Modernising Joy-Making Mourning. Select Theses on Contemporary Greek Culture*

by Yorgos Tzirtzilakis


A geopolitical crossroads may be the best place to articulate the enduring beauty of mixed feelings.

Andreas Embirikos with Matsi Hatzilazarou, Untitled, c. 1938-40, Benaki Museum
Page 146: Vlassis Caniaris, Untitled (Mailbox), 1965, Vlassis Caniaris Archive


* Part of a general research project on Sub-modernity in Contemporary Culture in Greece.


The Letterbox: Melancholia

There is a widespread impression that the Greeks are a happy people. This is probably yet another stereotype resulting from the anthropological traits of judgement, which became entrenched and captured the Western imaginary. This idea was often linked with a specific perception of fun and a mixture of authentic grassroots, craftiness, Dionysianism, narcissistic showing off and contempt for rules, as epitomised by the Zorba myth.1 It is worth noting that Nicos Kazantzakis wrote Zorba the Greek amidst the hardships of the German Occupation (1941–1944). But is it really so? In his novel Stou Hadjifrangou (1963), Kosmas Politis, one of the writers of the 1930s generation, focusses on the apparently opposite yet also complementary trait of melancholia. In the book, Politis comments on the relations between Jews and Greeks, starting from “the sad old affair [of Jews], which evolved over the centuries into a tragedy for the chosen people. So much that they became obsessed, amidst their persecution, with the idea that God chose them to carry the sins and the suffering of all humanity. This is perhaps why they are the most melancholy people on Earth. Next come the Greeks: another chosen people, let’s say, only they carry just their own sins. Now, as always. And they are very heavy.”2

This drastic view of Greeks as one of “the most melancholy people on Earth” certainly places our subject in a different context from the Zorba myth. In any case, the differentiation must not be seen as negligible, especially in view of the fact that it resorts to a concept (melancholia) that most people avoid: from “the sins and the suffering of all humanity” we go to the more atomocentric notion of “just their own sins”. How can we understand more fully the cultural implications of this Greek melancholia, which politis presents as both identity and destiny?

I must make it clear in advance that melancholia should not be confused with the depression to which the Western consumerist societies are particularly prone through the abolition of differences (in-difference), the abundance of false ‘liberations’ and the constant losses which are not accompanied by separation. I do not propose to exhaust you with definitions around such a demanding subject, on which there is a large bibliography. I shall only summarise the main points: The most usual reaction in our time is to treat melancholia as a negative thing which we must shed, because adherence to the object of a loss prevents reconciliation with the special nature of the present. This attitude has its roots in antiquity, when melancholia (the melaina cholè or black bile of the Hippocratic tradition) was first associated with illness and the theory of the four humours, specifically with the inrush of black bile into the bloodstream. During the Middle Ages some of these traits of disease were replaced by those of genius and poetic inspiration, after which came the idealisation of melanchaolia by the Romantics.3 In the late nineteenth century, melancholia returns with its double role as both mental illness (psychiatry) and pleasure (spleen), via aesthetics and artistic expression.

The core of the matter lies in two seminal texts, of which one is attributed to Aristotle; the other to Walter Benjamin. The interest of the former, entitled XXX.1 (from the Problemata series),4 lies in the fact that it links the ‘melancholic’ with the ‘perittós’, i.e. the one who “exceeds the normal, disproportionate, unusual, abundant, excessive” and translates as ‘exceptional’, ‘eminent’: “all those who have become eminent […]are clearly of an atrabilious temperament ¨Όσοι περιττοί γεγόνασιν άνδρες […] μελαγχολικοί όντες”. Melancholia here is a passion for the ‘perittó’, not in the current meaning of ‘useless’ but as something beyond ‘normal levels’, which leads human drive into a state of imbalance. Apart from this definition, which touches upon the constitutional ambiguity of the issue, for the first time here melancholia, ‘mania’ and ‘ecstasy’ are linked with an individual’s creativity. The melancholic’s changeable mood—from introversion to eloquence, from agitation to withdrawal—enables him to transcend his given self and become another. Many years later, Walter Benjamin in Trauerspiel5 connects melancholia with the negligence (acedia) of Cronus which causes people to deviate and makes them ‘apathetic, indecisive, slow’. Slowness (which characterises also Cavafy’s poetic mood6) is a staple trait of a melancholic temperament; its pathology includes also an asymmetrical feeling of superiority, gaucheness, a propensity to daydreaming and rowdiness, indecision, wavering, double talk, secretiveness, baffled feelings and the tendency to project its inner torpor as misfortune.

