Athens, June 2018

Athens, June 2018

Famous Greeks


Maria Callas - Callas, Maria, professional name of Maria Anna Sofia Cecilia Kalogeropoulos (1923-77), Greek-American soprano, the preeminent prima donna of her day, and the first modern soprano to revive forgotten operas of the bel canto repertoire. Born in New York City, she moved to Athens at age 13, where she studied at the Royal Conservatory in Athens and made her first major appearance there in 1941 as Tosca.

Vangelis Papathanassiou (Vangelis)
Vangelis is one of the most famous Greek singers, whose works have gained the broadest international recognition. His works are the soundtrack of the movie Chariots of Fire (won him an Oscar in 1982), as well as the soundrack for Bladerunner, Colombus, and even the music for many international athletic competitions (World Athletic Championship 1997, Hellenic Olympic Games Theme, etc.) and much much more.

Dr. George N. Papanicolaou, MD, the originator of the "Pap test" 1883 -- 1962 - Physiologist and microscopist, born in Kimi, Greece. He studied at Athens and Munich universities, and for most of his career was associated with Cornell Medical College, New York City. His research on reproductive physiology led him to discover that he could identify cancer cells in samples taken from the cervixes of women with cervical cancer. He subsequently pioneered the techniques, now called Papanicolaou's stain, or the pap smear, of routine microscopical examination of exfoliated cells for the early detection of cervical and other forms of cancer. 

Voula Papaioannou (1898-1990) began working as a photographer during the 1930s, concentrating at first on studies of landscapes, monuments and archaeological exhibits.The outbreak of war in 1940 marked a turning point in her career, as she was intensely affected by the suffering of the civilian population of Athens. Realising the power of her camera to arouse people’s conscience, she documented the troops departing for the front, the preparations for the war effort, and the care received by the first casualties. When the capital was in the grip of starvation, she revealed the horrors of war in her moving photographs of emaciated children.After the liberation, as a member of the photographic unit of UNRRA (United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration), she toured the ravaged Greek countryside recording the difficult living conditions faced by its inhabitants. She often exceeded her brief, immortalising the faces and personal stories of ordinary people in photographs that stressed dignity rather than suffering.During the 1950s Papaioannou's work expressed the optimism that prevailed in the aftermath of the war with respect to both the future of mankind and the restoration of traditional values. Nevertheless, her photographs of the historic Greek landscape are not in the least romantic, but instead portray it as harsh, barren, drenched in light, and its inhabitants proud and independent, despite their poverty.Voula Papaioannou's work represents the trend towards "humanitarian photography" that resulted from the abuse of human rights during the war. Her camera captured her compatriots' struggle for survival with respect, clarity, and a degree of personal involvement that transcends national boundaries and reinforces one’s faith in the strength of the common man and the intrinsic value of human life.  Info and photos from Benaki museum

Elli Souyioultzoglou-Seraïdari 
(Greek: Έλλη Σουγιουλτζόγλου-Σεραϊδάρη) b.1899 - d.1998 (better known as Nelly's) is one the most celebrated Greekphotographers of all time, and during the interwar period became one of the world's most celebrated female photographers. Her pictures of ancient Greek temples against sea and sky backgrounds, which were published by the first Greek ministries of tourism, shaped the first visual images of Greece in the Western mind. She was born in Aidini, Asia Minor, and after the 1922 expulsion of the ethnic Greeks of Asia Minor by the Turks following theGreco-Turkish war (1919-1922), she went to study photography in Germany, where she was elected to become pupil of the most famous German photographers of the era (Hugo Erfurth and Franz Fiedler). In 1924 she came to Greece, where she adopted a Hellenocentric and conservative approach to her work.

Venizelos, Eleutherios 1864 -- 1936 Greek statesman and prime minister (1910--15, 1917--20, 1924, 1928--32, 1933), born in Mourniés, Crete, Greece. He studied law in Athens, led the Liberal Party in the Cretan chamber of deputies, and took a prominent part in the Cretan rising against the Turks in 1896. As prime minister of Greece, he promoted the Balkan League against Turkey (1912) and Bulgaria (1913), and so extended the Greek kingdom. His sympathies with France and Britain at the outbreak of World War 1 clashed with those of King Constantine I, and caused Venizelos to establish a provisional rival government at Salonika, and in 1917 forced the king's abdication. He was heavily defeated in the general elections of 1920, but served three times more as prime minister before retiring. In 1935 he came out of retirement against the restoration of the monarchy, but failed to win support and fled eventually to Paris.  
Papandreou, Georgios 1888 -- 1968 Greek Republican statesman and prime minister (1944--5, 1963, 1964--5), born in Kaléntizi, Greece. A lawyer by training, he moved into politics, holding office in several administrations, including the brief period when the monarchy was temporarily removed (1923--5). He escaped during the German occupation, and returned in 1944 to head a coalition government, but was suspected by the army because of his Socialist credentials, and remained in office for only a few weeks. He then founded the Centre Union Party (1961), and returned as prime minister. A disagreement with King Constantine II led to his resignation, and in 1967, when a coup established a military regime, he was placed under house arrest.

