Monday, December 24, 2012

The Greek Lord of the rings

A representation of the ring of Gyges
Tolkien's ring of power as represented in the movies

Some days ago we had the global premiere of the prequel of the Lord of the rings called The Hobbit.On the occasion of the visualization of Tolkien's magnificent story, i decided to present the greek "Lord of the rings".
Plato in the second book of his work Politeia, wrote a myth about a ring with strange powers. The myth was called The ring of Gyges. Once upon a time there a was a shepherd in Lydia called Gyges. After two natural disasters that occurred in the area he found a ring.One day during the time that he was attending  his sheep a storm and an earthquake co-occurred  resulting the splitting of the earth surface in two.
Gyges' curiosity lead him to descend in to the chasm created by the earthquake and inside it he saw a huge horse made of copper. Gyges looked inside the horse from some holes and he saw a dead giant. The most extraordinary thing was a shining ring on the giant's finger.Gyges took the ring and got back on the surface.There he discovered that the ring had magical powers. Once he rubbed the little stone of the ring he was becoming invisible.
Gyges on the right watches the beautiful queen of Lydia.
The once  humble shepherd had now a mighty weapon in his hands.He could do now anything he wished without being seen.Thus he became possessor of a power that he could use for a good purpose but also for a bad one. Gyges became the lover of the queen and with her help he killed his master the king. Subsequently Gyges declared himself King of Lydia. 
The kingdom of Lydia in what is now Turkey.Historically Gyges was a king of Lydia and during his reign he lead the kingdom to the peak of its power
This myth was used by Plato to explain the human nature which uses any possible mean to seek glory and wealth. Glaucus who is the imaginary narrator in Plato's story concludes that human injustice is in the nature of man because he knows that he won't be punished afterwards for his deeds.Plato concludes that in fact there is no real justice in our world cause justice may be blocking someone's interest.Therefore he ends up with a notorious dilemma about whether someone should do wrong or suffer wrong.Plato adds that everyone of us in that question by conscience would answer to do wrong but to be non-punishable.
Just like Sauron in Tolkien's universe, who initially was a maiar(good spirit) but  later as an evil spirit  craving for power  created the notorious ring of power to rule middle earth, Gyges was corrupted by his ring of power and from a virtuous shepherd he became an evil king.
Sauron was formerly a Maiar but his ambition to dominate over all others turned  him into a  malicious creature
Plato's solution to this problem is that human must receive full education in order to be able to be as just as possible.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

When Ho Chi Minh was fighting in Greece

Ho Chi Minh
The ambassador of Vietnam in Greece stated that this great historical personality served in the French army during the world war 1 and he was part of the French expeditionary force in Macedonia. To find some evidence about this allegation, he visited along with the mayor of a local town in Macedonia an old Greek villager(107 years old) who confirmed that Ho Chi Minh was there(area between Skydra and Edessa) during the WW1, mentioning facts that give little doubt about the clarity of this historical detail in the life of Ho Chi Minh.

soldiers of the Macedonian front during WW1 

source :

Background info

What were the French doing in Macedonia during the WW1? Greece was in the side of the Entente during the WW1 as did France. France and Britain sent reinforcements to prevent the Ottoman empire,Bulgaria and Austria-Hungary from dominating  the Balkan peninsula. The Austro-Hungarians had already occupied Yugoslavia and Greece remained the only Balkan bulwark of the Entente.

The French army in the Macedonian front was called Armee d'orient and was consisted of persons of different nationalities, mainly coming from the French colonies.One of the French colonies was indochina which comprised the countries of Cambodia Laos and Vietnam.Under the orders of the commander of the army were all the allied forces in Macedonia. Therefore Armee d'orient ended up to be called the whole entente army in Balkans.

Ho Chi Minh was a well travelled man. He worked in the USA as a cook and he lived in UK for some time. In France(ironically) his political ideas were shaped. These political ideas would later make him seek the Vietnamese independence from France through armed struggle.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Friedrich Nietzsche and the ancient Greeks

Friedrich Nietzsche

As we know Friedrich Nietzsche was not only a philosopher but also a classical philologist.The fact that he was the youngest to take the chair of classical philology of the university of Basel(24 years old) speaks on its own about Nietzsche's Intellectuality. 
As a classical philologist Nietzsche had a big knowledge about Ancient Greece and this obvious because some of his philosophical works are dealing with the ancient Greeks and their inventions (like theatre for instance) from a philosophical perspective.
An interesting excerpt from Nietzsche's first work with the title "The birth of tragedy" shows how much esteemed were the ancient Greeks for him.

