Theophrastus

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Philosopher, Scholar, Mathematician, Agronomist, Naturalist (c.371 BC – c.287 BC)

Theophrastus was Aristotle’s greatest and most beloved student, as well as his successor as headmaster of the Lyceum. Together with his teacher, he is considered as the Father of Botanic and Mineralogy. An Aristotelian philosopher with profound knowledge on various scientific fields, he continued his teacher’s work, becoming one of the most influential philosophers of Greek history.

Theophrastus was originally a student of Plato, before studying next to Aristotle, who gave him the name Theophrastus for his eloquence. He became the first headmaster of the Botanical Garden, founded by Aristotle, next to the river Ilisos in Athens. There, Theophrastus taught botany and phytology. With the death of Aristotle, Theophrastus was appointed headmaster of the Peripatetic School and inherited Aristotle’s library. Furthermore, he undertook custody of Aristotle’s son and was offered to marry his daughter. He lived his whole life primarily in Athens, devoted himself to the Lyceum, where he made a great fortune and was highly respected.

Like Aristotle, he was a polymath and a prolific writer, having written about 250 books, most of which have seen lost. In general, Theophrastus did not decline much from Aristotle’s philosophy, let alone introduce something new to his philosophy. Nevertheless, he developed numerous sciences, most importantly Aristotelian logic and added some new concepts to philosophy. While he is mostly known for his advances in logic, Theophrastus’ contributions are found in a vast number of seemingly unrelated fields such as ethics, metaphysics, music, religion, rhetoric, physiology, geometry, biology, zoology, phytology, poetry and law.

Of note are his contributions in phytology, the science of plants. He wrote 9 books on the history of plants (Peri Phyton Historiae) and 6 books on the causes of plants (Peri Phyton Aetiae), which is a continuation of the former. In it, the philosopher attempts to interpret the causes of the difference of plants with each other. The treatise features over 550 different species of plants from the Mediterranean to the East, each with its own detailed description. Theophrastus also proceeds to an incredibly detailed classification of plants, trees and bushes. Moreover, the treatise contains phytogeography, information on the longevity and the diseases of plants, their fruits, their medicinal powers as well as poisons, making it concurrently a pharmacological treatise. He was the first to use botanical definitions and nomenclature and the first to describe that leaves were used in the nutrition of the plant. He was involved with the study of plants that were brought to Greece from Asia by Alexander the Great during his expeditions. Theophrastus compiled studies of significant value and planted many in his Botanical Garden. Numerous new plants were introduced in Greece thanks to him, namely prunus laurocerasus, rice and cotton.

Other works of importance were Peri Lithon (On Rocks), which was part of a treatise on mineralogy, books on fire, on smell, on wind, on water, on senses and on the colour of animals. Lastly, Theophrastus wrote Characters, a book consisting of 30 chapters, each describing a character, for instance the coward, the oligarch, the inappropriate, the ironic, the vanity, the insolent etc. He provides each one with a background, their social life and their spiritual consistency. It is Theophrastus’ most well-known book.

He had over 2000 students; among them most notably were Demetrius of Phaleron, the founder of the Library of Alexandria, Dicaearchus, a mathematician polymath and Aristarchus of Samos, the astronomer who supposedly founded the heliocentric theory. He died at the age of 85 without having married Aristotle’s daughter, complaining that he was leaving this world right at the time when he was starting to become wise. He had directed the Lyceum for 34 years.

Bibliography

  1. Georgakopoulos, Konstantinos. Ancient Greek Scientists. Georgiades, Athens: 1995. Print.
  2. Pleures, Konstantinos. Greek Philosophers. Athens: Hilektron Publications, 2014. Print.
  3. “Theophrastus”. Helios New Encyclopaedic Dictionary. Passas, I. Athens, 1946. Print.
Theophrastus

Altani

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Writer, Researcher (1933)

During the Renaissance, Greek scholars that fled to the West struggled to keep the candle of Hellenism flaming so that the eternal wisdom of the Ancient Greek philosophers be disseminated to the peoples of tomorrow. Altani is one of today’s such people, one of the most erudite philologists, who continues to pass on the hidden knowledge of the Ancient Greek thought in a deciphered way, so that it affects the readers’ souls.

