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.
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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

Napoleon Zervas

ζερβας

General, Captain of EDES (1891 – 1957)

Napoleon Zervas was a statesman and general who played a protagonistic role in the events that took place during 1941-1949, the most difficult times of modern Greek history. A dynamic, brave and determined individual, Zervas founded and led the most significant resistance movement in Greece, fighting against Greece’s most formidable enemies simultaneously: the German Occupation Axis and the Communists.

In 1910 he was admitted as a volunteer in the military. He fought in the Balkan Wars in 1912-1913 as well as against the Germans and the Bulgarians in Macedonia in 1917. As an ardent proponent of Eleutherios Venizelos during the National Schizm, Zervas was imprisoned by the Metaxas regime. Soon afterwards, when Nazi Germany invaded Greece in 1941, Zervas founded the National Republican Greek League (EDES from Greek ΕΔΕΣ), the most powerful resistance group in Greece.

As leader of EDES, Napoleon Zervas and his men fought relentlessly against the Germans while simultaneously receiving attacks from EAM-ELAS, the communist army led by Aris Velouchiotis. The battles in which EDES participated were numerous and of great importance. The first operations began on October 1942, when Napoleon Zervas and EDES, having insufficient weaponry confronted the Italians. On November, 1942, together with the help of the British they detonated the Gorgopotampos viaduct.

Zervas and his men had devoted their entire lives to the war, battling with extraordinary heroism, displaying acts of self-sacrifice in the name of freedom. From 1942 to 1947, Zervas and the members of EDES fought continuously in every battle of the resistance, day and night. By 1943, EDES’ army comprised of 3500 men.

In 1944 he liberated Ioannina and saved Epirus from falling into the hands of the Germans and the Cham Albanians. Furthermore, he rescued and protected the children of the Cham Albanians after they were abandoned by the fleeing Albanians in Epirus. Zervas attempted to negotiate terms of co-operation with ELAS, who not only rejected his terms, but turned against him and all other resistance movements with the aim of exterminating them all. Zervas was accused of having co-operated with the Germans, especially by the communists, something which never happened.

After the war, Zervas joined politics. He founded his own political part and was elected member of the Parliament several times. He held different ministries under different governments for a short period of time, without notable success. Nevertheless, he was the most powerful and competent general during the years 1941-1947, whose contributions to the war have been invaluable. It is estimated that without his service to the country, Greece would have succumbed to the communists and would have become part of the Autonomous Macedonian Country of Soviet influence.

Bibliography

  1. Barbis, Kostas. 1941 -1949 Έτη Αγώνων, Θυσιών και Αίματος, 3 tomes. Athens: Pelasgos publications, 2008. Print.
Napoleon Zervas

Stratis Myrivilis

mirivilis1

Writer (1890 – 1969)

Stratis Myrivilis’ true name was Eustratios Stamatopoulos. He was one of the most important representatives of the Generation of the 30’s, a generation of writers, artists and scholars who flourished during the first half of the 20th century. Myrivilis belongs to the generation of Greeks who lived all the major wars fought by Greece, developed a deep patriotic esteem and made Greece reach an internationally recognised level in literature.

He participated as a volunteer in the 1st and 2nd Balkan Wars, where he was injured. Later, he fought in the 1st World War and the Greco-Turkish War of 1919-1922. He settled in Athens and worked in a number of newspapers, radio stations and as a librarian in the Greek Parliament. He founded the National Society of Literary Writers of Greece as well as the Greek Society of Literary Writers.

Myrivilis was primarily noted for his novels and short stories. His first novel, Ζωὴ ἐν Τάφῳ (Life in Tomb) in 1924, was written during the Balkan Wars and was about the atrocities of war, which Myrivilis had personally experienced. It was followed with The Schoolmistress with the Golden Eyes in 1933, which tells the story of a man returning from war and falling in love with his friend’s widowed wife and The Mermaid Madonna in 1948, a story about the struggle of the refugees from Asia Minor to find a new home in the island of Lesbos. All three of his novels have powerful anti-war messages. A big part of his work consists of short stories, novellas, essays and children’s books. Most of them were translated into foreign languages and gained worldwide followers.

Characterized by a strong sense of realism, lyricism and tradition, Myrivilis drew inspiration from his own life experiences and from Hellenism, the eternal source of influence. He believed very much in the Megali Idea (the Great Idea), the liberation of the subjugated Greek territories and as a patriot, he strongly opposed communism.

Myrivilis was awarded the National Prize of Prose in 1940 for his novella The Turquoise Book. In 1958 he became a member of the Academy of Athens while in 1959 he was honoured with the Order of George I. He was nominated three times for the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1960, 1962 and 1963.

