The birthplace of democracy, Greece probably has contributed to the western civilization more than any other country. With a rich legacy of being the founder of Olympic games, western literature, incredible discoveries, and inventions in all fields, the famous people from Greece have attained fame and success not only by doing a thorough research in complex studies, but also by making a difference to the society. Let's take a look at some of the notable people who, by their scientific discoveries, philosophies, accurate mathematical calculations, valor during battles, and their invaluable contribution in the domains of drama and music, did their bit to make the world a better place to live in.
One of the greatest Greek epic poets, Homer is famous for his poems, The Iliad and The Odyssey. The birth date of Homer is unknown but it is believed that he lived around 850 BC, according to the estimation that he was born 400 years before Herodotus. Often called the teacher of Greece, more than half of his writings comprised models in topics of persuasive eloquence and prolific writing that were referred by many during the ancient and medieval times in Greece.
Socrates (c. 469 BC - 399 BC) is regarded as one of the most influential philosophers of all time. Athens was considered as the capital of learning, where many philosophers and sophists would gather to discuss their findings in the fields of astronomy, geometry, and other varied subjects. Socrates himself never penned down his philosophies, hence precise information on his nature and way of thinking is available today only through the writings of his disciples, students, and contemporaries -- notably through Plato's dialogs. With a significant contribution to the Western philosophy, Socrates was sentenced to death by the democracy of Athens due to political opposition to his philosophies.
A student of Socrates, Plato (424/423 BC - 348/347 BC) was a Greek philosopher and a prolific writer of several philosophical dialogs. About 36 dialogs and 13 letters of his writings have been attributed to Socrates, while the other dialogs include teachings regarding various subjects, such as mathematics, philosophy, ethics, and logic. He founded the Academy (Platonic Academy) in Athens and is renowned as one of the founders of the Western philosophy. A popular myth about Socrates is that he was a figment of Plato's imagination; however, Socrates was a renowned philosopher in his own right.
A Greek philosopher, Aristotle (384 BC - 322 BC) is known for his contributions to mathematics, metaphysics, biology, and logic. Aristotle was a believer in experimentation, in contrast to his teacher Plato who believed in theory. Aristotle is also famous for disapproving Plato's theory of forms. As a polymath, he was the first person to distinguish human knowledge into areas, or sections of several subjects. He studied almost every subject available at that time, including geology, geography, mathematics, zoology, physics, and meteorology, and made significant contributions to the same. His crucial writings include Nicomachean Ethics, Politics, De Anima (On the Soul), Physics, and Metaphysics. He tutored teenage Alexander the Great until he was 16.
Alexander the Great
King of Macedon, Alexander III (20/21 July 356 - 10/11 June 323 BC) was born in Pella and is well-known as Alexander the Great. He is renowned even today for forming one of the largest empires of the ancient world. His empire extended from the Ionian Sea in the west to the Himalayas in the east. He was one of the most successful commanders and remained undefeated in battle till his death. He founded around 20 cities, which have been named in his honor; Alexandria in Egypt is the most prominent example.
Archimedes of Syracuse (c. 287 BC - c. 212 BC) was a Greek scientist specializing in the fields of mathematics, engineering, physics, and astronomy. His prominent contributions to physics include research in hydrostatics and the study of the principle of the lever. He is lauded for his discovery of one of the most important laws of physics, the Archimedes' principle. He is also revered as one of the greatest mathematicians, owing to the discoveries and inventions attributed to him. He is credited with successfully calculating the approximate value of pi and accurately finding the volume of a sphere.
Known as the "Father of Geometry", there is no concrete information available on Euclid's life, such as his exact time and place of birth and other events of his personal life. He is better known as the author of Elements and for his construction of a dodecahedron. Apart from Elements, five of his works have lasted in good condition till today. These include Data, On Divisions of Figures, Catoptrics, Optics, Phaenomena. Other works that have been credited to Euclid but are lost include Porisms, Conics, Pseudaria, and other works in the field of mechanics.
