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How Sophia Loren Made Hollywood Fall in Love with Greece

Sophia Loren
Sophia Loren. Credit: Tom Simpson / CC BY-NC 2.0

Sophia Loren, the great Italian actress, was the star of the first Hollywood movie ever shot in Greece on the majestic island of of Hydra.

“The Boy on a Dolphin” was shot in 1957 and is now considered a classic.

“I will never forget Hydra…one of the most beautiful places in the world,” said Loren to The New York Times recently.

“I did a picture, The Boy on a Dolphin, in Greece, in Hydra, one of the most beautiful places in the world. I remember it really with great, great joy,” Loren is noted to have said.

“Because, for me, it was a moment of starting in the American cinema and I was starting my romance with my husband,” she said, “and so I’m attached also for what I discovered in my husband. It was a beautiful, euphoric moment for me. I will never forget Hydra.”

The film was an adventure romance film from 20th Century Fox and was Sophia Loren’s English-language debut. It was based on the 1955 novel of the same name by David Divine.

Sophia Loren Greece
Sophia Loren stars in “The Boy on a Dolphin”. Video frame

Much of the film was shot on location on Hydra. Establishing shots of Athens, Rhodes, and Delos add to the vérité while matte shots and some interiors were done at Cinecittà in Rome.

One scene uses the Eastern Orthodox monastery complex at Meteora, which was later used as a location in the James Bond film, For Your Eyes Only.

Sophia Loren plays the leading role as Phaedra, a poor Greek sponge diver on the island of Hydra. She accidentally finds an ancient Greek statue of a boy riding a dolphin on the bottom of the Aegean Sea. The statue brings pride to the city of Hydra and has been lost for around 2,000 years.

Her efforts to sell it to the highest bidder lead her to two competing individuals: Dr. James Calder (Alan Ladd), an honest archaeologist who will surrender it to Greek authorities, and Victor Parmalee (Clifton Webb), an aesthete and an unscrupulous dealer in historic artifacts.

The film reaches a happy conclusion, with virtue rewarded, the statue celebrated by the people of Hydra, and Phaedra and Calder in each other’s arms.

Sophia Loren highlights Greece’s beauty

In the 1950s, the island of Hydra was a little-known rock in the Aegean. Most of its inhabitants made a living through fishing, and the old houses in the Chora could be bought for a song.

In the 1960s, Mykonos was likewise still untouched by mass tourism. The entire island had a total of nine taxis and two buses. Passenger ships would not pull in to the harbor but anchor at sea with travelers ferried to the island via launches.

It was this Greece—one of authenticity, beauty, and hospitality—that greeted Sophia Loren, Elizabeth Taylor, Jackie Kennedy, and dozens of other stars who made Hollywood fall in love with Greece and helped spark the modern-day ‘miracle’ of Greek tourism.

Loren was born in Rome in 1934 and grew up in Naples. Her real name is Sofia Villani Scicolone and entered the film industry in the 1950s. She soon became one of the most emblematic figures of Italian and international cinema.

She won an Oscar in 1962 for her performance in La Ciociara, or Two Women, about wartime Italy.

Loren was married to well-known Italian producer Carlo Ponti, who died in 2007. She has two sons from her marriage and now lives in Switzerland.

The Scholars who Deciphered the Ancient Greek Script Linear B

linear b michael ventris alice kober
An example of Linear B script, the earliest known Greek writing. The script was deciphered with the work of many scholars, but most prominently Michael Ventris and Alice Kober. Credit: Sharon Molerus, CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

If not for the incredible determination and talent of two scholars, Alice Kober and Michael Ventris, the ancient Greek script Linear B would likely remain a mystery today.

While many linguists and archaeologists contributed to the decipherment of the script, Ventris’s and Kober’s discoveries were some of the most important.

Linear B is considered the oldest known form of Greek, and the script predates the Greek alphabet by centuries.

It is related to Linear A, an older script that remains undeciphered. Linear A was used to write the language of the Minoans, a Bronze-Age power that was centered in Crete, while Linear B has now been linked to the Myceneans, who were present throughout the Peloponnese and Crete.

When first discovered, however, Linear B was also thought to represent the language of the Minoans, not the Mycenaeans. It was only through the work of scholars Kober and Ventris that this link could be established.

Linear B

Mycenaean Greek, the earliest known form of the language, was expressed using Linear B. The earliest writing with the script dates to around 1450 BC.

As a script, Linear B contains 87 syllabic signs, or symbols that represent sounds, and over 100 ideographic signs, or symbols that represent objects, units of measurement, or commodities. These ideographic signs, also referred to as “signifying signs” do not correlate to a phonetic sound, but to a word describing an object.

It seems that Linear B was used only in administrative contexts, not for literature or other endeavors. Fascinatingly, from the thousands of clay tablets upon which Linear B was inscribed, archaeologists have determined that not many different authors wrote the texts.

In Pylos, a Mycenaean center in the western Peloponnese, there seems to have been only 45 different authors, and in Knossos, Crete, only 66. Likely, there was a class of scribes that wrote all texts in each Mycenaean palace.

Astonishingly, with the fall of the Mycenaeans during the Bronze Age Collapse, a period during which countless powerful Bronze-Age empires around the Mediterranean fell, the entire Linear B script was forgotten.

During the period that followed the collapse, which is known as the Greek Dark Ages, there is no evidence of writing in the Greek world.

Centuries later, unaware of the existence of Linear B, ancient Greeks developed their own script, the Greek alphabet, to write the same language.

To date, Linear B is the only one of the Bronze Age Aegean scripts to be deciphered.

Michael Ventris, English architect and self-taught linguist cracked the code to the mysterious script, which haunted codebreakers, linguists, and archaeologists for decades.

Alice Kober’s incredible contributions to deciphering Linear B

The contributions of Alice Kober, a Hungarian-American classicist from New York, made Ventris’s astounding accomplishment possible.

Kober, who was born in New York in 1906, was always an exceptional student. She attended Hunter College after receiving a scholarship in 1924, and began learning Latin and Ancient Greek there.

After graduating from Hunter College, Kober received her master’s degree and later PHD in Classics from Columbia University.

