Hippasus

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Philosopher, Mathematician (c.500 BC)

Hippasus of Mentapontus was a Pythagorean philosopher, one of Pythagoras’ first students initiated into Pythagoreanism and founder of the Mathematical Department of Pythagoras’ School.

He was active during the first 30 years of the 6th century BC and is considered as one of the oldest Pythagorean philosophers, as well as Pythagoras’ first assistant. While himself Pythagorean, Hippasus’ teachings differed slightly from those of Pythagoreans. For instance, he believed that the beginning of the world is matter (fire) rather than immaterial (numbers). He wrote a book Secret Logos, which he published under the name of Pythagoras, containing his philosophy. Only fragments of his book survive today.

As a mathematician, Hippasus is the discoverer of irrational numbers, infinite decimals with no indefinitely repeating digits. Furthermore, he discovered that the ratio of a side of a pentagon to the diagonal of a pentagon is equal to an irrational number and that the length of an isosceles’ triangle shorter side is an irrational number if the length of the two equal sides is a whole one.

Not surprisingly, Hippasus was also an inventor. He is credited as having constructed containers with varying amounts of water each, including metal plates of varying thickness with which he made acoustic experiments on the harmony of sound. In Pythagoras’ school, Hippasus was not only the founder the department of mathematics, but also the founder of the “cycle of acoustic scientists”, a body tasked with conducting experiments on sound and music using the aforementioned inventions. The body studied the relationship between music and mathematics.

According to some ancient writers, Hippasus was accused of publicizing secret Pythagorean knowledge to outsiders or uninitiated people, which was strictly forbidden by Pythagorean oath and was subsequently persecuted. Nevertheless, he is held on high regards by modern day historians of science.

Bibliography:

  1. Georgakopoulos, Konstantinos. Ancient Greek Scientists. Georgiades: Athens, 1996. Print.
  2. Σακελλαρίου, Γεώργιος. Πυθαγόρας Ο Διδάσκαλος τῶν Αἰώνων. Ἰδεοθέατρον. Ἀθῆναι: 1963. Print.
  3. “Hippasus”. Helios New Encyclopaedic Dictionary. Passas, I. Athens: 1946. Print.
  4. “Hippasus of Metapontum.” Science and Its Times: Understanding the Social Significance of Scientific Discovery. Encyclopedia.com. 23 Apr. 2019<https://www.encyclopedia.com&gt;.
Hippasus

Zosimos of Panopolis

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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.

Bibliography:

  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

Eurybiades

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Admiral (5th century BC)

Eurybiades was the Spartan general who commanded the Spartan naval forces in the Battle of Artemisium and the Battle of Salamis in 480 BC. Together with the wise Themistocles and the just Aristides they are hailed as the great leaders who orchestrated the victory of the Battle of Salamis during the second Persian invasion in Greece.

Not much is known about Eurybiades’ life. Prior to being chosen as an admiral of the Spartan fleet, he had acquired great naval battle skills as well as experience in the sea. His position imbued great respect and his orders were always followed without hesitation. The first major battle in which he is accounted to have played a decisive role was in the Battle of Artemisium against the Persian fleet, during the second Persian invasion of Greece in 480 BC. The battle resulted into the Greek forces retreating to the island of Aegina after the arrival of the news that the Greeks, led by Leonidas and the 300 Spartans had fallen in the Battle of Thermopylae and the Persians were marching toward Athens.

In Aegina, the council of generals gathered and discussed their strategies. Themistocles proposed that the Greek fleet strike the Persian fleet at the straits of Salamis while the Peloponnesian navarchs objected the idea, insisting on retreating and facing the Persian fleet in Southern Italy. Eurybiades initially objected Themistocles’ plan but was persuaded afterwards, thanks to the later’s eloquence. Prudent as he was, Eurybiades could foresee the consequences of future events as well as understand the genius of Themistocles’ plan.

It was this simple decision that the Greeks united remained in Salamis and fought victoriously against Xerxes’ fleet, rescuing from Persian rule not only Greece but all of Europe. This simple decision, which changed the entire course of history, was the reason Eurybiades was glorified and was awarded an accolade for his bravery, while Themistocles an accolade for his wisdom.

