GREECE

I. War and Peace in Kalavrita

Fanis Labropolous


Kalavrita – Beginning of 20 th Century, before the Holocaust

I was involved as a volunteer in the Common Ground 191 art project through my cousin, Anastasia Chames. Anastasia as you may know lives in Los Angeles and frequently visits me in Greece, normally in spring and summer times. When she last visited my family (last May), she informed me about Common Ground 191 and I was immediately attached to it.

I was born in Athens and grew up in Kalavrita, until the age I finished high


Present Day Kalavrita

school. Then I moved to Athens and the following year I left Greece for United Kingdom. I lived in London for seven years where I studied a Bachelor of Arts in Contemporary Media Practice, specialising in Filmmaking, in University Of Westminster. Before my degree I had also studied a BTEC National Diploma in Media, specialising in Music Production, in South Thames College, in London too.

My parents live in Kalavrita and I have a sister, Elena (one year older than me – I am 31) who has also studied in England a Bachelor of Arts in European Fashion.


Kalavrita just before sunset.

* * *

Nikos Kazandjakis (Greek writer) has articulated that “we come from an obscure abyss; we end in an obscure abyss. The bright interval, (between beginning and end) is called life”! Life is unique and life is a gift and I chose to dedicate my life serving Art. I adopt Friedrich Nietzsche’s conception that “ Art is the biggest undertaking and truly metaphysical activity in this life”. I feel awe living in a land full of History and Art. Professor Sir Ernst Gombrich has formulated in his famous book ‘The Story Of Art’ (16 th edition), that “we are all the pupils of the Greeks”.

Indeed it is true that we really do not know how exactly Art began, but Art on its own cannot be formed unless there is an artist. Although Art dates from thousands of years ago, I think the great fine Art especially in painting (and later in sculpture) develops from Greece, just before 500 BC when there was the highest discovery of ‘foreshortening’ and of other natural forms. In that astounding period Greeks began to question the prejudiced past bound by old traditions and to observe nature using their eyes and explored the function of nature. Socrates (who was trained as a sculptor too) exhorted artists to follow a deeper study of the human body and examine the inner feelings, the “workings of soul”, which render the body with particular expressions! Philosophy, Drama and above all the birth of Tragedy are creations of the Greek ancient era. And this is in history where the civilisation acquires a remarkable meaning!

* * *

The soil was collected in the summer of 2005 in a small town Kalavrita that is located in the North side of Peloponnesos and about 196 Kilometres away of Athens. The Municipality of Kalavrita consists of 8,000 people (including 31 villages) and belongs to the Prefecture of Achaia.

Kalavrita is fast developing regarding tourism. Monuments reminding us of its long historical course from antiquity until today can be seen everywhere. The most glorious historical moment of the area being the beginning of the Greek Revolution in 1821 and the saddest being the holocaust of the town by the Germans in 1943.


Kalavrita – Centre of Town after Holocaust - 1943

 


Kalavrita - 1943

Kalavrita was instrumental in liberation of Greeks on 21 st of March 1821. The Turks had conquered Achaia in 1460, with the fall of Kalavrita and all the other castles, apart from Salmeniko (nowadays called Municipality ofErineos), that withheld the invaders for a whole year.

During recent history (1940 – 1943) Achaia suffered from the destructive mania of the conquerors.

Specifically:
In the morning of October 28 th 1940 the Italian invaders bombed civilians in Patra , spreading death and terror. On December 13 th 1943, the German conquerors destroyed the city of Kalavrita and killed all the male citizens aged 13 and above. The town was ruined at 14:34 as the hands of the church’s left clock has stopped in that time and remain intact, showing the precise time of the holocaust.


Kalavrita – The Main Church

The Germans committed mass executions and destroyed the villages Rogi, Kerpini, Zachlorou, Vrachni, Souvardo. Moreover they killed monks and set the monasteries of Aghia Lavra and Mega Spileo on fire.

500 meters away of the centre of Kalavrita is located the ‘Site of Sacrifice’, on Kapi Hill, a war memorial, in where the male population of Kalavrita was executed by the Germans. Its enormous White Cross and the Mother of Kalavrita statue, remind the atrocious crime and send messages of peace and fraternity.


