Friday, September 23, 2011

Aspasia the first lady of Athens

Aspasia (470 BC- 400 BC) was born in Miletus and she became famous for her relationship with the prominent politician Pericles.Only a few things are known about her. She spent most of her life in Athens and it is said that by influencing Pericles she was affecting Athenian politics too.Authors like Plato Aristophanes and Ksenophon mention her name in their works.

Some of those authors argue that she was an owner of a brothel while she herself was also a prostitute.However contemporary historians are sceptical over these allegations.Considering that many of these authors were writting comedies or satirical stories  maybe their intentions were to defame Pericles.Some historians proceed furthermore believing that Aspasia wasn't even an hetaira and that she was just married with Pericles.

Aspasia delivered a son by Pericles whom she named also Pericles. Her son became a general of the Athenian army and was eventually executed after a defeat in a navel battle.After the death of Pericles the elder Apasia  became hetaira of Lysicles, another prominent statesman of Athens.

Marie Bouliard poses as Aspasia in 1794,

Her birthplace was Miletos which nowadays  is located in the Aidin district of Turkey. Her father's name was Aksiochos. She was descended from a wealthy family which was apparent by the education she had received.

It's unknown under what circumstances she travelled to Athens. The discovery of a gravestone with the names Aksiochos and Aspasios lead the historian Peter k. Bicknell to reconstruct the family enviroment and its possible relations with Athens. His theory connects Alcibiades of Skambonids who was exiled from Athens in 460 BC and maybe he spent his years in exile in Miletus. Bicknell assumes that Alcibiades married Aksiochos' daughter while he was in Miletos. Eventually Alcibiades returned back to Athens with his new wife and her little sister who is believed to be Aspasia.Bicknell argues that the offspring of this wedding was named Aksiochos(the uncle of the notorious Alcibiades of the Peloponnesian war). He also assumes that Pericles got in touch with Aspasia because of his friendly relations with the house of Alcibiades.

According to controversial references of ancient authors and some contemporary researchers Aspasia became an owner of a brothel and he herself was also an hetaira(a kind of athenian prostitution). Hetairai were  professional women who were entertaining men of high class. Some of them were also prostitutes. Except from their beauty that made them distinct from other Athenian women they were also educated(often at high level like Aspasia) independent and they were paying taxes. The hetairai institution was the only sample of woman independence in the ancient times and Aspasia was the obvious example of it.According  to Plutarchus Aspasia was compared to Thargilia who was also a fmous hetaira from Ionia.

Aspasia Painting by Henry holiday

Being a foreign citizen(non Athenian) and maybe a hetaira  relieved Aspasia from any legal constraints which traditionally kept every Athenian woman inside her oikos(house). She became a lover of Pericles at the begining of the 440's BC. After Pericles divorced his first wife he started living together with Aspasia but it is uncertain if he married her or not.In 440 BC Aspasia delivered a boy which she called Pericles. She must have been at a very young age at  this time cause she gave birth to a Lysicles' child in 428 BC.

At the Athenian society Aspasia was mostly known for her eloquence and her accurate consultations rather than her physical appearance.According to Plutarch her house became a center of culture in Athens and attracted daily many authors and Philosophers , among them the philosopher Socrates .Plutarch mentions that even though she had an immoral life the Athenians were bringing their wives with them to Aspasia's house in order to listen her speeches.

Pericles and Aspasia were attacked and defamed a lot of times.We should not forget that Athens was a democracy and not a monarchy therefore anyone could say anything about everyone regardless of their social status. Aspasia's relation with Pericles and her involvement in Athenian politics annoyed many people.

Donald Kagan a historian of the Yale university states that Aspasia was not at all popular during the Samian war.In 440 BC Samos was in war with Miletos and Priini. When they lost the war the Milesians sent an envoy to Athens to plead for an Athenian intervention. When the Athenians ordered a ceasefire and asked for controlling the negotiations the Samians refused and as a result Pericles implemented an act of campaigning against Samos. According to Plutarch, there was a rumour that Aspasia who was born in Miletos influenced Pericles on taking this decision even though he didn't want a war with Samos.

Socrates seeks Alcibiades in Aspasia's house. Painting Gean Leon Gerome(1861)

Before the begining of the Peloponnesian war(431-404) Pericles and Aspasia were legally and personally attacked. Aspasia was charged that she was seducing little girls in order to satisfy the perverted needs of Pericles.According to Plutarch she was condemned for being disrespectful by the comic poet Ermippus who was the public prosecutor of this trial. Eventually Aspasia was found innocent because the accusations had no evidence.

In the theatrical comedy Acharnes the famous comedian Aristophanes accuses Aspasia for inciting the Peloponnesian war.He argues that the law about Megara that was implemented by Pericles with which Megara would be forbidden to trade with Athens and its allies was an act of revenge of Aspasia because some Megareans had abducted some prostitutes from her brothel.The accusations for the Peloponnesian war were mainly mirrored by the accusations about the Samian war. Even Ksanthippos who was Pericles' son from his first marriage was accusing Pericles and Aspasia.

Final years and death

In 429 BC Athens was tormented by a plague and Pericles saw many of his relatives and among them his two sons from his first marriage Ksanthippos and Paralos die from it.With his morale decrease he fell into depression and not even Aspasia's companionship was able to consolate him.A little before Pericle's death the Athenians implemented a law about the Athenian citizenship which could permit his son Pericles who was half Athenian to have full political rights and become his heir.It's weird though that Pericles had implemented a law by which only persons with two indigenous parents could have full political rights.Pericles died in 429 BC hit by the plague.

Herm of Pericles in the Vatican Museum bearing the inscription "Pericles, son of Xanthippus, Athenian." Roman copy of the original by Kresilas, Athenian sculptor from the era of Pericles and the Peloponnesian Wars.

After Pericles' death Aspasia lived with Lysicles with whom she had a son.However Lysicles died in 428 BC and there's where the contemporary accounts about Aspasia stop. It is considered that she died near 400 BC cause the historians argue that she died before Socrates who died in 399 BC. Some historians think that her death must have been  painful that's why no contemporary author mentions it.

