January 13, 1859|
February 27, 1943 (aged 84)|
University of Athens|
Kostis Palamas (Greek: Κωστής Παλαμάς; 13 January [O.S. 8 January] 1859 – 27 February 1943) was a Greek poet who wrote the words to the Olympic Hymn. He was a central figure of the Greek literary generation of the 1880s and one of the cofounders of the so-called New Athenian School (or Palamian School, or Second Athenian School) along with Georgios Drosinis, Nikos Kampas, and Ioannis Polemis.
Born in Patras, he received his primary and secondary education in Mesolonghi. In 1877 he enrolled at the School of Law, Economics and Political Sciences of the University of Athens, but he soon abandoned his studies. In 1880s, he worked as a journalist. He published his first collection of verses, the "Songs of My Fatherland", in 1886. He held an administrative post at the University of Athens between 1897 and 1926, and died during the German occupation of Greece during World War II. His funeral was a major event of the Greek resistance: the funerary poem composed and recited by fellow poet Angelos Sikelianos roused the mourners and culminated in an angry demonstration of a 100,000 people against Nazi occupation.
Palamas wrote the lyrics to the Olympic Hymn, composed by Spyridon Samaras. It was first performed at the 1896 Summer Olympics, the first modern Olympic Games. The Hymn was then shelved as each host city from then until the 1960 Winter Olympics commissioned an original piece for its celebration of the Games, but the version by Samaras and Palamas was declared the official Olympic Anthem in 1958 and has been performed at each celebration of the Games since the 1960 Winter Olympics.
The old administration building of the University of Athens, in central Athens, where his office was located, is now dedicated to him as the "Kosti Palamas Building" and houses the "Greek Theater Museum", as well as many temporary exhibitions.
He has been informally called the "national" poet of Greece and was closely associated with the struggle to rid Modern Greece of the "purist" language and with political liberalism. He dominated literary life for 30 or more years and greatly influenced the entire political-intellectual climate of his time. Romain Rolland considered him the greatest poet of Europe and he was twice nominated for the Nobel Prize for Literature but never received it. His most important poem, "The Twelve Lays of the Gypsy" (1907), is a poetical and philosophical journey. His "Gypsy" is a free-thinking, intellectual rebel, a Greek Gypsy in a post-classical, post-Byzantine Greek world, an explorer of work, love, art, country, history, religion and science, keenly aware of his roots and of the contradictions between his classical and Christian heritages.
Palamas was one of the most respected literary critics of his day, and instrumental in the reappraisal of the works of Andreas Kalvos, Dionysios Solomos and the "Ionian School" of poetry, Kostas Krystallis et al.