Site of Sacrifice – Location of Soil Collection


HOLY MONASTERY OF AGHIA LAVRA

The Monastery of Aghia Lavra became the centre of the National Rise against the Turks in 1821, when the Banner of the Revolution was raised and the fighters were put on oath by the metropolitan bishop Paleon Patron Germano. It was not long before the Monastery became the target of the conquerors, who set it on fire on the 4th of May, 1826. It was not looted as the monks moved away every valuable object on time.


Monastery at Aghia Lavra

In the harsh December 1943, more persecutions, killings and damages followed in the Monastery, the villages around Kalavrita and the city of Kalavrita by the German conquerors. During the period of the civil war (1946-1949) the Monastery suffered extensive damages.

Yet, despite the difficulties, The monks of the Monastery managed to save the “Banner of the Revolution”, where the Ascension of Virgin Mary is depicted. It was made in Smyrna in the end of the l6th century. The monks also rescued the head of Saint Alexios, given as a present to the Monastery by ManouilKomnino in 1359. Moreover, among other relics in the Monastery, there is a Gospel decorated with diamonds, a present by the empress of RussiaCatherine. There are reliquaries of Saints, two Gospels hand-written in parchment of the 11 th and the 14 th centuries, very old icons, a Mass by Vassilios the Great, etc. There are also some valuable codes with historic and folklore content, codes with works of ancient Greek writers, various Byzantine, Venetian etc. documents, and a rich library. The Monastery celebrates on the l5th of August.

HOLY MONASTERY OF MEGA SPILEO ( Grand Cave)

It is one of the oldest and most historically important Monasteries in Greece, at a distance of 11 kilometers from the city of Kalavrita. It rises on the west, sheer, bare slope of Chelmos. According to tradition, the brother monks Simeon and Theodore coming from Thessaloniki were the founders of the Monastery. After becoming monks in Mount Athos, they went to Jerusalem and Sinai to bow before the Holy Lands. Led by Virgin Mary, they were helped by a local shepherd girl, Efrossini, to discover the Icon of Virgin Mary painted by Saint Luke in an inaccessible Cave. Then, in 362, the Monastery took its original form, linked with many legends.


The Monastery at Mega Spileo ( Grand Cave)

The Monastery possesses a great wealth of relics. The Icon of Virgin Mary painted by Saint Luke has the most distinguished position among them. The Monastery also possesses a rare banner with the forms of three Byzantine emperors, a precious cross with a piece of the Holy Cross, reliquaries, Gospels in parchment etc. There is also a library with more than 3,000 volumes and many manuscripts. Five of them are decorated with wonderful miniature paintings. It celebrates on the 15th of August. A great number of people coming from all over Greece visit the Monastery to bow before the Icon of Virgin Mary.

VOURAIKOS CANYON

According to the legend, Hercules used his sword to cut a rock into two blocking his way at a place called “Portes” in Vouraikos Canyon. Some claim that Hercules was heading for Evristhea, others claim that he was heading for his beloved Voura, Eliki’s daughter. Vouraikos was named after Voura, as the ancient residents called it Erassino.


Vouraikos Canyon

It is the law of nature and not just the legend that provides this area so much beauty and attracts thousands of tourists. Vouraikos valley used to be a lake like all the area around Kalavrita. The water “looked for” a way out to the sea and “moulded” this grand canyon. Later, the rush of Vouraikos river has deepened the canyon, mouIding it in a way that would be envied by the greatest sculptors.

Vouraikos Canyon starts 3km north to the village Kato Zachlorou at an altitude of 730 meters. It continues along the river covering a distance of 20 km to end up at the village Diakopto. Torrent waterfalls, caves with stalagmites and stalactites, the luxuriant vegetation of plane trees, fir trees, olive trees and oleanders make up a landscape of unique beauty in Greece.

Technology “tamed” this inaccessible area with respect to its uniqueness on March 10, 1896. In that date the Rack Railway started its journey to the wonders of Vouraikos. Charilaos Trikoupis decided the construction of the Rack Railway in 1889. That year the work started to be constructed reaching the cost of 3,900,000 gold drachmas. This train has continued its journey in time offering wonderful time to passengers. The journey starts at Diakopto going through conglomerate rocks provoking awe and shivers, through tunnels and over bridges, through tranquil places where only the noise from the Rack Railway is heard. The narrowest and most beautiful parts of the Canyon are at the areas called Niamata, Portes, Triklia, Sifoni and the “courtroom”, a cave with stalagmites looking like a courtroom. There has never been an accident at the Rack Railway.