The claim that some of these last traits can be seen in contemporary Greek culture might seem far-fetched, but they are certainly found in the pathology and the anthropological typology of the crisis. Benjamin, in any case, does not underestimate the productive significance of melancholia once it is linked to experience—and hence to hope—and allows you to reflect and perhaps to metabolise inventively your losses and your ‘lost centre’. Therefore, he treats melancholia as a creative drive; this is the hidden political core of modernist civilisation. In any case, among the beneficial effects of melancholia we should include the liberation of the artistic and critical act from the constraints of optimism and the linear interpretation of things.

Consider Vlassis Caniaris: much has been written about the political awareness and the social aspect of the oeuvre of this leading figure of the ‘1960s Generation’, which gradually became emblematic of anti-dictatorial resistance. I believe that such a reading of his work is restrictive; what Caniaris sought in the relation of art and politics—and what interests us todaylies closer to mysticism, as we can surmise from his Untitled (Mailbox), a 1965 work which curator Nadja Argyropoulou retrieved from obscurity. Two years earlier, Pierre Restany, speaks of a ‘dimension très particulière du psychisme individuel, which sets Caniaris’s art firmly apart from the ventures of the Nouveaux Realistes in Paris or New York’s Pop artists.7 If this attitude matters to this day, it is because it differs from the politically and ideologically engaged versions of art (the ‘left-wing melancholia’, which is heavy-hearted from routine, as Benjamin wrote8) and introduces us into the melancholy replacement of expectations by disillusionment, which is ultimately the psychological realm of entropy.

Allow me to quote a few excerpts from Restany’s chain of remarks: ‘“Caniaris is a reserved man […] one of those who dig into their solitude like a termite into his wood’, who in the second half of the 1950s made some ‘huge paper collages covered with a thin layer of white plaster, the surface interspersed with multiple tears and the occasional splash of sad colour.’ Later, this ‘sad colour’ gave way to ‘found objects, almost debris […] On a certain level of conscience, it is today equally difficult to be Greek or Irish. It has never been stressed how the centuries of enslavement, Turkish or British, made those two old countries with the pungent perfume forget themselves altogether, after they had been forced to swallow their shame and accept the bastardising. The Absurd had been established there even before their wretched independence. […] Following its destiny, Caniaris’s imagination encountered reality on its social level which is less refined; on the level of all miseries but also of all courage and all will to survive.” So here is why the ‘relics’ of Caniaris encounter the ancient fragments, and his work becomes an allegory for destruction, acquiring the character of “the ruins in the sphere of things.”9 Once “the nihilistic energies of the modern era” have made “everything a ruin or fragment—and therefore collectible”,10 it is ready to be incorporated within an artwork.

An artist of his intellectual rigour and mildly didactic orientation would find it hard to permit himself to publicly admit to such a melancholic attitude. Nevertheless, his work acquires for Greek culture the importance that Paul Klee’s Angelus Novus (1920) had for Walter Benjamin, who wrote about Klee: “Where we see the appearance of a chain of events, he sees one single catastrophe, which unceasingly piles rubble on top of rubble and hurls it before his feet.”11 Caniaris’s fragments are the unconscious of post-war Greek culture, a kind of art machine which helps us stand up against the other ‘machines’ which determine our relation with the world, the soul and the body; with everyday life, desire, the economy and death. This is neither a ‘refuge’ nor “the romantic coasts of escape”.12 These are by nature mystical and political works which portend the end of modernity (which ‘never began’) and the spectral presence of the ruins of industrial culture and unruly urban sprawl.13