Throughout her studies, Kober taught at Hunter College and the associated Hunter College High School. Her love of teaching brought her to Brooklyn College, where she began as an associate professor of Classics and remained for the rest of her career.

Beginning as a graduate student in the 1930s, Kober began studying Linear B, which was then undeciphered, on her own.

The dedicated classicist kept meticulous records on nearly 200,000 note cards that she had cut out by hand, and filled over 40 notebooks with her findings.

Kober developed a process in which she hand-punched holes onto each piece of data she recorded, and the hole corresponded to a way that the data could be sorted. This was extremely tiring work that proved essential in deciphering the script, as it made it possible to visualize connections and patterns in the script.

The scholar was an expert in ancient and modern languages, including Hittite, Old Irish, Akkadian, Sumerian, Basque, Chinese, and Sanskrit, among many others.

After her work on the script became known in 1946, Kober received a Guggenheim Fellowship to study Linear B full-time. Then, she met English archaeologist John Linton Myres, who helped her gain access to a trove of Linear B inscriptions copied down by Sir Arthur Evans, who excavated Knossos.

Kober’s most significant contribution to the struggle to decipher Linear B was her discovery that the language it represented was inflected, or that words in the language changed form depending on their grammatical function.

Although Kober made significant developments in decoding the script, her progress was cut short when she had to return to her teaching position. Much of her time was also taken up by proofreading and correcting Myres’ book “Scripta Minoa,” for which she received no credit.

Tragically, Kober died in 1950 at the age of just 43. A lifelong, heavy smoker, Kober likely died of cancer.

Michael Ventris uses Alice Kober’s discoveries as inspiration

After her death, Michael Ventris, an architect and amateur linguist, built upon Kober’s work, and eventually went on to decipher Linear B.

Ventris, working on a hunch, was the first scholar to determine that the script was Mycenaean Greek.

Born into a military family in 1922, Ventris spent much of his youth studying languages and was fascinated with deciphering codes from a young age.

The scholar’s family moved to Switzerland when he was just a child, and it was there that his passion for learning languages began. The child learned French and German at an unbelievable pace, and soon became fluent in Swiss German as well.

He was said to be able to learn a new language in a matter of weeks, an ability that allowed him to become fluent in countless tongues.

After eight years in Switzerland, Ventris and his family returned to England, and his parents divorced four years later, in 1935. The teenager received a scholarship from the Stowe School, where he began studying Ancient Greek and Latin.

Although extremely intelligent, Ventris did not receive good grades in school, as he spent all of his free time studying Linear B, leaving him little time to finish school work.

He became interested in the script after hearing Sir Arthur Evans, the man who excavated Knossos, give a talk about Linear B in 1936, when Ventris was just 14 years-old.

He developed a theory, one which turned out to be incorrect, that Linear B was linked to Etruscan, a mysterious but known language that was prevalent in ancient Italy until it was overcome by Latin.

At just 18, Ventris published an article titled “Introducing the Minoan Language” in the American Journal of Archaeology in which he explored the theory.

His mother, who came from a high class, Polish Jewish family, supported Ventris’s endeavors, and introduced him to her friends, who were scholars and artists.

Her income was cut off, however, when the Germans invaded Poland in 1939, a year after Ventris’s father died. After his grandfather died as well, the scholar’s mother struggled with clinical depression and died of an overdose of barbiturates soon after.

According to his friends, Ventris was so hurt by her death that he never spoke of her. Rather, he became extremely extroverted and excited about any matter he decided to pursue.

In 1942, Ventris was conscripted into the Royal Air Force and became a navigator. Although never confirmed, many suspect that he also worked as a codebreaker.

After the war, he was able to complete his studies as an architect, and married his wife, Lois, who was also an architect.

Michael Ventris’s monumental discovery

Ventris soon learned of Alice Kober’s discovery that Linear B was likely an inflected language, just like Greek. This sparked the imagination of the amateur linguist, who credited Kober as inspiration.

Following the hunch that Linear B could be a form of Ancient Greek, not a separate language, Ventris set out to find patterns in the inscriptions available to him.

He soon realized that certain symbols appear only in the texts found on Crete and no where else, and the same applied to those from the Peloponnese.

From this, the scholar guessed that these unique symbols likely represented place names, which was correct.

Using this discovery, Ventris was soon able to work out each element of the script piece by piece. This discovery confirmed the theory that Crete became part of the Mycenaean civilization in the Late Bronze Age.

Ventris’s discovery was monumental, and allowed scholars a deeper picture of Mycenaean civilization.

Tragically, however, Ventris died of a car accident at the age of 34 in 1956, just a few weeks before the publication of his book “Documents in Mycenaean Greek,” which was written with English classicist John Chadwick.

The scholar died instantly after colliding with a parked truck late at night while driving home. It was determined to be an accident.

The Μost Ιnnovative Greeks Τhroughout Ηistory

Innovative Greeks
Innovative giants of thought shaped western civilization and modern Greece. Credit: CC BY-SA 2.5/Wikipedia

Selecting the most innovative Greeks from ancient times to modernity is not an easy task. From Plato to Eleftherios Venizelos, Greek history is filled with people who thought and acted differently than their contemporaries. They were innovative giants of thought that shaped western civilization and created modern Greece.

Innovative Greeks in ancient times

Plato (428/427 or 424/423 – 348/347 BC)

Plato innovative Greeks
The statue of Plato at the Academy in Athens. Public Domain

Plato founded the Platonist school of thought and the Academy, the first institution of higher learning on the European continent.

The Republic (c. 375 BCE), featuring Plato’s teacher, Socrates, in dialogue with several friends, is unquestionably central to Plato’s thought.

There are few subjects that Plato’s masterpiece does not touch or play on, but political theory, education, myth, psychology, ethics, epistemology, cultural criticism, drama and comedy are all themes of his literary work.

It comes as little surprise then that The Republic continues to be claimed by people with the most diverse convictions and agendas.

The Nazis pointed to the text’s seeming advocacy of eugenics. Yet, Martin Luther King, Jr. nominated The Republic as the one book he would have taken to a deserted island alongside the Bible.

