951 - The twelve sheets of Hellenism

N. Lygeros
Translated from the Greek by Athena Kehagias

The Rigas Velestinlis Charta is not only the first great Greek cartographic renaissance, its also a dynamic tool of great potential for the awakening of the genus. With the Charta of Rigas, geography as a cognitive subject, is enriched with a communicative and political dimension. The very existence of the Charta derives from the revolutionary context that was created in France during that period. This “French atmosphere” acted as a catalyst to the realization of the implementation of the vision of Rigas. Rigas himself with his then activity, due to the Russian-Turkish war, developed special skills in the political and intellectual fields. Furtermore, in combination with his high intelligence and his charismatic sociability, he realized the importance and contribution of communication in order to achieve his objective.
These skills of his, were enriched by his political experience as an adviser to powerful and unstable rulers. He considered therefore that paedia and education were essential for the enslaved Hellenism, through popularizing the tools of the period.
He achieved the actualization of his ideas through the production of a vast literary and translation works.
He translated other Enlighteners and traversed thereby, literature, science, laws and the historical geography of the famous Charta.
His ideology in the historical field is based on the idea that history is directly related to geography, a principle that was promoted by the French Enlightenment.
In practical terms he recognized the concept of the map. From this notion derives the instrument’s effectiveness, because the map by nature is, impressive, concise and communicable. A map is a picture and a picture is worth a thousand words.
All the weight and richness of the radical spirit can be compressed into the mental schemes of a map. The Charta of Rigas is a geometric complement of his verbal project, Thourios. Rigas made extensive use of both instruments in order to enhance his vision and make it understandable to everyone.
The Charta is not just an aspect of the influence of encyclopedism, and does not remain in the glass tower of knowledge, its displacing the ideas of Hellenism throughout the historical reality, converting through the vision, the reality into ephemeral data. The iconographic element of the Charta could be interpreted through the Byzantine tradition when its related to the history narrated by a temple.
The structure of the icons and the symbols are sufficient enough to modulate the mentality of a nation which lives violated. For this reason and very correctly indeed, the Charta, constitutes for the Austrian investigator, the main evidence of his revolutionary action, as per the record of his arrest by the Austrian police, . Rigas printed 1220 copies of the Charta. The 624 were send to Smyrna via Trieste, the 300 to Bucharest and the rest, to Greeks in Vienna. An entire world, all the Greeks of that era, did fit into 12 sheets. That is what Rigas Velestinlis accomplished, and its for that, that they robbed him of his life.