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.
Advertisements
Napoleon Zervas

Phocion

ΦΩΚΙΩΝ

General, Statesman (c.402 BC – 317 BC)

Phocion was an Athenian general and statesman, widely renowned for his bravery, prudence and sophrosyne, which earned him the nickname “The Good” ( χρηστὸς). A man of humble descent, Phocion was a student of Plato and Xenocrates at the Academy of Athens. He believed strongly in the unification of the Greeks as a common force and placed the good of Greece above his own. His virtues and military excellence frequently made him the opposition of Demosthenes, who drew the Athenians on his side with his captivating rhetoric speeches.

Phocion came from a poor family and had thus learned to live his life as a poor, as he considered simplicity a virtue. Alexander the Great thought that it was shameful for a king to have Phocion as a friend and thus one day sent him a large sum of money. When Phocion asked Alexander what they were for, the latter told him that he gave him the money because Phocion was just.

At the age of 26, Phocion began participating in military campaigns. In the Battle of Naxos, where the Athenians won against the Spartains during the Peloponnesian War, Phocion was in charge of the left division of the fleet. Like Isocrates and Aristotle, Phocion, in spite of being a skilled general, was against wars and civil conflicts between the Greeks. He had expressed the need of Pan-hellenism, where all Greeks would stand united against their common enemy. This, however, placed him in the epicenter of the political scene, clashing with the demagogues of Athens, most importantly, Demosthenes, who enticed the Athenians to oppose Philip.

Phocion had been elected general of Athens 45 times in his lifetime. He is the only one in history to have defeated Philip II of Macedon in battle. Phocion prevented the siege of Perinthos and Byzantium by Philip and later defeated the Macedonians in the Battle of Ramnous, close to Marathon. He was one of the generals and rhetoricians who negotiated terms of peace with Philip after Athens’ defeat in the Battle of Chaeroneia.

Throughout his career as a statesman, Phocion managed to maintain stability in Athens and prevent the anti-Macedonian division from taking over and revolting against Alexander the Great. Following the devastating destruction of Thebes, Phocion struggled to keep Athens out of danger from destroying itself. Disciplined, strict and righteous, he served his state more than any other statesman of his times with paradigmatic patriotism and prudence. His disregard of public opinion and his battle against the city’s most powerful demagogues was enough to make him a much detested individual among the masses, who never forgave him.

Phocion was ultimately accused of treason, trialed in a parody trial and sentenced to death by hemlock at the age of 85. His body was thrown outside of Athens where it was found by a woman, who burnt it, according to the ancient traditions. It was not long before the Athenians in an act of remorse, sentenced Phocion’s accuser Agonides to death and built a statue of him, the same they had done to Socrates almost 100 years ago.

Bibliography:

  1. “Phocion”. Helios New Encyclopaedic Dictionary. Passas, I. Athens, 1946. Print.
  2. Pleures, Konstantinos. The persecution of the best elements of society. Athens: Hilektron publications, 2013. Print.
  3. Pleures, Konstantinos. Faces and Events. Athens: Hilektron publications, 2015. Print.
Phocion

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

Anacreon

anacreon

Lyric Poet (c.582 BC – c.485 BC)

A lyric poet from Teos of Asia Minor and one of the nine lyric poets of Ancient Greece. Though not as popular as the rest of the lyric poets, Anacreon remained in history as a musician and as the last lyric poet of Ancient Greece.

When Teos was conquered by the Persians in 545 BC, Anacreon moved to Abdera, Thrace. He spent a considerable amount of his life in Athens, where he was influenced by Aeschylus’ work, who at the time was at the beginning of his career. There, he also formed friendships with Pericles’ father Xanthippus, Critias and Simonides of Ceos, another one of the nine lyric poets.

Anacreon’s poetry is primarily centered on love. Even though a representative of the Aeolic School, his works feature elements of the Ionian School. It is said that most of his poems started with an invocation to Aphrodite. They were frequently accompanied by music from a barbiton in an erotic tone. He used three musical modes. Out of his entire work today only fragments survive of the following: 3 books on erotic poetry, sympotics, and hymns to Gods, 1 book on iambs and 1 book on elegies.