Aristotle (384–322 BC)

Plato Aristotle
Plato (left) and Aristotle in Raphael’s 1509 fresco, The School of Athens. Public Domain

Taught by Plato, his philosophy has exerted a unique influence on almost every form of knowledge in the West and it continues to be a subject of contemporary philosophical discussion.

Aristotle provided a complex synthesis of the various philosophies existing prior to him. It was above all from his teachings that the West inherited its intellectual lexicon, as well as problems and methods of inquiry.

As a result, his philosophy has exerted a unique influence on almost every form of knowledge in the West and it continues to be a subject of contemporary philosophical discussion.

Thucydides (c. 460 – c. 400 BC)

Thucydides
His History of the Peloponnesian War is regarded even today as a historical masterpiece. Credit: shakko , CC BY-SA 3.0/Wikipedia

Thucydides has been dubbed the father of “scientific history” by those who accept his claims to have applied strict standards of impartiality and evidence-gathering and analysis of cause and effect, without reference to intervention by the gods, as outlined in his introduction to his work.

He also has been called the father of the school of political realism, which views the political behavior of individuals and the subsequent outcomes of relations between states as ultimately mediated by, and constructed upon, fear and self-interest.

His History of the Peloponnesian War which recounts the fifth-century BC war between Sparta and Athens until the year 411 BC is regarded even today as a historical masterpiece.

Alexander the Great (20/21 July 356 BC – 10/11 June 323 BC)

Alexander the great
Alexander the Great was history’s greatest and most successful military commander. Public domain

The “Basileus of Macedon”, the “Hegemon of the Hellenic League”, the “Shahanshah” of Persia, the “Pharaoh” of Egypt and the “Lord of Asia” — better known as Alexander the Great — was one of the most significant figures in human history.

Alexander taught by Aristotle spent most of his ruling years conducting a lengthy military campaign throughout Western Asia and Egypt.

By the age of thirty, he had created one of the largest empires in history, stretching from Greece to northwestern India. He was undefeated in battle and is widely considered to be one of history’s greatest and most successful military commanders.

Modernity

Konstantinos Paparrigopoulos (1815 – April 14, 1891)

innovative greeks
Konstantinos Paparrigopoulos, the “father” of Greek historiography. Public Domain

Paparrigopoulos was a Greek historian who is characterized by modern historians as the “father” of Greek historiography. He was the founder of the concept of the historical continuity of Greece from antiquity to the present day.

He sought to negate the prevailing views at the time that the Byzantine empire was a period of decline and degeneration that was not recognized as part of Greek history. It is believed that he laid the foundations for the formation of the national identity of modern Greek society.

Ioannis Kapodistrias (11 February 1776 – 9 October 1831)

Ioannis Kapodistrias
Ioannis Kapodistrias was the first leader of Greece. Public Domain

Kapodistrias was a Greek statesman who served as the Foreign Minister of the Russian Empire and was one of the most distinguished politicians and diplomats of Europe.

After a long and distinguished career in European politics and diplomacy, he was elected as the first head of state of independent Greece (1827–31). He is considered the founder of the modern Greek state, and the architect of Greek independence.

He was assassinated in Nafplio in 1831. His murder robbed the country of the chance to become a modern state sooner.

Charilaos Trikoupis (11 July 1832 – 30 March 1896)

innovative greeks
Charilaos Trikoupis cemented democracy in Greece. Public Domain

Charilaos Trikoupis who served as a Prime Minister of Greece seven times from 1875 until 1895 was an admirer of parliamentary politics and introduced democratic checks and balances in the country.

He is best remembered for introducing the vote of confidence in the Greek constitution, proposing and funding such ambitious and modern projects as the construction of the Corinth Canal, but also eventually leading the country to bankruptcy. Nowadays, he is commonly considered one of the greatest Greek Prime Ministers to ever have served.

Eleftherios Venizelos (23 August 1864 – 18 March 1936)

Venizelos innovative Greeks
Venizelos, wearing his typical side cap, sitting at his desk (1930). Public Domain

Venizelos was the Greek statesman who under his leadership Greece doubled its size. As the leader of the Liberal Party, he held office as prime minister of Greece for over 12 years, spanning eight terms between 1910 and 1933.

Venizelos had a such profound influence on the internal and external affairs of Greece that he is credited with being “The Maker of Modern Greece”, and is still widely known as the “Ethnarch” (leader of the nation).

George Papanicolaou (13 May 1883 – 19 February 1962)

George Papanicolaou
George Papanicolaou at work. Credit: The Paps Corps

George Papanicolaou, the Greek doctor who invented the Pap smear in 1928, has saved the lives of countless women.

The Pap smear has become a cornerstone of early cancer detection, allowing physicians to detect signs of cervical cancer, the second most common cancer in women, and other illnesses at a treatable stage.

Routine Pap testing has prevented the suffering and death of millions of women worldwide.

Mikis Theodorakis  (29 July 1925 – 2 September 2021)

Mikis Theodorakis
Mikis Theodorakis’ concert a few months after the fall of the Greek junta in 1974 turned into a celebration of liberty and freedom. Public Domain

The Greek composer and lyricist who passed away in 2021 is regarded as the greatest Greek composer in history, whose music has touched generations.

Greece lost part of its soul on his death as Mikis, as he is affectionately known by millions of Greeks around the world revolutionalized Greek music and became famous throughout the world.

Theodorakis scored for the films Zorba the Greek (1964), Z (1969), and Serpico (1973). He composed the “Mauthausen Trilogy”, also known as “The Ballad of Mauthausen”, which has been described as the “most beautiful musical work ever written about the Holocaust” and possibly his best work.

Wiretapping Scandal in Greece: Police Chief was ‘Under Surveillance’

wiretapping scandal Greece
Greek politics has been rocked by allegations of wiretapping. Credit: AMNA

A new media report on the wiretapping scandal in Greece on Sunday alleged that the former Head of Hellenic Police (ELAS) and a senior judge were under surveillance by the intelligence service.

The report on the weekly Documento newspaper, which has almost single-handedly exposed the scandal, says that the police chief and current Secretary General of the Ministry of Citizen Protection Michalis Karamalakis and the prosecutor of the scandal Vasiliki Vlachou were wiretapped.

In its report, it adds several new politicians and personalities whose phones were comprised by the Predator spyware, including Minister of Education Niki Kerameos and Government Spokesman Giannis Oikonomou.