Aspasia was rumoured to be behind of many activities of Pericles. This shows how influential and important personality she was for the Athenian society. Some authors say that she taught Pericles rhetoric and that she prepared some of his famous speeches.Socrates was an admirer of Aspasia and that was proved by some of his advice to people were he is quoting Aspasia and his consultations to people to go and seek advice from her.As an ancient figure it is not unjust that she became equal in fame with the female poet Sappho.
Oil painting by Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema (1868).

source: translation of the text made by me.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Latinikon: The western Byzantine mercenaries

Latinkon unit as it is designed for the game Medieval 2 total war

The recruitment of soldiers from the West was an institution from the early period of the Eastern Roman state, as the Byzantines had inherited the foiderati system from the Romans. Justinian formed units of cavalry from Vandal and Goth captives and  Heraclius had the regiments of Optimates and Boukellarioi  cataphracts who were probably Ostrogoths from Italy. It is rather likely that when Byzantine relations with Charlemagne became strained, many Lombard exiles found their way in the Byzantine army and perhaps even in the Royal Company (Hetairia Vassilike) that constituted the imperial bodyguard at the time. Up to this period the Westerners did not constitute an elite formation and perhaps were dispersed among the “thematic” troops to avoid unpleasant situations.
The mass recruitment of Westerners begins in the end of 9th century. On Christmas of  876 A D the Byzantine governor of Bari occupied the city after invitation of the residents who were afraid that the Lombard dukes could not protect them from the Arabs. The next year Byzantine diplomats formed an alliance of duchies and communities against the Islamic danger. The bulk of the cavalry was provided mainly by the Lombard dukes who fought as heavily armored horsemen. In 885-6 A.D. the Byzantines occupied  Calabria and in 891 A.D. they created a new administrative province based on Apulia and named it “Loggobardia”. The Lombard dukes were divided and could not react, but  duke Meles and others after they hired Norman mercenaries revolted in 1009 A.D. Emperor Vasileios II dispatched the capable general Boioannis, who with a combination of briberies and military pressure restored the imperial authority. Then he used the Norman mercenaries against the Arabs of Sicily.
As long as there was a capable commander in the office of Katepano of Italy everything was under control. But from the death of Vasileios II in 1025 and afterwards the situation escaped from the Byzantine control. The Norman mercenaries seized the Lombard fortresses and then looted the Byzantine provinces. The situation was reversed however by the capable general George Maniakes. After he ensured the support of the Norman groups of Hauteville and Drengot he restored the Byzantine sovereignty. Then he campaigned in Sicily against the Arabs and reconquered the whole of the island. The most reliable elements of his army were the Varangians and the Italiotic horsemen: Normans and Lombards. Maniakes however humiliated the leader of the Lombard knights: Arduin and made him dessert. Afterwards Maniakes was recalled and Hauteville occupied Sicily for their own benefit. Maniakes supported by the Western knights proclaimed himself emperor but he was killed in the battle of  Ostrovo outside Thessalonica
Typical helmet of a foreign mercenary (Latinikon)

Exploiting the Byzantines’ need for willing and trained soldiers the Normans entered the Byzantine territory in great numbers. One of the first was Hervé in 1050. The Normans were placed as guards in the Eastern borders and their bases were Malatya and Edessa. Seeing the weakness of  the Eastern Roman state they wanted to profit at its expence. The notorius Roussel de Bailleul attempted to create an independent principality in Anatolia but he was arrested by the Alexius Komnenos. From 1073 until 1074,.8000 from the 20000 men of general Philaretos Vrahamios who fought against the Seljuks were “Afrangioi” (Franks) under general Raimbaud
In Constantinople we learn from the “Alexiad” that German knights were part of the city garrison in 1081. The diplomatic manoeuvres of the Komnenoi ensured many times the services of heavy German cavalry for the Empire. During the reign of the Westernophile Manouel Komnenos the foreign knights litteraly flooded Byzantium. As Manouel fought against opponents who applied the tactic of massed sweeping charges of heavily armored knights, he intented to face then in the same way. Also after Mantzikert it did not exist indigenous cavalry that could apply this tactic, so the solution was the recruitment of Western knights. All the next period the Eastern Roman State relied exclusively on Western mercenaries in order to form units of heavy cavalry. The general decay, the economic decline and the civil wars in which the Westerners were also involved for their own profit, destroyed the state little by little. The end of foreign mercenaries and the Empire came in 1453 with the capture of Constantinople by the Ottomans.

Norman knights served as mercenaries in the Byzantine army

The Western Legion.
As mentioned previously the first recruits were  Lombards and were initially icorporated in the cavalry of the Italian provinces of Byzantium. From that time the western units were viewed with suspicion, perhaps because  of the frequent revolts of the local Lombard dukes.
The sceptres however were soon taken by the Normans. The Normans were descendants of  Scandinavian invaders of France. The Frankish kings granted them the northern provinces of their kingdom in return, of submission and offer of military service.The former invaders accepted the French language and the Western feudal habits and from heavily armed infantry evolved as knights. According to the habit of the era the firstborn son inherited his father’s estate and younger ones, if they did not ensure marriage with a rich heiress, were left to find their fortune via their arms. At that period, the christian kingdoms were hardpressed by Islam and the determined mounted warriors were precious. The temptation therefore to go down to the fabulous South in order to make their fortune was great.
The chronicler Geoffrey Malaterra wrote about the Normans that: “..were distinguished particularly in mischief, scorn their heritage with the hope of acquiring a bigger fortune, they are eager for profit and honor, and prone in all kinds of hypocrisy, balancing between generosity and greed and combining strangely two ostensibly opposite attributes. Their leaders are particularly generous thanks to their desire for fame. It is also a race skilful in flattery, absorbed in the study of eloquence, so that even the boys are skilful speakers, a race untamed except and if it is held by the yoke of justice. They endure the fatigue, hunger and cold, whenever fate throws it upon them. Are absorbed with the hunting and falconry, and they particularly like horses and all the trappings of war…”
As it could be expected these men respected only the dynamic leaders, but from the middle of the 11th century, Byzantium did not have enough of them. The result was that  the knights revolted in the first opportunity and attempted to found independent states. Despite the continuous problems, their courage and their fighting spirit caused the Byzantines to hire them as mercenaries until 1200. The unit however was reliable and effective only if it was commanded by leaders of the caliber of Maniakes or Komnenos.
Αllamanoi(Αλλαμάνοι): German mercenaries in the Byzantine army.