Bibliography:

  1. Η Ζωή του Μεγάλου μας Πεζογράφου. Στράτης Μυριβήλης. Stratis-myrivilis.weebly.com. Web.
  2. Στράτης Μυριβήλης 1890 -1969. Σαν Σήμερα. Sansimera.gr. Web.
Stratis Myrivilis

The Lady of Rho

kyra_tis_ro_3

(1890 – 1982)

Every day at sunrise, Despina Achladiotou raised the Greek flag in the island of Rho and then took it down at night. She did this for 40 years. With this act, she spread the message that Rho was part of Greece and that nobody would violate its sacred ground. She became known as the Lady of Rho.

In 1924, she, her husband and her blind mother inhabited the small island at the southern coast of Turkey. When all the other inhabitants left the island, Despina and her husband faced challenges from the Turks, who wanted the island for themselves. In 1929, the Turks invaded the island and hoisted the Turkish flag. As soon as she saw the Turkish flag, Despina took it down, sew a Greek flag from white and blue fabric she carried and hoisted it in its place.

During World War II, Despina Achladiotou went to Kastellorizo to work in one of the bases of the Allies by helping out the soldiers. When the Allies ordered the evacuation of Kastellorizo, everybody fled from the island to Cyprus and Egypt. Despina Achladiotou was the only one to remain in the island and in spite of the Germans’ bombardments, continued to raise the Greek flag every day.

Despina Achladiotou stood as the protector of both islands Rho and Kastellorizo. In her brief absences, the Turks would find the chance to invade the island and raise the Turkish flag. When she returned, she removed it and placed the Greek flag once again. In 1974, when such an event occurred, the Greek navy arrived at the island to award her for her valor, her acts of patriotism and services to the nation. She received numerous decorations from the state thereafter, including from the Academy of Athens and the Greek Parliament.

Despina Achladiotou died in 1982, at the age of 92. Her final wish was to be buried at the island of Rho, right next to the pole she used to raise the flag every morning for almost half a century. History wrote her down as the Lady of Rho, the woman who ensured that the two islands always remained part of Greece and withstood every hardship to achieve it.

Bibliography

    1. Σαν σήμερα “έφυγε” η κυρά της Ρω, Δέσποινα Αχλαδιώτη, που επί μισό αιώνα σήκωνε την Ελληνική Σημαία απέναντι από τους τούρκους. Λαϊκός Σύνδεσμος Χρυσή Αυγή. Xryshaygh.com. May 13, 2017. Web.
    2. «Πέρασα κακουχίες, αλλά εδώ νιώθεις πιο πολύ την Ελλάδα, χαμένος στο πέλαγος». Η κυρά της Ρω, η νησιώτισσα που ύψωνε την ελληνική σημαία για 40 χρόνια στο ερημονήσι του Αιγαίου. Μηχανή του Χρόνου. Mixanitouxronou.gr. Web.

 

The Lady of Rho

Manos Hadjidakis

manos

Composer (1925 – 1994)

His name is known all over the world. He is one of the greatest pioneers of modern Greek music who set the foundations of classical and folk Greek music as well as Entekhno, a new style of music. His eminence in the Greek musical world is comparable to that of Mikis Theodorakis.

Hadjidakis started playing the piano at the age of 4. He studied music and philosophy in the University of Athens but did not obtain a degree. During the axis occupation in WWII, he worked as a heaver, an ice salesman and a nurse assistant. During that time he met many important literary figures such as George Seferis, Odysseus Elytis, Angelos Sikelianos and Nikos Gatsos. Gatsos would play an important part in his career as the two became close friends and worked together for the majority of his life.

Hadjidakis’ debut in music was in 1944 when he composed music for the plays of Carolos Koun in the Art Theatre of Athens. This collaboration, which lasted 15 years, opened Hadjidakis’ path to composing music for theatrical plays for the National Theatre of Greece. Furthermore, he composed music for multiple ancient comedies and tragedies such as Medea, Assemblywomen, Lysistrata, Birds etc.

Hadjidakis composed classical music, music for ballet and put into music the works of famed Greek writers like Nikos Gatsos. In 1959 he helped introduce the music of Mikis Theodorakis to the public. Over the years, he scored multiple Greek and international films, most notably Michael Kakoyiannis’ Stella and Dragon, Elia Kazan’s America-America and Dusan Makavejiev’s Sweet Movie. In 1960 he was awarded the Academy Award for Best Original Song for the song Never on Sunday from the film with the same name by Jules Dassin. It marked the first time such a distinction was awarded to a non-American composer.

In 1966 Hadjidakis went to USA where he scored the Broadway musical Never on Sunday based on the aforementioned film. Additionally, he composed several unique compositions. His career in the United States further boosted his fame internationally. Upon returning to Greece in 1972, Hadjidakis occupied important cultural positions. He became director of the State Orchestra, director of the radio station “Third Program”, served as deputy director of the National Opera, and founded his own festivals and competitions to give prominence to future stars of music. Hadjidakis founded his own record company, named Sirius, and printed his own magazine dedicated to music and culture.