Honey and Wax: Joy-making Mourning 

In 1915, Sigmund Freud associated melancholia with mourning and introduced a crucial differentiation. Melancholia is described as a narcissistic identification with the lost object, whereas the ‘work of mourning’ is about accepting and processing the loss. Furthermore, mourning allows us to go back to its archaic roots and specifically to the Homeric penthos, where we find a broad spectrum of evidence which has been examined both by classicists and modern theory. It is worth looking at some different renderings of this ancient word into modern Greek which reflect, among other things, the context and the cultural perception. Thus ‘πένθος άλαστον’ (Odyssey α´, 342) becomes ‘haunting sorrow’, ‘heavy sorrow’, and ‘great grief’;14 “πένθος έχοντα” (Odyssey η´, 218, 219) is ‘myriads of pains’ and ‘sorrows’, ‘my heart is torn’ and ‘burden in the soul’; and ‘πένθος αμέτρητον’ (Odyssey τ´, 512) becomes ‘immeasurable sorrow’ and ‘countless torments’. The list of the different ways of translating penthos in modern Greek is suggestive: καημός (longing), βάσανο (torment), λύπη (sadness), βάρος στη ψυχή (weight in the soul), etc. As Nietzsche informatively adds in The Birth of Tragedy: “How else could a people so emotionally sensitive, so spontaneously desiring, so singularly capable of suffering, have been able to endure their existence, unless the same qualities, with a loftier glory flowing round them, manifested themselves in their gods. The same impulse […] also gave rise to the Olympian world, in which the Hellenic ‘Will’ held before itself a transfiguring mirror.”15 In addition to Nietzsche, other philosophers, anthropologists, classicists, historians and psychoanalysts examined the importance of the rituals of lamenting, mourning, death and separation not only in ancient tragedy16 but in the folk tradition of the mid-Byzantine years and in the islands and rural areas of Greece in more recent times. In the sixth century, however, a complex concept emerged to add a new dimension to the perception of mourning; it was one of the seminal texts in mystical Orthodox literature, written by an Anchorite of the desert, John Sinaites or Climacus. The book, The Ladder of Divine Ascent,17 is a scholastic anthropology of Eastern monastic life with mystical elements such as those we find in the hesychastic texts of Philokalia. Step 7 of The Ladder defines the special mixed concept of ‘joy-making mourning’, which differs from both the taedium vitae and the tristitia of Western theology.

The term has been misused for a long time, so we need to be careful. First of all, this is no mere shared presence of the two ingredients of this complex concept but a literal fusion achieved through their mutual tension. The two manners converge, as mourning refers to joy and joy refers back to mourning, and along the way they alternate. The ascetic author of The Ladder provides the definition in the very first paragraph: Joy-making mourning “is a melancholy of the soul, a disposition of an anguished heart that passionately seeks what it thirsts for, and when it fails to attain it, pursues it diligently and follows behind it lamenting bitterly”.

There is an impressive parallel between this last sentence and Jacques Lacan’s description of ‘painful pleasure’, or jouissance,18 whereby desire and pleasure can never be satisfied because they depend on a scarcity. The term ‘jouissance’ expresses the transgression of the principle of pleasure, i.e. the ‘strange satisfaction’ derived from something painful but also conversely, ‘the pain derived from satisfaction’. One would say that we have here a paradoxical transfer of this strange dialectical relationship from eastern theology to psychoanalysis. Yet what seems strange is the paradox of joining joy with mourning, the ‘blissful and gracious mourning’ with ‘celebration’ and the ‘spiritual laughter of the soul’, as it appears further down in the The Ladder: How is it possible for “inward joy and gladness [to] mingle with what we call mourning and grief, like honey in a comb”?