The first Germans were probably recruited by Ioannis Tzimiskis. In 1081 they are reported by Anna Komnena. The unit however expanded after the marriage of Manouel Komnenos with Bertha Von Sultzbach. With his second marriage with Mary of Antioch Manouel hired himself many  Franks of the Levant. The “Latins” became unpopular with the population as the army was used as a tax collecting mechanism. Tax collection from the foreigners reached the limits of pillage and the religious feeling of the population was insulted with the confiscation of ecclesiastical resources from “heretic foreigners”. The Byzantines considered the knights as barbarians. For their part the Westerners saw the decay and weakness of the empire and the efforts to restrain them became even more difficult as they considered the Byzantines weak and cowardly. Also the dogmatic differences in an era where the religion played an important role worsened the situation.

Hungarian knights

Anti-Latin riots and the slaughters of 1182 led to the dissolution of the unit. In 1204 however,  Theodoros Laskaris re-establishes the formation with 800 Italian soldiers that distinguished themselves in the battles near in the river Meander. Around 1250 Hungarian knights were added. They will contribute later in the victory of Pelagonia. Many of their Frankish captives of the battle were incorporated in the unit. From 1263 up to 1270 the Lombard adventurer Likario whom the Byzantine chroniclers call Ikario re-occupied most of the Latin possessions in the Aegean on behalf of the Byzantine emperor. 
(More info about Likario)

After the devastating experience with the Catalan Company the number of Westerners in the army decreased but the need for heavy cavalry remained. Most Westerners were henceforth crossbowmen or operators of  the primitive Medieval firearms. The financial position of the state was bad and the army  shrunk following the general decomposition and decay. The king of France Charles VI sent to Manouel Palaiologos 1200 men commanded by Marshall Boucicaut. Boucicaut reached Constaninopolis and carried out raids against Soultan Vayazit but with meagre results. In 1445 300 knights were sent to the Despot of Mystras by the Duke of  Burgundy and in1453 the end of the unit was written on the Theodosian Walls by the men of Giustiniani that fought bravely up to the incapasitation of their leader
Generally the “ Latinikon” regiment constituted a multinational legion in which served warriors from Western Europe. The unit performed best under dynamic leaders and also seriously damaged the Byzantine state under incompetent or weak administration.

Byzantine horse shoes and stirrup. Byzantine Museum Athens. S. Skarmintzos archive.
In Byzantine Service…
Contrary to the Varangian Guards the “Latin” knights they did not have uniformity in their appearance. Initially they wore chain mail with short sleves and conical helmets of  “Spangenhelm” type consisting of four iron plates that were held together with the help of one metal ring. The “slavonic” helmets  or the helmets of the steppe warriors with a sharp conical top would be unusual except if they came from loot. The helmets did not have internal lining and were adapted on specially shaped wollen or leather arming caps, while they had holes for leather straps that were tied under the chin. First the Normans began to use hoods made from iron rings as additional protection. A white turban was perhaps wrapped round helmet as protection from the heat as used by their Muslim opponents.
The chain mail amor would be worn above a specifically shaped woolen or leather gambeson (Byzantine “kambadion”) that would help in the absorption of the vibrations from the violent blows during the clashes. Modern research has revealed that this armor provided excellent protection from arrows despite what was written up to now. In “Alexiad” it is reported that the only effective defence against the knights is the shooting of their usually unarmored horses.
The knights carried a conical shield with a metal boss in the centre. Many times the shield had a length from the neck to the knee and was straped on the shoulder with the aid of a baldric. Those who could afford it, would have strengthened the perimeter of their shields with metal laminas. Each knight brought on his shield his own personal or family emblem. Information of unit emblems, if any, have not survived.
9th 12th cent AD lances from the Byzantine Museum in Athens S. Skarmintzos archive.
The knights used lances during the charge but probablaly they carried javelins at the raids. The axe was not a common weapon. A club with metal spikes, the “mantzoukio” of the Byzantines, was popular because of its low cost and its attribute to break the bones of the opponent under the armour. The long swords were the main weapon of the horsemen for close combat and constituted the symbol of the knight’s honor. A great variety of knives and daggers would be useful as secondary weapons and tools.
Their clothing would mainly be woolen tunics and naturally they would be impressed by the linen, cotton and silken tunics of the Byzantines. The long boots and red cloacks are reported by the chroniclers but the red investors would be found rather between the leaders. The rest of the men would wear simple gray cloacks or furs of animals that would be used also as mattresses on campaign.
During the 12th century however the defensive equipment was improved. More solid conical helmets with nasal guards, made from a single piece of metal, appeared. The protection of the men would be upgraded with the application of metal plates on the chain mail. Greaves and vambraces, constituted from solid pieces of metal, straped with leather cords were used in order to protect the hands and thelegs. The faces were covered with iron masks adapted on the helmet and little by little, cylindric helmets with impressive decoration appeared. The knights of 13th and 14th centuries possibly had a slightly different appearance following the habits of  their time. In their equipment were now included helmets with lifting visors and war hammers. The horses were heavily protected and armors would be consisting of onepiece metal plates. This development emanated from their contact with muslim armies horsearchers who took aim na shot  at the unprotected horses.
The knights' retinues were usually less armored and carried lighter equipment. They wore helmet and their armour composed of linen or cotton layers – the”kambadio” of  the Byzantines. Many of them were crossbowmen. The retinues carried out light cavalry missions or harrashed the opponent with arrow shots preparing thus the assault of the heavily armored horsemen.
The knights' tactic was the rapid and mass impetuous charge against the enemy that had been first “softened up” from the infantry missile weapons. They should however be supported by good infantry or light horsemen because they were in danger from their impetuosity to be drawn into ambushes. In the passage of time this became difficult because the Byzantine army declined and this resulted a lot of devastating defeats.

