Famous and Athenians

Socrates, Pericles and Plato are not the only famous Athenians from classic period, but here is a longer list of international and Greek historical celebrities and their relation to Athens.

Ancient Greek philosophers, politicians and generals

Classical Athens was full of important personalities, due to the high educational level of the city and of course its wealth that was concetrated in Athens market- now agora.

Alexander the Great visited Athens, also Diogenes was here teasing Plato in public, before getting to Corinth, where Alexander met him. Also great orators such as Demosthenes and before him Lysias gave birth to law schools, as rhetoric, teaching the ability to convince and later to legislate as well.

Ancient Romans

Rome had a special relation to Athens, since ancient Greek civilization was much respected, until Roman Cato. Cicero came to Athens, before Sulla, Julius Ceasar and Octavianus Augustus funded construction of Roman Agora that you can visit today. Of course the most important figure for Athenians was Emperor Hadrian.

Byzantine Greeks

Athens was a famous place to study, especially for its eastern neighbours, modern Turkey, Phoenicia, Israel, Cyprus, Egypt. When Paul arrived to Athens and gave his speech to Areopagus, he had two fans, Dionysius Areopagites and a lady, Damaris. Two centuries later, Saint Basil of Caesarea and Gregory Nazianzus came to study (probably law and rhetoric) in Athens around 349 AD, with the future emperor Julian the Apostate. Athens remained one of the global knowledge centers since 569 and the closing of all schools.

After some centuries of decline, Athens was honored by the visit of Emperor Constans the Bearded by its inclusion in the Theme of Hellas around 662/3. Moreover Athenian was the Empress Irene with her marriage in 769 to the Byzantine Emperor Leo IV. Emperor Basileios Boulgaroktonos after defeating Bulgarians visited Athens in 1019 and paid a tribute to Panagia Athioniotissa- Parthenon.

Latin Greeks

Athens was belonging to Hellas theme of the byzantine empire. Michael Choniates was appointed as Athens Bishop in 1182, after his studies in Constantinople, and he also lived during Latin occupation of Constantinople and Greece. After 1204 he left Athens for Kea, where he died in 1222.

Pletho Gemistos, was one of the most notable figures or Rennaissance. He taught in Kaisariani Monastery.

Ottoman Greeks

After occupation from Ottomans, the need for schools became really bigger. During the four centuries of occupation, Greeks had no source of education, but their traditions, folk art, religious festivals, songs and dances to keep their Orthodox Greek tradition alive. During that difficult times, wealthy Athenian families invested in education in order to create some income for those who could do nothing to gain their living. One of them was Saint Filothei, from Benizelos family, who established in 1551 a monastery of Saint Andrew as a school for ladies, where the young nuns taught handiwork, weaving, housekeeping and cooking. More women arrived probably after Ottoman occupation of Cyprus in 1571. She establishes a vast support and training network for people in need around Athens, even in modern Filothei area till 1583, when she asks financial aid from Venice, and she received 200 golden coins for it.  Filothei was nearly beaten to death by mercenaries in 1588 outside St. Andrew church in Plaka, due to her interventions for women that were in danger. She died in 1589 from her wounds. Her body is kept in Athens Metropolis today.

That was the terror that existed in Ottoman Athens. Only after Independence, Athens had a university again. So in 1614 Aristotelian Theofilos Korydalleas started probably privately only teaching in Athens, after studying in Rome and Padova University. He died in Athens in 1645. In 1672 a member of Mpenizelos family teaches philosophy and rhetoric.

A monk, Grigorios Sotirianos, established a school in 1720.

Another School was founded in 1750 and operated till 1821 by Ioannis Ntekas and teacher another Mpenizelos, Ioannis. In 1758 a new School opened in Moni Pentelis. In 1806, Dionysisos Petrakis became the principal of Ntekas school, who kept the school alive till 1821. In 1813 the School was under the auspice of Filomousos Company.  Dionysios Petrakis’ family elected also the first Athens mayor, Dionysios nephew, doctor Anargyros Petrakis. General Makrygiannis claimed Petrakis to be a traitor, since he didn’t let the bells to toll for Revolution of 1843. 

A descentant from Anargyros Petrakis is today the Alexander, Crown Prince of Yugoslavia, from his mother, Alexandra of Yogoslavia.

Moreover, during the 19th century foreign diplomats arrived to Athens in order to steal the city’s ancient treasures, such as Lord Elgin, Ambassador Fauvel and more. Some of them also gave incredible portraits and paintings of the city’s past, as well of the areas around Attica.

 

During Independence War

When Lord Byron arrived to Athens he stayed at Psirri area, later he was hosted in the Cappucini monastery at Lysicratous. Today there are his personal items at Old Parliament Museum, as Kolokotronis and Makrygiannis.

Paparigopoulos’, the first Russian consul in Athens, neoclassical house is at Kydathineon 27, maybe the most beautiful building in the street. Kolettis house is located abandoned at Polygnotou. Odysseas Androutsos was thrown from Acropolis and was guarded at the frankish fort that was demolished from Schliemann later.

 

After Greek Independence

Foreigners, especially Bavarians arrived in Athens with King Otto. The elements of this period is the neoclassical reconstruction of the city, both around Acropolis and in Athens suberbs, that were built during that period. So wealthy evergetai, architects and professors are the protagonists of this period.

Bavarians arrived to Athens, Otto son of King Ludwig of Bavaria, who (the father) stayed in power till 1848 revolts, and was also the godson of Louis XVI. Ludwig is said to have slept at Kydathineon 27 building at Plaka at his first night in Athens. Otto’s first task as king was to make a detailed archaeological and topographic survey of the city, so he called  to Athens Gustav Eduard Schaubert and Stamatios Kleanthis for this task. Otto stayed in reign in Greece since 1862. Schaubert’s house is a museum as well today.

One famous German was Heinrich Scliemann, who discovered Troy, Mycenes and made the Homeric poems revive again. Now his house in a museum in Athens. Schliemann is responsible also for a destroyed monument in Acropolis. Also the famous archeologist Wilhelm Dörpfeld participated in excavations of Athens agora. Many wealthy Greeks as Zappas, Averof and Syggros gave their name to numerous buildings and streets of Athens for their support.

The end of the century also braught the birth of the Olympic Games in Athens in 1896, with the winner Spyros Louis. Athens was a cosmopolitan city again, with Zappeion following the latest european trends of Greek Revival concept.

Modern Greeks

From the moment somebody lands in Athens, the first name that will hear is “airport Eleftherios Venizelos”. Eleftherios Benizelos (no relation with the historical Athenian family) was one of the most prominent Greek political figures, who despite his mistakes offered a lot, in order to modernise his conservative country. Another politician and athlete, Grigoris Lamprakis, gave his name to Athens Marathon, for his protest walking ALONE from Marathon to Athens Peace Rally on Sunday 21 April 1963. Lamprakis was assasinated a month later, marking one more sad page for Greek history.

More politicians like Antonis Tritsis, who set rules to Plaka area, since few decades ago there were no limits in nightlife, there is also Melina Merkouri, who became the symbol of Greek culture abroad with her movies and her work as a minister of culture. Also poet and diplomat George Seferis, winner of 1963 Nobel prize, lived in Kydathineon.

Architects such as Dimitris Pikionis, who paved the way from Acropolis to Philopappou (1954-1957) , continued the tradition of Cleanthis, Kalkos and Zezos. Modern artists such as Yannis Moralis, Frissiras with the Museum and Theodorakis, still prove that Greek art is here to stay for more centuries….

Also, we shouldn’t forget the visit of Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung and Hans Christian Andersen to Acropolis…

 

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