This is certainly a special theological and monastic concept19 of eastern Christianity which points to a hermit’s quest for the divine tension of a ‘furious love’, hence we should not arbitrarily ascribe any secular character to it. Nevertheless, its emergence and spread in this particular region of the eastern Mediterranean has to do with a mixed feeling (that echoes the Homeric ‘ammixas’) and a more general anthropological behaviour which we should not omit to evaluate. I add here that in the Ladder the ‘joy-making mourning’ is contrasted with acedia (from the Greek word for lack of care and interest), which afflicts the ascetic monks in the Orient’s deserts and sketes and, according to Walter Benjamin, re-emerges as ennui among sophisticated nineteenth-century urbanites.20

It is worth noting that both Freud21 and other studious treatises22 examined the connection between joy and melancholy, but it was Italo Calvino who gave it a clever definition when he spoke of ‘levity’: melancholy is a form of sadness which has acquired levity and humour; a form of the comical which has lost its weight (the legacy of Boccaccio and Rabelais). But if we wish to be precise, we must credit the paternity of this correlation to the Arab doctors and philosophers of the Middle Ages, who transmitted the ancient sources to the West: when humour combines with blood, it produces symptoms of laughter and happiness. To the Persian doctor and philosopher Avicenna, laughter and happiness are a mixture, a karma—resulting from the Aristotelian krasis—and it is above all a bleeding one. Yet more important for our subject is the remark of Ishâq ibn Amrân who, extending the Hippocratic approach, discerns in the attitude of ‘ascetics’ a pathological side which he links to disorders involving the passion of love: “We find many ascetics [‘religiosos’ in the translation of Constantine] and pious men succumb to melancholic delusions, because they greatly fear God and are afraid of his retribution; or because they passionately desire Him… . They succumb to worry and frantic desire similar to that of someone in love, so that the activities of the soul and the functions of the body are completely corrupted.”23

As we come to the contemporary age, however, the interpretations shift completely. In one verse of his Ανακομιδή [Removal of Relics] (1961), the polymath, writer and painter Nikos Gavriil Pentzikis proposes a different perspective: “Mourning means victory and vibrant joy.” A few years later, Savvas Michael,24 an essayist specialised in revolution theory and the messianic drive, claimed that The Great Eastern, the eight-volume surrealistic erotic opus of Andreas Embiricos, is in effect a ‘processing of the mourning’ he felt after he was absurdly held hostage by the Organisation for the Protection of the People’s Struggle (OPLA) at Krora, Boeotia, in December 1944. Moreover, a psychiatrist who takes an interest in literature, Epaminondas Aslanidis, associates ‘joy-making mourning’ with the work of Embiricos and claims that the mixture of mourning and enthusiasm leads to a kind of ‘divine fury’ or ‘masked melancholia’ which turns ‘the fear of death into an urge for life’: “Man cannot speak or think, cannot even dream without the paternal laws of language, that is, without the restoration of loss and damage through mourning.”25 In this way we have the ‘proper integration of the intrapsychically fragmented mother’ (i.e. the past26) and, above all, the radical differentiation between charmolypi (joy-making mourning) and lypomania (griefmania).


Kairos: Is there a Pessimism of Strength?

While I am in no way seeking any metaphysical continuity, it would be useful to compare the cultural practice of ‘joy-making mourning’ with the notion of the alleged ‘Greek serenity’ (Heiterkeit) as described in 1764 by J. J. Winckelmann, who linked ‘ancient Greek art’ with the ‘temperate climate’ in a region situated between the cold North and the scorching South. The ‘alleged serenity’ is another complex concept, an alloy, a ‘krasis’ like those which flourish at the borderlines of ‘krisi’”. This is why Winckelmann associates it with geography and with kairos (weather and time27), turning it into a primeval element which is increasingly hard to recognise; we can only suspect its presence.

