Πέμπτη, 8 Νοεμβρίου 2018

Kallirroi Parren

Kalliroi Parren                                    ΚΑΛΛΙΡΡΟΗ ΠΑΡΡΕΝ
 Born 1861                                           Died 1940

In the large square after the entrance to the First Cemetery is a modest bust of a woman placed there in 1991 although she died in 1940.  It is not at all grand compared to the other monuments that surround it in this section for the rich and famous.  And yet, the woman it honours was once the most impressive woman in Athens. From the time she  published her Ladies Journal in 1887 until her death in 1940, Kallirroi Parren was a force to be reckoned with – journalist, playwright,  novelist, philanthropist and tireless activist for women’s rights – all at a time when  Greek letters and Greek  politics were the exclusive purview  of men. 

She raised hackles as often as she garnered praise but, using the platform her Journal offered and, as they came into being, other women’s organizations (some of which she founded), she never wavered from her goal:  a woman’s right to education, better working conditions, and the right to be included in the national dialogue.  

Her Life

Kalliroi Siganos’ middle class family moved from Ottoman controlled Crete to Greece when she was six years old.  After graduating from the French School in Piraeus she went on to study at the Arsakeion (2), the best teachers training school in Athens from which she graduated in 1878. She was invited to Odessa by the Greek Community School and stayed for two years before going on to Adrianopolis where she headed the Zappeion School(3) for the Greek community.

Her Marriage

She was already a very accomplished woman when she met and married Jean Parren, an Anglo-French journalist who had established a press agency in Constantinople. It was a marriage of true minds. The couple settled in Athens at 27 Panapistimiou Street opposite the Sinaea  Academy, (now the Athens Academy ).(4)   Ioannis founded the Athenian Press Agency  (Αθηναϊκού Πρακτορείου ) thus placing them in the perfect position to mix with writers, politicians, and the other movers and shakers who made up the elite of Athens.

This era has been called Athens’ “Belle Epoque” and with good reason. Charilaos TriKoupis was in power (most of the time); the city was increasingly cosmopolitan: architects like Ernst Ziller were hard at work, financiers like Andreas Syngros were reshaping the city, and Heinrich Schliemann  was already basking in the glory of his Mycenaean finds. In fact, the city was buzzing with ideas and enquiring minds.  But, in the public sphere, those minds belonged solely to men. For Kalliroi, that was not good enough, and her husband concurred. (5)

The Ladies Journal (Εφημερίς των Κυριών)

In February 1887, they rented an office on Mouson Street (now Karagiorgi Servias)  and Voulis streets. Along with other women, she worked to create the first weekly issue. In its eight pages, articles relating to motherhood, economy, education, religion, and a section dealing with local and foreign politics were to be included.   
The first issue coming off the press On March 8, 1887 was a huge success.

Between 7000 and 10000 copies were sold in a city of 65000. Ironically, 90 percent of buyers were men, curious (maybe apprehensive too) to see what this journal was all about.  In this way, copies of the journal gravitated into most homes in the city –assuring that it would be picked up and read by the very ladies who had avoided buying it as perhaps being too avant garde

EmmanuelRoidis, then the doyen of letters in the capital, was horrified.  Women journalists were laughable, he wrote, and those wanting to take up ‘men’s professions’ such as medicine, or law, were ‘beyond laughable’. His quarrel with Kalliroi was very public. He would label her a “faiseuse d’embarras’ and, in turn, Kalliroi would dismiss him as the ‘guardian angel of the past’ and a man who knew nothing about women. 

As the journal gained readership among women, Kalliroi used it as a vehicle to promote women’s rights, women’s education, and her own novels which dealt with social issues and were serialized in the Journal.  They were popular. Three novels, collected as The Books of Dawn (Ta Vivlia tis Avyis), concerned the struggle of Greek women towards self-accomplishment and emancipation, and by 1907 were so popular that they became a stage play called New Women (Nea Yineka) starring Marika Kotopouli.  Kalliroi gained admirers among the more progressive males in the city as well. Costis Palamas wrote a poem in praise. (6) Her Journal along with the regular “Literary Saturdays” held at her home kept her conversant with all Athenian trends.
Her Accomplishments

