Modern Greek Enlightenment

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Hermes o Logios , Greek literary magazine of the 18th and 19th century. Hermes the scholar.jpg
Hermes o Logios , Greek literary magazine of the 18th and 19th century.

The Modern Greek Enlightenment (Greek : Διαφωτισμός, Diafotismos, "enlightenment," "illumination") was the Greek expression of the Age of Enlightenment.

Greek language language spoken in Greece, Cyprus and Southern Albania

Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages, native to Greece, Cyprus and other parts of the Eastern Mediterranean and the Black Sea. It has the longest documented history of any living Indo-European language, spanning more than 3000 years of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the major part of its history; other systems, such as Linear B and the Cypriot syllabary, were used previously. The alphabet arose from the Phoenician script and was in turn the basis of the Latin, Cyrillic, Armenian, Coptic, Gothic, and many other writing systems.

Age of Enlightenment European cultural movement of the 18th century

The Age of Enlightenment was an intellectual and philosophical movement that dominated the world of ideas in Europe during the 18th century, the "Century of Philosophy".



The Greek Enlightenment was given impetus by the Greek predominance in trade and education in the Ottoman Empire. Greek merchants financed a large number of young Greeks to study in universities in Italy and the German states. There they were introduced to the ideas of the Enlightenment and the French Revolution. [1] It was the wealth of the extensive Greek merchant class that provided the material basis for the intellectual revival that was the prominent feature of Greek life in the half century and more leading to 1821. It was not by chance that on the eve of the Greek War of Independence the most important centres of Greek learning, schools-cum-universities, were situated in Ioannina, Chios, Smyrna (Izmir) and Ayvalik, all major centres of Greek commerce. [2]

Ottoman Empire Former empire in Asia, Europe and Africa

The Ottoman Empire, historically known in Western Europe as the Turkish Empire or simply Turkey, was a state that controlled much of Southeast Europe, Western Asia and North Africa between the 14th and early 20th centuries. It was founded at the end of the 13th century in northwestern Anatolia in the town of Söğüt by the Oghuz Turkish tribal leader Osman I. After 1354, the Ottomans crossed into Europe, and with the conquest of the Balkans, the Ottoman beylik was transformed into a transcontinental empire. The Ottomans ended the Byzantine Empire with the 1453 conquest of Constantinople by Mehmed the Conqueror.

Merchant businessperson who trades in commodities that were produced by others

A merchant is a person who trades in commodities produced by other people. Historically, a merchant is anyone who is involved in business or trade. Merchants have operated for as long as industry, commerce, and trade have existed. During the 16th-century, in Europe, two different terms for merchants emerged: One term, meerseniers, described local traders such as bakers, grocers, etc.; while a new term, koopman (Dutch: koopman, described merchants who operated on a global stage, importing and exporting goods over vast distances, and offering added-value services such as credit and finance.

Holy Roman Empire varying complex of lands that existed from 962 to 1806 in Central Europe

The Holy Roman Empire was a multi-ethnic complex of territories in Western and Central Europe that developed during the Early Middle Ages and continued until its dissolution in 1806 during the Napoleonic Wars. The largest territory of the empire after 962 was the Kingdom of Germany, though it also came to include the neighboring Kingdom of Bohemia, the Kingdom of Burgundy, the Kingdom of Italy, and numerous other territories.

Role of the Phanariotes

The Phanariotes were a small caste of Greek families who took their collective name from the Phanar quarter of Constantinople where the Ecumenical Patriarchate is still housed. They held various administrative posts within the Ottoman Empire, the most important of which were those of hospodar, or prince, of the Danubian principalities of Moldavia and Wallachia. Most hospodars acted as patrons of Greek culture, education, and printing. These academies attracted teachers and pupils from throughout the Orthodox commonwealth, and there was some contact with intellectual trends in Habsburg central Europe. For the most part they supported the Ottoman system of government, too much to play a significant part in the emergence of the Greek national movement; however, their support of learning produced many highly educated Greek scholars who benefited from the cosmopolitan environment the Phanariotes cultivated in their principalities. [3]


Phanariotes, Phanariots, or Phanariote Greeks were members of prominent Greek families in Phanar, the chief Greek quarter of Constantinople where the Ecumenical Patriarchate is located, who traditionally occupied four important positions in the Ottoman Empire: Grand Dragoman, Grand Dragoman of the Fleet, Hospodar of Moldavia, and Hospodar of Wallachia. Despite their cosmopolitanism and often-Western education, the Phanariotes were aware of their Hellenism; according to Nicholas Mavrocordatos' Philotheou Parerga, "We are a race completely Hellenic".

