Τρίτη, 6 Φεβρουαρίου 2018

Constantinos Paparrigopoulos

Constantinos Paparrigopoulos


Born 1815 in Constantinople                         Died 1891 in Athens

Athens First Cemetery: Paparrigopoulos
Section One, Number 224

If the grandeur of a grave monument were in proportion to the influence of the person it commemorates, then the monument marking the grave of historian Constantinos Papparigopoulos would rival the Taj Mahal. 

In his History of the Greek Nation he constructed a narrative whose theme was the cultural continuity of the Greek people. This was no small thing. At the time, the nation was in desperate need of a unifying principle. 

Constantinos Paparrigopulos

Oddly enough, he did not start out as an historian at all.

His Life

Paparrigopoulos was born in Constantinople in 1815, too young to have fought in the Greek Revolution but not too young to have been traumatized when Ottoman mobs in Constantinople killed his father and several relatives in retaliation for the Greek uprising. He moved with his mother to Odessa where he studied at the Richelieu Lyceum before coming to the newly minted nation as a civil servant.

 Unfortunately, he had arrived at a time when Greek “outsiders’ (heterochthons) like himself were viewed with deep suspicion by the local population (autochthons). Men like Makriyannis and Kolokotronis had fought the war on the ground only to see educated and wealthy Greeks from outside of the boundaries of the new state arriving in droves. They had the ear of the Bavarian court and no great respect for the war lords who had made their arrival possible. It is hard to imagine today but ‘outsiders’  like the Syngros, Tositsas, Sinas, Averoff families, now all honoured as benefactors of the state, were regarded by some as opportunistic carpetbaggers. It was a bitter controversy and young Paparrigipoulos found himself at its epicenter. He lost his government job simply because he was a Greek from somewhere else!
An Historian is Born

That proved to be lucky for Greece because he then decided to pursue an academic career. He obtained his doctorate in Germany and proceeded to teach the “History of the Hellenic Nation” at the Athens University from 1851 to 1891. 

The fact that his history (published in its final form in 1874) was so successful makes it hard to explain today why the History of the Hellenic Nation from Ancient Times to the Present was needed in the first place!

A Little Background on National Identity Issues Back in the Day

Founding fathers had considered both language and religion as national identity markers. Neither alone fulfilled the need. Too many freedom fighters were not Greek speakers and too many Orthodox were not Greek. Another very strong contender was descent – the unbroken bloodline from ancient Greeks to those in the new state. European Phihellenes believed that ancient Greek culture formed the basis of their own culture and many fought for Greece for that reason. The early Greek governments fully supported this identification. Street names in the newly liberated Athens were renamed after the ancients and the original plan was to place the royal palace on the acropolis itself, just in case anyone missed the point. 

But there were difficulties…
To the educated elite in Europe (and even to the educated Greeks of the diaspora), the downtrodden people speaking a bastard form of ancient Greek  under the Volos-Arta line after 1830 didn’t seem to fit the required image. (1) 

 Worse, Jacob Philip Fallmerayer, a travel writer cum journalist cum historian, argued that the new Hellenes were nothing more than a mixture of Slavic and Albanian populations, not Greeks at all. Recent DNA tests have proven him wrong but his theory was widespread and extremely damaging to the new state’s image at the time. It was a challenge that would have to be answered.

Then there was the fact that far more Greek speakers who identified themselves as Greek  lived beyond the boundaries of the new state. How could they be accommodated in a narrative of national identity?  (2) 

Enter Paparrigopoulos…

In the History of the Greek Nation, Paparrigopoulos presented a comprehensive history of the Greek people which illustrated its cultural and historical continuity from ancient times up until the present day. It was a history that included both ancient Greek and Byzantine Christian culture under the aegis of commonality and spiritual unity. He identified five successive ‘Hellenisms’ (ancient, Macedonian, Christian, medieval, and modern) – and wrote that each had been imbued with an historical mission from Providence itself, and that each was necessarily a part of the identity of the new Greek nation since each had contributed in its own way (language in Hellenistic times, religion in Byzantine and Ottoman times) to the modern nation. The ‘Providential” aspect should not surprise us given the era. This was during the same period that Manifest Destiny was entrancing  Americans in the new world.