She spoke Russian, French, Italian, and English and this made her well placed to work with European and American women’s movements. She attended international conferences held in Paris in the years 1888, 1889, 1896, 1900 and in 1893-4 in Chicago while, at home sponsoring many welfare organizations.
By 1890 she had successfully lobbied for women's admittance to the University of Athens.(7)
In 1894 she founded the Union for the Emancipation of Women with a somewhat different agenda than what that word suggests today. For example, she had abandoned the cause of women’s suffrage in 1894 after trying unsuccessfully, to convince Charilaos Trikoupis to give women the vote. She believed that in the culture of the day, the inclusion of women in higher education and better working conditions were more achievable goals.(8)
In 1896 the Union of Greek Women was formed, collecting funds, and sewing uniforms for soldiers fighting in the disastrous 30 day Greco-Turkish war of 1897 –a war which Greece lost.  But their participation marked an important milestone: through the Union’s work, women became part of the national dialogue.  
By 1900 she achieved state protection for children and women’s working conditions through an appeal to Theodoros Deligiannis and by 1908, the National Council of Greek Women ( Ethniko Symvoulio ton Ellinidon ) was founded and affiliated with the International Council of Women.

In 1911, she inaugurated the influential Lyceum of Greek Women (still going strong), and by 1923 she had also helped found the Little Entente of Woman, an organization created to unite women in the Balkan Peninsula. 

Her Journal ran continuously until 1908 when it changed to a bi-monthly and finally stopped in 1917 when Parren was exiled to Hydra for several months by the administration of  Eleftherios Venizelos. She was an avid royalist and had opposed Greece’s involvement in World War One on the side of the entente.

Kalliroi, Maternal Patriotism, and the ‘Pure Hellenic Tradition’

No movement can be separated from the politics of the day. Her belief that one reason Greece lost wars like that of 1897 could be attributed to the failure of Greek women to raise their boys to be “patriots worthy of their glorious national heritage”.  The Lyceum of Greek Women would remedy that by promoting a very specific and very nationalist feminine ideal (labelled ‘maternal patriotism’ by historians ), an ideal that dovetailed nicely into the Megali Idea, and the  nationalistic fervor that was so much a part of the political dialogue during this period.  Perhaps this particular vision of emancipated women made the men (who all had mothers of their own) more comfortable as well. Her Utopian ideal: women as society’s ‘moral compass’, their newly acquired rights harnessed to help achieve a greater Greece.

  An annual festival was proposed for the Olympic stadium which would consist of a ‘highly respectable’ parade of maidens from the ’best’ families. This parade, tableaux vivants, and more, all promoted the patriotic theme and a return to the ‘Hellenic’ values (ancient, Byzantine, and contemporary) which had been so recently laid out and defined by the historian Constantine Paparrigopoulos. This model included a revival of  Greek folk traditions, a concept very much in vogue at the time.

Several such extravaganzas involving hundreds of young ‘maidens’ were presented and very well received. Feminists today might cringe but they have to be understood in the perspective of the times.

The End

Kalliroi had a long career with many firsts: she was the first woman to receive the Silver and Golden Crosses of the Saviour, the Silver medal of the Athens Academy, and the Silver Medal of the Red Cross. She outlived Roidis, her greatest critic, by some 36 years and became a ‘doyenne’  and trend setter herself. By 1940, she had become a part of the establishment. In a way, wasn’t that the whole point?

Parren in later years
She lived with Jean Parren until her death when she achieved her final ‘first’. She was the first woman to be buried in the First Cemetery at the city’s expense