Others in the list include the PASOK-KINAL MP and former candidate for the party’s presidency Andreas Loverdos, the close associate of the Prime Minister and Secretary General of the Parliament Giorgos Mylonakis with his wife, journalist Tina Messaropoulou, the head of the Economic Prosecutor’s Office Christos Bardakis, and Vassilis Andrikopoulos, former head of the special office of the General Secretariat of the Prime Minister and special advisor to Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis in matters of development and entrepreneurship.

Documento and its editor Kostas Vaxevanis claim that the wiretapping scandal in Greece was orchestrated by Mitsotakis and his close associates at the PM’s office.

Wiretapping scandal rocks politics in Greece

The government has been claiming that if surveillance had taken place it was done not by government agencies but by “unknown” third parties.

However, the weekly To Vima reported last Sunday that Israeli-made Predator spyware was used not only by the National Intelligence Service (EYP) but also by elements of the Greek police in illegal surveillance.

The paper also partly revealed the identities of Greek senior police officers who were involved in the surveillance publishing their initials. It claimed that the wiretapping was conducted by an EYP secret office located in the Athenian suburb of Agia Paraskevi.

The Greek wiretapping scandal, sometimes called the Greek Watergate, refers to the prolonged and en masse monitoring of the mobile phones of individuals prominent in the Greek political scene, including the president of the social democratic party, PASOK, Nikos Androulakis, the journalists Thanassis Koukakis and Stavros Michaloudis, as well as members of the government and close affiliates of Mitsotakis, among others.

On July 29, the Special Permanent Committee on Institutions and Transparency of the Parliament was convened where the Head of EYP, Panagiotis Kontoleon attended. Leaks from the meeting were circulated in the media according to which Kontoleon admitted that EYP was monitoring Koukakis and that this happened at the request of foreign services.

On August 4, 2022, the newspaper EFSYN published an investigation linking the then General Secretary of the Prime Minister, Grigoris Dimitriadis, to the company that supplies the Predator software in Greece. On August 5, 2022, Dimitriadis resigned from the position of General Secretary to the Prime Minister. Less than an hour later, the leader of EYP also resigned.

On Monday, August 8, Mitsotakis made a brief statement on the issue of wiretappings, issuing that he did not know about the wiretapping of Androulakis and that if he had known, he would not have allowed it to happen.

The opposition which has called for a snap election claims that it is impossible that he did not know as EYP is under his direct supervision.

Earlier in November a European Parliament committee that investigates spyware use by European Union governments soundly criticized the Greek government’s response to revelations it surveilled independent journalists and an opposition leader.

“We’ve heard worrying reports of journalists feeling unsafe when they write about important topics, of the supposedly independent data protection authority being put under pressure, and of national security used as blanket justification for spyware abuse and surveillance,” committee rapporteur and European Parliamentarian Sophie in ‘t Veld said at the end of a visit to Athens.

A Greek parliament inquiry into the surveillance scandal opened in September, but the ruling New Democracy party blocked dozens of witnesses proposed by opposition parties, including the head of EYP and Greece’s prime minister, as well journalists whose phones had been wiretapped.

In addition, the ruling party-controlled committee conducting the inquiry decided that all inquiry meetings would be held behind closed doors and remain confidential, along with the committee’s concluding report, raising transparency concerns.

Yet Another Journalist Harassed by Police in Greece

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Journalist harassed Greece
Photojournalist Nikos Pilos seen here at a migrant camp in Greece was harassed by Greek police this week. Credit: IPI

A journalist was harassed by the police in Greece earlier this week in yet another incident that has highlighted the problematic state of press freedom in the country.

Veteran photojournalist Nikos Pilos was arrested on Tuesday during a police operation to clear a squat at Prosfygika, a run-down block of buildings in central Athens.

Among the dozens arrested in the operation was Pilos who was held at a police station for more than seven hours, despite showing his journalist credentials.

“I declared my identity to the police, yet they brought me in and charged me with a bunch of felony charges,” Pilos told radio station Sto Kokkino.

The journalist was charged with several felonies including disturbance of public peace combined with causing bodily harm by complicity.

The police operation at Prosfygika targeted a 27-year-old man who is a suspect in several bombing attacks in Athens, including an attack against the media group Real.

Speaking on Thursday government spokesman Giannis Economou insisted that Pilos did not show his credentials to police officers but admitted that the charges against him were due to a “technical error.” He did not specify what was the error.

IPI, the global network for independent media condemned the arrest and harassment of Pilos and called on Greek authorities to drop the charges.

The arrest was also condemned by the Foreign Press Association of Greece which called for the dropping of all charges.

“The obstruction of the work of journalists and photojournalists causes particular disappointment…The aim of the authorities should be to facilitate and not hinder the role of journalists,” a statement said.

American journalist harassed by police in Greece

In October an award-winning American photojournalist reported an attack by a member of the Greek riot police (MAT) in Exarchia, Athens.

The photojournalist was on the scene covering events unfolding at the time on Strefi Hill, where residents were protesting in response to a project that would create a metro station in the area.

As recorded in videos circulating on the internet, the MAT were chasing down citizens in Exarchia and then attacked the photojournalist, Ryan Thomas, who was covering the events and assaults of Greek police on protesters.

Greece drops to 108th in the World Press Freedom Index

Greece has dropped to 108th in the World Press Freedom Index, ranking last among EU member states. The index by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) defines the levels of press freedom in the country as ‘problematic,’ raising concerns not only about the freedom of the press but also about the state of the rule of law.

RSF says that press freedom in Greece suffered serious setbacks in 2021 and 2022 with journalists regularly prevented from covering issues from migration to COVID-19.

Another report by the Committee to Protect Journalists released in October says that the two unsolved journalist killings over the last 12 years as well as threats of violence and physical attacks against reporters have contributed to a climate of fear and self-censorship in Greece.

Investigative journalist Sokratis Giolias, who was killed 2010, and crime reporter Giorgos Karaivaz, who was killed 2021, were gunned down in similar circumstances by professional hitmen in the streets and there have been no arrests in either case.

Adding to the sense of insecurity is the wiretapping of two reporters by Greek intelligence services, it adds.