Constantinople capital city of the Eastern Roman or Byzantine Empire, the Latin and the Ottoman Empire

Constantinople was the capital city of the Roman Empire (330–395), of the Byzantine Empire, and also of the brief Crusader state known as the Latin Empire (1204–1261), until finally falling to the Ottoman Empire (1453–1923). It was reinaugurated in 324 from ancient Byzantium as the new capital of the Roman Empire by Emperor Constantine the Great, after whom it was named, and dedicated on 11 May 330. The city was located in what is now the European side and the core of modern Istanbul.

Hospodar or gospodar is a term of Slavonic origin, meaning "lord" or "master".

This environment was in general a special attraction for young, ambitious and educated Greek people from the Ottoman Empire, contributing to their national enlightenment. The Princely Academies of Bucharest and Iasi also played a crucial role in this movement. Characteristically the authors of the Geographia Neoteriki , one of the most remarkable works of that era, Daniel Philippidis and Grigorios Konstantas, were both educated in this environment. [4] [5]

The Princely Academy of Bucharest was an institution of higher education, active from the end of the 17th century to the beginning of the 19th century.

<i>Geographia Neoteriki</i> book by Grigorios Konstantas

Geographia Neoteriki is a geography book written in Greek by Daniel Philippidis and Grigorios Konstantas and printed in Vienna in 1791. It focused on both the physical and human geography features of the European continent and especially on Southeastern Europe, and is considered one of the most remarkable works of the modern Greek Enlightenment. The authors of the Geographia Neoteriki adopted new geographical methodologies for that time, which were primarily based on personal examination of the described areas and used as sources a number of contemporary European handbooks.

Daniel Philippidis was a Greek scholar, figure of the modern Greek Enlightenment and member of the patriotic organization Filiki Etaireia. He was one of the most active scholars of the Greek diaspora in the Danubian Principalities and Western Europe. Philippidis mainly wrote geographical and historical works as well as translated important handbooks of science and philosophy.


One effect was the creation of an atticized form of Greek by linguistic purists, which was adopted as the official language of the state and came to be known as Katharevousa (purified). This created diglossia in the Greek linguistic sphere, in which Katharevousa and the vernacular idiom known as Dimotiki were in conflict until the latter half of the 20th century. [1]

Attic Greek Ancient Greek dialect

Attic Greek is the Greek dialect of the ancient city-state of Athens. Of the ancient dialects, it is the most similar to later Greek and is the standard form of the language that is studied in ancient Greek language courses. Attic Greek is sometimes included in the Ionic dialect. Together, Attic and Ionic are the primary influences on Modern Greek.

Katharevousa is a conservative form of the Modern Greek language conceived in the late 18th century as a compromise between Ancient Greek and the Demotic Greek of the time. Originally, it was widely used both for literary and official purposes, though seldom in daily language. In the 20th century, it was increasingly adopted for official and formal purposes, until minister of education Georgios Rallis made Demotic Greek the official language of Greece in 1976, and later in 1982 Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou abolished the polytonic system of writing both for Demotic and Katharevousa.

Diglossia situation in which two dialects or languages are used by a single language community

In linguistics, diglossia is a situation in which two dialects or languages are used by a single language community. In addition to the community's everyday or vernacular language variety, a second, highly codified lect is used in certain situations such as literature, formal education, or other specific settings, but not used normally for ordinary conversation. In most cases, the H variety has no native speakers.

The transmission of Enlightenment ideas into Greek thought also influenced the development of a national consciousness. The publication of the journal Hermes o Logios encouraged the ideas of the Enlightenment. The journal's objective was to advance Greek science, philosophy and culture. Two of the main figures of the Greek Enlightenment, Rigas Feraios and Adamantios Korais, encouraged Greek nationalists to pursue contemporary political thought. [6]

<i>Hermes o Logios</i>

Hermes o Logios, also known as Logios Ermis was a Greek periodical printed in Vienna, Austria, from 1811 to 1821. It is regarded as the most significant and longest running periodical of the period prior to the outbreak of the Greek War of Independence, containing contributions by key scholars and intellectuals. Hermes o Logios aimed at creating intellectual contacts between the Greek communities of the Ottoman Empire and the Diaspora in Western Europe, as well as the preparing national awakening of the Greek people.

Rigas Feraios Greek philosopher

Rigas Feraios or Velestinlis ) ; 1757 – 24 June 1798) was a Greek writer, political thinker and revolutionary, active in the Modern Greek Enlightenment, remembered as a Greek national hero, a victim of the Balkan uprising against the Ottoman Empire and a pioneer of the Greek War of Independence.