SKI RESORT ON CHELMOS MOUNTAIN IN KALAVRITA

As well as “freezing” the shoulders of Mount Chelmos, snow offers skiers and snowboarders the opportunity to enjoy balancing on ice. Visitors in Achaia should take their ski along, in order to enjoy skiing in one of the finest and safest ski/snowboard resorts in Greece.

In 1988 the Ski Resort started to operate at the site called Xerokabos, 14km. away from the city of Kalavrita. This mountainous region had the advantage of being close to snow and the beautiful mountain sides of Chelmos, wooded by fir trees forests at a large extent. The Ski Resort turned economic recession in the area into rapid development.

Nowadays, Kalavrita area has developed into a Tourist Center with many

hotels, a great number of shops (cafeterias, taverns, bars) with thousand of visitors every year. The Ski Resort is in the North mountainside of Chelmos at an altitude of 1,650 to 2,340 meters. In fact when the skier or snowboarder uses particular tracks or lifts, they can be able to watch the seaside of the Korinthean Gulf. So the Ski Center has invented a motto “skiing with a view of the sea”.

There are seven (7) lifts (2 beginners, 2 chair type and 3 sliding lifts) with a total capacity of carrying 5,000 people per hour. These serve 12 ski tracks of all levels at a total length of 20 km. There are cross country ski tracks, trails of mountaineering ski and climbing trails. There are three buildings for skiers and visitors to rest, have coffee or a meal. Parking lots are comfortable. There is a first- aid station, a ski/snowboard school and shops renting ski/snowboard gear.

The Ski Resort is open daily during wintertime, from mid – December to the end of April. The number of visitors is more than 100.000 during winter time. Visitors are mainly young people, beginner to advanced level skiers.

* * *

The most frightening water was “Idata Stigos” (StigaWater), at Chelmo mountain, that Homer mentions in Iliad. This “ogigion” (eerie) water coming from the depths of Hades sprang from the holy rock of Stiga. The gods in Olympus made their most terrible vow on “Stiga Water” during the war with the Titans. According to legend, Thetis dipped her son Achilles into “Stiga Water” to make him immortal. Yet, the place she held him from remained mortal, causing his death from Paris’ arrow.

* * *


Kalavrita, ‘Aristarchos Observatory – Chelmos Mountain, in the winter’

A new modern telescope has been built (of National Observatory of Athens ), a 2.3m Ritchey-Chretien reflector, and it is under final tests by Carl Zeiss Jena. The new site that hosts the telescope, is located on the top of Chelmos at an altitude of 2,340m on Neraidorachi peak of the mountain, near the Ski Resort facilities in Kalavrita. It is the largest telescope in the Balkans and the countries in east Mediterranean. The telescope is made in Germany by Carl Zeiss Jena GmbH Company. The project is financed by the German Research and Technology Secretariat and the European Community. This telescope is in the position to observe objects at a distance of 5 billion years of light, a distance equivalent to the age of the solar system. The telescope was named after the Greek astronomer Aristarchos, who was the first to conceive the theory of the heliocentric system.

CULTURAL EVENTS & OTHER ACTIVITIES

In the Municipality of Kalavrita there is noteworthy cultural activity taking place through the Municipal Project of Cultural Development - Quality of Life (DEPAPOZ) in Kalavrita. DEPAPOZ accommodates the Town Band of Kalavrita, groups of guitar, wind instruments and piano players, the choir, dance and eurhythmics groups. DEPAPOZ also organises an annual cultural event called Cultural August presenting music, dance and drama performances throughout the Municipality. There are cultural events organised throughout the year (to welcome the New Year, on Shrove Monday, on the First of May, athletic events, meetings). The Music Centre of DEPAPOZ organises the ‘International Seminar of Wind Instruments’ every year. There are a lot of musicians and music students participating in this seminar from all over the world. The contribution to the cultural development of the area of the Cultural Societies in the Municipality is remarkable (it is noteworthy that the Cultural Society in Skepasto village has set up dance clubs). In co-operation with the Municipality of Kalavrita, "SOHAK" organises the passage through Vouraikos Canyon. "SEPOKE" organises Chess Championships. The Drama Club "Panos Michos" organise drama performances and take part in the reconstruction of the outbreak of the 1821 Revolution.