She studied philology and foreign languages, then continued her studies in music in Conservatio di Santa Cecilia di Roma and in the Royal School of Music in London. Thereafter, she got involved in studying the Ancient Greek philosophy and mythology.

The writer’s first book that started it all was Epidauros Tholou Apocalypsis. It was the beginning of a series of books of mythological-philosophical-psychological content called Arrhetoi Logoi, and which bridged mythology with philosophy, proving the former’s profound meaning on man’s soul. In it, Altani first made a worldwide discovery about the heliocentric system and the precession of the equinoxes exactly displayed on the pavement of the Tholos of Epidaurus, 40 years before its discovery by Aristarchus and 170 years before the birth of Hipparchus, respectively. The analogic relationship between the microscopic human being and the macroscopic celestial universe has been realized.

In the following books were introduced or decoded key concepts of understanding the Greek philosophy, such as symbols, Gods and deities, archetypes, Pythagoras’ arithmosophy and the Pythagorean theorem, anagrammatisms of the Greek language based on Plato’s Cratylus and the “monsters of the soul”. In the fourth book, Altani managed to reconstruct the ancient system of Greek Meditation (Ἑλληνικὸς Διαλογισμὸς) by putting together the lost pieces of the puzzle based on the surviving works of Orpheus, Hesiod, Homer, Plato and Pythagoras. Its enormous success attracted the interest of academia, where Greek psychiatrists confirmed the practical importance and the beneficial effects of the Greek Meditation. Her works are products of the Greek Meditation.

The cultivation of the ancient Greek inheritance and the promotion of the Greek philosophy and thought are but a result of Altani’s hard work. The greatness of her work lies in her ability to decipher what eminent scholars cannot, provide us with a clear understanding of the profound wisdom of the Ancient Greeks and most importantly, her achievement to rebuild an incredibly ancient and complicated method that was lost thousands of years ago. That method’s purpose is not only to give valuable fruits to the meditationist but also to aid humanity’s soul to become one with the Divine. Such work can only be undertaken by people with virtue, memory and discipline.

Bibliography

  1. Altani. Arrhetoi Logoi Thaumas enanti Exousiaston Titanon. Kaktos: Athens, 2017. Print.
  2. Altani. Arrhetoi Logoi Hellikos Dia-Logismos. Georgiades: Athens, 2006. Print.
Altani

Nikitaras

Nikitaras

General, Statesman, Hero of the Greek War of Independence (1787 – 1849)

Nikitas Stamatelopoulos was known by many different names; he was called Tourkophagos (Turk-eater) and Nikitaras, his name meaning “victory”. He was one of the greatest heroes and protagonists of the Greek War of Independence, next to his uncle, Theodore Kolokotronis. He fought in all of the major battles of the Greek War of Independence, proving his decisive role in its outcome.

From a young age he was introduced in the harsh way of life of the harmatoles. After losing his father from the Ottomans, Nikitaras followed Theodore Kolokotronis throughout all his operations. His devotion to his uncle was recorded in the people’s saying “The head was of Kolokotronis, the arm was of Nikitaras”. In 1818, 3 years before the outbreak of the War, Nikitaras was initiated in the Society of Friends, whereupon he became an active member, travelling to Peloponnesus in attempt to initiate others and join the war that was slowly coming.

On March 23, 1821, Nikitaras joined Kolokotronis and entered in Kalamata. On May 12th of the same year, Nikitaras led an army of 800 troops victoriously against the Ottomans in the Battle of Valtetsi, thus granting the Greeks a victory in one of the most important battles during the war. Soon thereafter, he proved his military skills and valour in the Battle of Doliana, where he defeated 6000 Ottomans with an army of 200 Greek men. These two battles rendered him one of the most heroic fighters of the war. He continued in the Battle of Vervena, where he won the battles one after the other. Finally, on September 23rd of the same year, Nikitaras, together with Theodore Kolokotronis, Demetrios Plapoutas, Anagnostaras, Petrobey Mavromichalis and Demetrios Hypsilantis fought in the siege of Tripolitsa, ultimately reclaiming the capitol of Moria and decimating the Turkish and Jewish population. In 1822, along with 700 of his men he fought in the Battles of Stylis and Hagias Marinas, alongside Odysseus Androutsos.