Skeletons from Ancient Santorini Volcano Eruption Found in Turkey

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Skeleton Santorini
A skeleton of a man who was a victim of the Santorini volcano eruption was found along the coast of Ionia, in what is now Turkey, this week. The man and his dog had been killed by the tsunami that resulted from the cataclysmic eruption of the volcano almost 3,600 years ago. Credit: Vasif Sahoglu/Phys.org

A skeleton of a man who was a victim of the Santorini volcano — and his dog — were unearthed recently by archaeologists in Turkey. The 3600-year-old skeletons were discovered earlier by archaeologists in what was the ancient Greek province of Ionia, near Smyrna.

The cataclysmic eruption of the volcano on the island of Thera, now known as Santorini, in 1,646 BC, which may have even been the origin of the legend of the lost island of Atlantis, caused gigantic tsunamis in the Mediterranean.

It was thought, however, that the only fallout that those living in the region of Ionia would have felt from the blast was ash that covered the area. But now, scientists have conclusive evidence that tsunamis caused by the giant eruption caused destruction even as far away as current-day Turkey.

Santorini tsunami
The track of the tsunamis caused by the vocal on Santorini as discovered by scientists in Turkey. Credit: The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

Santorini volcano likely destroyed Minoan civilization

The almost unimaginable power of these waves caused a great deal of damage in the area, according to archaeologists working at the excavations in Çeşme-Bağlararası, a Late Bronze Age site near Çeşme Bay, on Turkey’s western coast.

Thera — now a caldera at the center of the Greek island of Santorini — is famous for how its tsunamis are thought to have ended the Minoan civilization on nearby Crete.

Based on radiocarbon dating of the tsunami deposits at Çeşme-Bağlararası, the team believes that the volcano’s eruption occurred no earlier than 1612 BC, rather than in 1646 BC as scientists have thought fr some time.

The study was undertaken by archaeologist Vasıf Şahoğlu of the University of Ankara and his colleagues.

Santorini’s volcanic eruption spurred formation of tsunamis north and south of the island

“Despite the eruption of Thera being one of the largest natural disasters in recorded history, this is the first time remains of victims of the event have been unearthed,” Şahoğlu states.

“Moreover, the presence of the tsunami deposits at Çeşme-Bağlararası show that large and destructive waves did arrive in the northern Aegean after Thera went up,” he explains, adding “Previously, based on the evidence available, it had been assumed that this area of the Mediterranean only received ash fallout from the eruption of Thera.”

But his research has now shown that that was not what happened at all, with the residents of Ionia suffering cataclysmic effects after the Santorini volcano blew. “Instead, it now appears that the Çeşme Bay area was struck by a sequence of tsunamis, devastating local settlements and leading to rescue efforts,” he states, adding “Thera — now a caldera at the center of the Greek island of Santorini — is famous for how its tsunamis are thought to have ended the Minoan civilization on nearby Crete.”

Santorini Tsunami victims
The skeletons of a man and a dog who were victims of the volcanic tsunami were unearthed recently in Turkey. This was what the scene looked like in 2012, before the most recent excavations took place. Credit: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

The scene in Ionia was almost as devastating, according to Sahoglu. In the middle of  stratified sediments at the Çeşme-Bağlararası site, he and his team found the remains of damaged walls which they believe had once been once part of a fortification of some kind.

However, they must have failed completely to shield the city, because they were destroyed; now their remains lie next to layers of rubble and haphazard layers of sediments that are characteristic of deposits laid down by tsunamis.

Completing the picture of the destruction, the team discovered two layers of volcanic ash along with a layer containing many bones, charcoal and charred remains, in these deposits.

Şahoğlu states that the deposits represent at least four consecutive tsunami inundations, each separate but all nevertheless resulting from the eruption at Thera.

Perhaps most tragic of all, the archaeologists came upon traces of misshapen pits that had been dug into the tsunami debris in various places across the site, showing what the researchers believe to be an effort “to retrieve victims from the tsunami debris.”

Şahoğlu explains that the man whose skeleton they found wasn’t one of the lucky people who may have been able to be rescued after the disaster. “The human skeleton was located about a meter below such a pit, suggesting that it was too deep to be found and retrieved and therefore (probably unknowingly) left behind,” he explained.

“It is also in the lowest part of the deposit, characterized throughout the debris field by the largest and heaviest stones (some larger than 40 cm [16 inches] in diameter), further complicating any retrieval effort,” he added.

He states in the scientific paper that the young man’s skeleton, which shows the hallmarks of having been swept along by a debris flow typical of a tsunami, was discovered up against the most damaged areas of the fortification wall that he believes failed due to the onslaught of the water.

The complete findings of the study were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Ionia was an ancient region on the central part of the western coast of Anatolia in present-day Turkey, the region nearest Smyrna. It consisted of the northernmost territories of the Ionian League of Greek settlements. Never a unified state, it was named after the Ionian tribe who, in the Archaic Period (600–480 BC), settled the shores and islands of the Aegean Sea. Ionian states were identified by tradition and by their use of Eastern Greek.

Ionia proper comprised a narrow coastal strip from Phocaea in the north near the mouth of the river Hermus (now the Gediz), to Miletus in the south near the mouth of the river Maeander, and included the islands of Chios and Samos. It was bounded by Aeolia to the north, Lydia to the east and Caria to the south. The cities within the region figured large in the strife between the Persian Empire and the Greeks.

According to Greek tradition, the cities of Ionia were founded by colonists from the other side of the Aegean. Their settlement was connected with the legendary history of the Ionic people in Attica, which asserts that the colonists were led by Neleus and Androclus, sons of Codrus, the last king of Athens. In accordance with this view the “Ionic migration”, as it was called by later chronologers, was dated by them one hundred and forty years after the Trojan War, or sixty years after the return of the Heracleidae into the Peloponnese.

Greek-American David Sedaris Makes Readers Laugh, Cry

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david sedaris greek-american
Greek-American author David Sedaris is one of the most famous American humorists of our time. Credit: Heike Huslage Koch/Wikimedia Commons/ CC BY-SA 4.0

Greek-American author David Sedaris, who reflects on difficult moments in his life with honesty and humor, has become one of the most beloved contemporary American humorists.