Anacreon became highly successful throughout Greece. His poems were widely read and acclaimed, especially by Critias, who characterized him as “soul of the symposia” and “masterful singer of the lyre”. He inspired many poets throughout history, expanding his influence up until the Byzantine era. Many amateurs attempted to imitate him. 60 of his surviving poems were found in the Palatine Anthology, discovered in 1606. The Palatine Anthology significantly influenced European poetry, including Goethe, who studied Anacreon’s works.

When Anacreon died, his compatriots minted coins depicting him. In Athens, a bronze statue of him was sculpted that stood on the Acropolis, right next to the statue of Xanthippus. Both were said to have been sculpted by Pheidias. Anacreon was subsequently portrayed in a number of potteries, as well in paintings, most notably by Jean-Leon Gerome, where he is playing his barbiton next to two cupids and Love.

Bibliography:

  1. “Anacreon”. Helios New Encyclopaedic Dictionary. Passas I. Athens, 1946. Print.
  2. Παλαιοθόδωρος, Δημήτρης. Ανακρέων. Εγκυκλοπαίδεια Μείζωνος Ελληνισμού. Asiaminor.ehu.gr. January 1, 2006. Web.
Anacreon

Constantine Canaris

Konstantinos_Kanaris

Admiral, Statesman, Hero of the Greek War of Independence, Prime Minister of Greece (1793 – 1877)

Admiral of the Greek navy and ardent patriot, Constantine Canaris dominated the seas in the battles of the Greek War of Independence of 1821. His name became synonymous with the destruction of the Turkish flagships and the immense bravery he and his crew displayed. Following the Greek War of Independence, Canaris pursued a successful career in politics, serving as Greece’s Prime Minister 5 times.

Canaris came from the island of Psara. Prior to becoming the famed admiral feared by the Turks, he was a humble merchant, who travelled from Marseille to Odessa, building a wealthy fortune. With the outbreak of the Greek War of Independence, Canaris joined the navy to wholeheartedly fight for Greece’s freedom. Unlike most other heroes of the Greek War of Independence, Canaris most probably was never a member of the Philiki Hetaereia (Society of Friends).

His participation in the front lines of the Greek War of Independence proved to have had a decisive role in its outcome. In 1922, following the massacre of Chios, where 30.000 people were killed or held hostage by the Turks, Canaris was one of the ship owners who sailed to the island to rescue the remaining survivors. His widespread fame, however, that earned him the admiration of acclaimed European artists and writers such as Victor Hugo, Alexandre Dumas and Pierre de Beranger, was as a triumphant destroyer of the Turkish flagships.

His first appearance in the war was on June 7th, 1821, when at night he and his crew risked their lives to set ablaze and destroy the Turkish flagship, in retaliation for the massacre of Chios. Numerous such successful attempts followed, which further stimulates the Greeks’ esteem. Furthermore, Canaris led the Greeks in a number of battles in the seas against the Ottoman fleet, such as in the Battle of Samos.

In 1826, Canaris was appointed representative of the Psara islands in the Third National Assembly of Troizena. With the coming of John Kapodistrias in Greece in 1827, Canaris was made captain of the navy. Together with admiral Andreas Miaoulis they were responsible for clearing the Aegean Sea of piracy. He was an ardent proponent of John Kapodistrias.

Canaris entered politics in 1843, as a member of the Russian party. He held the Ministry of Shipping under various different governments and served as Prime Minister of Greece himself a total of 5 times. He was bestowed the title of Vice Admiral and an honorary pension by the Greek state, the latter of which he refused.

Canaris died in 1877 while still in office as Prime Minister. He was made a national hero of Greece and his name surpassed the Greek borders to become one of the most respected heroes of the Greek War of Independence. Today, several ships of the Greek navy bear his name, in his honour.

Bibliography:

  1. Κανάρης Κωνσταντίνος. Αργολική Αρχειακή Βιβλιοθήκη Ιστορίας και Πολιτισμού. Argolikivivliothiki.gr. March 16, 2012. Web.
  2. Μιχαλακόπουλος, Ιωάννης. Ο Μπουρλοτιέρης και Πρωθυπουργός Κωνσταντίνος Κανάρης. Πεμπτουσία. Pemptousia.gr. September 22, 2017. Web.
Constantine Canaris

Theagenes

Theagenes_receiving_the_palm_of_honour_from_Chariclea

Athlete (5th century BC)

Theagenes of Thasos was one of the greatest Olympians of ancient Greece. A runner, boxer and pankratiast, Theagenes was a boxing champion in the 75th Olympiad in 476 BC, as well as champion in the pankration in the 76th Olympic Games. His legacy evolved to that of a divine therapist.

