things he desired: a carriage to help him carry water and the hand of his beloved one, for whom he had run in the marathon.

Spyros Louis never ran again in any other athletic event, choosing instead to live a peaceful life in his village with his family, working as a water carrier, a gardener and a local police officer. He made frequent public appearances whenever he was invited to athletic events. His last public appearance was in the Olympic Games of Berlin in 1936, where he was invited by Adolf Hitler, himself an admirer of Spyros Louis. Hitler received an olive branch from Louis, a symbol of peace.

Spyros Louis remained a humble man until the end of his life in 1940, where he died in complete poverty, a few months before the Italian invasion. He gained eternal glory for being Greece’s first Olympian after 1500 years. His name has become part of a phrase in the Greek language «Γίνομαι Λούης» (To become Louis), meaning to disappear from site by running very fast.

Bibliography:

  • «Ο Σπύρος Λούης έτρεξε στους Ολυμπιακούς του 1896 για τα μάτια της ωραίας Ελένης από το Μαρούσι. Πως ο φτωχός νερουλάς μπήκε την τελευταία στιγμή στη λίστα των αθλητών και κέρδισε το χρυσό…». Μηχανή του Χρόνου. Mixanitouxronou.gr. Web. May 16, 2018.
  • Σπύρος Λούης 1873 – 1940. σαν σήμερα. Sansimera.gr. Web. May 16, 2018.
  •  Spyros Louis, the first Marathon race winner of the Modern Olympic Games, 1896. Rare Historical Photos. Rarehistoricalphotos.com. Web. May 16, 2018.
Spyros Louis

Mikis Theodorakis

theodorakis

Composer (1925)

Mikis Theodorakis is a songwriter and composer of international fame, widely regarded as Greece’s most important composer of the 20th century, who developed the modern Greek music more than any other composer of his era. His 70-year career spans an extraordinarily wide spectrum of compositions, from symphonic works and hymns, to operas, stage plays and film scores, having composed almost 1000 songs.

He was born in the island of Lesbos. From a young age, he became fascinated by music, poetry and literature. He began composing at a very young age and made his first concert at the age of 17. He was awarded a scholarship and studied music in Paris next to teachers Olivier Messiaen and Eugene Bigot. He lived a troubled life during the Second World War, the Greek Bandits’ War and the junta, with imprisonments and exiles, mainly due to his political affiliations with the Left. To this day, his compositions have become the symbol of the struggle against political oppression and freedom.

Theodorakis wrote all kinds of musical scores. He wrote music for modern plays, music for ancient Greek drama, symphonic works, hymns, chamber music, ballets, operas, cantatas and oratorios. He wrote musical score for motion pictures such as Zorba the Greek, Z and Serpico, set into music the works of Nobel-Prize nominees Yiannis Ritsos and Angelos Sikelianos, as well as Nobel-Prize laureate’s Odysseus Elytis’ Axion Esti. His collaborations with numerous intellectuals in the field of music included Manos Hadjidakis, with whom they set the foundations of entekhno. Throughout his musical career he earned numerous awards, starting with the 1st prize of the Moscow Music Festival in 1957, awarded by Shostakovich himself.

Mikis’ work transcends music and expands on politics, literature, philosophy and metaphysics. In politics, he struggled for world peace and human rights. He expressed it through his music by performing thousands of concerts worldwide, in countries that faced political issues similar to Greece. His songs became synonymous to freedom. He founded the Greek-Turkish Friendship Society in 1980 to promote better relations with Turkey, was awarded the Lenin Peace Prize in 1983, and was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2000.

In 1942, Mikis Theodorakis created and, throughout the years, developed his own personal theory on the Universal Harmony of the Celestial Bodies. From a young age, he could “hear” subconsciously the sound that is produced from the friction of the movement of the planets and the aether. This sound was first described by Pythagoras and later by Anaximander and Plato, who could also “hear” this music. They named it the Universal Harmony of the Celestial Bodies. Theodorakis used this unknowingly as the source of his influence to create his music. By the time he had accrued enough knowledge on the matter, he had created his famous musical galaxy.

Mikis Theodorakis has cemented himself as the most important Greek composer of the 20th century, the embodiment of Greek music. His musical masterpieces prove that musicians of the modern world, including Vangelis, can possess the ability that Pythagoras and the ancient Greek philosophers did 2500 years ago, to turn their look to the sky, seek out the Universal Harmony and interpret it with their own music in our mortal world.

  1. Mikis Theodorakis. Famous Composers. Famouscomposers.net. Web.
  2. Βιογραφικό Σημείωμα Μίκη Θεοδωράκη. Mikis Theodorakis Orchestra. Mikistheodorakisorchestra.gr. Web.
  3. Θεοδωράκης, Μίκης. «Ἀπὸ τὴν Ἁρμονία τοῦ Σύμπαντος ἐκπηγάζει ἡ μουσική μου». Δαυλός, ἔτος 25ον, Νοέμβριος 2006, ἀρ.296. σελ. 20303 – 20329.
Mikis Theodorakis