Konstantinos Paparrigopoulos

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Konstantinos Paparrigopoulos (Κωνσταντίνος Παπαρρηγόπουλος) (1815-1891) was a 19th century Greek historian, considered the founder of modern Greek historiography. He analysed Greek history from ancient times to the present as a continuous history in his multi-volume History of the Greek Nation, and is also known for his original research in Byzantine history as well as in other fields of Greek studies.

His life

Paparrigopoulos was born in Constantinople in 1815. His father, a native of Gortyna, was killed by the rabble of Constantinople when the Greek War of Independence erupted in 1821. Paparrigopoulos not only saw this grisly spectacle, but he also attended the execution of his brother, Michael, and of his two uncles. His mother who survived the slaughters fled to Odessa, where Paparrigopoulos accomplished his studies as a bursar of the Tsar Alexander I.

In 1830 Paparrigopoulos travelled to Greece to study in the "Central School" (Κεντρικό Σχολείο) of Aegina, founded by the Greek leader Ioannis Kapodistrias. He continued his studies in France and Germany.

Returning to Greece, Paparrigopoulos was appointed in the ministry of Justice, but in 1845 was forced to quit as he did not yet possess Greek citizenship. He was reappointed as a teacher when he obtained the Greek citizenship (as a "Gortynian"). In 1851 he became a professor of history of the University of Athens.

In 1873 Paparrigopoulos lost his beloved son and famous poet, Dimitrios Paparrigopoulos. In 1890, he lost his daughter Elena and the following year he lost his wife.

Paparrigopoulos died on April 14, 1891.

His work

In 1843, while working in the Ministry of Justice, Paparrigopoulos published his first survey, On the emigration of Slav tribes in Peloponnese, contradicting with robust arguments the opinion put forth by Austro-German historian Jakob Fallmerayer that modern Greeks are of Slav descent, having no racial relation with the ancient Greeks. In 1844, he published his second survey, The last year of the Greek independence. In 1855 he gave his inaugural lecture as professor of the university, contradicting a theory that did not recognise the importance of the Dorian influence on the civilization of ancient Greece.

Nonetheless, his monumental writing is the History of the Greek nation, comprising 6 volumes, which were later complemented by Pavlos Karolidis. Paparrigopoulos published the first volume in 1860 and completed his work in 1877 with the last volume, which constituted a synopsis of the Greek War of Independence. The best edition of the History of the Greek nation is the edition of Eleftheroudakis in 1925 with the application of Karolidis. In this work he adopted the tripartite examination of periods already introduced by Spyros Zampelios (ancient Hellenism, medieval Hellenism, modern Hellenism) and used it as a tool for the narration of the course of the Greek nation throughout the centuries.

Assessments

In Greece, Paparrigopoulos is often considered as its greatest historian of modern times, because he was the first who, in his History of the Greek Nation, regarded the history of Greece from the ancient years till nowadays as a unity, insisting on the continuity of the Greek nation. At the same time he promoted the importance of the Byzantine Empire and its history in general, praising its accomplishments and dismissing the notion that it was a dark period.

The interpretation of Byzantium's Greek character in the work of Sp. Zampelios was the first step in the effort to refute Fallmerayer's theory. It was supported that the ancient Greek civilization had not faded away, but had been creatively reshaped as it met Christianity, which took place during the Byzantine Empire. With Zampelios then, the foundations were prepared in order for a total national history to be written, in order for the past, the continuous course of the Greek nation from antiquity till the 19th century, to be narrated. This ambitious project was undertaken and completed by Paparrigopoulos, who is considered for this reason the founder of Greek national historiography, also known as Greek historism.

Paparrigopoulos, as well as Sp. Zampelios set the basis for the formation of national identity in modern Greek society. Their work was not addressed to a closed and restricted circle of specialists and academics, it was addressed to the society of their times, in order to strengthen their national conscience. Paparrigopoulos' lectures at the University, which constituted the raw material for the writing of his memorable History, were frequently published in Pandora magazine, of which he was the co-publisher, as well as in the Athenian Press. The Megali Idea (Greek = Great Idea) which was nebulous until that time, was defined: The Byzantine Empire became the model for its territorial expansion of the small Greek state.

Another great virtue of Paparrigopoulos is the elegance of his style and his literary charisma, which makes his texts readable and his narrations particularly vivid. His elegance is the main merit that places him higher than the other great modern Greek historian, Pavlos Karolidis.

His writings

All his main writings are in Greek.

  • About the emigration of Slav tribes in Peloponnese, 1843.
  • The last year of the Greek independence, 1844.
  • Elements of General History, 1845.
  • General History, 2 volumes, 1849.
  • Introductory lesson, 1855.
  • History of the Hellenic nation, 6 volumes, 1860-1877.

References

  • C. Paparrigopoulos (and in later editions, P. Karolidis), History of the Greek Nation, Volume I, Biography of Constantine Paparrigopoulos by Pavlos Karolidis, Editions: Eleftheroudakis, 1925 (in Greek).
  • Encyclopaedic Dictionary, The Helios, Volume 15, article: "Constantine Paparrigopoulos" (in Greek).

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