Theagenes was believed by locals to have been the son of a god, due to his incredible strength. He became famous all over Greece at the age of 9, when one day, when walking home from school, he took a bronze statue of a god from the marketplace with him. Some of the citizens saw this as a disrespectful act and demanded the child’s death. It was decided, however, that he should return the statue to its former position. Doing this, Theagenes’ life was spared and his name rose to fame.

His first victory was in the 75th Olympic Games in 476 BC in boxing and then in the 76th Olympic Games in the pankration. He went on to achieve numerous other victories in other sports events, namely 10 in the Isthmian Games, 9 in the Nemean Games and 3 in the Pythians. Furthermore, he won in a race in Phthia, a competition dedicated to Achilles, who descended from there. His ambition was to rival Achilles’ speed.

According to Pausanias the historian, Theagenes had accumulated a total of 1400 laurel wreaths by the end of his lifetime from his victories. His compatriots, who once attempted to kill him, were very proud of him. Pausanias accounts that Glaucias had sculpted a statue of Theagenes that was positioned in Olympia, next to the statues of King Philip II and his son Alexander the Great.

After his death, a statue of his was erected in Thasos. In is said that an athlete who could never defeat Theagenes while he was alive went to the statue and flogged it every night. The statue collapsed one night and killed him. The statue was charged with murder and was thrown in the bottom of the ocean. However, drought struck the island causing a famine. When the citizens sought the Oracle of Delphi’s divination, the Oracle told them to replace the statue of Theagenes back to its original position. The Thasians did so, and the drought stopped. Since then, the Thasians started believing in Theagenes the divine God-Healer and offer him tributes.

Bibliography

  1. Θεαγένης από την Θάσο. Ίδρυμα Μείζωνος Ελληνισμού. Fhw.gr. Web.
  2. Karasavvas, Theodoros. Theagenes of Thasos: From Legendary Olympic Fighter to God-Healer. Ancient Origins. Ancient-origins.net. Web. January 17, 2017.
Theagenes

Arcesilaus

188_featured

Philosopher (316 BC – 240 BC)

Arcesilaus is the second most important representative of the Skeptic School of Philosophy, founded by Pyrrhon. A student of Theophrastus, Arcesilaus is said to have doubted everything, similar to Descartes’ skepticism. None of his works on philosophy survive. As such, what we know about his philosophy is based on others’ accounts.

He studied geometry and astronomy before settling in Athens. After studying next to Theophrastus, he joined Plato’s Academy, where he studied philosophy next to Crantor, Crates and Polemon. He succeeded Crates as the sixth headmaster of the Academy, a position which he held for 25 years until his own death.

Our understanding of Arcesilaus’ skepticism is incomplete because his philosophy is survived only from brief reports by other writers and their opponents. Hence, each one gives their own interpretation of Arcesilaus’ philosophical views. Philosophers have interpreted his philosophy in three different ways: the Academic, the Practical and the Socratic interpretations.

Arcesilaus believed that we should not give a definite opinion on anything and that we should have a suspension of judgment – a term he named universal epoche (εποχή) – when we cannot distinguish between truth and falsehood. Nevertheless, he did not deny the performance of deeds, as our actions come from our will, not from our knowledge. Arcesilaus also held another doctrine called akatalepsia (ακαταληψία), according to which nothing can be known. He was highly critical of all philosophical movements, most notably against the Stoics.

Arcesilaus’ statements that one should not form beliefs and that nothing can be known have long bewildered philosophers, who have attempted to shed light to his way of thinking. Regardless, Arcesilaus made an important step in Academic Skepticism, as a skilled dialectitian following the Socratic Method, influencing important figures in philosophy.

Biblography:

  1. Brittain, Charles. Arcesilaus. Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy. Plato.stanford.edu. January 14, 2005. Web.
  2. Pleures, Konstantinos. Greek Philosophers. Hilektron Publications. Athens: 2014. Print.
Arcesilaus