 

The Museum of the Holocaust in Kalavrita

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On March 21 the historic events are reconstructed in the city center including the taking over of the city and the arrest of the Turk Commanding Officer Arnaoutoglou. On March 25 the historic events are reconstructed again in the historic Monastery of Aghia Lavra in front of the Church.

On March 17 the memory of the Patron Saint Alexios is honored at Kalavrita, and on September 8, the Birth of Panaghia (Virgin Mary) Plataniotissa is celebrated. A big trade fair is organized every year at Kalavrita on September 20.

Important events in the Municipality include the following festivals. The liberation of the city of Kalavrita from the Turkish Domination is celebrated on March 21. The national holiday at the historic Monastery at Aghia Lavra is celebrated on March 25. The memorial service for the victims of the bombing at the villages Trechlo - Lapata - Manessi is performed on July 29, 1943. The memorial service in honour of the people executed at the villages Rogi, Kerpini and Kato Zachlorou is performed on December 8, 1943. The events organized in memory of the 1943 holocaust in Kalavrita are celebrated on December 13.

* * *

Tourists can see other significant archaeological , historical and religious monuments in the region of the Municipality of Kalavrita, such as: The archaeological site of ancient Loussi with Mycenaean tombs and the Temple of Artemis (Diana), the monastery of Makelaria, the church of Panaghia Plataniotissa (Virgin Mary), which is built in the hollow of an ever-lasting plane tree. The Municipality may be mountainous, but the wonderful beaches of Korinthos Bay are only half an hour away from Kalavrita, offering visitors the chance to enjoy both the sea and the mountain.

The source is the following: Guide Book of Achaia, 2001 Edition, Publication: Artion-George Anastasopoulos © Achasia S.A.

* * *

The soil was specifically gathered in ‘The Site of Sacrifice’ of Kalavrita, where the sculpture of the Mother from Kalavrita is located. The soil has a chocolate dye with a light sense of ruby saturation. Its shape consists of a fusion of clay and sand grains with asymmetric broken rock particles. Generally it seems quite dry, but depending on the moisture of the environment and of other weather conditions its appearance may be altered.

The day I picked it was shiny and the place seemed very calm with no sign of visitors. The atmosphere was in harmony and equilibrium, and I felt as if the spirits allowed me to share their space with and accepted my suave intension! I am sure they would agree with it, for such a global art concept. I was filled with a feeling of gratitude and I sensed the voices of men struggling for life and freedom! I believe that Liberty is one of the highest ideals for human, in order not only to live independent, but above all, to think without limits!

Soil Collector: Mr. Fanish Labropoulos

The reason I chose Kalavrita as a place for my soil collection, was indeed the message of Freedom that is derived by the soul of the town. Freedom in every form!

I wish for Gary Simpson to free all invisible energies of matter and form an art, opening a discourse with "the workings of soul" of the substance!


The Rack Railway: moving forward in the peace of Winter

GREECE

B - War and Peace in Greece

By: Jheri St. James

 


“When Zeus wished to establish the exact location of the navel of the world he released two eagles from the furthest perimeters of it and made a note of where the flight of these birds crossed. They did so at Delphi, and Greece became the place where East divides from West, and North from South, the rendezvous of mutually exclusive cultures, and the crossroads of the rapacious and itinerant armies of the world
“ . . . it is said that in ancient times all lands were one, and it seems that the continents themselves profess nostalgia for that state of affairs, just as there are people who say that they belong not to their nation but to the world, demanding an international passport and a universal right of residence. Thus India pushes northwards, ploughing up the Himalayas, determined not to be an island but to press its tropical and humid lust on Asia. The Arabian Peninsula wreaks a sly revenge on the Ottomans by leaning against Turkey casually in the hope of causing it to fall into the Black Sea. Africa, tired of white folk who think of it as musky, perilous, unknowable and romantic, squeezes northward in the determination that Europe shall look it in the face for once, and admit after all that its civilization was conceived in Egypt. Only the Americas hurry away westwards, so determined to be isolated and superior that they have forgotten that the world is round and that one day perforce they will find themselves glued prodigiously to China.”S