Karamanlis, Konstantinos (also spelled Caramanlis) 1907 -- 1998 Greek statesman, prime minister (1955--63, 1974--80), and president (1980--5), born in Próti, Greece. A former lawyer, he was elected to parliament in 1935, became minister of public works (1952), then prime minister, and formed his own party, the National Radical Union. During his administration, Greece signed a Treaty of Alliance with Cyprus and Turkey. After his party's election defeat in 1963, he left politics and lived abroad, but returned to become premier again in 1974, when he supervised the restoration of civilian rule after the collapse of the military government. He then served as president.

Melina Merkouri was the woman who left her seal on the Hellenic Ministry of Culture during the 80's. Melina Merkouri, a world-famous actress, brave fighter of the resistance movement against the military regime (1967-1974), politician of an enormous radiance in Greece and abroad, Minister of Culture for eight and a half years (1981-1989 and October 1993-March 6, 1994). Still, above all she was a great Greek, a woman that was cherished and passionately loved by the Greek people. y using her own splendor and glamour, Melina Merkouri managed to make Culture part of the everyday lives of the Greek people, a front page story in the newspapers and big news in radio and television. During her years of office at the Ministry she raised the issue for the return of the Parthenon's marbles kept in the British Museum in London, to their rightful place, the Acropolis Museum. The Parthenon's marbles are the masterpieces that were stolen back in the beginning of 19th century by Lord Elgin, then the British ambassador to Constantinople (Istanbul), who mutilated the most resplendent monument of antiquity. Aware of the fact that the existing Acropolis Museum had not enough space to exhibit the marbles, Melina Merkouri started procedures for the construction of a new Museum that would operate keeping its most beautiful, most splendid room empty, waiting for the marbles' return to Greece, the land that gave birth to them. Moreover, it was she who envisioned the creation of a substantial cultural institution, the "Cultural Capital of Europe". The institution which was inaugurated ten years ago from Athens, is -up to now- the first and only event that culturally unites European countries. Melina Merkouri was the one who had said "Culture is Greece's heavy industry" and managed to make everyone amply aware of this. The Melina Merkouri Foundation, which was founded by her husband Jules Dassin after her death, keeps Melina Merkouri's visions alive.


Onassis, Aristotle (Socrates) 1906 -- 1975 Millionaire ship-owner, born in Smyrna, Turkey. Buying his first ships (1932--3), he built up one of the world's largest independent fleets, and was a pioneer in the construction of super-tankers. He was one of the biggest and most well known ship-owners in the world, and more specifically in the field of oil-tankers. In 1956, he established Olympic Airways airline, which he transferred to the Greek State in 1975, after having developed it into a private company serving the five continents. His first marriage, to Athena, daughter of Stavros Livanos, a Greek ship-owner, ended in divorce (1960). He then had a long relationship with Maria Callas, and in 1968 married Jacqueline Kennedy. 


Philip II (of Macedon) 382BC -- 336BC King of Macedon (359--336 BC), the father of Alexander the Great. He used his military and diplomatic skills first to create a powerful unified state at home (359--353 BC), then to make himself the master of the whole of independent Greece. His decisive victory at Chaeronea (338 BC) established Macedonian hegemony there for good. The planned Macedonian conquest of Persia, aborted by his assassination in 336 BC, was eventually carried out by his son.

Alexander the Great 356BC -- 323BC King of Macedonia. Born at Pella in 356 B.C. to the first wife of King Philip II of Macedonia. At age 20, Alexander became the king of Macedon, the leader of the Corinthian League, and the conqueror of Persia. He succeeded in forging the largest Western empire of the ancient world. As a teenager, Alexander was educated by the Athenian philosopher Aristotle. By the year 337 B.C. all of the Greek city-states had been conquered or forced into an alliance by King Philip II. He was planning to lead their joint forces in an invasion of the Persian Empire when he was assassinated in 336 B.C. at the wedding of Alexander's sister to the king of one his vassal states. Alexander succeeded to the throne of Macedonia at the age of 19

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