The same is true of the Apollonian/Dionysian dipole that Nietzsche examines in The Birth of Tragedy, in whose second edition he added to the title an explanatory Hellenism and Pessimism (1886). Nietzsche writes: “Is pessimism necessarily the sign of collapse, destruction, of disaster, of the exhausted and enfeebled instincts—as it was with the Indians, as it is now, to all appearances, among us, the ‘modern’ peoples and Europeans? Is there a pessimism of strength? […] A basic issue is the relationship of the Greeks to pain, the degree of their sensitivity—did this relationship remain constant? Or did it turn itself around?”28

Nietzsche’s answer seems to arrive further on with the “strange mixture and ambi-guity in the emotions of the Dionysian celebrant”, where “that pain awakens joy, the jubilation in his chest rips out cries of agony”.

I do not think I need to say much more to demonstrate that mourning is among the genealogical traits of Greek culture. What does this mean? It means that Greek culture has become accustomed—for historical, social, anthropological, geopolitical and other reasons we saw—to a succession of separations. In short, it has had to process a series of losses which—although we are loath to admit it—define its peculiar political condition. Seferis described our emotional response to this loss using the allegory of the ‘empty pedestal’, the ‘pedestal without a statue’ which literally adds an enigmatic void, an incomplete interface, a passage.

This is not about withdrawal, about a springtime melancholy (which Nikolaos Gyzis depicted as a ‘symphony’ in 1886), about the idealised ‘merciless light’ of the Mediterranean ‘Secret Sun’ or about a mourning for the ‘lost centre’; it is the fact that this ‘centre’ is transitory, being at the threshold. That’s exactly what makes it strong by giving it a agile political stance or, if you will, this is the strength of its weakness. The major peculiarity of cultural production in Greece lies here and not in the references to antiquity (as the 1930s Generation believed) and other ‘innovations’ which were sought later.

So can we ascribe the overall character of contemporary artistic production to the coexistence of the mournful (‘moments of sadness’) and the lustful (‘moments of bliss’)? For all the reasonable reservations one might have, my answer would be affirmative, on condition that we do not stop at these concepts in themselves but take also into account the ways in which they manifest themselves through a series of permutations, blocks, assemblages, connectors and behaviours.

One can gain better insight into the Greek culture after one has been initiated in such ambiguous hybrids as ‘bitter smile’, ‘tragelaugh’, ‘tragicomedy’, ‘alleged serenity’ and, of course, ‘joy-making mourning’. The prolonged ambivalence and vagueness—which are sometimes seen as part of the anthropological roots of the modern Greek idiosyncrasy (and hence of the current crisis)—spawn the unresolved disturbances and tensions around which the famous issue of cultural identity is built. Today we can surmise that this much-desired identity can only exist in a state of constant uncertainty and irresolution. What I mean is that it remains desirable exactly because it is essentially unfeasible, incomplete and irresolute. The more unattainable it is, the more we yearn for it.




1 Dimitirs Papanikolaou claims that Zorba “condenses the tendency to create a recognisable, uniform popular culture and the anxious effort to turn this into a national culture for a supranational audience”: “Για μια ενιαία λαϊκή κουλτούρα”, Ta Nea, 24 November 2007. See Dimitirs Papanikolaou, “Ο Κακογιάννης, ο Ζορμπάς και ο Έλληνας”, The Books’ Journal. 12, 2011. Kazantzakis wrote the novel in 1946; it was translated in English as Zorba the Greek by Carl Wildman in 1952, and made into a film by Michalis Kakoyannis in 1964, with Anthony Quinn in the starring role.

2 Kosmas Politis, Στου Χατζηφράγκου. Τα σαραντάχρονα μιας χαμένης πολιτείας, Athens, 1963, p. 276.

3 A typical work is the monumental Anatomy of Melancholy written by Rober Burton in the early seventeenth century, where melancholy is treated not as a disease but as a main constituent of civilisation which defines a type of personality. However, Jean Starobinski makes a useful clarification in his Histoire du traitement de la mélancolie, des origines à 1900, Basel, 1960. “In the distant past, once persistent fear and sadness were detected, there was only one diagnosis. Modern science, however, would make the distinction among depression, moodiness, bipolar disorder (manic depression), schizophrenia, neurosis, stress, paranoia, etc.”. See Andrew Solomon, The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression, New York, Scribner, 2001.

