Heron of Alexandria

Greek: Ηρων ο Αλεξανδρευς
Who: Mathematician and inventor.
Born: 10 A.D.
Died: 70 A.D. (60 years)
Lived: Alexandria, Roman Egypt

Heron of Alexandria  - From a 1688 German translation of his book Pneumatics.

Heron of Alexandria
– From a 1688 German translation of his book Pneumatics.

Heron of Alexandria was an ancient Greek mathematicianwho was a resident of a Roman province (Ptolemaic Egypt) residing in the city of Alexandria. He is considered the greatest experimenter of antiquity and his work is representative of the Hellenistic scientific tradition. Heron most likely taught at the Musaeum, which includes the famous Library of Alexandria, as many of his writings appear in lecture notes for courses in mathematics, mechanics, physics and pneumatics but apart from these notes we know nothing about him and how he lived.

Heron invented many things throughout his life:

  • He is most famous for a steam-powered device called an aeolipile (sometimes called a “Hero engine”). An aeolipile is a rocket style jet engine that spins when heated, which is considered to be the first ever steam engine.
  • He is the inventor of a windwheel operating an organ, which was one of the first instances in history of wind powering a machine.
  • He was the creator of the first vending machine. Similar to today’s vending machines, when a coin was inserted into a slot in the machine a set amount of holy water was dispensed.
  • Heron invented many mechanisms that were used in the ancient Greek theatre, including an entirely mechanical play almost ten minutes in length that was powered by a binary-like system of ropes, knots, and simple machines being operated by a rotating cylindrical cogwheel.
  • A standalone fountain that operates under self-contained hydrostatic energy.

History Channel – Ancient Discoveries: Machines of the Gods:

Ancient temple inventions meant to fool people:

Greece in World War II

Greek: Ελλαδα Β’ Παγκοσμιος Πολεμος
Major Victories: Greco-Italian War
Casualties: 400,000

Greece - World War II.

Greece – World War II.

During the outbreak of World War II in September, 1939, Greece had maintained a neutral position. However there was constant pressure from Italy, who were allied with Germany, as they were looking for their first victory of the war. Then, on October 28, 1940 Ioannis Metaxas, the Dictator of Greece, wasgiven a 3-hour ultimatum from the Italian dictator Mussolini to allow the free passage of Italian troops to unspecified strategic points in Greece. Metaxas rejected the ultimate, today known as “Oxi Day”, a day still celebrated by Greeks around the world. This was the beginning of Greece’s involvement in World War II and the start of the Greco-Italian war.

The Italians began marching through Albania and into Greece where the Greek army counter-attacked and forced the Italians to retreat and kept them at bay for six months.This victory over the Italian forces was the first Allied land victory of World War II and helped to raise the morale of occupied Europe. The victory forced the German forces to postpone their invasion of Soviet Union in order to help the Italians against Greece. This delayed the Germans attack on Soviet Union long enough to be subjected to the cold harsh winters of Russia, thus leading to their ultimate defeat at the Battle of Moscow.

On April 6, 1941 the Germans invaded Greece and by April 30 had conquered all of mainland Greece. The only Greek territory left for the Germans to conquer was the Greek island of Crete. For the Germans, they saw Crete as a strategically important position and in order to conquer it launched the largest airborne attack ever seen, known as the “Unternehmen Merkur”. The attack was launched on May 20, 1941 and ended with 4,000 German casualties on the first day but by the second day the Germans were able to secure Maleme airfield in western Crete. They were then able to fly in thousands of reinforcements and eventually overwhelmed the allied forces and on June 1 the island was under German control. The Greek government and King then fled into exile in Egypt and for the next few years the Greeks tried to liberate Greece until in October of 1944 mainland Greece would finally be liberated. All in all the Greeks suffered more than 400,000 casualties during the occupation and their Jewish community was nearly exterminated in the Holocaust.

Greek quotes from World War II:

  • “For the sake of historical truth I must verify that only the Greeks, of all the adversaries who confronted us, fought with bold courage and highest disregard of death.”
    - Adolf Hitlers speech delivered to Reichstag on 4, May 1941
  • “Hence we will not say that Greeks fight like heroes, but that heroes fight like Greeks” 
    - Winston Churchil

Greece, The first victory:

Nazi Invasion of Crete pt1-2 circa 1944 Office of Strategic Services (OSS) World War II:

The Fourth Crusade

Greek: Δ’ Σταυροφορια
What: The invasion of Constantinople by the Crusaders of Western Europe.
When: 1202-1204

The capture of Constantinople by the crusaders.