We read at the 15th unit of the book:
In the sense of this last mysterious question we must now state how the influence of Socrates has spread out over later worlds, right up to this moment and, indeed, into all future ages, like a shadow in the evening sun constantly growing larger, how that influence always makes necessary the re-creation of art—I mean art in its most profound and widest metaphysical sense—and through its own immortality guarantees the immortality of art.
Before we could recognize this fact, before we convincingly established the innermost dependence of every art on the Greeks, from Homer right up to Socrates, we had to treat these Greeks as the Athenians treated Socrates. Almost every era and cultural stage has at some point sought in an profoundly ill-tempered frame of mind to free itself of the Greeks, because in comparison with the Greeks, all their own achievements, apparently fully original and admired in all sincerity, suddenly appeared to lose their colour and life and shrivelled to unsuccessful copies, in fact, to caricatures. And so a heartfelt inner anger always keeps breaking out again against that arrogant little nation which dared to designate for all time everything that was not produced in its own country as “barbaric.” Who were those Greeks, people asked themselves, who, although they had achieved only an ephemeral historical glitter, only ridiculously restricted institutions, only an ambiguous competence in morality, who could even be identified with hateful vices, yet who had nevertheless laid a claim to a dignity and a pre-eminent place among peoples, appropriate to a genius among the masses? Unfortunately people were not lucky enough to find the cup of hemlock which could easily do away with such a being, for all the poisons which envy, slander, and inner rage created were insufficient to destroy that self-satisfied magnificence. Hence, confronted by the Greeks, people have been ashamed and afraid, unless an individual values the truth above everything else and dares to propose this truth: the notion that the Greeks, as the charioteers of our culture and every other one, hold the reins, but that almost always the wagon and horses are inferior material and do not match the glory of their drivers, who then consider it amusing to whip such a team into the abyss, over which they themselves jump with the leap of Achilles.

source:The birth of tragedy by Friedrich Nietzsche 

Thursday, May 17, 2012

It's the geopolitics st*pid!

From time to time i post interesting articles that don't have to do with history but with the present time. But the present too can be arguably considered history in the making. Anyway, i found this article in euobserver written by a Polish pm concerning the Greek recession and the importance of Greece for the Eu contrary to the Eu heads statements that a Greek collapse is not going to affect anyone else rather than the Greeks.

 The eurozone decided to grant Greece a second bailout, but this does not mean that the country received a wallet full of money and that the risk of default is gone. Greece and its political elites need sober determination to implement socially difficult reforms also after the April elections.
The Union has once again demonstrated its solidarity with Greece and the fact that it is demanding to supervise the effectiveness of its aid does not surprise. We cannot perceive the presence of EU experts in Athens in terms of loss of sovereignty.
The situation is serious. Without EU support and further tranches of financial help the country's default is certain and the return of the drachma would bring about a much deeper crisis.
The danger lies, however, not just in the financial aspect of the Greek crisis, but also in its potential geopolitical consequences, in particular the possible destabilisation of the South-East flank of the European Union. We must not forget that all this is taking place very close to the hot spots of the Middle East, the Arab countries of North Africa and the still unstable Western Balkans.
Given its geographical location, Greece is a crucial transit country for EU energy supplies coming from the Black and the Caspian Sea basins. It is a key element of the EU's energy security strategy - the Southern Corridor, which is to bring about oil and gas supply diversification, a reduction of EU's dependence on Russia and a decrease in energy prices.
Greece is at the same time a country favoured by Russia, as we have seen many times in the past, most notably recently when Russia cut supply to energy-starved EU, it increased the supply to Greece above the contracted volumes. It cannot be excluded that in the case of helplessness or ineffectiveness of the EU, Russia could offer help which would go much further. The same goes for China which is already the owner of the Piraeus port.
Greece is not only a member of the EU, but also of Nato. Its army and navy consume 4.3% of its GDP and are a crucial component of the military and maritime balance in the Eastern part of the Mediterranean Sea.
The country is also the warden of the longest EU border of the Schengen area, and one which struggles with strong migration pressure from the South. Destabilisation in Greece would mean it not only leaving the Eurozone, but also withdrawing from the Schengen.
A weakening of democracy in Athens, with the possible military involvement to maintain order in the worse of foreseeable scenarios, would be catastrophic for the European Union and its image in the neighbourhood - both the south and the east - as well as in the world.
In particular, it would damage the perception of EU's role as the stability guarantor and a democracy exporter. Hence the long-term consequences of a lack of resolution of the Greek crisis would go beyond the purely financial and economic aspects, and would be grave geopolitically as well.
We need therefore to leave behind the prevailing, predominantly accounting-like approach to the Greek debt. We need a political solution, with the geopolitics kept very much in mind.
The evil - in the form of the indebtedness crisis in Greece and elsewhere - has transpired. The lessons for the future have been learnt and acted upon through the 'six-pack' and the fiscal compact, both of which will now further change the Union's order.
Greece, whether with the euro or the drachma, remains a matter of European responsibility and solidarity. Notwithstanding the trespasses of the Greek and others, we are now confronted with the most serious test of the credibility of the European construction. Withdrawing the support for Greece can spark off further reduction in the scope and depth of the European acquis. Should it fail to bring results, it will have an impact on the future doctrine and the practice of European solidarity and cohesion.
Hence it is important and necessary to prescribe a treatment which is protective and preventive, and not a crude amputation. This is not only about Greece. We have to save Europe from the dangers and the potential consequences it is now facing, on a political level not just on an economic one.
If the situation gets out of control it could easily and profoundly affect European security. This should be part and parcel of the European cost-benefit analysis as well as its strategic reflection. One would dare to say, travestying and turning around former US president Bill Clinton's phrase: it's the geopolitics, stupid!
Jacek Saryusz-Wolski is a Polish member of the European Parliament, a former president of the foreign affairs committee and a vice-chair of the European People's Party