* * *

Following is a very condensed history of Greece: The earliest major civilization in the area of Greece was the Minoan culture, centered on the island of Crete (c. 2200-1500 B.C.). The period between 1200 and 750 B.C. is known as the “Dark Ages” of Greek history. Then, in the 8th and 7th centuries B.C. the first Greek city-states emerged, along with a culture based on the Greek language. And then in the latter half of the 5th century B.C., especially during the reign of Pericles, the “Golden Age of Athens” emerged, a period of unparalleled cultural activity ranging from the building of the Parthenon to the ideas of Socrates. But resentment against Athenian power led eventually to Athens’ defeat by Sparta in the Peloponnesian War (431-404 B.C.).

In the 4th century B.C. Athens’ artistic and intellectual achievements continued to flourish. This was the century of Plato, Aristotle, the sculptor Praxiteles, and many others. In 338 B.C., Philip of Macedon became the ruler of Greece. Philip’s son, Alexander the Great (356-323 B.C.) expanded Greek power into an empire that extended eastward to the Indus River and south to Egypt. In the period that followed his death, called the Hellenistic Age, Greek culture and civilization spread throughout the western world.

Rome first became involved in Greek affairs in 220 B.C. and in 197 B.C. Greek opponents of Macedonia helped the Romans defeat the Hellenistic rulers. From 146 B.C., Greece fell under Roman domination and in 27 B.C. it became the Roman province of Achaea. From A.D. 395, when the Roman Empire was divided into a Western and an Eastern Empire, Greece was incorporated into the Byzantine Empire, which lasted until 1453. After the fall of Constantinople (1453), it became part of the Ottoman Empire.


Greece achieved its independence from the Ottoman Empire in 1829. During the second half of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century, it gradually added neighboring islands and territories, most with Greek-speaking populations. In World War II, Greece was first invaded by Italy (1940) and subsequently occupied by Germany (1941-44); fighting endured in a protracted civil war between royalist supporters of the king and communist rebels. Following the latter’s defeat in 1949, Greece was able to join NATO in 1952. A military dictatorship, which in 1967 suspended many political liberties and forced the king to flee the county, lasted seven years. The 1974 democratic elections and referendum created a parliamentary republic and abolished the monarchy. Greece joined the European Community or EC in 1981 (which became the EU in 1992); it became the 12th member of the euro zone in 2001.

* * *

Greece is located in Southern Europe, bordering the Aegean Sea, Ionian Sea and the Mediterranean Sea, between Albania and Turkey. Greece and Turkey continue discussions to resolve their complex maritime, air, territorial and boundary disputes in the Aegean Sea; the Cyprus question with Turkey; Greece rejects the use of the name Macedonia or Republic of Macedonia. Greece is bordered by Albania, Yugoslavia, and Bulgaria on the north, by Turkey and the Aegean Sea on the east, by the Ionian Sea on the west, and by the Mediterranean Sea on the South. The capital and largest city is Athens.

Almost 20 percent of Greece’s land area is accounted for by islands, of which the largest is Crete. More than 160 other islands are inhabited, including Corfu, Lesbos, Milos, Rhodes, and Samos. The mainland is mountainous. The climate of Greece is typically Mediterranean along the coasts, which have hot, dry summers and mild winters. Most rain falls in the winter months and is concentrated along the western shores.


The soldier Carlos Guercio: “No civilian can comprehend the joy of being a soldier. That is, quite simply, an irreducible fact. A further fact is that, regardless of the matter of sex, soldiers grow to love each other; and, regardless of the matter of sex, this is a love without parallel in civil life. You are all young and strong, overflowing with life, and you are all in the shit together . . . We were all young together. We would never be more handsome, we would never be more lean and strong, we would never again have such water-fights, we would never again feel so invincible and immortal. We could march fifty miles in one day, singing battle songs and lewd songs, swinging along together or trudging, limbs in unison, the cockerel feathers of our helmets black and glistening, tossing. . . . We were new and beautiful, we loved each other more than brothers, that’s for sure.