The capture of Constantinople by the crusaders.

The Fourth Crusade occurred from 1202-1204 by the Crusaders of Western Europe who invaded and captured the city of Constantinople, the capital of the Byzantine Empire. Originally the crusade was intended to conquer Muslim-controlled Jerusalem through the invasion of Egypt. With the sacking of Constantinople, it left the city damaged beyond repair and led slowly to its demise in 1453 when it was invaded by the Turks. The Latin Empire was then established in the conquered parts of the Byzantine Empireand lasted for a few decades before the Byzantine Greeks reconquered their lands and overthrew the crusader states.

The initial stages of the fourth crusade began in 1198 when Pope Innocent III preached for a new crusade to the ‘holy lands’. This crusade would start in 1202 with the intention of conquering Egypt then proceeding to capture Jerusalem. However, in 1202 instead of heading for Egypt the crusaders began sacking Christian cities located in the Byzantium empire instead, seeking riches and profit from the dynastic rivalries. Theystarted from Venice with an army of some 25,000 people headed for Constantinople, with a population of 400,000 people.

They reached Constantinople in 1203 but were held off by the Greeks for almost a year. The leaders of the crusaders were infuriated with their failure and began insulting the Greeks in front of their own army as they stood atop their city walls. Then in April of 1204 the Crusaders attacked the city walls and managed to break the Byzantines defences. Constantinople feel for the first time and wasdevastated for three days as the crusaders looted ancient and medieval Roman and Greek worksthat were transferred to Venice. Valuable Byzantine and Roman icons were melted and destroyed in order to extract the gold and silver. Churches were burned and the great Library of Constantinople was burned to the ground as Greek works of philosophy and mathematics would be lost forever. Nothing was spared.

The people of Constantinople were helpless and could only watch as their city was being destroyed. The Crusaders declared Baldwin of Flanders as the new emperor and founded the Latin Empire. The Byzantine Empire was separated into three different kingdoms: The Empire of Nicaea, The Despotate of EPirus and the Empire of Trebizond. It wasn’t until 1259 that Constantinople would be recaptured but the surviving Byzantine Empire was weakened and was coming to an end as the Turks were beginning their decent on the Byzantine Empire. Whatever ties there had been between the Greeks and the Latins had been officially destroyed and the schism between the Roman Catholic church in the West and the Greek Orthodox Church in the east was unofficially solidified.

1204 AD Crusaders Destroy Greek Byzantine Constantinople:

 

Atlantis

Greek: Ατλαντις
Where: Location unknown
Sources: Plato

The lost city of Atlantis.

The lost city of Atlantis.

Atlantis is thought to be a lost city that had a highly advanced civilization. It is one of the greatest mysteries of antiquity and has yet to be solved. Many people have spent years trying to find the exact location of this city but none have yet to discover it. The exact location of Atlantis is a highly debatable topic. Some believe Atlantis to be located in Greece, Spain, the middle of the Atlantic ocean and some think it to be as far as the Bahamas. Presently the lost city of Atlantis has captured the imagination of people from all over the world and has become a popular culture phenomenon with moviesresorts, books, television shows, music and more have all been written about Atlantis.

The only known evidence we have of Atlantis comes from Plato. Therefore, in believing that Atlantis was real we have to take what Plato wrote to be true. Atlantis is mentioned in two works by Plato: Timaeus and Critias. Plato claims that his accounts of Atlantis are based off of a visit to Egypt by the Athenian Solon, one of the seven wise men of Greece. He visited Egypt in the 6th century BC and was told by a priest there the history of ancient Athens and Atlantis. Solon was told that there existed an advanced and ideal society nine-thousands years before his time. According to Plato Atlantis was a large island (larger than Libya and Asia combined) in the Atlantic Ocean. Its control extended beyond the ‘Pillars of Heracles’ (Thought to be the strait of Gibraltar, separating modern day Spain and Morocco) as far as Egypt and Tyrrhenia (Italy). There was an incredible dynasty of Kings on the island that were said to be descendants of Poseidon himself. Then in one day and night Atlantis was destroyed by earthquakes and floods of extraordinary violence.The island was swallowed up by the sea and vanished, never to be seen again.