14th cent depiction of St George as a knight. Byzantine Museum Athens. S. Skarmintzos archive
The LATINIKON in battle…
1009 A D Duke Meles revolted attempting to make the city of Barri independent. The army sent against him included: Dani, Rossi and Gualani.(Danes, Russians, and Welsh;). Barri was taken but Meles revolted again in 1011 aided by the Normans. In 1018 Vasilios Boionanes crushed the Normans at the battle of Ofante.
1018 A D General Vasileios Boioannes with an army that included Norman knights went to Sicily and took Messsina from the Arabs
1038-1041 A D A campaign in Sicily and Southern Italy under general George Maniakes included Western mercenaries. The Norman commander Gulliome de Hauteville killed the emir of Syracuse earning the nickname «Iron hand».
1041 A D The Norman general Hervé revolted against Michael IV and led his 300 Normans soldiers in Eastern Asia Minor in order t make it an independent state. –After fighting the Seltzuks and captured by the emir Abu Nashr was sent to the emperor in chains but he was pardoned
1060 A D The Norman general Robert Crispin led the Normans of Edessa against the Seltzuks.
1067 A D Roussel de Bailleul enters Byzantine service. Chroniclers call him Ruselios or Urselios.
1071 A D The Normans under de Bailleul desert emperor Romanos Diogenes at Mantzikert.
1073 A D Roussel de Bailleul attempts to create a principality in Asia Minor with Ancara as its capital
1074 A D The Norman commander Raimbaud who served under general Brachamius is killed in battle against Armenian rebel Tornicius. Ο Roussel de Bailleul is surrendered by the Amaseans to Alexius Komnenos
1081 A D Alexius Komnenos bribes the German «Latinikoi” to enter Constantinopolis without a fight.
1081 A D The “Latinikon” under the command of Constantine Umvertopoylos takes part in the dissastrous battle of Durazzo (Dyrrachium)
1089 A D The “Latinikon” under the command of Constantine Umvertopoylos beats the Petseneges outside Philipopolis
1091 A D 500 knights sent by the duke of Burgundy take part in the battle of Levunium against the Petseneges
1122 A D Battle of Verroe, against the Petseneges. The Normans and Flemings crush Petseneg heavy cavalry.
1143-1180 A D Great numbers of Germans and French knights enter the Byzantine service because of Manuel Komnenos pro western policy.
1173 A D Western mercenaries defend Ancona from the Normans
1176 A D The “Latinikon” regiment is wiped out at Myriocephalon.
1180 A D The German and Italian “Latinikon” regiments fight against the Hungarians at the battle of Shemlin.
1182 A D The “Latinikon”regiment  αποδεκατίζεται κατά την διάρκεια των αντι-δυτικών ταραχών που ξεσπούν στην πόλη.
1211 A D Theodore Laskaris' Italian soldiers distinguish themselves in a battle outside of Pissidian Antioch
1259 A D Hungarian knights in Byzantine Service fight against the  Franks in Pelagonia
1398-9 A D. The knights of Marshall Boucicaut defend Constantinople from the Turks
1453 A. D. The soldiers of “protostator” Giustiniani defend Constantinople from the Turks until the fatal wounding of their commander.
The University of Cambridge “History of the Byzantine Empire”(in Greek )
Melissa publications 1966
Europa Militaria The Vikings recreated in color photographs
Iohannes Kinnamos Epitome Rerum ab Ioanne et Alexio Comnenis, Augustus Meinke ed., (Bonn 1836)
Osprey Military publishing Co: Byzantine Armies 886-1118
Gravett, Christopher, and Nicolle, David. The Normans: Warrior Knights and their Castles. Osprey Publishing: Oxford, 2006
Norwich, John Julius. The Normans in the South 1016-1130. Longmans: London, 1967.
Gwatkin, H.M., Whitney, J.P. (ed) et al. The Cambridge Medieval History: Volume III. Cambridge University Press, 1926.
A History of the Byzantine Empire by Al. Vasilief Translated from the Russian by S. Ragozin, Madison 1928

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Remains of an ancient Greek colony were found in an island near Sozopol in Bulgaria

Archaeologists brought to light the ruins of an ancient Greek settleement after excavations they conducted at the little island of St. Kirik in the Black sea.Sozopolis is the modern name for the ancient settlement of Apollonia.Apollonia which is one of the oldest ancient Greek colonies was founded by Milesians at the 7th century BC.

Apollonia located south west

The head archaeologist of the excavations  Cristina Panayotovna  stated that the findings of the excavation could reveal the structure of a typical Greek Black sea colony.The ruins of the buildings proved the existence of an organised urban society.The building that were found were a metallurgical workshop and two streets(one of them led to Apollonia)  ,Among the findings there were also tools for fishing, tools for cloth production,religious pottery and religious idols made of clay.

Panayotovna's team will return for excavations in October. During the summer a Bulgarian-French team of archaeologists made excavations at the outskirts of Apollonia focusing on the remains of a mansion were they found a treasure of ancient coins.

source: to vima newspaper, translation made by me.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

A mini battle of Marathon live in 2011

To celebrate the 2.500 years anniversary of the battle of Marathon  a group of historical battle reenactors arrived in the original sight of where the battle of Marathon took place to re enact the confrontation of the Persian army against the Athenian and Plataean hoplites.  The whole event was organised by an experienced man on experimental archaeology called Christian Cameron. Every reenactor has spent a lot of money for acquiring their armour and weapons and the whole project seemed to be very promising if the state would support it.There would be an ancient archery display, an ancient Greek festival  and an ancient camp of Persian and Greek tents.

Unfortunately the modern Greek state doesn't pay so much attention to the ancient Greek past for many and complicated reasons that involve the politics the greek society etc. For any other country to organise and fund such events is something common as it would attract tourists and it would  be a way of getting in touch with history. However historical reenactement is an uknown phrase here in  Greece.

As a result  the indifference by the Greek state discouraged many of the reenactors(there were supposed to be at least 500)and eventually the battle was re-enacted by fifty hoplites and seven Persians. This mini reenactement can be counted as a success considering that they were not granted by the Greek state permission to use an area for the "battle" they were denied access to the archaeological area of the tumulus of the fallen warriors of Marathon.

