Modern Greek Enlightenment

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

The Modern Greek Enlightenment (Greek: Διαφωτισμός, Diafotismos, "enlightenment," "illumination"; also known as the Neo-Hellenic Enlightenment[1]) was the Greek expression of the Age of Enlightenment. Greek Enlightenment was an intellectual and philosophical movement that occurred in the Greek community. Most of the Greek people were scattered all over the Ottoman Empire. Some lived on the Ionian Islands, Venice, and other parts of Italy. One of the early proponents of Greek Independence was Leonardos Philaras ironically the Modern Greek enlightenment began shortly after his death. There were constant uprisings throughout the Ottoman Empire countless Greeks lived in Venice and fought for the Venetian Empire against the Ottomans. Some Greek painters living in Venice who fought in the war included: Victor (painter), Philotheos Skoufos, and Panagiotis Doxaras.[2][3] Greek painting dramatically shifted during the Modern Greek Enlightenment. The traditional Byzantine Venetian style that was prevalent in the Cretan School faded in the Heptanese School. Painters such as Doxaras drastically shifted the traditional style. He integrated oil painting, replacing the egg tempera technique.[4][5][6][7][8]

The educational center for the Greek community was Italy where many of the priests were educated and the leadership of the Rum Millet was controlled by Orthodox Christian priests. The education of the Greek community was subjugated by a strict observance of Kordalism which was taught by priests and sanctioned by the Catholic and Orthodox Church's. Korydalism was created by Theophilos Corydalleus and it followed Aristotle and Plato's secular philosophical teachings.[9] A central figure in the schism from Kordalism was Methodios Anthrakites who fought to introduce updated European philosophical thought to Greek education. He was persecuted in Constantinople by the church fathers and a debate ensued among Greek scholars during the later part of the 18th century to change education. Nonetheless, Greek priest and astronomer Chrysanthus of Jerusalem had an active relationship with Giovanni Domenico Cassini.[10][11][12]

The American War of Independence sent shockwaves throughout the world and most people demanded liberty or death. Between the date of American independence and the dawn of the Greek War of Independence roughly eleven countries fought for independence beginning with the French War of Independence and eventually The Pamphlet of Rigas Feraios was published in 1797. The pamphlet was an instrument to awaken Greek national consciousness which led to the Greek War of Independence. Another important pamphlet was Hellenic Nomarchy published in 1806 and advocated the ideals of freedom, social justice, and social equality for the Greek people. By 1814, the Filiki Eteria (Society of Friends) formed in Odessa, whose purpose was to overthrow the Ottoman rule of Greece and establish an independent Greek State. Another society called the Philomuse Society was formed with the aim of educating the Greeks and promoting philhellenism.[13]

Eventually, the Greek community fought in the Greek War of Independence for roughly nine years. By the 1830s, the enlightenment struggle continued and the Greek community established a state that was still overshadowed by Orthodox ecclesiastical aristocracy. Orthodox priest Neophytos Vamvas was the dean of the scientific and philosophical school of Athens. Eventually for the proliferation of the people a secular state was preferred and Otto of Greece was elected King. Greek academics studied in Germany and France and a German educational system was implemented in Greece. The major new architecture of Athens was Neoclassical in nature and was a defining characteristic of the Greek Enlightenment and Greek painters represented the Munich School. The Enlightenment movement continued with news of continued Greek oppression among the Greek community living in the Ottoman Empire.[14][15]

Greek Women of Souli Running to Their Death (Dance of Zalongo)

Regrettably, slavery still overshadowed the Greek people living in the empire. The Greek slave movement began in the United States with Garafilia Mohalbi and people learned about the horrors of Greek slavery.[16][17] Eventually Hiram Powers sculpted The Greek Slave statue which was exhibited all over the world. The Dance of Zalongo also became a popular movement in art during the Greek Enlightenment and reminded people of the mass suicide of roughly 60 women and children from a cliff in Zalongo in 1803 to avoid capture, enslavement, rape and lifelong torture by Ottoman forces during the Souliote War (1803). The Ottomans implemented the Tanzimat reforms to slow nationalistic sentiment but Greek oppression continued until they were fully liberated and wars ensued for over 100 years. Rhodes, together with the other islands of the Dodecanese, were united with Greece in February 1947.


The Greek Enlightenment was given impetus by the Greek predominance in trade and education in the Ottoman Empire. This allowed Greek merchants to finance 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.[18] 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 epicenters of Greek learning, i.e. schools-cum-universities, were situated in Ioannina, Chios, Smyrna (Izmir) and Ayvalık (Kydonies), were also Greek commercial centers.[19]

Role of the Phanariotes[edit]

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.[20]

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.[21][22]


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.[18]

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.[23]

The 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.


The Greek Enlightenment also included the art of the Heptanese School. Notable artists of the Greek Enlightenment in art include: Panagiotis Doxaras, Nikolaos Doxaras, Nikolaos Kantounis, Nikolaos Koutouzis and Gerasimos Pitsamanos. Greek art began to diverge from the traditional Maniera Greca drastically migrating to the Venetian Maniera Italiana. The art began to exhibit its own style. Greek painting eras include the Greek Rocco, Greek Neoclassicism and Greek Romanticism. The movements carried Greek artists into the era of Modern Greek Art. Most historians refer to this period as the Neo Hellenikos Diafotismos in painting.

