Dionysios Solomos image
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Born in April 8, 1798 / Died in February 9, 1857 / Greece / Greek


Other info : Bibliography

Dionysios Solomos was a Greek poet from Zakynthos. He is best known for writing the Hymn to Liberty (Greek: Ὕμνος εἰς τὴν Ἐλευθερίαν, Ýmnos eis tīn Eleutherían), of which the first two stanzas, set to music by Nikolaos Mantzaros, became the Greek national anthem in 1865. He was the central figure of the Heptanese School of poetry, and is considered the national poet of Greece—not only because he wrote the national anthem, but also because he contributed to the preservation of earlier poetic tradition and highlighted its usefulness to modern literature. Other notable poems include Ὁ Κρητικός (Τhe Cretan), Ἐλεύθεροι Πολιορκημένοι (The Free Besieged) and others. A characteristic of his work is that no poem except the Hymn to Liberty was completed, and almost nothing was published during his lifetime. Born in 1798, Dionysios Solomos was the illegitimate child of a wealthy count, Nikolaos Solomos, and his housekeeper, Angeliki Nikli. Nikolaos Solomos was of Cretan origin; his family were Cretan refugees who settled on Zakynthos in 1670 after Crete's conquest by the Ottoman Empire in 1669. The Italian version of the family name is recorded as: Salamon, Salomon, Solomon, and Salomone.[1] It is possible that his mother Angeliki Nikli came from the region of Mani.[2] Count Nikolaos Solomos was legally married to Marnetta Kakni, who died in 1802. From that marriage, he had two children: Roberto and Elena. Since 1796, Nikolaos Solomos had a parallel relationship with his housekeeper Angeliki Nikli, who gave birth to one more son apart from Dionysios, Dimitrios (born in 1801). His father married Dionysios' mother a day before he died on 27 February 1807, making the young Dionysios legitimate and a co-heir to the count's estate, along with his half-brother. The poet spent his childhood years on Zakynthos until 1808, under the supervision of his Italian tutor, abbot Santo Rossi. After his father's death, count Dionysios Messalas gained Solomos' custody, whereas his mother married Manolis Leontarakis in 15 August 1807. In 1808, Messalas sent Solomos to Italy in order to study law, as was customary with Ionian nobility, but possibly also because of Dionysios' mother's new marriage.  Solomos went to Italy with his tutor, who returned to his home town, Cremona. Initially he was enrolled at the Lyceum of St. Catherine in Venice, but he had adjustment difficulties because of the school's strict discipline. For that reason, Rossi took Solomos with him to Cremona, where he finished his high-school studies in 1815. In November 1815, Solomos was enrolled at Pavia's University's Faculty of Law, from which he graduated in 1817. Given the interest the young poet showed in the flourishing Italian literature and being a perfect speaker of Italian, he started writing poems in Italian. One of the most important first poems written in Italian during that period of time was the Ode per la prima messa (Ode to the first mass) and La distruzione di Gerusalemme (The destruction of Jerusalem). In the meantime, he acquainted himself with famous Italian poets and novelists (possibly Manzoni, Vincenzo Monti etc.); Ugo Foscolo from Zakynthos was among his friends. As a result, he was easily accepted in the Italian literary circles and evolved into a revered poet of the Italian language. After 10 years of studies Solomos returned to Zakynthos in 1818 with a solid background in literature. On Zakynthos, which at that time was well known for its flourishing literary culture, the poet acquainted himself with people interested in literature. Antonios Matesis (the author of Vasilikos), Georgios Tertsetis, Dionysios Tagiapieras (a physician and supporter of the dimotiki, and also a friend of Ioannis Vilaras) and Nikolaos Lountzis were some of Solomos' most well-known friends. They used to gather in each other's homes and amused themselves by making up poems. They frequently satirized a Zakynthian doctor, Roidis (Solomos' satirical poems referring to the doctor are The doctors' council, the New Year's Day and The Gallows). They also liked to improvise poems on a given rhyme and topic. His improvised Italian poems during that period of time were published in 1822, under the title Rime Improvvisate.