The re enactors have not lost their courage and they plan to return in three years hoping that they will be less unwanted. It's worth to note that the municipality of Marathon was the only authority that  supported the reenactors.

p.s: I'll post the photos in a few days(

Monday, September 5, 2011

The modern Greek community of Egypt

It takes a while to load. Be patient.
subs added by me. the original video source(without subs) is

A SECOND HOME: According to George Vallas, the head of the Greek Community in Cairo, the Greeks started settling in Egypt almost three centuries ago. At one point, they numbered 250,000, established in the cities and in the provinces. Today, the colony is down to approximately 2,000, but recently, several Greek businessmen, convinced that the privatisation programme is improving market potential, are planning a comeback.
Actively encouraged by Mohamed Ali, who relied on several members of the community to bring his dreams of industrialisation to fruition, larger and larger numbers of Greeks began to establish themselves in Egypt during the 19th century. Their implantation was so successful, indeed, that they soon became an integral part of the economic, social and political life of the country, leading Lord Cromer to remark that "the Greeks are so numerous that they deserve consideration by themselves" and also, more flippantly perhaps: "Wherever you turn over a stone in Egypt, you find a Greek."
Mohamed Ali, however, was far from being the first ruler to seek Greek expertise: "In 1791, fearing an Ottoman invasion, Murad Bey organised a small war flotilla on the Nile, entrusting its command to a Greek convert, Nicolas Papas Oglou, known as Hajj Niqola or Nicolas Ra'is. The crew was made up of Greeks, who were completely devoted to their leader: they did not hesitate to revolt against Murad himself when he attempted to discipline them after a scuffle with the Cairene population. Murad was forced to backpedal carefully, incurring the contempt of El-Gabarti, who accused him of favouring the Christians to the detriment of the Muslims, writes Henry Laurens in L'Expedition d'Egypte.
Murad, however, was undeterred. He called on the three brothers Gaeta, who had not only converted to Islam but had gone so far as to become Mamelukes, requesting them to supply him with artillery. They established a cannon factory near Murad's palace in Giza. In 1796, the older Gaeta brother, Ahmed Agha, rendered the same services to the Kingdom of Darfour, becoming the king's military adviser while secretly organising the conquest of the country by Murad. The French Expedition put paid to his plans.
Meanwhile, Murad was being provided by Ahmed Agha's younger siblings with light artillery and workers trained to manufacture cannons. Thus, writes Laurens, the Greeks became the intermediaries through which Egypt was introduced to Western technology, a role they had once played in the Ottoman Empire and would continue to play in their adopted country.
This is not to say that the Greeks, who settled in Egypt so readily, were completely absorbed by its culture, nor that they ever aspired to total integration. Rather, united by their own religion and ethnicity, protected for a long time by the Capitulations, they considered Egypt their second home, one in which they were free to form a society within a society.
In a recent interview, George Moustaki, a singer of the '60s and a former "Egyptian Greek", commented that during his Alexandrian childhood, unlike other Greek children in Alexandria who frequented the Gymnasium (the Greek secondary school) where they received "a totally Greek education, exactly as if they were living in Greece", he went to the French Lycée, and that this set him apart from "the real Greeks".
Another Greek, now established in France, explains: "We were the 'real Greeks' because our families settled in Egypt even before 1830 (when the Greek nation was officially founded). We came from Constantinople to live and prosper in the Greek city of Alexandria, founded by Alexander the Greek."
BASS'S ALE, SARDINES AND FURS: Regardless of these subtle distinctions, the professional activities of both the "Egyptian-Greeks" and the "real thing" played an essential role in the development of the Egyptian economy for over a century.
Greek aristocrats settled in Alexandria and, to a lesser degree, in Cairo, where they mingled with the cosmopolitan elite, while the poorer members of the Diaspora, many of peasant origin, spread throughout the countryside, in search of deals which seemed unattractive to the rest of the population, Egyptians and foreigners alike. Their pioneering spirit earned them a reputation of rapacity, which still comes up when their former economic supremacy is recalled.
Travelling through Minia in the latter half of the 19th century, Amelia Edwards remarked on the number of " Greek stores where Bass's ale, claret, curaçao, Cyprus, Vermouth, cheese, pickles, sardines, Worcester sauce, blacking, biscuits, preserved meats, candles, cigars, matches, sugar, salt, stationary, fireworks, jams and patent medicine can all be bought at one fell swoop..." In Lord Cromer's words: "Still the fact remains that a portion of the Greek colony in Egypt consists of low class Greeks exercising the profession of usurer, drink-seller, etc. The Greek of this class has an extraordinary talent for retail trade. He will risk his life in pursuit of petty gain. It is not only that a Greek usurer or a bakal (general dealer) is established in almost every village in Egypt; the Greek pushes his way into the most remote parts of Sudan and Abyssinia. Wherever in fact there is the smallest prospect of buying in a cheap and selling in a dear market, there will be the petty Greek to be found."
An elderly Greek lady, who preferred not to be named, recalls: "Our father sent us to foreign schools. He wanted us to learn languages. We spoke French and English at home, like the children of the Egyptian aristocracy, and were kept firmly away from the Greek community. My father did not want me to marry a Greek and neither did I, because the Greeks of Egypt were either grocers or waiters."
The lady, now in her late eighties, married a French-educated Lebanese man. The same portrayal of Egyptian Greeks runs through the discourse of different members of the community: "Remember Cairo of the early '50s?" asks Chris Themelis, a Greek born in Egypt, who now works for the Egyptian Broadcasting Organisation: "Most of the immigrants originally came from the islands; they had a farming background; they established themselves in commerce rather than in blue-collar professions, though, to be fair, we also had a few intellectuals and many bank employees; the majority, however, were grocers (Pekhlivanos in the city, Zanos on Champollion Street, and Vasilakis in Zamalek), bakers and pastry makers: Maginot, on the corner across from the American University, his brother-in-law in the Bab Al-Louq souq, Pappas at the entrance to the same market, and Crystal on Qasr Al-Aini Street..."
The food industry seemed firmly ensconced in Greek hands and, if Swiss-owned Groppi was serious competition for Greek patisseries and survived better the changes in the political and social climate of Cairo, its Greek competitor, the Lemonia, with its charming garden extending from Midan Mustafa Kamel to Qasr Al-Nil Street, is still fondly remembered as the haven of an exclusive clientele for over half a century.