There were many artists associated with the era that were not from the Ionian Islands. These artists were in different parts of the Ottoman Empire or Venetian Empire. Some artists were active in the Cyclades such Christodoulos Kalergis and Emmanuel Skordilis. Ioannis Koronaros migrated from Crete to Egypt and finally settled in Cyprus. Although the Cretan Renaissance ended, there were still few active workshops on the island. Many of these artists belonged to the Neo Hellinkos Diafotismos.

The Modern Greek Enlightenment in Art did not only belong to the Heptanese School but all of the Greek communities or the so-called ancestors of Ancient Greek Civilization. This group lived throughout what is now considered modern Greece. There were also countless Greek artists active in Constantinople, now called Istanbul. Research is constantly underway by the Neohellenic Institute, hundreds of Greek painters and other artists have been cataloged from the 15th century until the Greek War of Independence.

Notable people and societies[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Patiniotis M. (2015) "Neo-Hellenic Enlightenment: In Search of a European Identity," in Arabatzis T., Renn J., Simões A. (eds), Relocating the History of Science. Boston Studies in the Philosophy and History of Science, vol 312. Springer, Cham.
  2. ^ Speake 2021, p. 443.
  3. ^ Hatzidakis 1987, p. 191.
  4. ^ Speake 2021, pp. 64, 190, 198, 242, 335, 406 478, 480, 481, 547, 548, 630–631, 649, 683, 692–694, 718, 736, 766–767, 779, 796, 865.
  5. ^ Drakopoulou 2010, pp. 272–274.
  6. ^ Kitromilides 2013, pp. 1–60.
  7. ^ Ricks & Beaton 2016, pp. 1–16.
  8. ^ Pizanias 2020, pp. 124–174.
  9. ^ Speake 2021, pp. 405–406.
  10. ^ Plested 2012, pp. 161–162.
  11. ^ McGuckin 2011, pp. 364–365.
  12. ^ Israel 2006, pp. 321–322.
  13. ^ Speake 2021, p. 1264.
  14. ^ Savaidou 2010, p. 50.
  15. ^ Stefanidou 1952, p. 62-66.
  16. ^ Staff Writers (September 8, 1829). "The Slave Market at Constantinople" (PDF). Vermont Gazette Volume 20 No 39 September 8, 1829 Page 1. Genealogy Bank. Archived (PDF) from the original on March 6, 2024. Retrieved March 26, 2024.
  17. ^ Demetrios Constantinos Andrianis (October 21, 2022). "Greek Slave Movement". Archived from the original on March 27, 2024. Retrieved March 27, 2024.
  18. ^ a b Encyclopædia Britannica, Greek history, Intellectual Revival, 2008 ed.
  19. ^ Encyclopædia Britannica, Greek history, The mercantile middle class, 2008 ed.
  20. ^ Encyclopædia Britannica, Greek history, Transformation toward emancipation, The Phanariotes, 2008 ed.
  21. ^ 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.
  22. ^ Sussex, Roland; John Christopher, Eade (1985). Culture and nationalism in nineteenth-century Eastern Europe. Slavica Publishers. p. 8. ISBN 978-0-89357-146-7.
  23. ^ M. Kitromilides, Paschalis (1979). The Dialectic of Intolerance: Ideological Dimensions of Ethnic Conflict. Journal of the Hellnice Diaspora. p. 4. Archived from the original on 2013-10-22. Retrieved 2011-02-07.


  • McGuckin, John Anthony, ed. (2011). "Philosophy". The Encyclopedia of Eastern Orthodox Christianity. A-M. Vol. 1. West Sussex, United Kingdom: Wiley Blackwell. ISBN 978-1-118-75933-2. Retrieved March 26, 2024.

Further reading[edit]

  • Dimitris Michalopoulos, "Aristotle vs Plato. The Balkans' Paradoxical Enlightenment", Bulgarian Journal of Science and Education Policy (BJSEP), 1 (2007), pp. 7–15. ISSN 1313-1958.
  • Anna Tabaki, "Enlightenment", Encyclopedia of Greece and the Hellenic Tradition, Editor Graham Speake, Volume vol.1 A-K, Fitzroy Dearborn Publishers, London-Chicago, 2000, pp. 547–551.
  • Anna Tabaki, "Greece", Encyclopedia of the Enlightenment, Alan Charles Kors Editor in Chief, Volume 2, Oxford University Press, 2003, pp. 157–160.
  • Anna Tabaki,[1]
  • Anna Tabaki, "Les Lumières néo-helléniques. Un essai de définition et de périodisation", The Enlightenment in Europe, Les Lumières en Europe, Aufklärung in Europa. Unity and Diversity, Unité et Diversité, Einheit und Vielfalt. Edited by /édité par / hrsg. von Werner Schneiders avec l’introduction générale de Roland Mortier, [European Science Foundation] Concepts et Symboles du Dix-huitième Siècle Européen, Concepts and Symbols of the Eighteenth Century in Europe, BWV • Berliner Wissenschafts - Verlag, 2003, pp. 45–56.