In 1989 he founded the “Orchestra of Colours”, a symphonic orchestra with himself as conductor. The orchestra gave 20 concerts and 12 recitals featuring renowned Greek and international soloists.

Throughout his entire lifetime he was in the epicenter of Greek music. He helped significantly rise to fame some of the most important musical figures of Greece such as Mikis Theodorakis, Nana Mouschouri and Iannis Xenakis. Until the end of his life in 1994, Manos Hadjidakis remained highly respected among the musical world and recognized as a musical genius, whose work influenced modern Greek culture more than anyone.

Bibliography

  1. Manos Hadjidakis Biography by Steve Huey. All Music. Allmusic.com. Web.
  2. Μάνος Χατζιδάκις. Σαν Σήμερα. Sansimera.gr. Web.
Manos Hadjidakis

John Lycoudis

hqdefault

Physician (1910 – 1980)

John Lycoudis was the physician who first discovered that gastric ulcer was primarily caused by a bacterial infection, now known to be H. pylori, and used his own treatment consisting of a combination of antibiotics to cure thousands of the disease. A man way ahead of his time, he faced extraordinary opposition from the medical and pharmaceutical establishment both inside and outside of Greece. Widely dismissed and discredited by the academia, he was justified 4 years after his death and his work accepted worldwide after almost 50 years.

Lycoudis practiced medicine in his hometown, Mesolonghi, where he was known as the “Doctor of the Poor” for not charging money for his visits. This resulted in him being very beloved by the people and was elected mayor of Mesolonghi twice. The money he earned went to a public pharmacy, which he had established for the poor.

His discovery was not my chance. Lycoudis suffered from chronic gastritis himself and in 1958 he suffered from haemorrhagic gastritis. This led him to search for a cure by himself. Believing that peptic ulcer was caused by a bacterium, he tried different combinations of antibiotics to see which would cure the disease. His discovery was patented and published in 1961 under the title “A method for the production of a pharmaceutical mixture for the treatment of peptic ulcers, duodenal ulcers and gastritis”.

The new drug which he had created, named Elgaco (from the Greek words ἔλκος, γαστρῖτις and κολῖτις meaning ulcer, gastritis and colitis respectively), was used successfully to treat an estimated of 30.000 patients suffering from peptic ulcer. Elgaco was never allowed to circulate in the market by the Greek authorities. Clinical trials were never performed by any university in the world that he had contacted to prove its efficacy. Throughout the following years, Lycoudis lectured around Greece in attempt to raise awareness about his treatment method.

The medical establishment and the academia did not remain apathetic to Lycoudis’ discovery. In spite of his enormous treatment success, the medical establishment, driven by profit and envy, sent him to court, charged him for “Creating and distributing unapproved drugs… He was using his method to attract patients to earn money from it” and fined him 4000 drachmas (11 euro).

Lycoudis was ultimately vindicated four years after his death in 1980, when scientific validation came from the other side of the globe by two Australian doctors, Robin Warren and Barry Marshall. The two won the Nobel Prize of Medicine in 2005 for Lycoudis’ discovery. Barry Marshall, who had been treated in a similar way by the academia, said “If he had been accepted by the scientific community, then he would have won the Nobel Prize 20 years before myself and Dr. Warren”. When asked about the Nobel Prize, Lycoudis prophetically replied “Bring it to my grave, when it has been discovered that I was right”.

In 1999, an article was published in the eminent medical journal The Lancet titled John Lycoudis: An unappreciated discoverer of the cause and treatment of peptic ulcer disease, in honour of John Lycoudis and his work. In 2002, Barry Marshall dedicated an extensive text to him in his book, entitled John Lycoudis: The general practitioner in Greece, who in 1958 discovered the cause of, and treatment for peptic ulcer disease. Marshall would always cite Lycoudis in his lectures. He was posthumously awarded by the Academy of Athens, the same people who 50 years ago had restricted him from treating his patients.

Today, 50 years later, Lycoudis’ reputation has been restored and his name is known worldwide as the man who challenged the medical world with his radical discovery, considered the greatest medical discovery in modern Greek history.

Bibliography:

  1. Δημ. Γουλές – Ι. Σουφλερή. Γιάννης Λυκούδης: Ο Μεσολογγίτης ιατρός των φτωχών, το ΕΛΚΟΣ και το Νόμπελ. MEGAMED. Megamed.gr. Web. November 20, 2016.
  2. Παπαβασιλείου, Ευστάθιος. Αφιέρωμα στη μνήμη του Ιωάννη Λυκούδη. Πρακτικὰ 11ου Ελληνικού Συνεδρίου για το Ελικοβακτηρίδιο του Πηλωρού, Αθήνα, 2006. eemep.gr. Web.
  3. Ρογδάκης, Αθανάσιος. Ιωάννης Λυκούδης. Πεμπτουσία. Pemptousia.gr. Web. May 26, 2011.
John Lycoudis