4 Aristotle, Problemata XXX.1953a10-14, trans. E.S. Forster,in The Complete Works of AristotleVol. II, ed. Jonathan Barnes, Princeton, 1984.

5 Walter Benjamin, The Origin of German Tragic Drama (1928), trans. John Osborne, introduction by George Steiner, New York, London, 1977. See Susan Sontag, Under the Sign of Saturn, New York, Picador, 1980. 

6 “My work, I’m very careful about it, and I love it. / But today I’m discouraged by how slowly it’s going. / The day has affected my mood. / It gets darker and darker. Endless wind and rain. / I’m more in the mood for looking than for writing.” (“Pictured”, in C.P. Cavafy, Collected Poems. trans. Edmund Keeley and Philip Sherrard, ed. George Savidis, Princeton, 1992). Cavafy gives a poetic definition of melancholia in “Melancholy of Jason Cleander, Poet in Kommagini, A.D. 595”. It goes: “I turn to you, Art of Poetry, / because you have a kind of knowledge about drugs: / attempts to numb the pain, in Imagination and Language. / It is a wound from a merciless knife. / Bring your drugs, Art of Poetry– / they numb the wound at least for a little while.” Ibid.

7 Pierre Restany, “Notes analogiques pour un portrait de Caniaris, artist grec contemporain” (1963), in ed. Emmanuel Mavrommatis, Vlassis Caniaris, Grecia, XXXXIII Biennale di Venezia, Athens, 1988, p. 78.

8 Walter Benjamin, “Linke Melancholie. Zu Erich Kästner’s neuem Gedichtbuch” (1931), ed. Hella Tiedemann-Bartels, Gesammelte Schriften Ill: Kritiken und Rezensionen, Frankfurt, 1972, pp. 279–83; and “Left-Wing Melancholy”, reprinted in Anton Kaes, eds. Martin Jay, Edward Dimendberg, The Weimar Republic Sourcebook, Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1994.

9 Benjamin, The Origin of German Tragic Drama, p. 178.

10 Susan Sontag, Under the Sign of Saturn.

11 Walter Benjamin, “Über den Begriff der Geschichte” (1940), in eds. Rolf Tiedemann, Hermann Schweppenhäuser, Gesammelte Schriften, vol. I:2, Frankfurt 1974, pp. 691–704. English translation by Dennis Redmond:

12 Restany, “Notes analogiques pour un portrait de Caniaris, artist grec contemporain,” p. 78.

13 See on this subject Yorgos Tzirtzilakis, “The exquisite corpse. Modernism and site-specific art. The Case of the Athens Conservatory”, in ed. Daphne Vitali, Expanded Ecologies. Perspectives in a Time of Emergency, Athens, 2009, pp. 43–50; also “Psycopaesaggi. La psicosi del paesaggio nella cultura greca contemporanea”, in ed. Bartolomeo Pietromarchi, Il luogo [non] commune. Arte, spazio public ed estetica urbana in Europa, Barcelona, Rome, 2005, pp. 150–3.

14 These are, respectively, from the translations of Argyris Eftaliotis (1932), Nikos Kazantzakis-Ioannis Th. Kakridis (1965) and Dimitris Maronitis (2009).

15 Friedrich Nietzsche, The Birth of Tragedy, trans. Ian Johnston, Vancouver Island University, revised 2009:

16 Margaret Alexiou, Lament in Greek Tradition, Cambridge, 1974, Vassiliki Kolocotroni, Olga Taxidou, “Modernism and Hellenism: Aspects of a Melancholy Sensibility”, in ed. Dimitris Tziovas, Greek Modernism and beyond, pp. 11–23; and Olga Taxidou, Tragedy, Modernity and Mourning, Edinburgh, 2004.