Her Grave

Section 4, Number 221

(1) Or 1859 or 60.
(2)  In 1836  Ioannis Kokkonis, Georgios Gennadios and Michail Apostolidis had created a school where young girls could be educated. It was endowed by Apotolos Arsakis; hence its name. 
(3)  Evangelos Zappas, was the great benefactor of this school and many others in Ottoman territory.
(4) The Athens Academy, as we know it, was formed in 1926. The building, by Hansen and Ziller was originally called the "Sinaean Academy" after its benefactor.
(5) I can find nothing on the internet about Jean Parren, nothing except his role as Kalliroi’s husband and not much about that either.And yet, he must have been a fascinating character. It is interesting too that, in her novels, her heroines and sometimes her heroes reject rich cosmopolitans from outside of the bounderies of Greece, instead choosing home’ boys or girls – something she did not do herself. It is hard to see her having succeeded if her husband had been a home boy from the Peloponnese.
(6)  «Χαίρε γυναίκα της Αθήνας, Μαρία, Ελένη, Εύα.
Να η ώρα σου. Τα ωραία σου φτερά δοκίμασε και ανέβα
και καθώς είσαι ανάλαφρη και πια δεν είσαι σκλάβα
προς τη μελλούμενη άγια γη πρωτύτερα εσύ τράβα
και ετοίμασε τη νέα ζωή, μιας νέας χαράς υφάντρα
και ύστερα αγκάλιασε, ύψωσε και φέρε εκεί τον άντρα».

(7) Ioanna Stephanopoli was admitted to the department of Philology in 1890. In 1892, two women were accepted in Medicine, and one in Mathematics.

(8)  This was the gist of her remarks at a woman’s conference in 1894 ( See Women and the Vote by Jad Adams)

Κυριακή, 30 Σεπτεμβρίου 2018

George Finlay

         Born in Kent 1799                                  Died in Athens 1875

George Finlay was a Scottish Philhellene who first came to Greece in 1823, fought during the War of Independence, and stayed on in the new state until his death in 1875. Over time, he wrote a comprehensive history of Greece from Roman times up to and including his own era and was the first to include the Byzantine interlude as an important part of the Greek historical continuum.(1) While not an impartial observer (what historian is?), he was an acute and very well informed one. 
I was first 'introduced' to Finlay at the British Consul Library in the 1970s and liked him immediately. Like me, he was a Scottish Presbyterian somehow grafted on to the Greek body politic. I admired his acerbic style and, at the time, certainly didn’t question his point of view or his prejudices because, in so many ways, they dovetailed so nicely with my own. Over the years, his histories and articles for periodicals and newspapers emanated from his home in the heart of 19th century Athens. His house, or one of them, is still standing at the corner of Thoukididou and Kekropia  streets in the Plaka and is one of the few houses in the area with a marble plaque commemorating its most famous inhabitant.

 His personal life is a mystery although some letters and a journal exist. He apparently destroyed many personal papers before his death.(2) Nor did he bequeath his extensive library to any institution, a practice which was very common at the time. We know that his wife, Enectar, (whom he called Katherine), was an Armenian woman (nee Asker) from Constantinople. They married around 1829 and had a daughter who died at the age of 10 in 1841. Enectar survived him by 17 years.

His Life

George was born in Kent in 1799 of Scottish Protestant, merchant stock, and spent much of his early life in Scotland. He studied law in Glasgow and then in Gottingen. Idealism and a strong sense of adventure brought him to Greece in 1823. He was with Byron on Cephalonia and during the last months of the poet’s life in Messolonghi; later he served on the Karteria under his friend and fellow Philhellene Frank Abney Hastings. 

After the war, Finlay did much to assist the fledgling state. In 1834, at the request of the Prime Minister Ioannis Kolettis, he took on the role of assistant to the Athenian nomarch to help in the rehabilitation of Athens. He was a member of the Attica tax commission in the 1840s, took part in the founding of the Ionian Bank, and supported the founding of the University and the National Library, all the while working on and revising his history. He received many honours and titles during his lifetime: Hon. Member of the Royal Society of Literature, Member of the American Antiquarian Society, Corresponding Member of the Archaeological Institute at Rome, Knight Gold Cross of the Greek Order of the Redeemer, and was, for a time, a special correspondent to the London Times.

He was also a land speculator but so was everyone else in Athens with a little bit of money in their pocket. He bought land in the area of today’s National Gardens (which was confiscated by the state much to his chagrin), a home in the Plaka, and a farm in Liosia near Athens. This latter purchase convinced him that he was a failure as a gentleman farmer. History would be his métier.