Hippocrates (c. 460 BC - c. 370 BC) was an ancient Greek doctor who is attributed to the formation of Hippocratic Oath, which is in practice even today. Widely regarded as the father of western medicine, Hippocrates played a prominent role in bringing forward the planned and taxonomic study of clinical medicine. He was the founder of the Hippocratic School of Medicine, which changed the face of medicine in ancient Greece. He thus pioneered medicine and health care as a profession.
Leonidas I (c. 540 BC - 480 BC) was a Greek king of Sparta and was famous for leading the Battle of Thermopylae. When Xerxes I of Persia invaded Greece, Leonidas was chosen to lead the defense army of Greece. He picked 300 Spartans, who played a crucial role in what is regarded as one of the greatest military feats till date. Most of the facts and figures related to Leonidas are attributed to the writings of Greek historian, Herodotus. As per Herodotus, the moment Leonidas realized that the Greeks were fighting a lost cause, he sent most of his army home and fought the battle till he was killed by the enemy.
Maria Amalia Mercouri (18 October 1920 - 6 March 1994) was a Greek actress who made her film debut in the 1955 movie Stella. As an actress she attained recognition and success through her film Never on Sunday, for which she won the Best Actress award at the 1960 Cannes Film Festival. She also rose to fame as a singer after lending her voice to the famous song Hartino to Fengaraki (Papermoon) in 1949. She was well-known for her involvement in politics, and in 1981 she became the first female to be appointed as Minister for Culture of Greece.
Stylianos Kazantzidis (August 29, 1931 - September 14, 2001) was a famous Greek singer of Laïkó (Greek music genre). He started making public appearances in the 1950s and recorded his first song I'm Going for a Swim in 1952. His life changed from the time he started composing with Vassilis Tsitsanis when he sang and popularized Tsitsanis' old songs. Kazantzidis was a regular at popular clubs, such as Theios and Mpertzeletos. He was a sensation in Israel with most of his songs being translated into Hebrew. Kazantzidis' contribution to Greek music was commemorated by releasing a Greek postage stamp in his honor.
YanniOther Notable Figures
Greek composer, self-taught pianist and keyboardist, Yiannis Hryssomàllis (b. November 14, 1954) studied arts and earned a degree in psychology before venturing into music in spite of not being able to read a single music note. Even today, he uses the musical shorthand he learned as a child for all his compositions, which mainly feature a blend of jazz, soft rock, contemporary, and classical. He received Grammy nominations for his albums Dare to Dream and In My Time in 1992 and 1993, respectively. His 1994 concert Yanni Live at the Acropolis is the second best-selling music video till date, selling 7 million albums globally.
» Pythagoras (philosopher, mathematician)
» El Greco (sculptor and painter)
» Saints Cyril and Methodius (invented the Cyrillic script)
» Phidias (Sculptor of Statue of Zeus at Olympia, formerly one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World)
» Sappho (lyric poet)
» Ptolemy I Soter (Founder of Ptolemaic Kingdom and the Ptolemaic Dynasty)
» Ioannis Kapodistrias (founder and first head of independent state of Greece)
» Yiannis (also Yannis or Giannis) Dritsas (inventor of Frappé coffee)
» Odysseas Elytis (awarded 1979 Nobel Prize in Literature)
» Giorgos Seferis (awarded 1963 Nobel Prize in Literature)
» Irene Skliva (Miss World 1996)
» Pyrros Dimas (retired weightlifter, won three Golds each at the Olympics and World Championships)
» Stelios Giannakopoulos (football player)
» Nikolaos Tselementes (chef)
» Spyros Skouras (former president of 20th Century Fox)
The monumental works by these people have inspired, and continue to do so for several scientists, philosophers, and people from the entertainment industry all over the world. With their laudable efforts continuing till date, it is safe to say that the list of famous people from Greece is thus, ceaseless.