After the Battle of Salamis, Eurybiades lived a peaceful life, choosing not to redeem his glory for a career in politics as did other Spartan generals. He kept a distance from public affairs not to spoil his reputation, at the prize of retaining his eternal glory in one of the greatest battles in history.

Bibliography:

  1. Βολωνάκης. Ἰωάννης. Τῆς Ἀρχαίας Ἑλλάδος οἱ Μεγάλοι Ἠγέται. Εκδόσεις Γεωργιάδης. Ἀθῆναι: 1997. Print.
Eurybiades

Iannis Xenakis

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Composer, Architect, Engineer, Mathematician (1922 – 2001)

Iannis Xenakis was one of the most important Greek philosopher-composers and architects of the 20th century. A pioneer in electronic music, he expressed the universe through music by transforming mathematical and physical laws into music. In this way, Xenakis founded what is known as stochastic music.

Born in Romania, Xenakis studied architecture in Athens and continued his studies in music in France, where he also worked for most part of his life. As most pioneers on their field, Xenakis was almost self-taught in music and would frequently be a subject of opposition by the mainstream composers of his time; few could see the potential he had within him, one of them being Olivier Messiaen, who encouraged him to take his own path, saying that he had the privilege of being an architect, having knowledge of applied mathematics and being a Greek.

Xenakis revolutionized the world of music by introducing the philosophy of unification of mathematics, music, physics and Greek philosophy. He applied at least 15 mathematical laws that govern the natural world to music in order to create what he would call stochastic music. Among these were the set theory, theory of probabilities, Boolean algebra, thermodynamics, game theory and the theory of numbers, the Fibonacci sequence and the Golden ratio. The fist of this genre was Metastaseis, composed in 1954. It marked Xenakis’ starting point in his music career.

With the term stochastic, Xenakis attempted to convey a philosophical meaning, that the transfer of mathematical laws and probability systems in music can allow expression of mass phenomena. It was a means of decoding the music that was hidden inside mathematics. To compose his music he began using an electronic computer, thus becoming one of the first composers to inaugurate its use in the composition of music worldwide. He combined his music with sounds of man and nature, such as the sound made by a cicada in summer or the rustle of a fallen autumn leaf, conferring to music a whole new energy. In all of his compositions, the ancient Greek spirit is present. Works like Herma, Oresteia, Persephassa, Pleiades, Psappha, Mycenes, Nomos all derive their names from ancient Greek mythology and denote Xenakis’ passion with the ancient Greek philosophy, from where he drew inspiration. As such, many did not hesitate to refer to him as a Neopythagorean philosopher.

Throughout his long-lasting career, Xenakis composed a staggering number of compositions, ranging from electronic music to orchestrals and opera, which earned him international recognition as a pioneer in music. His career in architecture did not fall behind not least; he had collaborated with Le Corbusier in France in a number of projects, the most well-known being the Philips Pavilion at the Brussels World Fair in 1958, which he himself designed and for which he received universal acclaim.

Xenakis’ last composition, Omega, signified the end of his highly productive career in 1997. By then, he had been made professor in many universities in Europe and the United States. He taught in the University of Sorbonne, founded the School of Mathematical and Autonomic Music in 1966 as well as the Center of Contemporary Music Research in Athens, published several books and was honoured with numerous international accolades.

Bibliography:

  1. Ιάννης Ξενάκης 1922 – 2001. Σαν Σήμερα. Sansimera.gr. February 9, 2019. Web.
  2. Κιούση, Βάσω. Ο «νεοπυθαγόρειος» Ιάννης Ξενάκης, η ζωή και το έργο του: από τη «στοχαστική» στη «συμβολική» μουσική. Fractal Η γεωμετρία των Ιδεών. Fractalart.gr. July 20, 2016. Web. February 9, 2019.
  3. Ιάννης Ξενάκης: Ἔνας «Νεοπυθαγόρειος» συνθέτης. TVXS. Tvxs.gr. February 4, 2011. Web. February 9, 2019.
Iannis Xenakis

Antisthenes

Term of Antisthenes. Rome, Vatican Museums.