17 John Climacus, The Ladder of Divine Ascent, trans. Colm Luibheid, Norman Russell, New York, Paulist Press, 1962.

18 “The result of transgressing the pleasure principle is not more pleasure, but pain, since there is only a certain amount of pleasure that the subject can bear. Beyond this limit, pleasure becomes pain, and this ‘painful pleasure’ is what Lacan calls jouissance”. Dylan Evans, An Introductory Dictionary of Lacanian Psychoanalysis, London, Routledge, 1996, p. 93.

19 John Climacus describes the transition from fear to joy in The Ladder as follows: “Tears over our death produce fear, but when fear begets fearlessness, then what a joy comes dawning!”

20 Ennui is closely interrelated to Baudelaire’s concept of spleen, which occurs of course in the title Paris Spleen (trans. Louise Varése. New Directions Publishing, New York, 1970). Walter Benjamin devoted a whole section of The Arcades Project—Convolute “D”—to the problem of boredom. He thus recognised that boredom is a fundamental component of modern life and of its urban phantasmagoria. But also in his writings of the 1920s and 1930s Benjamin utilized a number of terms almost as synonyms—Langeweile, ennui, taedium vitae, acedia—often in connection to Baudelairean spleen and melancholy. See also Giorgio Agamben, Stanzas: Word and Phantasm in Western Culture, trans. Ronald L. Martinez, University of Minnesota Press, Minneapolis 1993, pp. 3–28. On acedia, tristitia, taedium vitae, see 4ff. Agamben points out that Heidegger uses the filiae acediae, evocative of patristic studies.

21 “All states such as joy, exultation or triumph, which give us the normal model for mania, depend on the same economic conditions. What has happened here is that, as a result of some influence, a large expenditure of psychical energy, long maintained or habitually occurring, has at last become unnecessary, so that it is available for numerous applications and possibilities of discharge […] All such situations are characterised by high spirits, by the signs of discharge of joyful emotion and by increased readiness for all kinds of action”: Sigmund Freud, Mourning and Melancholia, 1917.

22 Raymond Klibansky, Erwin Panofsky, Fritz Saxl, Saturn and Melancholy: Studies in the History of Natural Philosophy, Religion and Art, London, Nelson, 1964.

23 Constantinus Africanus, De melancholia, cited in Angus Gowland, “Burton’s Anatomy and the Intellectual Traditions of Melancholy”, Babel, 25, 2012, pp. 221–257, fn 21; see Danielle Jacquart, “The Influence of Arabic Medicine in the Medieval West”, in Encyclopedia of the History of Arabic Science, ed. Roshdi Rashed, London, Routledge, 1996, ΙΙΙ, pp. 963–84.

24 Savvas Michael, Πλους και κατάπλους του “Μεγάλου Ανατολικού”, Athens, 1995; Μορφές του Μεσσιανικού, Athens, 1999. Michael claims that all three concepts of romanticism—pessimism, sorrow and fear of death—can be seen in the oeuvre of Embiricos. In her text “Το πένθος της ιστορίας. Σχεδίασμα ανάγνωσης των μυθιστορημάτων της Ρέας Γαλανάκη” (1998), Ανεξακρίβωτη σκηνή, Athens, 2001, pp. 233-250, Gina Politi focusses on the relation between mourning and history.

25 Epaminondas G. Aslanidis, Ο Ανδρέας Εμπειρίκος και η χαρμολύπη, Athens, 2001, pp. 16, 26.

26 Ibid. 

27 The meaning of the word ‘kairos’ in Greek is ambivalent. It means weather and also time and opportunity. The ancient Greek meaning of kairos—what we call ‘opportunity’ today—manifests itself as the ideal balance among the parameters in a situation. It is the moment which is linked with the time imposed by the state of affairs. It is worth noting that Winckelmann never had the opportunity to set foot on the Greek peninsula, despite devoting his life’s scholarship to Hellenism.

28 Nietzsche, The Birth of Tragedy, pp. 34, 38, 61.


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