Adamantios Korais Greek humanist scholar

Adamantios Korais or Koraïs was a Greek scholar credited with laying the foundations of Modern Greek literature and a major figure in the Greek Enlightenment. His activities paved the way for the Greek War of Independence and the emergence of a purified form of the Greek language, known as Katharevousa. Encyclopædia Britannica asserts that "his influence on the modern Greek language and culture has been compared to that of Dante on Italian and Martin Luther on German".

Greek Enlightenment concerned not only language and the humanities but also the sciences. Some scholars such as Methodios Anthrakites, Evgenios Voulgaris, Athanasios Psalidas, Balanos Vasilopoulos and Nikolaos Darbaris had a background in Mathematics and the Physical Sciences and published scientific books into Greek for use in Greek schools. Rigas Feraios also published an Anthology of Physics.

Notable people and societies

See also

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Fener Quarter in Marmara, Turkey

Fener is a quarter midway up the Golden Horn within the district of Fatih in Istanbul, Turkey. The streets in the area are full of historic wooden mansions, churches, and synagogues dating from the Byzantine and Ottoman eras. The wooden mansions between the main axis and the shore were often used for importing wood from Pontus or the Black Sea area. Their picturesque facades were largely destroyed due to street widening requirements in the 1930s and later.The area's name is a Turkish transliteration of the original Greek φανάριον It was so called for a column topped with a lantern which stood there in the Byzantine period – used as a public light or marine and/or other purpose locator/beacon.

Filiki Eteria organization

Filiki Eteria or Society of Friends was a secret organization founded in 1814 in Odessa, whose purpose was to overthrow the Ottoman rule of Greece and establish an independent Greek state. Society members were mainly young Phanariot Greeks from Constantinople and the Russian Empire, local political and military leaders from the Greek mainland and islands, as well as several Orthodox Christian leaders from other nations that were under Hellenic influence, such as Karađorđe from Serbia Tudor Vladimirescu from Romania, and Arvanite military commanders. One of its leaders was the prominent Phanariote Prince Alexander Ypsilantis. The Society initiated the Greek War of Independence in the spring of 1821.

Theophilos Kairis Priest, revolutionary

Theophilos Kairis was a Greek priest, philosopher and revolutionary. He was born in Andros, Cyclades, Ottoman Greece, as a son of a distinguished family.

First National Assembly at Epidaurus

The First National Assembly of Epidaurus was the first meeting of the Greek National Assembly, a national representative political gathering of the Greek revolutionaries.

Anthimos Gazis Greek philosopher

Anthimos Gazis or Gazes was a Greek scholar, revolutionary and politician. He was born in Milies (Thessaly) in Ottoman Greece in 1758 into a family of modest means. In 1774 he became a deacon; his career later brought him to Constantinople where he was promoted to archimandrite. He left for Vienna in 1789, where he preached at the Church of Saint George, while simultaneously pursuing his academic interests. His efforts to promote education in Greece through the Filomousos Eteria, translation work and contributions to the first Greek philological periodical, Hermes o Logios, played a significant role in the development of the Greek Enlightenment.


The Ypsilantis were a Greek Phanariote family which grew into prominence and power in Constantinople during the last centuries of Ottoman Empire and gave several short-reign hospodars to the Danubian Principalities. The family was originally from the southern coast of Black Sea.

Neophytos Doukas Greek philosopher

Neophytos Doukas or Dukas was a Greek priest and scholar, author of a large number of books and translations from ancient Greek works, and one of the most important personalities of the modern Greek Enlightenment (Diafotismos) during the Ottoman occupation of Greece. His contributions to Greek education have been neglected because of the traditional ideas he advocated concerning the Greek language question.

Athanasios Parios was a Greek hieromonk who was a notable theologian, philosopher, educator, and hymnographer of his time, and one of the "Teachers of the Nation" during the Modern Greek Enlightenment. He was the second leader of the Kollyvades Movement, succeeding Neophytos Kausokalyvites (1713–1784). He also authored the lives of various saints. Athanasios was born in Kostos, a small village of Paros, in the year 1722 and died in Chios in 1813. He is commemorated by the Greek Orthodox Church on June 24.