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

9/5/1945 The Soviet victory day

The famous image with the Soviet flag on the German Reichstag.

In May the 9th 1945 in front of Georgy Zhukov the famous Soviet general of the red army, Nazi Germany surrendered with no terms. The WW2 was reaching an end marking the victory of Human over Nazism. The Soviets paid the biggest blood tax than any other country in this war in order to achieve this victory.

In a war front of 3.000 to 6.200 kilometers the Soviets fought against the mighty Axis forces for 1418 days.
During the war for every minute that was passing the Soviets were loosing an average of  9 men, for every hour 507 and for every day 1.400.To understand better the height of the numbers the other main allies USA and Britain lost from 400.000 soldiers each while the Soviets lost nearly 20 million people and 10 million were wounded or disabled.

The war cost for the Soviets was higher than both USA England and France together.This was due to the fact that the German forces unlike USA England and France(which didn't offer much resistance) achieved to penetrate much into the Soviet territories causing much damage to infrastructure. Additionally the Soviets who were engaged in a scorched earth policy they were also destroying their own infrastructure.In total 1.700 cities 70.000 villages and over than 30.000 industries were destroyed in the Soviet union during the war.

Regardless from what happened later(Cold war) and from what Stalin has commited during his reign we need to acknowledge the significant contribution of the Soviets in the war against Nazism, cause neither the Soviets nor USA and England would have been able to win this alone.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Post-Byzantine art and iconography.

A 17th century icon that reperesents Jesus Christ  with an emperor's outfit.

Twelve centuries ago at the last of the great ecumenical councils of christendom, the assembled fathers pronounced that holy icons depicting Christ and His angles and saints ,should be set up in the holy churches of god,on sacred vessels on vestments on walls on panels in houses etc. The honour that is paid to the image passes to the one that it represents.Religious painting has been eagerly practised since the time of the Roman emperor Constantine.but there had always been an element especially in the eastern provinces which remained faithful to the Jewish ban on graven images. This division would later cause the Great civil wars in the Byzantine empire known as iconoclasm.In this conflict the defenders of the icons prevailed and the defeated would almost all be converted to Islam after the Arab conquests of the Byzantine East.

After the 9th century there was an increased production of portable icons especially by the poor people.The imperial workshops continued to produce large icons made of gold, silver, mosaic and jade.After the fall of Constantinople in 1453 the portable icons acquired new importance.Most of the big churches were converted into mosques and the christians had to built smaller churches.

