Dionysios Solomos, born on the island of Zakynthos in 1798, is rightly regarded as the National Poet of Greece for writing “Imnos eis tin Eleftherían,” (“Hymn to Freedom”), the first two stanzas of which became the national anthem of Greece.
His work had a monumental influence in uniting Greeks and creating a common national identity following the 1821 War of Independence and the establishment of a free state.
Dionysios Solomos, the creator of the Hymn to Freedom
The Hymn to Liberty, which was written in 1823 (Greek: Ὕμνος εἰς τὴν Ἐλευθερίαν) consists of 158 stanzas. It combines elements of romanticism and classicism. It is made up of tetrastic stanzas, in which octosyllabic and heptasyllable verses alternate.
The Corfiot musician Nicolaos Mantzaros composed a melody based on popular rhythms, intended for a four-part choir for him in 1828. Since then the anthem has been regularly played on national holidays, as well as in the houses of Corfu merchants, coming to be considered an unofficial hymn of the Heptanese.
Mantzaros modified his original melody several times, the second in 1837, the third between 1839 and 1840, and the fourth in December 1844, before he presented it to King Otto I.
In 1865, the first three stanzas (and later the first two) officially became the national anthem of Greece; beginning in 1966, it was also the national anthem of the Republic of Cyprus.
Solomos wrote the hymn to honor the courageous struggle of the Greeks for independence after centuries of Ottoman rule.
The poem recounts the misery of the Greeks under the Ottomans and their desperate hope for freedom. He describes several events of the War, including the execution of Patriarch Gregory V of Constantinople, the reaction of the Great Powers, the Siege of Tripolitsa and the Christian character of the struggle.
I shall always recognize you
by the dreadful sword you hold,
as the Earth with searching vision
you survey with spirit bold.
From the Greeks of old whose dying
brought to life and spirit free,
now with ancient valor rising
Let us hail you, oh Liberty!
The Greek poet of liberty
Solomos, who was the central figure of the Heptanese School of poetry, is considered to be the national poet of Greece — not only because he wrote the national anthem, but also because he contributed to the preservation of its earlier poetic tradition and highlighted its usefulness to modern literature.
After completing The Hymn to Liberty, Solomos continued to write impressive poetry, but never fully completed another work, and very few of his works were published in his lifetime. He had moved to Corfu and also established the literary circle there.
Solomos suffered a series of strokes towards the end of his life and passed away on February 9, 1857. His remains were returned to his native island of Zakynthos in 1865.