Enlightenment and School History in 19th Century Greece: the Case of Gerostathis by Leon Melas (1862-1901)

Harris Athanasiades


Students in present-day Greek schools are taught History as a biography of the Greek nation from the Mycenaean times to the present. Over the course of three millennia, the Greek nation has experienced three periods of cultural flourishing and political autonomy: (i) the period of Antiquity (from the times of legendary King Agamemnon to those of Alexander the Great), (ii) the Byzantine period (from Justinian’s ascension in the 6th century to the Fall of Constantinople in 1453), and (iii) the modern era (from the War of Independence in 1821 to the present day). However, in this article we argue that in the 19th century the history taught in Greek schools differed substantially from the tripartite schema described above. In support of our thesis, we examine the most popular school textbook of the 19th century, O Gerostathis, by Leon Melas. In the Gerostathis, the history of the Greek nation is identified with that of Classical Greece (i.e. from the 6th century BC to the 4th century BC), which is held up as an exemplary era worthy of emulation. In contrast, the rise of Macedon under Philip II signals the cultural decline of the Greeks and the loss of their political autonomy, which was not regained for two millennia, until the 1821 national revolution. In that period, the Greek nation ceased not to exist, but survived as a subjugate of the Macedonians, the Romans, and finally the Ottomans. The Byzantine, on the other hand, is described as an unremarkable period of decadence that is only worth mentioning in relation to its final period, that of the Palaeologus dynasty, which bestowed upon the Greeks a legacy of resistance against the Ottomans. We argue that the above reading of the Greek past owed much to the Enlightenment, which as an intellectual movement still exerted a powerful influence (albeit to a gradually diminishing degree) on Greek intellectuals up to the latter third of the 19th century.


School history; Enlightenment; Romanticism; Education; Greece; 19th century; Gerostathis; Leon Melas

Full Text:



Angelou, A. (1997). Το κρυφό σχολειό: Το χρονικό ενός μύθου [The Clandestine School: The Chronicle of a Myth]. Athens: Estia.

Delis, A. (2007).Melas Family.The Encyclopaedia of the HellenicWorld. Retrieved from http://blacksea.ehw.gr/Forms/fLemmaBody.aspx?lemmaid=11586

Delopoulos, K. (1995). Παιδικά και νεανικά βιβλία του 19ου αιώνα [Books for Children and Youths in the Nineteenth Century]. Athens: ELIA.

Dimaras, K. Th. (1970). Ο Κωνσταντίνος Παπαρρηγόπουλος ως τα μέσα της ζωής του [Constantine Paparrigopoulos until his Middle Age]. In K. Th. Dimaras (Ed.). Κωνσταντίνος Παπαρρηγόπουλος: Ιστορία του ελληνικού έθνους [Constantine Paparrigopoulos: History of the Greek Nation]. Athens: Estia.

Flusin, B. (2013). Ο γραπτός πολιτισμός [The Written Culture]. In Morrison., C. (Ed.), Ο Βυζαντινός Κόσμος [The Byzantine World], vol.I, The Eastern Roman Empire (330–641)] (pp. 343-366). Athens: Polis.

Georgiou, Ch. (2010). Η συμβολή των νέων παιδαγωγικών αντιλήψεων και των εκπαιδευτικών μεταρρυθμίσεων στη διαμόρφωση του παιδικού βιβλίου στην Ελλάδα του μεσοπολέμου [The Contribution of New Pedagogical Ideas and Education Reforms in the Formation of Children Literature in Interwar Greece]. (Unpublished PhD thesis). Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Thessaloniki.

Henderson, G. P. (1988). The Ionian Academy, Edinburgh, Scottish Academic Press.

Kapsalis, A. G., & Haralambous, D. F. (2008). Σχολικά Εγχειρίδια. Θεσμική εξέλιξη και σύγχρονη προβληματική [School Textbooks. Institutional Evolution and Contemporary Problematique]. Athens: Metaichmio.

