1st Jurisprudence Guest Lecture Series by Dr. Dimitrios Hadjihambis: ‘The Ancient History of Wisdown’ (24/10/17)

Dr. Dimitrios Hadjihambis is undoubtedly one of the most prominent members of the Republic’s legal profession and one of the finest academics at UCLan Cyprus Law School. A distinct individual, both in his professional achievements in his capacity as an Honorary Fellow and a former President of the Supreme Court, and a hugely popular figure amongst the youth at the Law School. This popularity is a bi-product of his knowledge, having acquired a considerable amount through both study and experience, as well as his profound teaching style, which combines an extraordinary level of kindness and compassion with very strict marking criteria. Dr. Hadjihambis teaching style is usually accompanied by an element of philosophy, and his lectures have an exceptional atmosphere. Upon discovering the series of Jurisprudence lectures, I could not be more excited and determined not to miss them. My determination stems primarily from my passion and fascination with History, Law and Philosophy.

To kick start the series, Dr. Hadjihambis quickly addressed the difference between knowledge and wisdom. In his remarks, he pointed out that to Ancient Greeks, questioning was a crucial aspect of learning. A questioned posed as to “why” rather than “what” encouraged learning through understanding rather than memorizing. Dr. Hadjihambis then issued the memorable statement “Otherwise Man with knowledge is no more than a mere recipient of information, unable to process and evaluate, and thus becomes incapable in mastering it”.

For the first lecture of the series, he had set out to explore the roots of Philosophy and Wisdom.  These roots being connected to a period of time, where the line between superstition and reality was perhaps at its thinnest, the dawn of human civilization. Readers might be forgiven for thinking the concept of philosophy originates in Greece, the birth place of democracy. Havens of philosophy and advanced societies had existed before and influenced Greeks. We were introduced to three such societies, with a few facts to give us a better understanding of the deep history of philosophy.

The first society was the Ancient Egyptian Priests which were universally known throughout antiquity for their ancient knowledge and wisdom, which extended to the metaphysical dimension. Having preserved ancient records from time immemorial, these Priests believed in the immortality of the soul and the after-life.  Ancient Greek Philosophers did not consider their education complete unless they spent time studying with the priests, with Solon of Athens being a prominent example. In Sais, Solon was told the Atlantis story by the Egyptian Priests, later to be immortalized by Plato’s dialogues.

The Haldaean Magi were the second group of enlightened individuals to be discussed by the judge. According to Dr. Hadjihambis, Magus meant priest of God. Such people were related to Zoroastrism, who produced the Oracula Magica, the Haldaean Secret Books and Oracles. The Oracula Magica, a treasure of theological and moral teachings which included, most impressively, the concept of a Triad consisting of the Father, Power and the Spirit. Other philosophical advancements have led to the Haldaean Magi to be regarded as an important group within the Greek intellectual circles, and many of these intellectuals had spent time with the Magi studying.

The third group were Gymnosophists in India, individuals so advanced in spiritual matters that they had come to acquire clairvoyance. Apolonious of Tyrana, a clairvoyant himself had set out to study with this group. Upon meeting Apolonious, the Gymnosophists greeted him as friend, having foreseen his arrival. What impressed Apolonious the most, during his stay, was the Gymnosophits’ philosophy of life, devoted entirely to the truth, self-respect and love, which surpassed the traditional Greek Notions of Heroism, Glory and Greatness.

At the end of this historical overview, the focus of the discussion had inevitably set to Greece. Philosophy was destined to excel in Greece, and it does have its origins within myths and semi-legendary figures, beginning in the 13th century with Orpheus, son of Calliope. Calliope and her sisters were all daughters of the God Zeus and Mnemosyne (memory), thus, they epitomized the knowledge of all things past, present and future. Orpheus established the Thracian Mysteries, the oldest Monotheistic religion in history, and held at its core the belief that God is the beginning, middle and end of everything. The triad was not however the only parallel drawn between Christianity and Orphism. Orphism taught that the soul had descended from god, and fallen due to its blasphemy and lives in the body as its prison for successive lives.  Then came the Mysteries, they were ancient, semi-secretive, near-occult practice, all of whom were highly regarded amongst the higher echelons of the thinker circles. The most important of these mysteries were the Eleusinian mysteries; all of the Greek wise men were initiated in it. The mythological influence does not end there however, as all the wise men were instructed to the Delphi Oracle, a legendary figure within Greek mythology. The oracle instructed wise men to reform certain Greek cities, which in adverse enabled further development of philosophical ideology, with factors such as democracy and political science developing inside the Greek City States.

The lecture adopts a more historical tone and the Judge begins with Lycurgus of Sparta, a claimant of Herculean ancestry. Lycurgus was the most notorious Spartan King who lived between 800 and 730 BC. Although not considered a “wise” man or philosopher he is nonetheless worthy of equal status with other renowned philosophers. Lycurgus was a torn individual, a Commoner in his belief of equality and an Aristocrat through his belief in what is right, many of his reforms reflect that duality.  Lycurgus produced the “megali retra” or “the great contract “, a set of fundamental reforms in Sparta which established the Spartan way of life. This reform was based on equality and simplicity, the equal distribution of land and the abolition of gold and silver as trading units, in essence introducing a pre-cursor to the political ideology of communism. The King introduced two mechanisms whose purpose was to regulate the King’s power. The Apella, representing the people and the Gerousia (Senate), representing the aristocracy. The Gerousia presented its legislative and civil proposals alongside those proposed by kings to the Apella to decide. The essence of this system lied in the Gerousia serving as an intermediary between the Apella and the Monarch.  This system was later introduced in Rome to great effect until the ascent of Augustus, who reformed the republic into the Roman Empire.

The Next Philosopher discussed was Solon of Athens.  Solon lived in between 638 and 558 BC and was elected by the people of Athens to the office of Archon due to his wisdom, virtue and moderation. Solon sought to fix the issues that plagued Athens, and did so by applying the “nothing in exaggeration“ principle. Solon’s economic, constitutional and moral reforms had made an immense impact on Athens, moving it away from the traditional autocratic system of government which was the norm in Greece. He refused dictatorial powers and instead left the Athenian political scene to set out on a journey for wisdom. His journey took him to Egypt, where he was told the Atlantis story, later to be immortalized by Plato’s dialogues. Cyprus was also amongst the places Solon visited, and a city was named in his honour as “Soloi”.

The last philosopher to be covered in this article is Thalis of Miletos. Thalis lived circa 624 – 546 BC and was a self-taught wise man. Like many other contemporaries, he had visited the Egyptian Priests and the Chaldeans to study under them. His intelligence was demonstrated when he measured the height of the pyramid by the analogy of the shadow of his stick, relating that analogy to the height of his stick. Thalis served as an advisor to his native Ionians, essentially helping establish the Pan-Ionion, the first confederation of cities under a common administration. He was, amongst other things a mathematician, geometer, astronomer, naturalist and mechanic. In addition, Thalis was one of the founders of the natural school of philosophy. He re-routed a river to allow it to by-pass an army as opposed to devising a way for the army to cross the river, and defined the Sun’s and Moon’s processes and eclipses.

The three renowned individuals were not by any means the only ones discussed. In fact, many other Wise Men and their sayings were discussed by Dr. Hadjihambis, those philosophers deserve their own article, which will be posted in due time. On an ending note, I would like to encourage students to  attend these fascinating lectures, which are sure to be beneficial to any student attending.

Written by Artur Dobrota

Posted in Jurisprudence