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Kostis Palamas from Mesolongi: Kostis Palamas (1859-1943) is one of the greatest Greek poets of the modern era, the man who along with his significant contemporaries gave a new impulse to Greek poetry. The most important contribution of Palamas was the introduction of the Modern Greek language into the Greek literacy and the weakening of the old and official, difficult to understand the language that was used till these times.
Kostis Palamas was born in Patras by a wealthy family that descended from Mesolongi. However, Palamas lived the first tragedy of his life at the age of seven, when he lost both his parents in a car accident. This experience made him distant as a character and self-restrained. Then, Kostis Palamas moved to Mesolongi and was brought up by his uncle. His first childhood memories were connected to the sea lagoon of Mesolongi, which was mentioned in many of his poems.
In 1876, Palamas went to Athens to study Law but he soon abandoned his studies and turned to journalism and literature. He collaborated with many literary magazines and won several prizes for his poems, which distinguished for their lyric tone. His first collection of poetry, titled The Songs of My Fatherland, was published in 1886. His work Hymn to Athena (1889) was the winner in a prestigious poetry contest.
In 1887, Palamas married Maria Valvi, his childhood sweetheart, and became the father of three children, Leandros, Nafsika and Alkis. Another tragedy soon struck his life when his youngest child, Alkis, died at the age of four, an event that would deeply affect him for the rest of his life and would give a more tragic tone in his poetry. This is when he wrote the poem The Tomb, dedicated to his lost son.
Palamas was appointed as the Secretary of the University of Athens in 1897, a position he was to hold until 1928. This position gave him lifelong financial security, allowing him to devote wholeheartedly to poetry and literature. The major works of Palamas include The Eye of My Soul (1892), The Static Life (1904) and Twelve Sayings of the Gypsy (1907). Palamas also has two works of prose to his credit.
Palamas was given the prestigious post of President of the Athens Academy at the age of 70. He spent his final years loved by his family and friends, away from the public glare but adored and honored by lovers of literature and the general public.
Kostis Palamas died in 1943 during the Second World War. He died a month after the death of his beloved wife. His funeral in Athens became a rallying point for the Greek resistance, with about 100,000 mourners singing his poems, and even singing the banned Greek national anthem as an expression of protest against the Nazis.
Regarded as a national poet of Greece, Palamas exemplified the Greek spirit and culture in full measure. He bestrode the Greek literary scene for over 40 years. His literary struggles against the proponents of purist language (katharevoussa) profoundly influenced and vivified the political and intellectual scene of his country. The great French writer Romain Rolland even regarded Palamas as the greatest poet of Europe at his time. Kostis Palamas never won the Nobel Prize for Literature, even though he was nominated twice.