Karamanolakis, V., & Stathis, P. (2005). Istories gia tin Alosi ston proto aiona tou ellinikou vasileiou [Histories of the Fall in the First Century of the Greek Kingdom]. In Kiousopoulou, Tonia (Ed.), 1453: I Alosi tis Konstantinoupolis kai i metavasi apo tous mesaionikous stous neoterous chronous [1453: The Fall of Constantinople and the Transition from the Mediaeval to the Modern Times] (pp. 227-257). Herakleio: Panepistimiakes Ekdoseis Kritis.

Karamanolakis, V. (2006). Η συγκρότηση της ιστορικής επιστήμης και η διδασκαλία της Ιστορίας στο Πανεπιστήμιο Αθηνών (1837–1932) [The Formation of Historical Science and History Teaching at the University of Athens (1837–1932)]. Athens: National Hellenic Research Foundation.

Kitromilides, P. (1989). Imagined Communities and the Origins of the National Question in the Balkans. European History Quarterly, 19, 149-194.

Koliopoulos, J. S., & Veremis, T. M. (2009). Modern Greece. A History since 1821. Oxford: Wiley–Blackwell.

Kontoyianni, V. (2003). Simon de Nantua και Γεροστάθης. Από τη στοιχειώδη πρακτική διδαχή του γαλλικού λαού σε μια φιλόδοξη εκπαίδευση των Ελληνοπαίδων [Simon de Nantua and Gerostathis. From the Elementary Practical Teaching of the French People to the Ambitious Education of Greek Children]. Nea Estia, 153(1752), 93-117.

Koubourlis, I. (2005). «Η ιδέα της ιστορικής συνέχειας του ελληνικού έθνους στους εκπροσώπους του ελληνικού Διαφωτισμού: η διαμάχη για το όνομα του έθνους και οι απόψεις για τους αρχαίους Μακεδόνες και τους Βυζαντινούς» [The Idea of the Historical Continuity of the Greek Nation Among the Representatives of the Greek Enlightenment: the Debate Over the Name of the Nation and their Views on Ancient Macedonians and Byzantines]. Dokimes, 13-14, 137-191.

Koubourlis, I. (2012). Οι ιστοριογραφικές οφειλές των Σπ. Ζαμπέλιου και Κ. Παπαρρηγόπουλου [The Historiographical Debts of Sp. Zampelios and C. Pararrigopoulos]. Athens: National Hellenic Research Foundation.

Koulouri, Ch. (1988). Ιστορία και Γεωγραφία στα ελληνικά σχολεία (1834–1914) [History and Geography in Greek Schools (1834–1914)]. Athens: IAEN.

Lappas, K. (2004). Πανεπιστήμιο και φοιτητές στην Ελλάδα κατά τον 19ο αιώνα [University and Students in Greece during the 19th Century]. Athens: Center of Modern Greek Research.

Malafantis, K. (2006). Ο Λέων Μελάς (1812–1879) ως λογοτέχνης–παιδαγωγός και το έργο του [Leon Melas (1812–1879) as Litterateur–Pedagogue and his Work]. Parnassos, vol. ΜΗ΄, 359-406.

Melas, L. G. (1853a) Hints on the solution of the Eastern Question. London: R. Clarke.

Melas, L. G. (1853b) The Eastern Question, in Relation to the Restoration of the Greek Empire. London: Longman, Brown, Green and Longmans.

Melas, L. G. (1858). Ο Γεροστάθης ή αναμνήσεις της παιδικής μου ηλικίας [Gerostathis or Memories of my Childhood], 1st edition. Athens: Printing House Lazarou.

Melas, L. G. (1862a). Ο Γεροστάθης ή αναμνήσεις της παιδικής μου ηλικίας [Gerostathis or Memories of my Childhood], 3rd edition, vol.

I. Athens: Printing House Vlastou.

Melas, L. G. (1862b). Ο Γεροστάθης ή αναμνήσεις της παιδικής μου ηλικίας [Gerostathis or Memories of my Childhood], 3rd edition, vol.