Born in 1956 to an Anglo-American mother and Greek-American father, whose parents were immigrants from Apidea in the Peloponnese, Sedaris uses his Greek background and middle class life in the suburbs of Raleigh, North Carolina as inspiration for his writing.

He is also known for his self-deprecating style, focusing on his own anxiety and neuroticism, as well as his life as a gay man.

Although his mother was Protestant, Sedaris’ father was Greek Orthodox, and he and his five siblings were raised in the faith. The Greek-American author references his experiences growing up in a Greek household in a number of his works.

David Sedaris examines Greek-American family, sexuality

His family, which many have described as “dysfunctional,” plays a major role in his writing, particularly his father Lou. Lou is described as a complex father who often argued with his son.

In a tragic story, Lou kicked his son out of his house as a teenager because of his sexuality although the author didn’t realize the true reason until years later. Luckily, his father allowed him to return a few days later.

In an interview with the Montreal Gazette four years ago, the Greek-American author expressed his amazement at how much progress has been made for LGBT teens:

When I go on tour, I meet kids who come to my shows with their parents—the kids are 14 years old and they’re gay—and having that was unthinkable when I was growing up. That you could be yourself that early was unthinkable.

Despite the difficulties that came with being gay at the time, Sedaris says that being an “other” made him stronger:

To be “other” in any way, you really have to at an early age not live your life based on what other people think. I grew up with my dad saying, “You’re a failure, you’re a big zero and you’re not going to amount to anything.” And that’s just music to my ears! That just winds me up. I’m like a wind-up toy, you just set me on the ground and there I go. It’s not your belief in me that will motivate me—it’s your disbelief.

Sedaris’ siblings also play a major role in his writing, particularly his sister Amy Sedaris, who is a comedian and actor in her own right, and his sister Tiffany, who suffered from mental illness and tragically killed herself in 2013.

Many readers are stunned at Sedaris’ brutal honesty when recounting stories from his childhood. When asked by a reporter from Independent Ireland how Sedaris handles writing about friends and family, he responded:

If I write about my friend Pam, whose son is adopted, I will ask, “Is this OK? Is there anything you object to?” but other people I don’t worry about because it’s a flattering thing. Most people will say, “Look, I don’t want you to write about this,” and I think, “I’d never have written about this. It’s so f***ing boring.” They think I’m on pins and needles, dying to get it written down.

Greek-American author David Sedaris got his start on radio

The author, although very intelligent, was not a driven student in school. After graduating from high school, he briefly attended Western Carolina University and then transferred and dropped out of Kent State University in 1977.

In 1983, Sedaris moved to Chicago and graduated from the School of the Arts Institute of Chicago. After graduating in 1987, Sedaris moved back and forth from New York, Chicago, and Raleigh all the while writing and working odd jobs.

Sedaris’ career began in the early 1990s after radio host Ira Glass, now known for his program This American Life, discovered him in a comedy club in Chicago, where he was reading from a diary he had dutifully kept since 1977.

Glass offered Sedaris a spot on his weekly radio program called the Wild Room, an opportunity that eventually led to the author’s big break in 1992, when Sedaris read his essay entitled “The Santaland Diaries.”

In the true story, Sedaris narrates his experience working as a Christmas elf in Macy’s Department store in New York. Listeners instantly took to Sedaris’ honesty and humor, and he was offered a monthly segment on National Public Radio in which he recited excerpts from his diary. He was also offered a two-book deal with Little, Brown and Company.

In 1994, he published his first book, Barrel Fever, which is a collection of short stories and essays. He then began writing for The New Yorker and Esquire Magazine.

Just three years later, Sedaris released his book Naked, which is one of his most famous works of writing. Naked, along with his next four books, Holidays on Ice, Me Talk Pretty One Day, Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim, and When You Are Engulfed in Flames, all became best-sellers.

Despite his success and fame, the humorist never expected to become a successful author, as he noted in the Montreal Gazette.

“I started writing when I was 20 and I was 35 when my first book was published…I never expected this,” he admitted. “I was not one of those people who wrote something and then went out to try to get it published. For the first seven years, nobody saw any of my writing at all because it was pretty awful.”

Sedaris has won numerous awards for his writing, including the Randy Shilts Award for Gay Non-Fiction and the Thurber Prize for American Fiction, and he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 2019.

He lives in Rackham, West Sussex, England with Hugh Hamrick, his longtime partner. Hamrick is an artist and set designer, and the two have been together for thirty years. Sedaris is well-known in his village for donning a headlamp in the middle of the night to remove litter from the roads, a hobby that has spawned his nickname of “Pig Pen.” He even has the honor of having a waste vehicle named after him.

The author’s latest book, A Carnival of Snackery: Diaries 2003-2020, was released in 2021. He is known for releasing audiobooks which he narrates himself and enjoys touring and reading excerpts from the book aloud to live audiences.

When asked about his age, which Sedaris considers “old,” as expressed in his latest book, he said in Independent Ireland:

I find myself wagging on how sensitive audiences are, and then I worry, “That’s [sic] sounds old”…We’re not supposed to say the word “mother.” The term is “gestational parent.” Well, try finding something that rhymes with “gestational parent.” 

Saudi Arabia Football Players Get a Rolls-Royce for Beating Argentina in World Cup

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Saudi Arabia celebrates a historic win over Argentina.
Saudi Arabia celebrates a historic win over Argentina. Credit: FIFA

Each member of the Saudi Arabia football team can look forward to receiving a Rolls-Royce after beating Argentina in the FIFA World Cup in Qatar.

The Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has promised each player a luxury car after their unexpected win over Argentina. A national holiday was declared on Wednesday to celebrate the historic win.

Saudi Arabia football team defies expectations

Saudi Arabia’s win over Argentina is one of the biggest upsets in this year’s World Cup tournament so far. Argentina had remained undefeated for thirty-six games in a row prior to their loss on Tuesday.

The Saudi Arabia football team was not given much of a chance against Argentina by the bookies. They were given odds of +2249 to win the game. This means that a $100 bet on Saudi Arabia to win made prior to the game would have generated a return of $2,349, or a profit of $2,249.