The apex of his heroic virtue was in the Battle of Dervenakia, the most important battle of the Greek War of Independence. The Greeks, led by Theodore Kolokotronis put an end to Dramali’s descent to Peloponnesus by facing 3000 Turks in the small mountain pass of Dervenakia. Nikitaras was also present here, alongside Demetrios Plapoutas, Demetrios Hypsilantis, Papaflessas and Panos Kolokotronis. It was in this battle that Nikitaras earned the nickname “Turk-eater” because during the battle he broke 3 of his sword from the force he was striking.

Nikitaras was never absent from any of the major battles of the war. After the Battle of Dervenakia, Nikitaras continued fighting in a numerous battles, including the second siege of Mesolonghi, the victorious Battle of Arachova, on the side of Georgios Karaiskakis and his 800 men and the Battle of Phaleron, again together with Karaiskakis, who died in battle.

Nikitaras lived long enough to see his homeland free and to live the ingratitude of the nation. He was an avid supporter of John Kapodistrias, who appointed him to various positions of power including President of the Hellenic Parliament. He attempted to open a paper manufacturing company but with the arrival of King Otto, the plans were abandoned. He was sentenced, imprisoned and beaten repeatedly while in jail until he was proven innocent and freed. The government granted him with a permission to “beg” outside the Church of Evangelistria every Friday, where he would go beg, almost blind. One day, when the Russian ambassador came to visit him while he was begging and asked him what he was doing, Nikitaras replied “I am enjoying my free homeland”. “You’re enjoying it here, sitting on the streets?” said the Russian ambassador. Nikitaras then said “My homeland has granted me with a pension, to live well, but I come here to take a glimpse of how the people are doing”. The ambassador realized and let a small pouch of golden coins to fall from his pocket was he was leaving. Nikitaras saw it and told the ambassador: “Your pouch fell down; Take it, so that you don’t lose it and nobody else finds it”. He died in utter poverty at the age of 68 from diabetes.

Nikitaras remained in history as the most virtuous soul of the Greek War of Independence and one of the greatest heroic figures in Greek history, together with Theodore Kolokotronis, the old man of Morea, his most beloved uncle, whose tomb lies next to Nikitaras’.

Bibliography

  1. “Nikitaras”. Helios New Encyclopaedic Dictionary. Passas, I. Athens: 1946. Print.
  2. Konstantaras, Konstantinos. The Inglorious End of the Heroes of 21’. Hilektron Publications: Athens, 2016. Print.
Nikitaras

Hecataeus of Miletus

Historian, Geographer (c.549 BC – c.476 BC)

Before Herodotus, there was Hecataeus of Miletus, considered as the first and most renowned historiographer of Greece. Hecataeus was also the prodrome of scientific geography and chartography, considered by many as the Father of Geography.

He was a student of Anaximander. He travelled from southern Russia to Egypt where he learnt historiography and wrote down his experiences from the places he visited. Hecataeus was an active statesman in Miletus and the only one from his homeland to oppose a revolution against the Persians foreseeing its failure. He succeeded in persuading the Persian satrap Artaphernes to restore the constitution of the Ionian cities when he was sent as an ambassador of his homeland.

He wrote numerous books. His most famous one, Periodod Ges (Tour Round the World) consists of two books, one on Europe and one on Asia, the latter also containing Africa. It provides ethnologic descriptions on the peoples found around the Mediterranean and the Black Sea in a clockwise manner, from Gibraltar to Morocco such as about their civilization, their origins and their history. He developed Anaximander’s map of the globe and attempted to define the distances on the geographic map based on the constellations of the sky. He was the one who introduced geometric shapes and zones on geographic maps that are used to this day. His other, non-surviving works include Aeolics, Map of the Persian State, Historiae, Heroologia, Map of the Globe and Genealogia.

Hecataeus’s work exerted massive influence on his forerunners. Strabo and especially Herodotus cite him numerous times in their books, while the plays of Aeschylus and Sophocles which contain geographic knowledge support the fact that Hecataeus’ works were very popular among the spiritual world of ancient Greece.

