28 March 1884|
19 June 1951 (aged 67)|
Angelos Sikelianos (Greek: Άγγελος Σικελιανός; 28 March 1884 – 19 June 1951) was a Greek lyric poet and playwright. His themes include Greek history, religious symbolism as well as universal harmony in poems such as The Moonstruck, Prologue to Life, Mother of God, and Delphic Utterance. His plays include Sibylla, Daedalus in Crete, Christ in Rome, The Death of Digenis, The Dithyramb of the Rose and Asklepius. Although occasionally his grandiloquence blunts the poetic effect of his work, some of Sikelianos finer lyrics are among the best in Western literature. In the six years from 1946 until 1951, he was nominated for the Nobel Prize for Literature.
In the course of the following years he traveled extensively and devoted himself to poetry. In 1907, he married the American Eva Palmer in America; the couple moved to Athens in 1908. During that period, Sikelianos came in contact with Greek intellectuals, and in 1909 he published his first collection of poems, Alafroískïotos (The Moonstruck), which had an immediate impact and was recognized by critics as an important work.
He also befriended fellow writer Nikos Kazantzakis, and in 1914 they spent forty days on Mount Athos, visiting most of the monasteries there and living the life of ascetics. The following year they embarked on a pilgrimage through Greece. The two writers were kindred spirits, but also very different in their respective views on life. Sikelianos was a man of the world, full of optimism, and with a steadfast faith in his abilities as a writer. Kazantzakis was the taciturn and reclusive counterpart who was doubt-ridden, and had, as he himself admitted, a tendency to focus on the skull behind the face. Together, however, they shared the mutual concern of attempting to refine and elevate the human spirit through artistic pursuits.
The Delphic Festivals
In May 1927, with the support of his wife, Eva Palmer-Sikelianos, Sikelianos held the Delphic Festival as part of his general effort towards a revival of the "Delphic Idea". Sikelianos believed that the principles which had shaped classical civilisation, if reexamined, could offer spiritual independence and serve as a mean of communication among people. The event consisted of athletic contests (in classical fashion, reminiscent of the Pythian Games) a concert of Byzantine music, an exhibition of folk art as well as a performance of Prometheus Bound. The Delphic Festivals were acclaimed by critics (many of them invited to attend) and despite a lack of state assistance, they were repeated three years later. The revival was then permanently abandoned due to the excessive organization costs. In honor of the memory of Angelos and Eva Sikelianos, the European Cultural Centre of Delphi bought and restored their house in Delphi, which is today the Museum of Delphic Festivals.
Eva Palmer left for the United States, and Sikelianos married Anna Karamani.
During the German occupation, he became a source of inspiration to the Greek people, especially through his speech and poem that he recited at the funeral of the poet Kostis Palamas. It was he who composed the letter which was spearheaded by Archbishop Damaskinos to save the lives of Greek Jews by appealing directly to the Germans. The letter was signed by many prominent Greek citizens in defense of the Jews who were being persecuted. There is no similar document of protest against Nazi occupiers during World War II that has come to light in any other European country.
Sikelianos suffered from a chronic disease[clarification needed] for several years; he died accidentally on June 19, 1951 in Athens from inadvertently drinking Lysol after having requested Nujol (a medicine). He was buried in the First Cemetery of Athens.
Sikelianos published his poetic work in three volumes in 1946 and 1947. The collection's title was "Lyric Life". He left, however, several poems unpublished. In 1965 G.P. Savvides, a leading Greek philologist, started to publish the entire poetic work of Sikelianos, which finally comprised five volumes.
- Encyclopædia Britannica - Angelos Sikelianós
- Encyclopædia Britannica, Angelos Sikelianos biography, Britannica.com
- Margie Burns "Archbishop Damaskinos" The International Raoul Wallenberg Foundation
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