From 1204 AD till the  mid 17th century that the Venetians had possessions that formerly belonged to the Byzantines .A new artistic school flourished in Venetian lands and particularly in Crete called Cretan school or post Byzantine art.The success of this school was that it used both eastern and western elements in iconography.The most famous artist of this school was a Cretan called Dominikos Theotokopoulos(EL Greco).Icons exportation became a major business in Crete as there was a considerable demand for icons in the west.

In this post though, i will focus on the icon production in the Ottoman occupied lands.
The Byzantine empire may had fallen in 1453 but the production of Byzantine art  didn't cease.In the Ottoman territories artistic production diminished and if there was any it was constrained in small scale iconography with old eastern and  Byzantine elements.As i foretold at this period portable icons came into prominence.

The icons were not produced any more by artists but by monks who strictly followed the rules of the old  Byzantine painting traditions.However there  were some talented artists who were adding some elements of individualism in their icons they were just exceptions cause the rules never changed and iconography remained the same .

The major places of artistic production was the Holy mountain which represented the traditional iconography and Crete in which the Cretan school flourished. Later after the fall of Crete to the Ottomans the artists either fled to Venice or to the Heptanese in Western Greece which were still under Venetian control.

Below you can see some examples of the post Byzantine art in Ottoman Greece from the period 1453-1821

Saint Mercurius and Catherine(17th cen. )

Saint Nicolas(17th cen.)

Jesus descends to hell(18th century)

Scene from a big wall painting of the Apocalypse

Scene from a big wall painting of the Apocalypse
details from a big wall painting of the Apocalypse

The father the son and the Holy spirit in the form of a pidgeon

Saint  George on the left killing the snake and and Mercurius killing the Byzantine emperor Julian 

John Prodromme

Saint George. The Italian elements are obvious

Saint George on a throne

sources:Μετά το Βυζάντιο(After Byzantium) author: Βασίλης Φωτόπουλος(Vasilis Photopoulos)

Monday, April 30, 2012

The ancient Guiness records

Extraordinary facts or deeds were always fascinating.Today all of them are recorded in the Guinness book of records. The ancients had also an interest over such deeds and some of them mentioned by ancient authors survived until today.

Highest price for a book
Aristotle bought Speusippos' books in exchange for three talents which corresponded to 77 kgs of silver.

The most expensive soap
Demetrius Poliorcetes spent 6.500 kgs of silver to buy soap for his mistresses
Giulio Romano "Meleager and Atalanta"

The most immoral work of art
The great ancient painter Parasius had painted a very realistic scene where Atalanta was having oral sex with prince Meleager.
Ancient Long Jump

The long jump record
The Spartan Kiones reached 17 meters

The most expensive fabric
The glowing flax was imported from abroad as it was originated from India. Its cost was similar as a pearl. It was so expensive because it was fireproof

The most luxurious deserts
It was those that Alexander the Great offered to his friends.They were little pieces of nuts, figs and other delights wrapped by golden leaves.The guests were eating the deserts and threw the gold away as if it was common garbarge.

The most tasty food
It was considered that the Ostrich brains and the skylark's tongue were delicious

The most severe punishment for a theatrical play
Frynichos presented in Athens a tragedy called The fall of Miletus(in 492 BC by the Persians). The play was so touching that everyone in the crowd burst into tears.However instead of being honoured Frynichos was punished to pay 1000 drachmas(equal to many salaries of a worker) for reminding the Athenians about this disaster.

The most precious mummy
It was Alexander the Great. After his death his corpse would be transferred from Babylon back to Macedon but one of his generals and later King of Egypt called Ptolemy stole Alexander's corpse mummified it and put it in a golden sarcophagus.

The best art model
Aphrodite the goddess of love was the most beloved theme of painters sculptors and potters.

The biggest reward for writting a judicial defence.
In the ancient courts the people who were judged weren't allowed to have lawyers so they hired rhetors to write their defence.The most expensive was a defensive rhetoric that Isocrates wrote in exchange for 20 talents which corresponded to half a ton of silver

The most expensive doctor
Cleombrotos from Kea received 100 talents for saving the life of the Seleucid king Antiochus Soter .

The most expensive dog
Alcibiades paid 700 drachmas for a large dog.(1 drachma was the daily salary of a skilled labourer)


The most expensive prostitute
The notorious Lais from Corinth demanded from the famous rhetor Demosthenes 10.000 drachmas for one night.Demosthenes shocked by the demands replied:With this price i am not buying nobody's guilts.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Cataclysm in the Greek mythology and the truth that it conveys.

