1. George Sinas (1783-1856)
Greek entrepreneur and banker George Sinas’ greatest donation to Greece was the financing of the Athens National Observatory to Greece, designed by acclaimed Danish architect Theophil Hansen. Though born in Greece, he moved with his father, a tobacco and cotton merchant, to Vienna. He became chief director of the National bank of Austria and was very successful in this post for 25 years. He was appointed ambassador of Greece to Austria by King Otto and he financially supported the Greek community in Vienna. He also also donated money to Greece to fund institutions such as the Arsakeio school in Athens, the University of Athens and a number of medical and archaeological institutions. His son continued his work in the fields of business and benefaction.
2. Michael Tositsas (1787-1856)
Born in Metsovo in Epirus, Tositsas was 19 when he moved to Thessaloniki when he took over his father’s fur shop. He was so successful that he opened branches in Italy and Malta.
He was known to Egypt’s prince Mehmet Ali. He was appointed Consul General in Alexandria. He came to own numerous properties and was to play and important role in developing religious and educational facilities in Egypt. He also donated large sums of money to fund churches, schools and hospitals in Greece – including the University of Athens, the National Technical University of Athens and the Arsakio School. His widow continued his philanthropic work after his death in 1856.
3 Georgios Averoff (1815-1899)
Another native of Metsovo, Averoff moved to Egypt in 1837 and became a leading businessman. Donated part of his wealth to charities and funded the building of schools and educational institutions in Egypt and Greece – including the Evelpidon Military Academy. He donated to the Athens Conservatory and to the renovation of the Panathenaic Stadium, the venue of the first modern Olympic Games of 1896.
4. Evangelis Zappas (1800-1865)
Perhaps one of the prime movers for the establishment of the modern Olympic Games was Zappas. He sponsored a version of the Olympics in 1859, and posthumously funded similar Olympics in 1870, 1875 and 1888. These were the precursors of the Olympic Games as they came to be sanctioned by the International Olympic Committee.
Zappas was Romanian born and took part in the Greek War of Independence (1821-32) and attained the rank of major. After the war, he moved to Wallachia where he became one of the richest men in Eastern Europe. His wealth went towards the founding of a number of Greek institutions, schools and sports facilities. The Zappeion building which bears his name and which he financed was the first building in the modern era to have been specifically for the Olympics movement. The head of Zappas is buried in the walls of the building.
5. Emmanouil Benakis (1843-1929)
Benakis studied in England before moving to Alexandria where he worked for a Greek cotton industrialist. He became very wealthy in his own right. A friend of Eleftherios Venizelos, he served as minister of agriculture and industry. Later, 1914, he was elected as mayor of Athens.
His contributions include the settlement of refugees after the population exchange with Turkey in the 1920s. He founded the Phytopathological Institute that focussed on plant health; a library, educational institutions and orphanages.
His son, Antonis, established the Benaki Museum.
6. Ioannis Gennadios (1844-1932)
Gennadios, an Athenian, was a diplomat who served Greece in England and Trukey. He was an avid book collector and owner of the Genadios Library which housed 26,000 books. In 1922, he donated the library to the American School of Classical Studies in Athens. The Gennadios is also part of his philanthropic legacy.
7. Eugenios Eugenidis (1882-1954)
Eugenidis was born in Didymoteicho in Thrace. He graduated from a leading public school in Istanbul and became an important figure in the shipping industry. Thanks to his ties with Scandinavian shipping, he was appointed Finland’s consul general to Greece. He moved to Egypt during the Second World War and established a shipping line between North Africa and South America. He moved to Argentina and after the war he settled in Switzerland after the war.
The year before he died, in 1953, he was to generously contribute to the reconstruction of the Ionian Islands that were devastated by a massive earthquake.
Two years after his death, and on his instructions, the Eugenidis Foundation was set up to support technological and scientific education in Greece.
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8. Prodromos Bodossakis-Athanasiadis (1890-1979)
Bodossakis-Athanasiadis was born in Cappadocia in Asia Minor. He was already an entrepreuner by age 17. After the Greco Turkish wars of the early 20th Century he moved to Greece. He is credited as being the father of Greek industry. In the 1930s he took over the Pyrkal, one of the oldest defence industries in Greece. He was to take charge of companies in mining, glass, textiles, engineering and construction.
He played an important role in rebuilding the Greek economy after the Second World War. He built Bordossakis Elementary School that is part of Athens College and established a geriatric clinic in the Athens Mental Care hospital. He bequeathed his fortune to the Bodossakis Foundation which promotes projects in healthcare, education, research and environmental protection.
9 Stavros Niarchos (1909 -1996)
He was a shipping magnate who introduced the supertanker to his fleet at a time when the demand for oil was rising. Niarchos studied law in Athens and was a naval officer during the Second World War. He went on to found his international shipping company Niarchos Ltd.
The Stavros Niarchos Foundation Cultural Centre that houses the National Library and National Opera is a major cultural centre in the Greek capital. The foundation provides funds for many health and educational initiatives.
10. Aristotle Onassis (1906-1975)
Onassis was 16 when he fled Smyrna, the city of his birth, when it was razed by fire in 1922. He travelled to Argentina on a Nansen (refugee) passport. Starting as a telephone operator working at night, Onassis was to build his fortune first trading in tobacco and then moving into shipping, particularly in oil tankers, to become on the wealthiest men in the world.
The Alexander S Onassis Public Benefit Foundation was set up posthumously on Onassis’ instructions in memory of his son who died as a result of an air crash in 1973. Half the money of his estate went towards the creation of the foundation which is one of the largest in Europe. The foundation has funded major works in Greece- the Cardiac Surgery Centre in Athens is one such project- and elsewhere in collaboration with other charitable organisations. It stated aim to promote Greek culture and civilisation around the world.