Literature and Poetry in Zakynthos

Over the centuries, Zakynthos has produced highly significant personalities, whose contributions have shaped the Zante island’s cultural image and influenced the life of recent generations in more ways than one. The blossoming of literature on the island was evident by the 15th century, when many writers and poets were acquiring fame for their poetry and prose. Nikolaos Loukanis a poet and translator of Homer’s Iliad, was one of the most famous literary personalities of those times and in the 16th century, the first Greek Academy is established in Zakynthos. Interaction with cultures in Europe and Crete has influenced the Zakynthian literature a lot, it loves to praise the importance of religion, country, woman and nature.

The peak of the islands cultural development is reached in the 19th century with the birth of Andreas Kalvos, Dionysios Solomos, and Elizabeth Moustan – Martinengou. Elizabeth was one of the first Greek woman authors to have a place in the man dominated literary history, thanks to her high important. Andreas Kalvos composed twenty classical “Odes” that were innovative poems, filled with a musical character and inspired by the Greek war of independence of 1821. He and Dionysios Solomos used many elements of demotici, what was the language of the working class. His verse “Freedom requires courage and virtue”, will inspire peoples struggle for freedom in many years to come.

Dionysios Solomos (8 April 1798 – 9 February 1857), national poet of Greece, studied and lived many years in Italy, but also divided his time between his beloved Corfu and Zakynthos island. His works has a lot of passion for “freedom and speech” and the prose “Woman of Zakynthos” has been classified as one the finest examples of Modern Greek literature. In 1864 the versus of his poem “Hymn to Liberty” became the Greek National Anthem. Another highlight of his work is the poem “The Free Besieged”, dedicated to the fighters of Messaloghi.

In 1821, in West Greece at a Village called Mesologhi, were a handful of villagers for many months trapped in an old castle, surrounded by the Turks. They fought with pride and courage but could not escape the result of no incoming food and water. In the end they decided to come out with a Heroic excodos, the march of the Heroes, because even the smallest children would have sticks and stones in their hands to throw at the Turks (It was then that Dionysios Solomos heard then cannons of Mesologhi and wrote all his frustration and pain in his famous poems). Needless to say that after this massager, there was no living soul to tell the tail. It was this story that was told by the secret revolutionary organization called “Filiki Eteria” (Association of Friends) that made the Greeks to pick up their weapons and fight for their independence. One of the major figures of the Filiki Eteria was Kolokotronis who lived on Zakynthos at that time.