The most plausible locations for Atlantis are believed to be the island of Santorini or Knossos, both in Greece. Both civilizations were destroyed by the volcanic eruption on Santorini in the 14th Century BC. The circular shape of Santorini provides further speculation that this could have been the island mentioned by Plato. However no mention of the name Atlantis has been found on the island, which is why it is believed that the name Atlantis was thought up of by Solon. As well, the account of Atlantis having been around 9,000 years prior is also thought to be a mix-up in translation and instead 900 years prior is thought to be correct, therefore placing the exact date in history that Atlantis existed to be during the 14th century BC, exactly when the Thera Eruption occurred.

History Channel – Lost Worlds – Atlantis (Complete Documentary):

Mystery Quest: The Lost City of Atlantis:

 

Cleopatra VII

Greek: Κλεοπατρα
Who: Last Pharaoh of Ancient Egypt
Birthplace: Alexandria, Egypt (at the time under Greek rule)
Born: 69 BC
Died: 30 BC
Reign: 51 – 30 BC (21 years)

Cleopatra and Julius Caesar by Jean-Leon Gerome.

Cleopatra and Julius Caesar by Jean-Leon Gerome.

Cleopatra VII is best known for being the last pharaoh of Ancient Egypt. She was a member of the Ptolemaic dynasty, a Greek Macedonian family that ruled Egypt after Alexander the Great’s death during the Hellenistic period. The family spoke Greek and refused to speak Egyptian, which is why Greek and Egyptian were both used on official court documents such as the infamous Rosetta Stone. However, Cleopatra did embrace the Egyptian culture and represented herself as the reincarnation of the Egyptian goddess, Isis. Cleopatra’s reign lasted for 17 years, three years were with her brother along her side, and fourteen as sole ruler. It wasn’t until in 30 BC when she committed suicide that Egypt was annexed by the Roman’s and became a Roman province.

Originally Cleopatra ruled jointly with her father Ptolemy XII, Auletes and later with her brothers. After sharing the throne with her brother for a few yearsCleopatra made it known that she wanted to be the sole ruler. She had her brother Ptolemy’s name removed from official court documents and had her face appear alone on coins. Eventually after becoming sole ruler Cleopatra formed a liaison with Julius Caesar, Roman general and statesman, whom she was a mistress with for nine months. Caesar was then assassinated in 44 BC and Cleopatra then aligned herself with Mark Antony, a Roman politician and general. Cleopatra became Antony’s lover and bore three children with him, twins Cleopatra Selene II and Alexander Helios and Ptolemy Philadelphus. In 33 BC Antony had a disagreement between him and Octavian which turned into war. After losing the Battle of Actium to Octavian’s forces in 31 BC Antony committed suicide. Cleopatra, realizing that she was destined for Octavian’s triumph in Rome, then followed suit and killed herself on August 12, 30 BC by an inducing an Egyptian cobra to bite her.

During her time Cleopatra was regarded as one of the most beautiful women. The historian Plutarch makes mention of it: “judging by the proofs which she had had before this of the effect of her beauty upon Caius Caesar and Gnaeus the son of Pompey, she had hopes that she would more easily bring Antony to her feet. For Caesar and Pompey had known her when she was still a girl and inexperienced in affairs, but she was going to visit Antony at the very time when women have the most brilliant beauty.” Cassius Dio, another historian, also noted: “For she was a woman of surpassing beauty, and at that time, when she was in the prime of her youth, she was most striking; she also possessed a most charming voice and knowledge of how to make herself agreeable to every one. Being brilliant to look upon and to listen to, with the power to subjugate every one, even a love-sated man already past his prime, she thought that it would be in keeping with her role to meet Caesar, and she reposed in her beauty all her claims to the throne.”

Cleopatra : Secrets of Egypt’s Last Pharaoh – Cleopatra (Full Documentary):

Mikis Theodorakis

Greek: Μικης Θεοδωρακης
Who: Composer and songwriter.
Birthplace: Chios, Greece
Born: July 29, 1925

Mikis Theodorakis composing at one of his many shows.

Mikis Theodorakis composing at one of his many shows.

Mikis Theodorakis is one of the greatest composers and song writers in Modern Greece. He is most popularly known for his score in the film Zorba the Greek, which has become one of the most popular Greek songs. Theodorakis spent his early years on the Greek countryside becoming familiar with folk music and music of the Greek Orthodox Church and after hearing Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony one day he decided to become a composer. It was during WWII where Mikis began his lifelong struggle for freedom.