Bibliography

  1. Georgakopoulos, Konstantinos. Ancient Greek Scientists. Georgiades, Athens: 1995. Print.
  2. “Haecateus of Miletus”. Helios New Encyclopaedic Dictionary. Passas, I. Athens, 1946. Print.
  3. The Editors of Encyclopaedia Brittanica. ”Hecataeus of Miletus” Encyclopaedia Britannica. Web. March 6, 2008. Retrieved on April 19, 2017.
Hecataeus of Miletus

Pausanias of Lacaedemon

pausanias

General (5th century BC)

Pausanias of Lacedaemon was a Spartan general, son of Cleombrotus and nephew of King Leonidas. His name has been connected with the Battle of Plataeae, where he led the Greeks to victory against the Persians in 479 BC.

Pausanias was regent of King Pleistarchus, Leonidas’ adolescent son and Pausanias’ cousin when he was appointed leader of the Greeks against the Persians, led by Mardonius. He led a total of 110.000 Greek warriors from 36 different city-states against the Persian army, consisting of 300.000 warriors. The battle took place in Plataeae in 479 BC, 1 year after the Battle of Thermopylae and the Battle of Salamis and 10 years after the Battle of Marathon, in which the two latter the Persians had lost. After a fierce battle, the Persians were defeated, having suffered 270.000 casualties according to Herodotus while the Greeks 1360 according to Plutarch. Among the dead was Mardonius, the Persian general whose king, Xerxes, had cut the head of Leonidas in the Battle of Thermopylae and had impaled it as a trophy. When he was advised to do the same to Mardonius as a form of retribution, Pausanias refused, saying that these actions befall only to the hands of barbarians.

The outcome of the Battle of Plataeae meant the end of the Persians’ expeditions in Greece and ended the second Graeco-Persian War in favour of the Greeks. In order to secure their freedom, Pausanias ordered the destruction of all Persian fortifications in the area, so that no barbarians remained in the land of the Greeks.

The victory of the Battle of Plataeae granted enormous fame and glory to Pausanias’ name. He was appointed admiral of the Greek navy and sailed to the Greek seas where he confronted the Persian fleet and liberated the islands of the Aegean Sea with 50 ships. Additionally, he liberated Cyprus and Byzantium from the Persian rule. As a result, the Greeks reclaimed their dominance in the Aegean Sea and the Euxine Sea.

Unfortunately, Pausanias’ course after his accomplishments turned to corruption and betrayal. According to ancient sources, he bargained with Xerxes in order to impose himself as sole ruler of Sparta and conquer Greece. He was accused of treason and misdemeanor and sentenced to death. He escaped to a temple where he found sanctuary whereupon the Spartans sealed the temple and Pausanias died of starvation. The once glorious Spartan general who had granted the victory to the Greeks in the Battle of Plataeae had fallen victim to his own arrogance. Nevertheless, in spite of his downfall, his name remained in history next to those of Miltiades, Leonidas, Demophilus, Themistocles, Aristides and Cimon.

  1. “Pausanias”. Helios New Encyclopaedic Dictionary. Passas, I. Athens, 1946. Print.
  2. Volonakis, Ioannis. ΤΗΣ ΑΡΧΑΙΑΣ ΕΛΛΑΔΟΣ ΟΙ ΜΕΓΑΛΟΙ ΗΓΕΤΑΙ. Georgiades: Athens, 1997. Print.
Pausanias of Lacaedemon

Diades of Pella

Engineer, Inventor (4th century BC)

Diades the Besieger, also known as Diades of Pella, was Alexander’s engineer in his expedition in Asia. Together with Charias they constructed some of the most impressive and powerful war machines used by Alexander’s army in his conquests, which proved decisive in his victories against the Persians. He chiefly designed battering rams, moving towers, catapults and cranes aimed at demolishing enemy walls.