“Fair Greece, Sad Relic of Departed Worth”
(Byron, Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage 11.73.693)

Finlay’s history, while factually accurate, is imbued with a tone that is the hallmark of so many of the Greek Philhellenes who chose to write about Greece. Their beau ideal was ancient Greek excellence, albeit one that had been filtered through the lens of the European enlightenment. One of the compelling reasons so many Europeans had supported the Greek cause was their own classical education and the resulting reverence for ancient Greece. Everyone, Finlay included,  hoped for some sort of revival of Greece’s ancient glory within the new modern state but, with this in mind, the Greeks they actually encountered were consistently found wanting. There was a pervasive moral aspect underlying these comparisons that might be summed up by ‘present debasement versus the glory before the Fall’. Finlay often wrote ‘in sorrow’, believing that it was his ‘melancholy task to record the errors and crimes of those who governed Greece.’ (3) 

Three Typical Finlay Observations:

On freedom fighters: Every Greek chief celebrated his own praises, on politicians: Their whole souls were absorbed in Party contests for wealth and power, and on Prime Minister Kolettis: Nothing but want of personal courage and honesty prevented him from becoming the first man in Greece. And so on… The fact that he wrote so well made his criticisms memorable and quotable. 

Writers like Finlay were never mere observers, but rather didactic advisors whose duty it was not to merely record but to ‘civilize’ a backward population. It was an attitude shared by most of the educated Greeks from the diaspora who flooded into Athens after 1830 to help create the new state. 

In retrospect, it is easy to see that the model was flawed. It was a ridiculous ideal to foist on a new country forged in very different times and under very different circumstances, a view that assumed Greece should somehow be ready for a western, liberal concept of freedom and still exhibit the perceived characteristics of their wonderful ancestors.  True, there is a kind of inevitability about this model given the temper of the times, but its adoption has left its mark on the Greek national psyche: a fierce nostalgia for an ideal past coupled with a sense of deep inferiority about the present and, one might add, a certain sensitivity to European ‘advice’ because of the tone in which it has so often been delivered. (4)
But Finlay did truly did love Greece and its people deeply: The strength of the Greek cause lay in the hearts of the people (Book Three). He would write time and time again that the people simply “never had the good fortune to find a leader worthy of their cause”. 

His History of Greece was widely read by the foreign community and the Greek intelligensia. For non Greek speakers, it was their only introduction to Greek history. It was translated by no less a literary luminary than Alexandros Papadiamantis.
Constantinos Paparrigopoulos, soon to become Greece’s most influential historian, read and admired it while composing his own History of the Greek Nation. But no history is definitive. Finlay (as an outsider) may have been competent to write a history of Greece, but perhaps not to write,as Paparrigopoulos planned to do, a history of the  'nation'. (5) Paparrigopoulos took a different tack and set out to explain the facts of Greek history from a Greek perspective with different philosophical parameters .The result was more pleasing to a country that was in dire need of a modern identity that still encompassed its past. (See   http://athensfirstcemeteryinenglish.blogspot.com/2018/02/constantinos-paparrigopoulos.html  
The Grave

Finlay’s memorial is easy to find. It is towards the back and the largest in the Protestant section of the First Cemetery. It is very imposing: a sarcophagus set on a plinth which then sprouts a stele topped by a bust of the historian – symbolic overkill maybe, but, still, a real effort to convey his importance. There is even a small ‘temenos’ with a metal surround creating a sense of special grandeur that is somewhat spoiled by the large garbage bin on its south side. The monument’s height offers Finlay a view towards the city he lived in and loved for so many years.

(1) He revised constantly, finishing his history in the 1860s. Volume One on the Greeks under the Romans, had been published as early as 1844. The final version was published in 1877, two years after his death. It was entitled A History of Greece (From Its Conquest by the Romans to the Present Time, B.C. 146 to A.D. 1864)   Modern historians have questioned some of his facts, but no one has seriously questioned his scholarship or the enormity of his effort.  In 2008 the Greek parliament, to honour his contribution, republished his exhaustive history. 
(2) Information kindly offered by Amalia G. Kakissis | Archivist at the British School in Athens.
(3) I obtained this quote about his ‘melancholy duty’ from a review of his history in the Saturday Review, Nov. 9, 1878.
 (4) Byron commented often that the Greeks he met were not suited for a modern state although he had hope that they might make a ‘suitable colony’ or be a ‘useful dependency’ for some European nation. Chateaubriand had lamented in the same vein: “this sacred soil filled with past greatness and present debasement”, etc.  Google David Roessal’s In Byron’s Shadow:Modern Greece in the English and American Imagination for more in the same vein.   
(5)  See David Rick's "The Making of Modern Greece". It raises some interesting questions...