Paparrigopoulos did not portray himself as an ‘objective’ historian if, indeed, there is any such thing; he was politically involved all during his tenure at the university and politically motivated to write the true history of the Hellenic nation. In fact, he regarded the task as no less than the fulfillment of a national duty. 

The Reviews: Not everyone was entranced.  Some contemporary historians  like Pavlos Kalligas preferred the ancient Greek story without the Byzantines, feeling that the inclusion of Byzantium was monarchal and conservative. 

 Kalligas is also buried in the First Cemetery

Much later leftist historians would attempt to debunk many of his premises. But, on the whole, his history was immensely popular as was Paparrigopoulos himself because his book was perceived as both accurate and workable.
 Its tenet that Hellenism had maintained its essential integrity albeit based on different components over time is still very much a part of the Greek national psyche. Succinctly put, his history allowed the nation to follow its historical path with renewed self confidence.(3) 

National Identity and Citizenship Today

This can still be a touchy issue as the present debate over the name Macedonia shows.
Right wing parties like Golden Dawn carry the bloodline component of national identity to such an extreme that I would not be regarded as Greek no matter that I have citizenship. I might be excluded by others on the basis of religion or not so perfect Greek, but I like to think that Paparrigopoulos himself would have been  more flexible and people like myself could be squeezed in as spiritual Hellenes. I certainly hope so.  

His works are not much read today  but I would  recommend that anyone interested in modern  Greek history read his Introduction to the History to get a flavor of the nature of the debate in the 19th century.

He never did get a Taj Mahal, but his imposing bust can be found today in the Zappeion Gardens. 

The Map

(1) Many educated Greeks were also shocked at what they considered the debased state of the new citizens. Katharevousa was embraced for just that very reason – to create a language closer to the subtlety and flexibility of ancient Greek . (See Adamandios Korais on this blog) Paparrigopoulos himself had been an early proponent of the ancient Greece’s sole role until he came to realize that, alone, it was not enough.
(2) The issue of ‘heterocthons’ was personal for Paparrigopoulos because he was one himself.
(3) It also fed the ‘Great Idea’ of expanding the borders to unite all  Greeks under one flag. Having said that, it is also true that his vision was not narrowly racial or exclusive. Paparrigopoulos believed that being a Hellene was, to a certain extent, a state of mind and a matter of proper education, not a racial marker.



Παρασκευή, 29 Δεκεμβρίου 2017

Johann Friedrich Julius Schmidt

Johann Friedrich Julius Schmidt

Born October 26, 1825                    Died February 7, 1884

The nineteenth century was a grand time to be a German in Athens. Even after local hard feelings had been assuaged by ridding King Othon’s government of his Bavarian advisors after 1843, German citizens still flocked to Athens, willing and able to help in the nation building process. And they were welcomed. It was mutually beneficial; German and Greek intellectuals were thinking along the same lines at the time. 

Greats such as Johann Winckelmann and Friedrich Schiller had already been promoting the values of ancient Greece as a pattern for their own country’s post-Enlightenment cultural progress, the very values that many in the new nation believed must underlie and define the cultural identity of the modern Greek state. (1)

So while Heinrich Schliemann was busy uncovering the grave circles at Mycenae, a less well known German resident in Athens, was putting the finishing touches on his contribution to the glory of science. His name was Johann Friedrich Julius Schmidt: astronomer, geophysicist, and distinguished head of the National Observatory in Athens. He had just created a comprehensive map of the visible moon.

A model of Schmidt’s moon
32,856 craters were identified and labeled on this map; it was four times more detailed than any lunar map hitherto attempted.

With today’s Hubble telescope, not to mention modern terrestrial ones, it is hard to appreciate the magnitude of this 19th century breakthrough. Schmidt still lived in an era when a smallish ocular telescope was the best you could hope for. Tenacity, keen eyesight, and a superior sensitivity to colour variation were as important prerequisites as the equipment in the observatory. He had these abilities and spent his last 26 years studying the night sky from Athens.

The Observatory

Today’s residents, facing daily air pollution, might be surprised to learn that Athens’ once crystal clear skies were considered to be perfect for European star gazers. The proof is the impressive National Observatory of Athens (2), still perched on the Hill of the Nymphs opposite the Acropolis.

Now in the middle of the city, it was all alone when it was completed in 1846. And anyone who thinks scientists back then lacked a sense of flair or self promotion need to know that the laying of the corner stone in 1842 was timed to coincide with a total eclipse of the sun! 