II. Athens: Printing House Vlastou.

Melas, L. G. (1862c). Ο Γεροστάθης ή αναμνήσεις της παιδικής μου ηλικίας [Gerostathis or Memories of my Childhood], 3rd edition, vol.

III. Athens: Printing House Vlastou.

Melas, L. I. (1967). Ηπειρωτικές Μελέτες. Μία οικογένεια—Μία ιστορία [Epirotic Studies. One Family—One History]. Athens.

Papadakis, L. (2006) Teaching the Nation. Greek Nationalism and Education in Nineteenth Century Macedonia. Thessaloniki: Institute for Balkan Studies.

Patsiou, V. (1995). L.P. Jussieu, Simon De Nantua (1818). Η περιπλάνηση του αγαθού εμπόρου και οι αφηγηματικές της προσαρμογές στα ελληνικά [L.P. Jussieu, Simon De Nantua (1818). The Wandering of the Noble Merchant and its Narrative Adaptations in Greek]. O Eranistis, 20, 66-74.

Phaedon [Grigorios Xenopoulos] (1904). Το καλό βιβλίο [The Good Book]. I Diaplasis ton Paidon, 47, 30 October, p. 371.

Politis, A. (1998). Ρομαντικά χρόνια. Ιδεολογίες και νοοτροπίες στην Ελλάδα του 1830–1880 [Romantic times. Ideologies and Mentalities in 1830–1880 Greece]. Athens: EMNE–MNIMON.

Politis, A. (2004). La conquista di Costantinopoli. Un caso particolare della ricezione di Bisanzio nell’ideologia neogreca. In Tommaseo, N. (Ed.). Popolo e nazioni, Italiani, Corsi, Creci, Illirici. Rome–Padova: Antenore.

Roudometof, V. (1999). Invented Traditions, Symbolic Boundaries, and National identity in Southeastern Europe: Greece and Serbia in Comparative Historical Perspective (1830–1880). East European Quarterly, XXXII(4), 429-468.

Salvanos, G., & Salvanou, V. (1949). Η Ιόνιος Ακαδημία. Ο ιδρυτής αυτής Κόμις Γύλφορδ. Οι καθηγηταί και σπουδασταί αυτής [The Ionian Academy, its Founder The Earl of Guilford, its Professors and Students]. Athens.

Scordelis, V. (1885). Ημερολόγιον Δημοδιδασκάλου ήτοι η Παιδαγωγία εν τη πράξει [A Teacher’s Journal or Pedagogy in Practice]. Athens: Konstantinidis.

Sideri, A. (1989). Έλληνες φοιτητές στο Πανεπιστήμιο της Πίζας, 1806–1861 [Greek Students at the University of Pisa 1806–1861]. Athens: ΙΑΕΝ.

Stouraitis, Sp. (1924). Ο Λέων Μελάς. Το εθνικόν και παιδαγωγικόν έργον αυτού [Leon Melas. His National and Pedagogical Work]. Athens: Sideris.

Tsoukalas, K. (1976). Εξάρτηση και αναπαραγωγή. Ο κοινωνικός ρόλος των εκπαιδευτικών μηχανισμών στην Ελλάδα (1830-1922) [Dependence and Reproduction. The Social Role of Educational Institutions in Greece (1830-1922)]. Athens: Themelio.

Vaharoglou, E. (2006). Εγχειρίδια «Ηθικής» και «Χρηστοήθειας»: Το σύστημα ηθικών αξιών παιδαγωγού και παιδαγωγούμενου κατά τον 19ο αιώνα» [Textbooks of Ethics and Good Manners: the Value System of Educator and Educated During the 19th Century]. In Proceedings of the 26thConference of the Greek Historical Society (pp. 167-194). Thessaloniki.

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.14516/ete.146


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Copyright (c) 2017

ISSN: 2340-7263

DOI prefix: 10.14516/ete

URL: www.espaciotiempoyeducacion.com

FahrenHouse: Salamanca, Spain

Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)