Most of the ancient nations and mainly those of the middle East  have incorporated in their mythologies an account about a  global cataclysm.From the Sumerian epic of Gilgamesh to the Hindu puranic texts we see a common theme that suggests perhaps a historical reality of catastrophic regional floods which the people connected with divine rage or retribution.

The most famous of these stories is the Old testament story of Noah which i am sure most of the people know as all the three Abrahamic religions acknowledge it. In this post though, i am going to focus on the Greek myth about the cataclysm.

In all these cataclysmic stories there is a hero who is being favoured by the gods and survives in order to make a new start.The protagonists of the  Greek story are Deucalion and Pyrra who according to the myths later became the parents of Hellen(Greek). In some way we can say that Deucalion and Pyrra were cousins as their ancestors were the brothers Epimetheas and Prometheus with the latter being more known from the story where he stole the fire from the gods giving it to humanity and as a consequence he was punished to be bound eternally.
Deucalion and Pyrrha throwing stones behind them according to Zeus' orders.

In most of these stories the cataclysm is incited by the gods in order to punish humanity. In the Greek version Zeus the king of the gods was upset because during the time that Deucalion and Pyrra lived(according to those who tried to estimate the time it was near 1796 BC), everyone was disrespectful towards the gods.Thus one day it started raining unstoppably and the whole world was covered by water except some mountain peaks.

In the story of Noah we know that god ordered him to build an ark. In the Greek version we have Prometheus who was Titan consulting his son Deucalion to build an ark for him and his wife. Deucalion's ark wandered around the seas for only 9 days until he disembarked on the peak of mount Parnassus.While in Noah's story God doesn't interfere anymore after the beginning of the new life of Noah and his family in Deucalion's story Zeus send Hermes to ask whether Deucalion had any wish to make.Deucalion wanted more people cause he was feeling alone in the world.Then Zeus ordered Deucalion and Pyrra to start walking forward and throw stones behind them.The stones behind Pyrra became women and those behind Deucalion became men.

In the book "Noah's Cataclysm" the two geologists and authors of the book Walter Pitman and William Ryan supported a theory that the Cataclysm stories derive from a real massive flood in the Black sea.In 1999 Bob Ballard the person who discovered the wreck of Titanic explored the coastal areas of the Black sea and he ended up with the same conclusion that Pitman and Ryan made.
The Black sea was a lake before the alleged cataclysm.

According to the theory until before 7.500 years ago the Black sea was a lake. This is based on the discovery of shells that grew only in lakes and the geological analysis that showed an abrupt change in the geomorphology of the region that was caused by a huge event.According to Pitman and Ryan 12.000 years ago the ices started to melt and the sea levels started to become higher and higher ,this caused the sea of Marmara to put pressure and break the natural dam of Bosporus flooding the lake with sea water.

It was the Sumerians

Some theories suggest that the story of the flood of Noah is loaned from the Sumerian flood story. Therefore the Greek legend due to its similarity with the other stories was also taken from the East.Continuing with these theories it is suggested that the initial homelands of the Sumerians were around the pre cataclysmic Black sea. We don't know if the cataclysm was so abrupt and catastrophic as it is mentioned in most of the stories but it's sure that many people survived and went south towards Mesopotamia where they created the first urban civilization in history.

The Aegiis question

The Greek flood myth wasn't only one. There were two more floods that caused migrations of alledgedly pre-Greek populations. Plato states in Timaeus and Critias:
"Many great deluges have taken place during the nine thousand years, for that is the number of years which have elapsed since the time of which I am speaking; and during all this time and through so many changes, there has never been any considerable accumulation of the soil coming down from the mountains, as in other places, but the earth has fallen away all round and sunk out of sight. The consequence is, that in comparison of what then was, there are remaining only the bones of the wasted body, as they may be called, as in the case of small islands, all the richer and softer parts of the soil having fallen away, and the mere skeleton of the land being left."

As we see Plato mentions only islands remaining after a great flood that occured 9.000 years before his time.This may be another one of his "Atlantis" myths but it may also be based on historical reality.So here we come in a separate cataclysmic event from the Black sea. This flood occured somewhere between 12.000 and 11.500 BC a proximate date to the one that Plato suggests and was cause by the melting of the ice and the rise of the sea level.
the eastern mediterranean in 12.000 BCE. Notice the Aegean islands being connected in one and the Marmara and Black sea being lakes.