Philosopher (c.445 BC – c.365 BC)

Antisthenes was a philosopher and the founder of the Cynic School of philosophy. Credited as one of Socrates’ most loyal students and Diogenes’ teacher, Antisthenes was concerned not with Plato’s metaphysics, not with Aristotle’s logic or with Anaxagoras’ nous. Rather, he was interested in the practical aspects of philosophy and its ways of achieving true happiness through virtue.

He was born in Piraeus to a poor Athenian father and a Thracian slave mother. As a result, Antisthenes was considered an “illegitimate” citizen of Athens, something that stigmatized him throughout the entirety of his life, which he lived in complete poverty and disregard. As a child, Antisthenes admired Socrates and hence approached him to become his student. Socrates accepted him not just as a student, but as a friend. He remained very loyal to Socrates, the two exhibiting immense courage when they fought together in the Battle of Tanagra and the Battle of Amphipole. Antisthenes was present during Socrates’ final moments when he drank the hemlock, standing beside him during his death.

Following Socrates’ death, Antisthenes went to Cynosarges, a suburb located outside the walls of Athens where the Gymnasium of the “poor” was located, a place where all the illegitimate children of Athens exercised. There he founded his own philosophic school known as the Cynic School of philosophy, to indicate that just like the illegitimate children of Athens, he as well was an outcast of the Athenian society. His school’s fame would eventually cross the borders of Athens and become known to all of Greece.

Like Diogenes after him, Antisthenes’ philosophy could be described as a more extreme form of that of Socrates, he himself described as a “Socrates gone mad”. Antisthenes believed that virtue and wisdom can be achieved by living a strict ascetic life, devoid of any physical or emotional pleasures. He claimed that the theoretical knowledge on philosophy was useless and that virtue can be taught. A philosopher must free himself from external obligations and self-delusions and accustom himself to physical hardships, as this brings man closer to the Divine and therefore achieves true eudaimony.

Antisthenes considered deeds and actions over words and theories in the attainment of virtue and did not require a great deal of words or learning. One must learn to abandon old habits and live a natural life, independent from the outside world. Indeed, Antisthenes put his ideas into practice in his everyday life. He was homeless, walked around barefoot with just an old tribon and carrying a stick. He had no family or property and lived a life of deliberate poverty and complete abstinence of any pleasure. He contemned glory, rejected comfort and hated riches, stating that people who scorn wealth, glory and pleasures of life are the noblest men of all in contrast to those who embrace them and are superior to poverty, ingloriousness, pain and death. Such men are wise and wise men are self-sufficient according to the philosopher.

Antisthenes remained a social and political outcast of Athens throughout his life. Even though wise and loving of his homeland, he was a strong anti-democrat, stating that laws are made for the many to follow, not for the few, who are guided b virtue instead. As founder of the Cynics, he became a public figure known as the leader of all the poor, the disregarded and afflicted members of society. Nevertheless, both he and Diogenes were very well respected individuals in all of Greece, if not admired by many for their beliefs and practices. He wrote over 60 books on his philosophy by which he exerted important influence throughout the ages. None of them survive today.

Bibliography:

  1. Βολωνάκης, Ἰωάννης Κ., Τῆς Ἀρχαίας Ἑλλάδος οἱ Μεγάλοι Ἠγέται. Ἐκδόσεις Γεωργιάδης. Ἀθῆναι: 1997.Print.
  2. Piering, Julie. Antisthenes (c.446 BC – c.366 B.C.E.). Internet Encyclopaedia of Philosophy. Iep.utm.edu. January 25, 2019. Web.
  3. Pleures, Konstantinos. Greek Philosophers. Hilektron Publications. Athens: 2014. Print.
Antisthenes

Isaiah of Salona

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Hero of the Greek War of Independence (1778 – 1821)

Isaiah (real name Elias) was the first protopriest to fall in battle during the Greek War of Independence in 1821. A flaming patriot overwhelmed by a sense of freedom, he sacrificed himself to spark patriotism to the Greeks as well as the Church to join the battle of the Greek War of Independence.