“What spoiled it always was that none of us knew why . . . none of us had an easy conscience about this rebuilding of the Roman Empire . . . No one minds dying in a noble cause, but we were haunted behind the eyes by the strong pointlessness of loving a life that had no reasonable excuse. My point is that we were like gladiators, prepared to do our duty, prepared to be stoical, but always perplexed. Count Ciano played golf, Mussolini conducted vendettas against cats, and we were in an unmapped waste, wasting time until the time ran out and we were thrown into mismanaged battle against a people that fought like gods.

“I am not a cynic, but I do know that history is the propaganda of the victors. I know that if we win the war there will be shocking stories of British atrocities, volumes written to show the inevitability and justice of our cause, irrefutable evidence complied to reveal the conspiracies of Jewish plutocrats, photographs of piles of bones found in mass graves in the suburbs of London. Equally I know that the reverse will be true if the British win. I know that the Duce has made it clear that the Greek campaign was a resounding victory for Italy. But he was not there. He does not know what happened. He does not know that the ultimate truth is that history ought to consist only of the anecdotes of the little people who are caught up in it. He ought to know that the truth is that we were losing badly until the Germans invaded from Bulgaria. He will never acknowledge this because the “truth” belongs to the victors. But I was there, and I know what was happening in my part of the war. For me that war was an experience that shaped the whole course of my thought, it was deepest personal shock that I have ever had, the worst and most intimate tragedy of my life. It destroyed my patriotism, it changed my ideals, it made me question the whole notion of duty, and it horrified me and made me sad.” S

* * *

Even the Greek Gods and Goddesses warred for power in Greek myths. There were four categories of these Gods and Goddesses: Titans, Olympians, Chthonians, and Free Spirits. The Titans (Gaia and Hyperion, et al) were a race of gods who were the parents and precursors of the Olympians (Aphrodite, Athena, Zeus, et al). They were defeated by this younger generation of deities, who were led by Zeus. The ancient Greek poet Hesios, in his Theogony, claims that the goddess Gaia first gave birth to Ouranos, then mated with him to produce these offspring. Later, Ouranos was to name his children Titans, which translates into “overreachers”. The Chthonic deities (Hades and Persephone et al) inhabited the opposite realm from the Olympians—the Earth or the Underworld (chthon means earth in Greek). These immortals therefore acquired a slightly more dark and shadowy aspect than their bright Olympian counterparts. Nevertheless they had their place in the Greek pantheon, for they fulfilled certain fundamental needs, including providing an explanation for what happens to mortals after death. Free Spirits were important Greek Gods and Goddesses who did not fit into a specific category (the Muses, Nike, nymphs, etc.).

These mythological stories differ from folk tales and legends in that they tend to be integrated in the religious doctrine of a particular culture and are considered sacred and factual. Mythological stories also contain supernatural and divine elements. The most well known myths in western civilization are those of ancient Greece. The historic sources for our knowledge of this mythology are the Theogeny by Hesiod and the Illiad and the Odyssey by Homer. All three works date from the 8th century B.C. Many theories have been developed by scholars about how and why myths began and what they mean. Some believe that myths are based on historical fact, that mythic heroes were representations of nature, that myths were an attempt to explain the unexplainable events in dreams, or that myths reflect the cyclical nature of life—birth, growth, decay and rebirth. Later, Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung postulated important interpretations of myths. Joseph Campbell has also made great contributions to human knowledge and understanding of mythic lore.

Greek myths were the earliest and most important literature known to the Western world. Completely original and natural, there were no earlier literary models that the Greeks could look to for guidance. The distinguishing characteristic of classical Greek literature is that it was oral, meant to be delivered by mouth and heard by the ears. Epic poetry, long narratives depicting heroic deeds of both gods and mortals, was the first important form of Greek literature. Lyric poetry, sung to the music of the lyre, evolved about 650 B.C. and dealt with human emotions. Choral lyrics, sung by groups accompanied by music and dancing were one form of lyric poetry. During the “Golden Age” (500 B.C.) Athens was the center of Greek culture. The height of this period lasted from 461 B.C. to 431 B.C. and it was during this period, largely as a result of the emergence of democracy, that literature flourished. Comedy was also prominent in the 400’s B.C. Greek literature continued to flourish throughout its history and in 1963 George Seferis, a lyric poet, became the first Greek to win the Nobel Prize for literature. Odysseus Elytis, also a poet, was awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 1979. Many important ideas of the Greek writers color the processes of modern day government and society.