The flood of Dardanus

Dardanus was a mythical person who descended from the present day Arcadia in Greece. According to the myth he migrated with his family and settled in the north western Aegean. After a great flood only himself and his family survived by staying on a piece of land that would later be known as the island of Samothrace.
Samothrace on the top left was connected to the mainland according to the Dardanus myth.

My conclusion is that the theme of a universal flood exists only as an exaggeration by the storytellers. The historical evidence shows that indeed there were a series of regional floods in really distant times where writting was not still invented and all the populations were religiously biased.This resulted the creation of stories that included divine wrath and because they mentioned divine wrath it should be something big and intimidating in the fantasy of the listener. 

Paparigopoulos Istoria tou Ellinikou ethnous

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

hypnos: The god of sleeping

Hypnos and Thanatos the twin brothers

"Και γαρ τ' όναρ εκ Διός εστίν""But come, let us ask some seer or priest, or some reader of dreams—for a dream too is from Zeus"Homer,Iliad,A 63  

The God Hypnos(Sleep) ,according to the ancient Greeks was the twin brother of Thanatos(Death), the son of the Goddess Nychta(night) and Herebos.They imagined him as young, handsome with wings on his shoulders, making tired people fall asleep by sprinkling them with a branch drenched with oblivion or by watering them with a horn full of hypnotic essences.
Hypnos was really powerful.He was able to make all the people fall asleep and the gods too. He once made  Zeus the king of the gods to fall asleep after urges by Hera who wanted to intervene in the Trojan war.According to the story Hera visited the Greek island of Lemnos where Hypnos dwelled and pronounced him Archon(lord) of Gods and mortals in order to persuade him .Hypnos was doubtful about dealing with Zeus but finally he was persuaded by an offering to marry one of the three Charites(Graces), particularly Pasithei with whom he had fallen in love. Pasithei symbolized relaxation and rest, that's why she was desired by Hypnos.The plan went well for Hera.While she was seducing Zeus, hypnos appeared transformed as a bird and hypnotized him.

In Iliad (book 14,224-291)
There she met Sleep, the brother of Death; and she clasped him by the hand, and spake and addressed him: “Sleep, lord of all gods and of all men, if ever thou didst hearken to word of mine, so do thou even now obey, [235] and I will owe thee thanks all my days. Lull me to sleep the bright eyes of Zeus beneath his brows, so soon as I shall have lain me by his side in love. And gifts will I give thee, a fair throne, ever imperishable, wrought of gold, that Hephaestus, mine own son, [240] the god of the two strong arms, shall fashion thee with skill, and beneath it shall he set a foot-stool for the feet, whereon thou mayest rest thy shining feet when thou quaffest thy wine.”

Hypnos and Pasithei had children that were called Oneiroi(Dreams). The oneiroi were four brothers: Morpheus, Ikelus, Phobetor and Fantasus. The Oneiroi lived at the shores of the ocean(the ancient greeks believed that there was a single ocean surrounding the world). The Oneiroi were sending dreams to the mortals  via two gates. The one gate was made by Keratos and through it they were sending real dreams as warnings for real life conditions while through the second gate which was made of ivory they were sending fake dreams.

In Homer's Odyssey Penelope  says: (Τ 559-566 )

 “Stranger, dreams verily are baffling and unclear of meaning, and in no wise do they find fulfillment in all things for men. For two are the gates of shadowy dreams, and one is fashioned of horn and one of ivory. Those dreams that pass through the gate of sawn ivory deceive men, bringing words that find no fulfillment. But those that come forth through the gate of polished horn bring true issues to pass, when any mortal sees them .
Selene persuaded Zeus to make Endymion stay eternally young. So Zeus ordered hypnos to put Endymion in eternal sleep.

Hypnos features also in the story of Endymion. Endymion was sentenced by Zeus to eternal sleep and received the power to sleep with his eyes open. He was granted this trait by Hypnos in order to be able to constantly watch his beloved Selene(moon), according to the poet, Licymnius of Chios.

Morpheus: The name derives from the word Morphe(shape). His ability was to appear in dreams with any human shape.He was the only god who could intervene in dreams of kings and heroes and the only one who conveyed messages of gods to mortals through dreams.

Phobetor:His name derives from the word phobos(fear). He was the personification of nightmare and he could take the shape of monsters and scary animals.