He was born in Desphina of Delphi. Wanting him to become a priest, his father sent him to the monastery of Prodromos to become a deacon and learn some letters. Elias continued his studies in Constantinople with the help of Ali Pasha, who upon meeting him in Ioannina saw great virtue in him. There, he came into contact with the Phanariotes and the Patriarcheion of Constantinople. Patriarch Gregory V became a close affiliate to Elias, whom he would strongly support covertly during the outbreak of the Greek War of Independence. On January 1821, the two would meet once again in Constantinople in order for the Patriarch to instruct him on the preparations of the War.

In 1818 Elias was appointed bishop of Salona and adopted the name Isaiah. He was initiated into the Society of Friends (Φιλικὴ Ἑταιρεία) and began gathering large sums of money as well as weapons and hiding them without the Turkish authorities’ suspicion. After a last trip in Constantinople and his return back to Salona, everything was arranged accordingly and on March 27, 1821, Isaiah of Salona hoisted the Greek flag signaling the outbreak of the Greek War of Independence in the region of Viotia.

Isaiah fought alongside Athanasios Diakos and Panourgias, whom he considered Isaiah as his right-hand man. He had joined as a mere soldier in Panourgias’ army and was member of the Administrative Commission of the War of Sterea Hellada. On the 23rd of April, Isaiah had a protagonistic role in the Battle of Alamana, where he led into battle the few-numbered Greeks against the army of Omer Vryoni. During the battle, Panourgias’ force was disbanded, he himself was injured while Isaiah fell heroically, after ordering his soldiers to leave him wounded and save themselves. The next day, Athanasios Diakos was impaled alive by the Turks and alongside him were impaled numerous other heads of fallen Greeks. Among them was that of Isaiah of Salona.

Isaiah was the first and at the time the only man of a religious title to not only grab arms and fight in the Greek War of Independence, but to sacrifice himself in the name of freedom. Even though the Battle of Alamana concluded with a defeat of the Greeks, it is remembered today principally for the death of Isaiah, which shook the Greeks, increased their esteem and inspired them to imitate his example and join the war. To this day, he is regarded as a symbol of the Greek War of Independence.

Bibliography:

  1. “Isaias Salonon”. Helios New Encyclopaedic Dictionary. Passas, I. Athens: 1946. Print.
  2. Ησαΐας Σαλώνων. Σαν Σήμερα. Sansimera.gr. January 19, 2019. Web.
  3. Κραββαρτόγιαννος, Δρόσος. Ο Επίσκοπος Σαλώνων Ησαΐας. Ελευθερία ή Θάνατος. Anthoulaki.blogspot.com. August 29, 2010. Web. January 19, 2019.
Isaiah of Salona

Theodore of Cyrene

Mathematician, Philosopher (c470 BC – c390 BC)

One of the greatest mathematicians of antiquity, Theodore was considered by his contemporaries as a geometrist of significant impact on mathematics. He was born in Cyrene of North Africa and was a contemporary of Hippocrates of Chios. Even though none of his works survive, it is known that Theodore was involved not just with geometry but also with irrational numbers.

Ancient writers account Theodore as a student of Protagoras and teacher of Plato in mathematics in Athens. It is postulated that when Plato went to Cyrene, he met Theodore, who taught him on irrational numbers. Most aspects of his life, including the exact date of birth and death, are unknown.

Credited by numerous ancient writers such as Xenophon, Jamblichus, Diogenes Laerius, Plato and Proclus as a master of his art, Theodore’s major contribution to mathematics was that he proved that the square roots of numbers 3,5,7,8,10… 17 are irrational numbers. How he was able to prove this is not known. It is hypothesized that he used geometry as a base for the proof. Furthermore, Theodore constructed the so-called Spiral of Theodorus, a spiral composed of right triangles placed edge to edge, which now bares his name.

As noted by Jamblichus, Theodore was a Pythagorean philosopher, initiated into the mysteries of Pythagoreanism. This comes to prove the high status he possessed at his time as a mathematician. In modern times, several mathematicians have successfully reproduced Theodore’s conclusions of the irrational numbers.

Bibliography:

  1. “Theodoros o Kyreneos”. Helios New Encyclopaedic Dictionary. Evangelos Stamatis, Passas, I. Athens: 1946. Print.
  2. Georgakopoulos, Konstantinos. Ancient Greek Scientists. Georgiades: Athens, 1996. Print.
Theodore of Cyrene