Nothing is known about Diades, save for his inventions. These include the following:

  • The “Moving Towers” was a siege engine made of towers that could be disassembled and reassembled on site by the warriors. They were used to siege cities.
  • The “palintonos” catapult, a V-spring catapult that launched stones at distance.
  • The demolition raven, a tall scaffold with wheels. It had a long beam extending on both sides, one of which was operated by the operators on the back, and the front one, which resembled a raven’s beak and was used to extract rocks from the enemy’s walls. This way, it could demolish walls of cities.
  • The Wall Perforator, a sophisticated siege engine used for perforating walls.
  • The lifting machine, which was used for helping warriors climb on walls. It resembled the climax of Magirus.
  • The ditch-filling tortoise was an armoured, pyramid-shaped vehicle that literally resembled a turtle. It was used in sieges for the levelling of ground and for filling the defensive ditches around cities. This way, it was easier for war machines to approach their target. Its area spanned 120 square meters for the protection of the digging crew that hid under it. Its exposed walls were covered with iron sheets, wicker wood, clay mixed with hair and lambskins stuffed with seaweed soaked with vinegar in order to neutralize incoming fire arrows and to absorb the impact of stones. The machine could move in all directions. Another version of the machine, the digging tortoise, had a vertical front face, enabling better contact with the wall and a greater efficacy.
  • The trypanon, or borer, was a war machine resembling an oversized drill, operated by warriors inside a platform, covered by a double-layered roof. The drill consisted of a wooden beam with a metal head at its tip, fastened with ropes that ran around a series of pulleys. By moving the ropes, the beam moved backward and forward, able to jam the enemy wall.
  • The roofed ram, a cage on wheels with a double-layered roof and a three-storey tower equipped with catapults. Its lower storeys were used for water reservoir in case of fire. On its floor, there were a series of holders on which the battering ram moved. The operators on both sides moved the ram by pulling the ropes, causing it to strike the enemy wall with great force.
  • The epivathra was a type of movable bridge that was used not only for bypassing enemy walls but also during sea battles.

Diades was also responsible for developing and improving some of the older war engines used by Philipp II, most notably the euthytonos catapult, or the scorpion, was it was called, which could launch arrows at a long range. He wrote a treatise on engineering and the descriptions of his machines have survived in Heron’s works.

Bibliography:

  1. Georgakopoulos, Konstantinos. Ancient Greek Scientists. Georgiades, Athens: 1995. Print.
  2. Kotsanas, Kostas. Ancient Greek Technology The Inventions of the Ancient Greeks. Kostas Kotsanas: Pyrgos, 2013. Print.
Diades of Pella

Diophantus

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Mathematician (c200 – c284)

Diophantus was one of the greatest mathematicians of antiquity. He is the father of algebra and the first to introduce the use of letters as quantitative symbols in mathematics. His treatise Arithmetics, considered by many as the first enchiridion of algebra, is a landmark in the history of mathematics and represents the dawning of algebra.

Very few things are known about his personal life. He flourished in Alexandria, the most prestigious spiritual centre of humanity at the time, where he worked as a researcher on mathematics and a pedagogue. He wrote numerous treatises, two of which survive to this day. The first, Arithmetics, is the first treatise on algebra ever to have been written. It consists of 13 books, 11 of which survive in different languages. The books contain subjects on first, second and polynomial equations, with one or two unknowns, calculation of powers etc. The second one is Polygonal Numbers and Geometric Elements, a book containing complex geometry and of which only a fragment survives. Other works include Porisms, possibly on the theory of numbers and Moriastics, a book on fractions.

Furthermore, Diophantus studied meticulously the polynomial equations where only the integer values are sought. These came to be known as Diophantine Equations and the study of them today is called Diophantine Analysis, in his honour. French mathematician Pier de Fermat’s last theorem, considered to be one of mathematics’ most difficult problems is such an equation, evidently showing that Fermat was inspired by the great algebraist.

Diophantus was recognized as a great mathematician and a highly respected geometrician even during his own lifetime. His works, primarily Arithmetics exerted a tremendous influence on the Arabic civilization when during the 10th century they were translated to Arabic. In the Middle Ages, intellects such as Maximus Planoudes, Georgios Pachymeres and Wilhelm Xylander studied his works and disseminated them.

Bibliography

  1. “Diophantos”. Helios New Encyclopaedic Dictionary. Passas, I. Athens, 1946. Print.
  2. O’Connor, JJ, Robertson, E.F. Diophantus of Alexandria. History.mcs.st-andac.uk. Web.
  3. Vlachou, Angeliki. Ο Διόφαντος και η Διδακτική της Άλγεβρας. National and Capodistrian University of Athens. Athens, 2014. Math.uoa.gr. Web.
Diophantus