Besides being grocers, waiters and café owners, adds Themelis, "the Greeks were good hairdressers: the famous George, from whom Socrate learned his trade; Socrate himself, who later opened an elegant hairdresser's salon patronised by the Cairene aristocracy; Costi, who left Egypt to open a salon at the Hilton in Athens, and Taki of Rumeurs."
Qasr Al-Nil Street was also dotted with shops belonging to Greeks who had ventured into the world of fashion: Pierre Clouvas was one of the few "authentic" grands couturiers of Cairo, while Sistovaris and Pascalis kept Cairo's chic women covered in furs in winter and stored their animal skins in well-appointed refrigerators in summer. "Climatianos had an elegant boutique on the corner of Shawarbi and Qasr Al-Nil streets. He sold men's hats, scarves and ties," reminisces Mary Periclidou, a Greek housewife who dared to break with tradition and married an Egyptian Muslim.
Climatianos had started out as a small employee of Rosati, the famous Italian importer of silk and plumes for ladies' hats. With time and hard work, he managed to open his own business. He became so successful that he was able to indulge most of his eccentric tendencies, recounts Periclidou: "He had a beautiful villa in Heliopolis where he kept Great Danes. One of them, Ghyftos, did not like staying in the garden; when he was not immediately let into the house, the dog would bark forever and wag his tail hard, hitting it against a tree that grew near the front door. When Climatianos noticed that the dog's tail had been injured, he ordered that the tree be covered with a soft mattress." With a chuckle, Periclidou also remembers Climatianos proudly walking the streets with friends or acquaintances. "Every time a traffic agent would greet him respectfully, as was the custom then, he would nudge his companion: 'See?' he would boast in his strong Greek accent, 'he knows who I am'."
If the traffic policeman did not know -- or care -- who Climatianos was, he must have gawked in awe when another Greek, dressed to kill, walked briskly past him on her way to one of the exclusive boutiques of Qasr Al-Nil Street: everyone used to stop and stare at the ravishing Antigone, who, having started her career as Egypt's top fashion model, went on to become Miss World in 1949.
Another field where members of the Greek colony featured prominently was cigarette manufacturing, writes Kitroef. Nestor Gianaclis was the first important tobacco merchant to move from Constantinople to Cairo in 1869, before the Turkish monopoly on tobacco was introduced. In 1884, his factory was producing 80 million cigarettes, 90 per cent of which were exported. The absence of government protection on Egyptian cigarette exports made them less competitive in the long run, however, especially as Egyptian-blend cigarettes were being manufactured in European countries, where entrepreneurs were offered better conditions.
Around 1920, Nestor Gianaclis Ltd. established a factory in Frankfurt and another in Geneva. Kiriazi Frères moved to Amsterdam and Hamburg. At the same time, other Greeks, such as Patheologos Bros and Coutarelli, began concentrating on the domestic market, which, they discovered, had enormous potential. Lagoudakis, and later his son, owned and operated a plant where the brand names were printed on cigarette paper, cigarette holders were manufactured, and cardboard for cigarette boxes was processed. Lagoudakis, who had manufactured paper for hand-rolled cigarettes, was the first to introduce the large-scale production of cigarette paper and cigarette-making machines in 1903.
Food and beverages also attracted many Greek entrepreneurs from the middle of the 19th century onwards. The large foreign communities were a ready market for consumer goods such as sweets, spirits, soft drinks, pasta and breads. The first chocolate factory in Cairo, The Royal Chocolate Works of Egypt, was established in Ismailia, in 1908, by a Greek. Nicholas Spathis opened the first aerated water factory in 1884. Volanakis exported his Bolanachi's Egyptian Brandy to England from 1884 on, and produced champagne, rum and whisky. Andreas Zottos imported grapes and raisins from Greece and Cyprus and produced ouzo, zibib, brandy and liqueurs.
Cigarette manufacturer Nestor Gianaclis rose to an even more grandiose challenge: in 1903 he brought over vines from Greece to be planted on the 3,000 hectares of desert land he had bought along the Nubariya Canal. He invited Greek experts to supervise the experiment. There had been no vineyards in Egypt since antiquity, when wine had been produced in the Lake Mariout area, but in 1933, just before Gianaclis died, the first modern Egyptian wine worthy of the name was produced.
Among the numerous contributions of Greek entrepreneurs to the consumer market, one should note the establishment of the first poultry farm by the Capaitzis, who were soon to join other Greeks in the manufacture of macaroni. They entered into direct competition with the Italian manufacturers when they opened one of the country's largest pasta factories in order to dispose of their surplus eggs, which could not compete in price with the free-range eggs offered by Egyptian producers.
Greeks were also active in the building sector: They were responsible for the founding of a ceramic factory in 1895, the largest cement tile factory in Alexandria, three wood-processing plants established between 1904 and 1914, and marble-cutting works that supplied "marble for numerous public buildings, including Zaghloul's mausoleum and the Allied cemetery at Al-Alamein," writes Kitroef.
Despite the difficulties encountered by industry in the 1930s, the Greeks survived and many fared rather well. Among the success stories, Kitroef cites that of Theocharis Kotsikas (later Cozzika), a merchant from Alexandria who became the main supplier to Kitchner's expeditionary force to the Sudan and to British forces in Egypt. One of the commodities he imported for the armies was alcohol, and he soon decided that it would be more profitable to manufacture the product locally.
He set up the Torah plant to distill alcohol from molasses. In time, Cozzika's enterprise became a monopoly of sorts, as improved machinery began to produce 1.5 million kg of 95 to 96 per cent proof alcohol and by 1949, the Torah plant was responsible for three quarters of all alcohol production in Egypt.
In the early '40s, Cozzika consolidated his alliance with the Benachis by marrying one of their daughters.
A NATION DIVIDED: The influential Greek families that belonged to the aristocracy, like the Choremis and Benakis, had become a key factor in Egypt's agricultural, export-oriented economy around the middle of the 19th century. Until the middle of the 20th, they remained crucial elements in the cotton business. "There were Greeks involved in every stage of the production and export of cotton, from the small middlemen in the provinces to the important exporters in Alexandria," writes Alexander Kitroef.
In this connection, the Greeks also established themselves as moneylenders, a trade which was rapidly associated with their habit of rapidly foreclosing on the small peasants who made up the bulk of their debtors. Impoverished by a bad crop, many peasants lost their land to these "cunning usurers", who are stock figures of Egyptian folklore and are still remembered by older generations today, especially in the Delta, notes Sayed Ashmawi.