Fantasus:His name derives from the word fantasia(Fantasy). He produced unexplainable and abstract dreams. He was the personification of fantasy and could take no living form.

Ikelus: He was adjusting the parts of dreams that depicted reality to make them more realistic

Monday, April 23, 2012

Who was Saint George

Today on April the 23rd all the christian churches honour the memory of one of the most popular saints of christendom . St. George was born and raised in the eastern part of the Roman empire during the reign of the Roman emperor Diocletian.

It was a time that christian persecutions had reached their climax as the imperial authority aknowledged only the pagan religion as the only acceptable religion in the empire. Saint George was a son to a Roman officer from Cappadokia and to a woman from Palestine.From their names(Polychronia, Gerontius) we conclude that they were both Hellenised.Besides the name that they gave to their son(Georgius) which means farmer in Greek.

Saint George served as an imperial guard of the emperor in Nikomedia.The emperor knew his father so he was glad to have his son serve him too. As we said above Diocletian was a sworn enemy of christianity and one day he issued an edict by which all the imperial guards who were christians would be executed and the rest of them would offer a sacrifice to a pagan god.

Saint George didn't hide his faith and in front of the emperor he renounced his edict and declared himself a christian. Diocletian who as we mentioned knew Saint George's father didn't want to kill one of his best soldiers and instead he attempted to convert him by trying to bribe him. However Saint George remained relentless.

As a result of all this Saint George suffered a martyric death from decapitation. His body was buried back in his hometown in Palestine.


The most famous legend of Saint George is the slaying of the dragon.According to the story the inhabitants of a city were threatened by a dragon that made its nest near the water source. So every time they had to take water they also had to sacrifice an animal or a maiden to lure the dragon out of its nest.Saint George stopped this by killing the dragon.As a sign of gratitude the whole city converted to christianity.

Saint George's veneration was widespread in the Roman and later the Byzantine East. His name and legends spread to the west with the return of the crusaders from the Holy lands. Nowadays he is patron saint of mant countries like England and Georgia but also of extinct countries like Genoa, Aragon and Catalonia.

                                                              Saint George in Western Art

                                          Saint George in Eastern art

Saint George statue in Georgia
Some eastern icons depict Saint George unmounted

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Images from the Ottoman Greek world of the early 19th century by Louis Dupre

Louis Dupre was a French painter, especially noted for his travels in Greece and the Ottoman Empire and his numerous paintings with Orientalist and Philhellene themes.
He often traveled and changed his work location, including Paris, Kassel, Naples, Rome, , Naples , Istanbul, Greece , Paris, and Vienna.

His visit to Greece was on the very eve of the Greek War of Independence.

Acropolis was inhabited during the ottoman times. The parthenon operated as a mosque

An Albanian of the early 19th century

A view of Ottoman Athens. Athens at this time was no bigger than a village.

An Athenian girl. Obviously from a wealthy Athenian family

the begining of the Greek revolution in Salona. Mitropoulos is depicted holding the revolutionary flag over the corpses of Ottoman soldiers.

A man from Ottoman Thessaly

A wealthy Armenian. Armenians were all spread allover the ottoman empire working mainly as merchants.

The grandchildren of the Vizier of Ottoman Janina(Ioannina)

Ioannes Logothetis. Prokritos(governor of Greeks) of Livadeia. After Greece was liberated he became governor of the island  Aigina

Ali Pasha was the Pasha(governor) of Epirus(western Rumelia).Greeks showed a sympathy towards him  cause as a native Albanian he used the languages(Greek and Albanian) of the native peoples of the area to interact with them.
During his rule a greek educational enlighment took place.At some point he turned his pashalik independent from Istanbul. This eventually cost him his life.

An Armenian of the Ottoman empire and his wife.

This was the most common outfit of the Greek revolutionaries during the Greek independence war. it was called foustanella.

Another one Ottoman Greek posing for Dupre

A Greek Orthodox priest on the left and a Turkish muslim priest on the right.

A Greek woman from Leivadia

An Ottoman Greek merchant

A Greek bride in Athens dressed for her wedding.

A Janissary who is part of the imperial palace guard in Istanbul and the gardener of the palace on the right.

A Mameluk sitting

Michael Soutzos member of a prominent Greek family from Constantinople. He became prince(governor) of Moldavia in 1819.

Princess Helena Soutsou

On the left a woman from Theba and on the right a woman from the outskirts of Athens

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