Dear to the Gods, yet all too human: Demetrios Capetanakis and the Mythology of the Hellenic
Philosopher and poet Demetrios Capetanakis (1912-1944) struggled withthe ideas of Hellenism and Greekness throughout his short life while moving across languages, cultures, and philosophical traditions. In one of his early essays, Mythology of the Beautiful (1937; in Greek), Hellenism is approached through the lens of eros, pain and the human body. Capetanakis distances himself both from the discourse put forth by the Generation of the Thirties and from the neo-Kantian philosophy of his mentors, and in particular Constantine Tsatsos, while attempting a bold synthesis of Platonic philosophy with the philosophy of despair (Kierkegaard, Shestov). By upholding the classical over and against the romantic tradition, as exemplified in the life and work of Johann Joachim Winckelmann, he seeks to present Hellenism not as a universal ideal, but as an individual life stance grounded on the concrete. His concern for the particular becomes more pronounced in a later essay, “The Greeks are Human Beings” (1941; in English), where, however, one senses a shift away from aesthetics, towards ethics and history.