During the 1940′s to the 1960′s Theodorakis wrote and composed many songs, most of which were concerning political motives and the struggle for freedom. In 1967 a right wing Junta took power in Greece, who immediately banned playing, and even listening to Theodorakis music. Theodorakis was soon arrested a few months after the regime took over and was in jail for five months and banished to Zatouna with his wife and kids. On a request to the French government Theodorakis went into exile in Paris in 1970. While in exile, Theodorakis fought for four years for the overthrow of the colonels and gave hundreds of concerts worldwide as part of his struggle to restore democracy in Greece. When the regime fell in 1974 Theodorakis returned to a hero’s welcome where ten thousand people gathered at the Athens airport to greet him.

Realizing the fragility of the new democracy in Greece Theodorakis was eager to preserve it and thus became actively involved in the public affairs of Greece and was elected several times to the Greek parliament (1981-1986 and 1989-1993). In 1983 he was awarded the Lenin Prize for peace and would continue to promote many causes at all of his concert, such as opposing the use of atomic energy, the abuse of democracy and human rights in Turkey, forming a committee for Greek-Turkish friendship, the Cyprus problem and more. Recently, in December of 2010 he gave a speech to 10,000 people criticizing the Greek government for the loan debt it has taken from the International Monetary Fund, and openly calling for a revolution.

Mikis Theodorakis – History Channel Documentary (Modern Greeks):

Mikis Theodorakis – Zorba (live, 2001):

Meteora

Greek: Μετεωρα
Nicknames: ‘Suspended Rocks’, ‘Suspended in the Air’ and ‘in the Heavens Above’
Where: Thessaly, Greece
When: Monasteries were built in the 14th Century

A Monastery in Meteora.

A Monastery in Meteora.

Meteora is one of the largest and most important complexes of Eastern Orthodox monasteries in Greece. The monasteries are built on protruding rocks made of natural sandstone that are believed to be 60 million years old. They are located at the northwestern edge of the Plains of Thessaly near the Peneios river and Pindus Mountains, in central Greece. These rocks were shaped by weathering and earthquakes that pushed the seabed upwards creating a high plateau. Herodotus famously wrote in the 5th century BC that the locals believed the plain of Thessaly to once have been a sea, however there was no mention of the rocks in any ancient Greek texts leading some to believe that the pinnacles were formed sometime between a thousand to two-thousand years ago. A theory dismissed by modern geologists.

Although it is unknown when the monasteries of Meteora were established, as early as the 11th century AD hermit monks were believed to be living among the caves and cutouts in the rocks. By the late 11th or early 12th century a rudimentary monastic state had formed called the Skete of Stagoi and was centered around the church of Theotokos (mother of God), which still stands today. The hermit monks, seeking a retreat from the expanding Turkish occupation, found the inaccessible rock pillars of Meteora to be an ideal refuge.

As many as 20 monasteries were built in the 14th century, but only six remain today. Originally, access to the monasteries was very difficult, requiring long ladders and nets used to haul up goods and ropes for people. This required quite a leap of faith as if they fell it would be to their death bed. The ropes were replaced, so the story goes, only “when the Lord let them break”. In the 1920s there was an improvement in the arrangements and steps were cut into the rock and bridges were built.

“Meteora” – Greece:

Ancient Olympic Games

Greek: Ολυμπιακοι αγωνες στην αρχαιοτητα
Where: Olympia, Peloponnese
Time Period: 776 BC – 393 BC (1,169 years)
Participants: Free men who spoke Greek from Greek City-States

Runners at the Olympic Games.

Runners at the Olympic Games.

The Olympic Games of ancient Greece were a series of athletic competitions held for representatives of various Greek city-states in honour of Zeus. Theybegan in 776 BC in Olympia until they were suppressed in 393 AD by Theodosius I as part of the campaign to impose Christianity as a state religion (that’s over 1000 years of competition!). The site of Olympia remained until an earthquake destroyed it in the sixth century AD and all that is left of it is ruins of temples and the stadium. The Games were usually held every four years, or olympiad, as it became to be known. During the Olympics a truce was enacted among the various Greek city-states so that athletes could travel from their countries to the Games in safety. The prizes for the victors were olive wreaths or crowns and lasting glory in their cities.

The games began with only a few events, mostly races, discus, javelin, jumping and the hoplitodromos, a race where the athletes would run in full armour. Eventually boxing, wrestling and chariot racing would be added. The Greek tradition of athletic nudity was introduced in 720 BC, either by the Spartans or by the Megarian Orsippus, as the Olympics were meant to celebrate the achievements of the human body. Olive oil was also used by the athletes to keep their skin smooth and provide an appealing look.