Τρίτη, 19 Ιουνίου 2018

Dimitris Pikionis

Dimitris Pikionis                 ΔΗΜΗΤΡΗΣ ΠΙΚΙΩΝΗΣ
Born 1887                                       Died 1968

Section 6, Number 44

Imagine an immense art installation that the artist invites you to sit on, lean on, and walk on, - one that fits so seamlessly into its surroundings that it seems to have always been there. If you are a frequent visitor to the center of Athens, you probably have already had this experience. The wonderful retaining walls, benches, trees and walkways that make visiting the area under the Acropolis and the Philopappos Hill such a memorable experience were the inspiration of one man, Dimitris Pikionis. They cover well over 80,000 square meters (20 acres) and function as a beautiful prelude and compliment to the ancient rock itself.

Pikionis was so many things: artist, architect, philosopher, teacher, and writer. His works include sketches, drawings, paintings, essays, unfulfilled town plans which still intrigue, houses, schools, and even a playground in the Athens’ district of Filothei. His career spanned more than 50 years. But, perhaps his greatest legacy is the influence he has on so many students of design and architecture.

His Life

Pikionis, of Chiot descent, was born in Piraeus. His father was a talented artist and his first cousin was the poet Lambros Porfyras. Both were major influences in his young life. He would credit his cousin with first introducing him to folk songs, “the poetry of the people” which would strongly influence his aesthetic vision, and his father for training his artist’s eye: my father could not stop in front of a fine ship without stopping to show us its beauty…  Often he would stand in front of a house and explain how its proportions would have been greatly enhanced if only it was so many centimeters taller… It was through my father that I became familiar with vernacular architectural terms such as 'garbos' (gracefulness, style) and 'houi' (adeptness, particularity). (1)

In 1906 he began lessons with the painter Constantinos Parthenis. At the same time he took a more practical course and began studies at the National Metsovon Polytechnic University in Athens from which he graduated in 1908 with a degree in civil engineering.  
At the urging of Parthenis, he went to Munich to continue his studies in drawing and sculpture. There his work was influenced very much by Cezanne of whom he wrote:  Three paintings by Cézanne, whose theory on the third dimension I was already familiar with, eventually led me to abandon Munich. This, I said to myself, is painting - true painting.

A Pikionis work that shows the influence of Cezanne

He went on to Paris to continue studies in drawing and painting at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière until economic difficulties forced him to take employment at the studio of the Architect G. Chifflot while still managing to take a class in architectural composition at École des Beaux Arts.

Upon his return to Athens he continued to develop his own aesthetic.
 In Piraeus one day, as I was returning to my father's house, I was intensely aware of the sun scorching my skin; then I stepped into the shade and the coolness caused me to shiver... It occurred to me at that moment that the violent contrasts in the climate of our land, experienced over many centuries, probably helped to explain the sharp antitheses in the character of our race. The ancient Greeks, I considered, had subjected these antitheses to the discipline of their cornices, friezes and architraves. …. These observations led me to abandon conventional learning and follow a free, autonomous course dictated by nature.(2)

In 1923 he built his first house, on Tzitzifies Street in Ilissia for stage director Fotis Politis.  Politis praised it in three articles in the Athens daily "Politia".
 In 1925, Pikionis married Alexandra Anastasiou. Together they would have 5 children.

In the same year he was given the chair of Professor of Ornamental Design at the Polytechnic University in Athens where he would teach that Greek art and architecture must be both open to outside influences and conceived with the Greek environment in mind just as the ancients had done before him. He often held his classes out of doors and his lectures could range anywhere from poetry to philosophy to Japanese architecture - all part of his theory that all great art was one - and one with nature.  

Pikionis could embrace the vision and works of artists such as Ioannis Tsarouchis, Nikos Hadjikyriakos-Ghikas, Diamantis Diamantopoulos Diamandopoulos,  Angelos Sikelianos, and Photis Kontoglou because their philosophies were in sync – that art must be open to ‘vernacular inspirations’ from which in his opinion, all cultural forms originated: “Outside of this tradition lies only falseness and the ephemeral” ( Έξω από αυτή τη παράδοση δεν υπάρχει παρά μόνο το ψευδές και το εφήμερο.) (3)
This was a period of great intellectual consolidation and co-operation among Greek artists, something of a golden age in retrospect.