The game kicked off in Argentina’s favor, and, ten minutes into the game, Saudi player Saud Abdulhamid was penalized for pulling Leandro Paredes’ shirt inside the box. A penalty kick was given to Argentina which Lionel Messi went on to score.

In the second half, however, the scales tipped in favor of the Saudi Arabia football team. Forty-eight minutes into the game, Saleh Al-Shehri scored with a low shot into the bottom corner of the goal.

A few minutes later, Salem Al-Dawsari scored a second goal, bringing the score up to 2-0 in favor of Saudi Arabia.

According to FIFA rankings, Argentina is the third-best team in the world. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia’s rank is fifty-first, making the win all the more surprising. Saudi Arabia has only ever won three World Cups.

Rich rewards

Each player for Saudi Arabia has been promised a Rolls-Royce Phantom as a reward for their win against Argentina.

The starting price for a Rolls-Royce Phantom is $450,000. The vehicles are produced in Goodwood, England and have become synonymous with luxury and status.

The Phantom has a top speed of 155 mph (250 km/h) and can go from zero to 60 mph (95 km/h) in 4.5-4.6 seconds. It has a horsepower of 500 at 5,000 rpm. The Phantom is powered by a 6.8L V12 engine.

The Saudi Arabia football players will receive their new luxury vehicles upon their return home from Qatar.

Celebrations

Shocked fans celebrated Saudi Arabia’s win in Riyadh by waving their flags from cars and dancing in circles.

Wednesday was declared a public holiday to celebrate the unexpected win. All public and private sector employees were given the day off as were students.

The Saudi team was unable to replicate their success during a game on Saturday against Poland. They were beaten 2-0 by the Polish team. Their next game will be against Argentina on November 30th.

Saudi Arabia is currently ranked second in the World Cup’s Group C just after Poland, which is at the top.

The Decline of Sparta as Seen Through Its Food

Sparta
The statue of the great Spartan leader King Leonidas in Sparta, Greece. A Greek/Italian chef and writer says that the decline of the warrior city-state is reflected in its cuisine. Credit: pxfuel.com

Athenaeus of Naucratis in his famous work Deipnosophistae stated sarcastically that the fault of the decline of Sparta lay with its cooks, who, because of the influence of the Roman Empire, lost the ability to prepare the traditional recipes that for centuries had maintained the strength of the city.

By Giorgio Pintzas Monzani

For anyone who knows anything about Spartan cuisine, it’s impossible not to laugh at this jab, made at the Spartans’ expense.

We all know the central role that great food had always played in Greek culture throughout the previous centuries.

But Sparta, despite its great prominence in the Greek cultural landscape, appears to be an exception to this rule. How can Sparta, the city and land of legends, heroes, and timeless and immortal myths, have declined because of its food and the customs behind sharing it?

We will try to explain and see what truth can be hidden behind the sarcasm of the Greek writer Athenaeus.

We will see a before and an after: a period characterized by rigidity and solidity, followed by a period of change and decay.

The watershed moment was caused by an evolution of many factors nad even gastronomic factors in fact.

Starting from the ancient Syssitia, the later Roman word for the common cafeteria-like manner of communal eating, we will trace the evolution of Spartan foodways to the new way of dining after the fall of the Roman Empire.

The Spartan system of communal eating in public buildings

Incredibly, alone amongst all other Greek city-states, Sparta had a system of communal eating that can be compared to a cafeteria. This consisted of the distribution of common meals in places that can be likened to canteens or city halls.

Instituted with a purpose of better managing food supplies within the walls of the city-state, this practice ended up strengthening the feeling of community in Sparta and creating an even more cohesive society.

This most unusual gastronomic custom was instituted during the Iron Age well before the birth of the Greek poleis, however. The legendary king of the Enotrian people, Italo, established his tribe in southern Italy in settlements, bringing an end to their nomadic ways.

At that time, he established a very innovative custom at the time, the common dining hall, to his people.

This custom was soon taken up by a number of communities, but it was Sparta that made it the centerpiece of its very society.

The first Spartan ruler to introduce the measure was Lycurgus, who was not only one of the most important legislators in history but is also credited for being the very creator of the moral and political principles of the Spartan soul.

Immediately the communal meal became the singular characteristic of its society, which was seen as necessary to not only strengthen the cohesiveness of its people but to enforce the simplicity that was so distinctive of Spartan life.

Even though communal dining was initially practiced by the non-ruling population, after the fifth century BC it was also extended to the noble class, including the king and his family. This was obviously with different portions and precedence but always with the very same dishes of which everyone else partook.

The practice of communal eating in its traditional form ceased towards the second half of the fifth century B.C. probably thanks to the great earthquake of 464 B.C., which destroyed not only part of the city but its economy as well.

Incredibly, it was reintroduced after the passage of more than two centuries around 250 BC but was gradually practiced less and less in the centuries to come.

What foods did the common daily ration consist of in Sparta?

As you might imagine, the rigidity and strictness of Spartans were always reflected in the various elements of gastronomy as well.

During the communal daily meal, bread, called maza, a thin toasted wheat flatbread, was served along with melas zomo (black broth) containing pork and the blood of the pig (which gave it its dark color). Figs and cheese were common at the table.

Spartans would traditionally have wine, which unlike other Greek city-states, was offered to women as well as men.

Not surprisingly, food in the city-state of Sparta was seen as a means of sustenance only; it didn’t exist for luxury, entertainment, or overindulgence.

Black broth is still recognized as the most important element in the daily Spartan diet and of warriors in battle.

Prepared with pork and blood, vinegar, onions, and bay leaf, the concoction was considered a “culinary horror” by other Greek poleis and further afield since ancient times.

A traveler from Sibari of southern Italy, after having tasted the dish, famously said: “Now I perceive the reason for the lightness with which Spartan warriors go to death: after it they will not have to eat melan zomos anymore.”

Still, it is beyond doubt that despite its unpalatable look and taste, the Spartan soup was also recognized for imparting great energy to its warriors, making them the greatest of all, which was essentially the reason for being for that city-state.

Culinary changes and the decline of Sparta

A process of evolution and transition in the cultures of ancient and Hellenic-era Greece, including Sparta, took place around the second century B.C.