The Games were also used to help spread Hellenistic culture throughout the Mediterranean and featured religious celebrations and artistic competitions. A great statue of Zeus, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world was erected in Olympia to preside over the Games. After the Olympics were banished in 393 AD it would be another 1,497 years until they would be revived again in 1896 in Athens. The Olympic games continue to live on and have become the biggest sporting event in the world.

Ancient Olympia (1 of 2):

Cycladic Civilization

Greek: Κυκλαδικος Πολιτισμος
Time Period: 3000 BC-1100 BC
Geographical Area: Cycladic islands

A statuette from the Cycladic civilization.

A statuette from the Cycladic civilization.

The Cycladic Civilization was a civilization that lived in the region of the Cycladic Islands during the Bronze Age. During this time the Minoan civilization was living on the island of Crete and the Helladic civilization (the ancient Greeks) were living on the Greek mainland. The Cycladic people were highly skilled maritime traders, with trade links in Asia Minor, mainland Greece, Crete, North Africa and Europe. The people were also active in fishing, as it was their main source of food. Ruins can be found on almost all the Cycladic islands leaving behind important details of the Cycladic culture.

The Cycladic civilization is broken up into three periods: the Early Period (3000 – 2000 BC), the Middle Period (2000 – 1500 BC) and the Late Period (1500 – 1100 BC). During the Early Period the Cycladic people built houses on hills to be protected from enemies and flooding. The Cycladic civilization came to an end when the Thera volcano erupted in 1630 BC,completely destroying the island of Thera and leaving the surrounding islands almost completely destroyed from the tsunami waves that followed.

Statuettes (also known as “idols”) carved out of Parian marble during 2800 BC are among the most important legacy left by the Cycladic Civilization. The statues depicted the image of Mother Earth. Among the most famous of these figurines is a harp-player and pipe-player, considered to be the earliest extant musicians from the Aegean. Most of these figures are a representation of the female human form, nude, with their arms folded across the stomach. They were thought to have been brightly painted when created and to have been used in funerary practice as they were all found in graves. Many other artefacts have also been discovered, such as tools, weapons made from bronze, vases and pots made from clay and even gold jewellery.

Cycladic Art:

Nikos Kazantzakis

Greek: Νικος Καζαντζακης
Who: Poet, novelist, essayist, philosopher, playwright, travel writer.
Born: February 18, 1883
Died: October 26, 1957 (aged 74)
Birthplace: Heraklion, Crete (formerly part of the Ottoman Empire, now Greece)

Nikos Kazantzakis.

Nikos Kazantzakis.

Nikos Kazantzakis was arguably the most important and most translated Greek writer and philosopher of the 20th century. He was an influential figure in Greece and it wasn’t until the release of the Michael Cacoyannis film Zorba the Greek in 1964 that he became recognized globally. Zorba the Greek was based on Kazantzakis’ novel. In 1902 he studied law at the University of Athens and then went to Paris in 1907 to study philosophy. It was there that he full under the influence of Henri Bergson, a major French philosopher. When Kazantzakis returned to Greece he began translating works of philosophy.

One of Kazantzakis most important works was his huge epic poem (33,333 verses long) The Odyssey: A Modern Sequel. It took him 14 years to write as he rewrote it seven times before publishing it in 1938. His most famous novels include:Zorba the Greek (1946), The Greek Passion (1948), Captain Michalis (1950), The Last Temptation of Christ (1951), and Saint Francis (1956) and Report to Greco (1961).

In 1946 Kazantzakis and Angelos Sikelianos were awarded the Nobel Prize of Literature and eleven years later lost by one vote to Albert Camus. Camus later said that Kazantzakis deserved the honour “a hundred times more” than himself”. Late in 1957, Kazantzakis was suffering from leukaemia and took his last trip to China and Japan. Upon Falling ill on his return flight, he was transferred to Freiburg, Germany, where he died. He was buried in Heraklion, Crete near the Chania Gate, because the Orthodox Church ruled out his being buried in a cemetery. His epitaph on his gravestone reads: “I hope for nothing. I fear nothing. I am free.”

Nikos Kazantzakis Quotes:

  • I hope for nothing. I fear nothing. I am free.
  • I said to the almond tree, “Friend, speak to me of God,” and the almond tree blossomed.
  • In order to succeed, we must first believe that we can.
  • Since we cannot change reality, let us change the eyes which see reality.
  • There is only one woman in the world. One woman, with many faces.

Zorba the Greek the film was based off of the novel written by Nikos Kazantzakis:

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