Background of the Greek War of Independence

The Fall of Constantinople in 1453 and the subsequent fall of the successor states of the Eastern Roman Empire marked the end of Byzantine sovereignty. Since then, the Ottoman Empire ruled the Balkans and Anatolia, although there were some exceptions: the Ionian Islands were under Venetian rule, and Ottoman authority was challenged in mountainous areas, such as Agrafa, Sfakia, Souli, Himara and the Mani Peninsula. Orthodox Christians were granted some political rights under Ottoman rule, but they were considered inferior subjects. The majority of Greeks were called rayas by the Turks, a name that referred to the large mass of subjects in the Ottoman ruling class. Meanwhile, Greek intellectuals and humanists who had migrated west before or during the Ottoman invasions began to compose orations and treatises calling for the liberation of their homeland. In 1463, Demetrius Chalcondyles called on Venice and “all of the Latins” to aid the Greeks against the Ottomans, he composed orations and treatises calling for the liberation of Greece from what he called “the abominable, monstrous, and impious barbarian Turks.” In the 17th century, Greek scholar Leonardos Philaras spent much of his career in persuading Western European intellectuals to support Greek independence. However, Greece was to remain under Ottoman rule for several more centuries. In the 18th and 19th century, as revolutionary nationalism grew across Europe—including the Balkans —the Ottoman Empire's power declined and Greek nationalism began to assert itself, with the Greek cause beginning to draw support not only from the large Greek merchant diaspora in both Western Europe and Russia but also from Western European Philhellenes. This Greek movement for independence, was not only the first movement of national character in Eastern Europe, but also the first one in a non-Christian environment, like the Ottoman Empire.

Eugenios Voulgaris Greek Orthodox bishop

Eugenios Voulgaris or Boulgaris was a Greek scholar, prominent Greek Orthodox educator, and bishop of Kherson. Writing copiously on theology, philosophy and the sciences, he disseminated western European thought throughout the Greek and eastern Christian world, and was a leading contributor to the Modern Greek Enlightenment.

The Fourth National Assembly at Argos was a Greek convention which sat at Argos from 11 July to 6 August 1829, during the Greek War of Independence.

Evangelical School of Smyrna

The Evangelical School was a Greek educational institution established in 1733 in Smyrna, Ottoman Empire, now Izmir, Turkey. The school, initially an Orthodox Church-approved institution, attracted major figures of the Modern Greek Enlightenment. During the late 19th-early 20th century it became the most important Greek school in the city, possessing an archaeological museum, a natural science collection and a library, which contained some 50,000 volumes and 180 manuscripts. The Evangelical School ceased its operation in 1922. It currently serves as a Turkish school.

<i>Hellenic Nomarchy</i>

Hellenic Nomarchy was a pamphlet written by "Anonymous the Greek" published and printed in Italy in 1806. It advocated the ideals of freedom, social justice and equality as the main principles of a well-governed society, making it the most important theoretical monument of Greek republicanism. Its author, arguing for both social autonomy and national sovereignty, supported the Greek struggle for national liberation and turned to the moral greatness of ancient Greece in order to stimulate collective pride. Although this work was widely read by Greeks before the outbreak of the Greek War of Independence in 1821, from its first appearance it was received with discomfort by contemporary scholars, and generated debates on the identity of its author.

Modern Greek literature

Modern Greek literature refers to literature written in common Modern Greek, emerging from the late Byzantine era in the 11th century AD. During this period, spoken Greek became more prevalent in the written tradition, as demotic Greek came to be used more and more over the Attic idiom and the katharevousa reforms.

Some Serbs joined the Greeks, their co-religionists, in the Greek War of Independence (1821–29). Volunteers arrived from Serbia, Montenegro, and territories still under Ottoman rule, to fight alongside the Greek rebels against the Ottoman Empire. Several of the volunteers were veterans of the Serbian Revolution, such as Hadži-Prodan,

Theoklitos Farmakidis Greek cleric and news writer

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  1. 1 2 Encyclopædia Britannica, Greek history, Intellectual Revival, 2008 ed.
  2. Encyclopædia Britannica, Greek history, The mercantile middle class, 2008 ed.
  3. Encyclopædia Britannica, Greek history, Transformation toward emancipation, The Phanariotes, 2008 ed.
  4. Kopeček, Michal (2006). Discourses of collective identity in Central and Southeast Europe (1770–1945): texts and commentaries. Central European University Press. pp. 73–79. ISBN   978-963-7326-52-3.
  5. Sussex, Roland; John Christopher, Eade (1985). Culture and nationalism in nineteenth-century Eastern Europe. Slavica Publishers. p. 8. ISBN   978-0-89357-146-7.
  6. M. Kitromilides, Paschalis (1979). The Dialectic of Intolerance: Ideological Dimensions of Ethnic Conflict. Journal of the Hellnice Diaspora. p. 4.

Further reading