The expansionistic arrival, first of the Macedonian empire, and of the Roman Empire later, irrevocably changed many Greek characteristics; moreover, it increased the wealth of some social classes, increasing the luxury of banquets.

Even the great warrior state of Sparta was influenced by these societal changes over time. That even extended to the cuisine of the city of Leonidas, changing its gastronomic DNA.

Sparta’s cuisine gradually ceased to have such a rough and rigid identity, amazingly allowing even Roman customs to be incorporated into the daily diet.

The melas zomos stopped being the most important food and sustenance, leaving room for more refined, foreign dishes.

The common dining hall of older days, always seen as a symbol of the strength of the Lacedaemonians, gave way more and more to banquets, which were far more sumptuous and splendid.

And so, at the same time, the values of Sparta, including its almost cult-like social rigidity and rigor, gave way to new customs that came with the new world opening up to them.

This was admittedly a kind of “globalization,” which tragically left behind entire cultures and peoples in the wake of Roman hegemony.

And so of the ancient Sparta, and of its heroic warriors, there are now only memories and legends.

Hence, we can see how food and the way it is experienced has always played a central role in our history.

Indeed, we are what we used to eat.

Giorgio Pintzas Monzani is a Greek-Italian chef, writer and consultant who lives in Milan. His Instagram page can be found here. 

Top 7 Christmas Destinations in Greece for 2022

Greece Christmas destinations
Greece offers much more than sun and sea. Credit: Greek Reporter

Greece has amazing destinations for Christmas. Although it is globally known for its warm, sunny summers, white sand beaches, and crystal-clear waters, the country offers much more.

The surprisingly diverse landscape of Greece provides countless opportunities, all the way from the north to the south, to explore and enjoy superb winter destinations.

Top Christmas destinations in Greece for 2022

Agios Athanasios

Christmas destinations in Greece
Agios Athanasios is located on the western slopes of imposing Mount Vorras. Public Domain

One of the most popular Christmas destinations in northern Greece, Agios Athanasios is located on the western slopes of imposing Mount Vorras, which forms the border between Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

An authentic village with traditional stone architecture, Agios Athanasios still has plenty of hotels, bars and restaurants. Together with the ski area, also known as Kaimaktsalan, it offers the perfect holiday vacation for most anyone, and it’s only a couple hours’ drive from  Thessaloniki.

Elatochori 

Christmas destinations in Greece
The Elatochori Ski Area in Pieria. Public Domain

A village nestled in the deep woods, Elatochori promises to make you forget the outside world entirely. A sojourn there will allow you to experience the beauty of nature, with walks winding through the forest and along small streams. The village itself has several distinctive boutiques, and you should try some of the local delicacies such as traditional marmalade and chocolate drinks.

A ski area is just outside of town, so if you’re lucky enough to go when the region is covered in snow, you can enjoy all the winter sports offered by the center.
Elatochori is located west of the city of Katerini, just a couple of hours from Thessaloniki.

Elati and Petrouli 

Christmas destinations in Greece
The region of western Thessaly offers some of Greece’s most spectacular winter scenes. Public Domain

Elati and Pertouli, both located in Central Greece’s Trikala region, are among the most famous winter and Christmas destinations in the country.

The mountain of Koziakas offers fairy-tale scenery, with plenty of snow. Often, fog and mist will freeze on the trees there, creating fairytale-like scenes along the forest paths.

The traditional mountain architecture of the region, along with the natural magnificence of the area, is not to be dismissed. The mountains of western Thessaly should definitely be among your next Greek Christmas destinations.

Karpenisi

Karpenisi
Karpenisi perfectly combines the leisure facilities of a mountain town with the beauty of the surrounding countryside. Credit: G Da, CC BY-SA 3.0/Wikipedia

Karpenisi is located in the center of the Greek mainland. Built on the slopes of Tymfristos Mountain, it is the capital of the local county.

With a population of about ten thousand, Karpenisi perfectly combines the leisure facilities of a mountain town with the beauty of the surrounding countryside. Rivers, forests, and irresistible ski slopes make Karpenisi one of the most attractive destinations for Christmas in Greece.

Trikala Korinthias

Trikala
Trikala Korinthias is a popular Christmas destination for many Athenians due to its proximity to the capital. Credit: Trikala-Korinthias.gr

A famous winter and Christmas destination for the Peloponnese, Trikala Korinthias is actually a complex of three villages, namely Ano, Mesi, and Kato Synoikia.

Mesi Synoikia is famous for its traditional taverns, and it is not far from Lake Doxa as well as the small ski area of Zireia. The charm of the Trikala Korinthias area mirrors the stunning beauty of the mountains of southern Greece.

The forests, wintry temperatures, and warm hospitality will make you feel like you’re somewhere in central Europe. Don’t miss celebrating at least one Christmas break in this corner of the eastern Peloponnese.

Palaios Panteleimon 

Christmas destinations in Greece
Palaios Panteleimon was abandoned in the 1950s, following the inhabitants’ move to Neos Panteleimon village, built at a lower altitude. Public Domain

Built on the slopes of the “Mountain of the gods,” Palaios Panteleimon is the most popular tourist destination on Mount Olympus.

An ancient settlement that was abandoned in the 1950s by its inhabitants, Palaios Panteleimon is now a vibrant mountain destination. It combines the incomparable beauty of Greece’s largest mountain along with Macedonian sea breezes, as the village is just a few minutes drive from Pieria’s Aegean coast.

Full of taverns, hotels, and shops, Palaios Panteleimon could be the perfect spot for a Christmas break away from everyday city life.

Arachova

Christmas destinations in Greece
Arachova covered in snow. Public Domain

One of the most famous (if not the most famous) popular winter destinations in Greece is the mountain village of Arachova. Not only is this gem located in one of the most spectacular mountain ranges in Greece, but it is also very close to the ancient site of Delphi, a must-see destination.

Located on the slopes of Mount Parnassus, famed from ancient times, Arachova has numerous options for recreation and apres-ski fun that will please everyone, with ski areas, bars, clubs, and boutiques of all kinds. Its traditional architecture set against a backdrop of snow-covered peaks offers you a glimpse of the Alps less than a couple of hours from the country’s capital, Athens.