* * *

The doctor, Iannis: “Paidia, paidia, this is enough. We have this unpleasantness every morning. I have always been a Venizelist; I am not a monarchist, and I am not a Communist. I disagree with both of you, but I cure Stamatis’ deafness and I burn out Kokolios’ warts. This is how we should be. We should care for each other more than we care for ideas, or else we will end up killing each other. Am I not right? . . . Empedocles said that God is a circle whose center is everywhere and whose circumference is nowhere. If that is true, then I don’t need to go to church. And I don’t need to believe the same things as you to see that you have a purpose. Now let’s smoke and drink our coffee in peace.” S

* * *

The Olympic Games are the oldest and most famous international sporting contest on earth. Traditionally for amateurs, they are held once every four years. The Olympics probably developed from the ancient Greek custom of holding athletic contests in honor of a god or a dead hero. A list of male champions exists from 776 B.C. The Olympics continued through the roman period in Greece. Gradually, however, they lost their popular esteem, largely through the growth of cheating. In A.D. 394, they were abolished by decree of the Emperor Theodosius. In 1894, a French nobleman, Pierre de Coubertin, called a meeting in Paris that led to the first modern Olympic Games held in Athens in 1896. Since then the Olympics have been held in different cities once every four years, with the exception of the war years 1916, 1940, and 1944. Women first competed in 1912.

Greece is also famous for a huge merchant marine fleet. Aristotle Onassis is likely the most famous shipping magnate to come out of Greece. He was the son of poor farm parents, lived in Argentina as a teen, and sold cigars. Later he bought and sold ships, and now his family owns Scorpios Island—where he is buried.

* * *

Our Common Ground 191 soil collector in Greece was Fanis Labropoulos, who lives in Athens. His contribution, “was taken from Kalavrita where, on the 21st of March 1821 the Greek Revolution against the Turkish began, followed by the liberation of Greece from the Turkish Yoke. The Holocaust of Kalavrita by Germans was dated 13th December, 1943. This soil is meant to memorialize those warring events.”

* * *

Antonio Corelli: “You can’t tell by the uniforms, you know. They recruited in Poland, the Ukraine, Latvia, Lithuania, Czechoslovakia, Croatia, Slovenia, Romania. You name it. You don’t know it, but on the mainland they’ve got Greeks they call “Security Battalions. . . . Every nation has its share of shits. All those thugs and nonentities who want to feel superior. Exactly the same thing happened in Italy. They all joined the Fascists to see what they could get. All sons of clerks and peasants who wanted to be something. All ambition and no ideals. Don’t you see the appeal of an army? If you want a girl, rape her. If you want a watch, take it. If you’re in a sour mood, kill someone. You feel better, you feel strong. It feels good to belong to the chosen people, you can do what you want, and you can justify anything by saying it’s a law of nature or the will of God. . . .

“A wave of grief and nostalgia overwhelmed him, and his throat constricted with sorrow as he lurched his way along the stones. It did not occur to him that he was a statistic, one more life warped and ruined by a war, a tarnished hero destined for the void. He was aware of nothing but a vanishment of paradise, an optimism that had turned to dust and ash, a joy that had once shone brighter than the summer sun, but now had disappeared and melted in the black light and frigid heat of massacre and cumulative remorse. He had struggled for a better world, and wrecked it.”

* * *

Perhaps many warriors have felt the way Corelli did, that they have struggled for a better world and wrecked it. Here at Common Ground 191, we go beyond these struggles, these wreckages, all the way down to the place below where the Chthonians hold reign, the gods and goddesses of Earth and the Underworld. Mr. de Berniéres wrote beautifully of a time when all the continents of the planet were one. In the evolution of life on earth many turbulent wars have been fought on the surface, many thousands of gods, philosophers, athletes, and warriors have added their ideals and blood to the soil of our planet. We here at Common Ground 191 celebrate the subterranean force that moves the tectonic plates, causes the magma to converge and diverge, the place below the outer layer, where we will always be one planet. Thank you, Fanis Labropoulos, to your participation in bringing the venerable soil of Greece to our project.



S
Quotes from de Berniéres, Louis. Corelli’s Mandolin. (Pantheon Books, New York) 1994. (From the time in World War II when the Italian army came into the island of Cephallonia, Greece)

 



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