Newspaper of the Greek community called Panegyptiaka

Yanni Costa Manganes, a priest at St George Orthodox Church in Old Cairo and the owner of a small printing shop in the centre of Cairo, however, denies that usury was ever common practice among the Greeks.
After 1930, Greek industrialists, according to Kitroef, began to abandon their isolated activities and merge "into the foreign group of industrialists that had organised itself into a Federation", thus becoming "institutionally and economically part of the new industrial bourgeoisie which included foreigners, Egyptians and representatives of foreign capital." By 1952, the 52-man council of the Federation contained five Greeks.
The class divide, however, opposed these powerful entrepreneurs to other, less privileged members of their community. The first strike Greek workers organised in Egypt took place from December 1899 to February 1900. In this period, according to Joel Beinin and Zachary Lockman, cigarette manufacturing was the industry with the largest concentration of workers engaged in the production of commodities. Most of the industry's skilled workers were Greeks. They were the ones who led the strike, and, deprived of the crucial elements of the production process, many factories were forced to shut down.
This first strike gained great public support and ended in a victory for the workers. A more violent second strike, organised in 1903, was broken ruthlessly. After this disastrous incident, factory owners were able to impose their own terms on cigarette workers for years to come.
The role of the Egyptian workers -- if any -- during these strikes has never been well researched. Presumably less politicised than the Greeks, and employed as unskilled labourers, they remained outside the skilled workers' organisations. Besides, unlike the foreigners, who were protected by the Capitulations, they had far more to fear from the consequences of an open rebellion.
"In general, it would seem that this [first] strike was largely a struggle between Greek craft workers and Greek capitalists, an instance of class conflict within the Greek community in Egypt," write Beinin and Lockman. "The stratification of the labour force along ethnic lines and the superior status enjoyed by the foreign workers, as well as the inexperience of many Egyptian workers, new to industry and industrial conflict... [also] hindered cooperation between indigenous and foreign workers."
In Stratis Tsirkas's Cités à la Dérive, Dionyssis, a retired waiter, relates to his guest Caloyannis, a Greek communist hiding in Egypt, the details of the waiters' strike, which, he claims, he personally instigated in 1918: "It is I who organised the strike. It was approximately a year after the other war. I was working for a Swiss -- in a pastry shop and bar, with two branches. During the war he had been making money by the bucket. When the armies started to leave, he had the idea of curtailing his expenses. Slowly, almost unnoticeably, he gave us each a native, to help us. They, you understand, are real dunces: whatever you give them, they say thank you. In two words, I told him what was what: 'Monsieur Jacquet', I said, 'we are not joking here, it is our children's bread we are talking about. If by Saturday you don't get rid of the Arabs, we go on strike.' On Sunday, we all gathered in front of the main shop, waiters, garçons, maîtres d'hôtel, barmen, all of us Greeks and Italians. The scoundrel had alerted the police who surrounded the shop... We went to the syndicate to see what we could do. Three days went by. The Swiss visited the Sudanese coffee shops one by one and hired blacks. 'What now?' we asked ourselves. We organised a new gathering in front of the main shop. We were yelling: 'Traitor, starver, circumcised'. An Italian had brought along a huge Calabrian dagger: 'Avanti, fratelli cristiani', he hollered and marched towards the gendarmes." Dionyssis was eventually shot in the thigh before the strike was broken.
The guest asks: "Didn't you try to incite the Sudanese to join in the strike?" "Why?," wonders Dionyssis: "to open their eyes? What was the use of the strike then?" Dionyssis's son, Stamatis, comments: "It is obvious that you come from abroad... We are not in Greece here. The native needs the whip to keep him in his place, otherwise we are done for."