The years between 1930 and 1950 would see many important works of Pikionis completed: a school in Pefkakia, the Experimental School in Thessaloniki, an apartment building on Heydon Street in Athens, and the home and workshop of the sculptress Frosos Menegaki where his Modernist touch is very much in evidence.

Her multi-functional home is still standing

A model of the Menegakis house

The school in Pefkakia.

In the years between 1935 and 1937, Pikionis worked with Stratis Doukas, Nikos Hadjikyriakos-Ghikas, and Takis Papatzonis on the publication of a periodical called The Third Eye. Its purpose was to fill a gap in the cultural life at the time.

Αιξωνή in  Ano Glyfada:  The Unrealized Dream

Pikionis’ idea was that in an ideal neighbourhood such as this no house would cover much more than about a third of its area and that each house would be open to a wider environment that the householder could partly cultivate and partly preserve. There would be only footpaths; cars would be banned to its periphery. The roads connecting the houses inside the compound would be dedicated to the aesthetic and emotional needs of the humans living there.

A sketch for a house for Aixoni
For a shot video on the Aixoni project, see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tero2DIMGII

The Development of the Acropolis and Philopappos Hill Area 1954-1957: Perhaps His greatest Achievement

The Minister of Public Works Constantinos Karamanlis, with tourism in mind, decided to realign and develop the entrance to the Acropolis towards  the west and the Philopappos hill. The aim was to promote the area to compliment the Acropolis and the Athens Festival. Karamanlis’  colleague Prokopis Vasiliadis proposed his former teacher Pikionis as the man for the job.

Pikionis made it clear that this would be no ordinary public works project but an artistic endeavor involving hands-on approach that would not be without difficulties because of the historic nature of the site. Modern architectural methods could be used, but with the aim of melding them with ancient artistic techniques and aesthetics. His footpaths would incorporate flagstones, marble, a good deal of spolia from older structures, even rubble collected from sites around the city.

A sketch for the work

In medias res

As well, he would be in charge of the reforestation and planting of the Acropolis Hill, the Philopappos Hill, the renovation and restoration of the small church of Saint Demetrius the Bombardier (Άγιος Δημητρίου του Λουμπαδιάρη) as well as the creation of a tourist kiosk on its north side.

Inside the church, Pikionis took away the newer wall paintings to reveal much older ones.

40 experienced workers along with some 10 of Pikionis’ students undertook the work. He was so involved at every step of the way that one observer said: You could say that he did it himself, simply using the hands of the workers . (Θα λέγαµε ότι το κατασκεύασε ο ίδιος, χρησιµοποιώντας τα χέρια των τεχνιτών.) 

Sometimes the plan for a particular area would take form at the same moment it was being created.

The Pathways of Pikionis

They remind one of paintings.

His Vision

In speeches, Pikionis would stress the mystic relationship between the inhabitants of a given space and nature. Architecture had to respect that if it was to be credible. To make his point, he would often quote the work of the poets Palamas, Sikelianos, even Plato concerning this vital bond.

The question Pikionis would ask himself before beginning any work was “what do I want to say and how can I put this idea I have formulated ‘inside’, out there?” («Τι θέλω να πω;» «Γιατί θέλω να το πω;»  Δεν ρωτούσε «τί θα κάνω – αλλά πως θα ρυθμίσω τον χώρο με τα μέσα που έχω, με την ιδέα μου;»)  His philosophy could be summed up in his own words: a little more humanity, a deeper perception, spiritual sensitivity- and everything changes - something to think about as you explore the pathways he made with such passion and love.

His Grave

His monument in the first Cemetery is modest in the extreme. It seems to lack the Pikionis touch…


3. Από τη μελέτη «Διαδρομές στο τοπίο με αναφορά στο έργο του Δημήτρη Πικιώνη» Μαριάμ Καψάλη και Μπούκη Μπαμπάλου Βλέπε: http://www.greekarchitects.gr/site_parts/doc_files/erevnitiki.100.2010.pdf