As seen from the Acropolis hill today, with the city surrounding it

Its initial brief was to measure time and record meteorological phenomena. Its  final shape was a cooperative effort between its builders and the astronomers who planned to use it.

The original designer was another famous German Athenian, Eduard Shaubert. Although his original Byzantine cross shape remained, his design was modified by Theophil Hansen to conform to the severe neoclassical style so popular in Athens at the time.  

Hansen was so pleased with the result that he had Servare Intaminatum (To be Kept Intact) carved above the coat of arms of the Sinas family who had financed the project. 
 His admonition still greets the visitor today.

All distances from Athens to the rest of the world were measured from the Observatory’s foundations. With its prominent rounded dome (not to mentions its four arms pointing north, south, east, and west) it is tempting to regard the observatory as the post- Enlightenment omphalos of the new Greece!

But, back to our scientist.

The Man Who Put a Face on the Moon.

 Johann Friedrich Julius Schmidt was born in Eutin, Germany; his love affair with the moon began early. The story goes that, as a lad of 14, he steadied his first small telescope against a lamp post in order to view the moon.  His interest never waned. 

He studied in Hamburg and  worked in observatories in Dusseldorf, East Prussia, Moravia, before moving on to Athens where he was appointed director of the Athens Observatory in 1858, a post he would hold until his death in 1884. 

Although the moon map is what he is most remembered for, he was also an expert in the study of comets, variable stars, sun spots, asteroids, as well as of terrestrial vulcanology.  He was, by all accounts, a true renaissance man of science - a meticulous workaholic, totally dedicated to uncovering the secrets of the known universe. He even discovered a new star (Q Cygnus).  His work was known and admired throughout Europe. A crater on the moon is still dedicated to his memory.

His reputation suffered a small eclipse of its own when he insisted that one of the craters on the moon was undergoing changes as he observed it – a proposition that was doubted even at the time. 

The Linné crater today, still  stubbornly refusing to alter

Science was younger then and, if he was wrong about the Sea of Serenity’s Linné crater, he would no doubt be delighted by recent discoveries of vulcanism on Io, one of the moons of Jupiter.

Schmidt remained active at the Observatory until his sudden and unexpected death on February 6, 1884.

His Death

 A day of mourning was announced and his funeral oratory, held inside the observatory itself, was attended by the King and Queen of Greece. He was buried in the Protestant section of the First Cemetery of Athens. It may not have been his choice had he not died so suddenly, but it is fortuitous for visitors like ourselves to be able to still read  his name, wonder,  and be reminded of another  small piece of the mosaic that is modern Greece.

The Grave

This grave lies beyond the impressive monument to George Finley in row F of the Protestant section. It is sadly neglected. Whether vandalism was intended or its condition is simple a result of the ravages of time, is hard to say. The moon, stars, and the tools of his trade are still clearly etched in marble:

The Map:

From Miavolta.gr

 (1)The Greeks are what we were; they are what we shall become. Friedrich Schiller
from:  GERMANS AND GREEKS www.dartmouth.edu/~nedlebow/GoldenCH5.doc )
(2)  The observatory is a museum today and well worth a visit.

Πέμπτη, 29 Ιουνίου 2017

The Ladies

The Ladies of The First Cemetery

Among the monuments of the men: heroes, politicians, movers and shakers, philosophers and writers, there are the ladies – not as many, of course. The golden age of sculptural grave monuments was the 19th and early 20th centuries – still pretty much a man’s world - and women, the real women of that era, as opposed to generic female figures such as angels or mourning spirits are less in evidence than the men.
For that reason alone, we find ourselves looking closely at the depiction of the women who are there, be they elegant, idealistic, realistic, imposing, or  just plain mysterious.
Here are just a few who have caught our eye:

 This rather unimposing bust of Kalliroi Parren by sculptor Costas Valsamis is one of the first ladies you will encounter. It was added to the Plaza in 1992 - 52 years after her death - in a better late than never acknowledgement of her contribution to women’s rights. She was Greece’s first feminist.  Her actual grave is tucked inconspicuously away in Section 4, Number 221.

The “wife of Mr Konstamouli” by  Ioannis Lampaditis  (1856-1920) reflects a severe  style popular at that time:

Section 7, Number 336

A closer look at our ladies often reveals an exquisite detail such as the arresting glance of the writer Charisis Pouliou (Χαρίσης Πουλίου).