CARE IN THE COMMUNITY: The Greeks who settled in Egypt retained their clannish character over the centuries due in large part to differences in language and religion which set them apart culturally from other ethnic groups, while their privileged status under the Capitulations gave them an edge over the local population. Moreover, custom, and especially religion, forbade interfaith marriages, while strong ties to their homeland induced many Greek men to seek brides from their home towns and villages.
Historians, however, agree that these factors alone cannot guarantee the perpetuation of ethnic identity over a long period. According to Kitroef, the preservation of ethnicity was the work of the several religious and secular Greek institutions functioning in Egypt at the time, the most influential of which were the schools, the Orthodox Patriarchate and the Hellenic Community of Alexandria.
Like all the communities established abroad by Diaspora Greeks, the Hellenic Community of Alexandria was involved in the administration of the charitable institutions and the schools established by the Greeks of Egypt and was governed by the notables. Its aims were to develop and preserve all religious, philanthropic and educational institutions belonging to it and which catered to the moral, intellectual and social needs of Greek nationals. The Greek consul-general in Alexandria was the permanent honorary president of the Community, and membership was restricted to persons of Greek citizenship. The 28 other communities throughout Egypt were modeled on that of Alexandria. While membership was restricted to Greek citizens, any person of Greek origin was entitled to use the services of the community.
At present, the Greek Community in Cairo controls the Greek school, the hospital, the retirement home, several social clubs and many charities, including a foundation that grants scholarships to needy students. Its revenues are mainly derived from private donations and from the income accruing from the rent of apartment and office buildings bequeathed to the community by wealthy donors.
The Greek schools set up by the community followed the Greek school system and were an important factor in the promotion of ethnic consciousness. Interestingly, many Greeks who did not frequent these schools ended up distancing themselves from the colony. Themelis recounts that, influenced by her Jewish playmates, who spoke French, she pleaded with her family to go to the French Lycée. She eventually transferred to an English school and then to the American University in Cairo. Later, and against her parents' wishes, she broke completely with her ethnic background and married an Italian. Most Greeks who married outside the community are those who did not attend the schools, she says.
FROM GARDEN CITY TO BALAQSA STREET: The Salvagos, Benachis, Rodochanakis and Zervoudachis had come to Egypt in the latter half of the 19th century and lived mainly in Alexandria, while other families of the Greek aristocracy ruled over the social life of cosmopolitan Cairo, mixing with the families of the British high command in particular and with prominent Jewish, Syrian, Lebanese and -- sometimes -- Egyptian families.
The Mosseris were Greek Jews. Elie Mosseri had played a crucial role in the creation of the suburb of Maadi and his wife, Hélène, became famous for entertaining royalty in the sumptuous Mosseri villa downtown. In the latter part of the second world war, Prince Peter and Princess Irene of Greece were frequent visitors to the Mosseri mansion. In Cairo in the War, 1939-1945, Artemis Cooper writes: "Hélène Mosseri was also a close friend of King Farouk's. It was said that the king had installed a private telephone line on which he would ring her up, at any hour of the day or night."
Families like the Mosseris belonged first and foremost to an international elite. They were as remote from the poor Egyptians as they were from the petty Greeks. They may have shared in the ethnicity and prejudices of the latter, but aristocratic prejudice was so well clothed in good manners as to be hardly recognisable. They gave generously to their communities, but did not partake in any of the popular social events. They spoke foreign languages at home and enrolled their children -- who were not always taught their mother tongue properly -- in French and English schools. They lived in elegant villas and well-appointed apartments in the best parts of the city, moving toward the suburbs as soon as it became fashionable to do so. Their old quarters and dwellings were often taken over by their poorer cousins. Quarters like Shubra, Ezbekiya, Faggala and Daher, which were favourite Greek settlements at the turn of the century, are all cases in point.
While the Greek elite inhabited the fashionable side of the Ezbekiya Gardens, Qasr Al-Nil and Soliman Pasha streets before moving to Garden City and Zamalek, the petty bourgeoisie made their home on the more populous side of Al-Ezbekiya, settling in the back streets around Al-Kenissa Al-Murqusiya (the Church of Mark) in Clot Bey, Al-Bahr Street further north, around the area of the Bab Al-Louq market (near the Greek elementary school), and in the alleys off Abdin Palace.
The older inhabitants of Al-Balaqsa Street, for instance, can still remember their presence. Here, the Greeks were forced to mix with the indigenous population, though they often found the contact distasteful. Convinced as they may have been of their superior origins, however, they remained more united by poverty to their Egyptian neighbours than they were socially to the richer members of their community.
In Cités à la Dérive, Tsirkas describes the life of Ariane, a housewife of Greek descent, who occupies a rundown apartment situated in the "labyrinth", the back alleys off Balaqsa Street, where her family moved after a sharp decline in their fortunes at the beginning of World War II. Ariane liked Balaqsa Street and its environs. She also liked the indigenous population of the area. She had disobeyed her husband's strict instructions and, unbeknownst to him, made friends with her Egyptian neighbours, helping them or appealing to them in times of need. She sometimes shared gossip with the native women. Her four children had grown up on the same street, playing with their children. Ariane had learned to respect the Egyptian people. She felt a bond stronger than the accidents of birth and nationality. In 1919, she had witnessed, from her window, a nationalist demonstration which found its way to Balaqsa Street, and had been surprised, then terrified by the ferocious repression of the students by the British soldiers:
"The British were coming in a tank from behind the palace and were chasing the crowds. But the demonstrators were coming out of Boustani Street and, in small groups, were slipping into the side alleys. Every time the tank reached Dawawin [now Maglis El-Shaab] Street, it would stop...the demonstrators would then come down from the high quarters, emerging in front of the palace. The tank would come down Boustani Street once more, as the crowd vanished miraculously. The British had not yet started to shoot. The youngsters suddenly began throwing stones and empty lemonade bottles. The others immediately opened fire on the students, aiming at their feet. Unexpectedly, the tank stopped in front of Balaqsa Street, which was full of demonstrators. 'No, it will not be able to proceed, the street is too dark and narrow, how could they come forward,' the most courageous were telling each other. But the British driver managed to push the tank forward and greengrocers, café owners, tinsmiths, tinkers, tailors, pickle-sellers, grocers, pastry-makers and cobblers had to shove merchandise, utensils, benches and stalls inside the minuscule shops, any way they could. They kept silent in the dark, huddled against the protesters...In cold blood, the tank was releasing its bullets upon the doors and windows... the caterpillars of the tank sank in the eternal mud of the bazaar, the engine snarled and the machine proceeded on its way..."
After the tank disappeared, Ariane saw Younes, an Egyptian employed in one of the shops, lying on the street wounded. She dragged him into her house and tended his wounds. The man never forgot. Years later, he was able to repay her by saving her little girl.
"Ariane could never understand the sweeping contempt of the Greeks for the Egyptians, but she sensed the end of her people's presence, which she attributed to their attitude: 'Why do you dig this trench which sets you apart,' she asked her husband silently. 'Where is your stubbornness going to lead you? I tremble. I wish I were not alive. I wish my eyes could not see. The day will come. I see people crowding the pier with mountains of suitcases and bundles of mattresses surrounding them. And behind them, the tombs of parents, relatives and ancestors, the tombs of little children abandoned to God's mercy, without a night-light, without a pot of water to quench the thirst of their bones. And you will think that you are taking with you all the sorrows, the happiness, the feasts and the anxieties of fifty, eighty or a hundred years, because you managed to gather the furniture, the clothes, the kitchen utensils and a few knickknacks to help you remember, and lock them up in a couple of wooden trunks, roughly nailed shut with a few planks. And you will think that by taking these things with you, you will have saved the joys and the love, the hopes and the celebrations... Don't stray. Believe me... A life that one has lived is gone forever: we will never have it back somewhere else...'"
OUT OF EGYPT: The Greeks' exodus began right after the 1952 Revolution. By the beginning of the following decade, most of those who had made their home in Egypt for over a century had dwindled from several thousands to a handful. Many chose to return to Greece, while others rebuilt their lives in Europe, the United States, Canada or Australia.
According to Vallas, those who stayed could not imagine living anywhere else. "We made our home here long ago. We have become attached to our adopted country. We have a comfortable life. No one bothers us. Why should we leave? Many of us have thriving businesses. On the contrary, Greeks are opening new factories now because the economic conditions are very favourable." According to him, many of the Greeks who have stayed have applied for Egyptian nationality and several have already become Egyptian citizens.
There are no more waiters, hairdressers or pastry-makers. Every now and then, a fading name on a shop window reminds one of a once popular, now forgotten coffee shop; a friend remembers that Vasilakis's famous grocery was situated at the corner of 26 July and Hassan Sabri streets in Zamalek -- "you know, there is a shoe shop there now" -- simply because it remained a little longer than the others... and sometimes someone tunes in to the Greek programme on the radio: "Don't you like bouzoukia? Ah! Where are the good old days of the taverns where we drank ouzo, smashed plates with gusto and danced like Zorba!"

Marble inscription refering to the 150 years anniversary of the Greek community in Egypt.(1843-1993)

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