Section 5, Number 219

a detail

The writing below the bust of Maria Triandafillou may have  completely worn away, but her intricate curls have managed to stand the test of time.

 Section 5, Number 575

On the family tomb of the Kastromenos family, a beautiful headscarf, style of the era, covers much of this lady’s hair.

Then there is the lady seated on the imposing 1930’s tomb of businessman  Othon Tetenes:

Section 8, Number 128
A mature work of sculptor Thomas Thomopoulos, this monument invites you to clamor up for a closer look.  

It is executed in a style rather earlier than its 1935 date might suggest, echoing an older family photograph  or painting. (1)   The husband is the very image of the pater familias, but she is equally impressive - enthroned rather than seated: calm, forceful, very much the matriarch.

Demitris Filippotis’ 1890 sculpture of Maria Kassimati shocked many because she chose to have her likeness placed prominently in the precinct of her first husband’s grave, quite overshadowing his own monument by the Fytalis brothers.

Hers is one of the most admired monuments in the cemetery She is relaxed, yet totally in control. Filippotis has rendered her in exquisite detail.

Popular female artists have fared well in the First

From Sophia Bembo by sculptor Nikolaos Ikaris,

Section 4, Number 220
               To Marika Kotopoulou,  by sculptor  Klearchos Loukopoulos,

                            (plaza file)   Plaza, Number 83
To Eleni Papadaki, by sculptor Vangelis Moustakas,   here depicted as Regan in King Lear.

Section 1, Number 375
Sleeping Ladies
Sleeping ladies are a genre all by themselves. There are six in the First–all but one are apparently true likenesses and most are in the traditional, romantic mold. But the one (1926) on the tomb of the Tsevas family by sculptor Evangelos  Vrettos is startling: 

Section 5, Number 219
Rather than resting in peace, she looks wide awake and ready for action….

Generic Ladies

Classical figures are no surprise if you have read our section on Ancient Greece in the Cemetery. There are two lovely examples on the walkway leading to Agios Lazarus Church.
Ioannis Vitsaris’ symbol of justice:

Section One, Number 132

 And Georgios’ Vroutsos’  
and  Georgios Vroutsos’ symbol of Science:

Section One, Number 100 

The Mourning Figure

One of the most prevalent ladies in the cemetery is the Mourning Figure, whether angel or not.  Her portrayal is the most varied and has undergone the greatest transition over time although obe should never underestimate the tendency to return to earlier models in the First cemetery, so dating a work is not always easy.
This one on the Andropoulos tomb is by sculptor Iakovos Malakates, one of the first sculptors in the First cemetery:

Section 2, Number 122,
On the Mandelas family grave, above, all of the mourning ladies wear headscarves, a custom that lasted until well after the Second world war in much of Greece. (sculptor Klearchos Loukopoulos):

Section 14, Number 145

 A beautiful bas relief in Section 14 called in Greek "Ω ΔΕΣΠΟΙΝΑ ΜΟΥ" translates into  something like “my honoured lady” and has no other name. It is by sculptor  Praxitelis Tzanoulinos:  

 Section 5, Number 483

The beautiful Sophia Chelmi ‘s lady looks as if she has forgotten something or is following a discussion taking place just beyond our line of sight: 

Section 4, Number 64

This elegant figure on the Ioannis Charisiadis family tomb by sculptor  Giannakos is the perfect blend of classical, religious, and contemporary. It’s severe classical elements make a bare breasted angel completely acceptable and normal:

Section 14, Number 31

a detail
The tomb of the Liveriatos family by sculptor Georgios Bonanos takes the genre a step in another direction…

  Section 7, Number 41
 Her face may be rather ‘neutral’ but her presentation with short dress and legs apart, in spite of the hands holding the traditional cross and lamp, is frankly sensual: 

Of course Bonanos was  a genius and we might have considered that he took the mourning figure as far as it could go until coming upon the tomb of the Diamantopoulos family by sculptor Nikolaos Stergios:

Section 4, Number 313

Each lady in the First, idealized or real (and we have only scratched the surface), is well worth  a closer look as you get to know the cemetery better.

(1) In fact both figures on this monument were modeled on much earlier portraits which explains the old fashioned look. Or perhaps the family simply preferred that style.