Unique Greek Liqueurs That are Perfect for Autumn

greek greece liqueurs autumn
Greece is home to many unique liqueurs. Credit: Wikimedia Commons/CC BY 2.0

Greece is not only known for its cuisine, but also for its unique traditional liqueurs. Many of the favorites, surprisingly enough, are derived from ingredients that have amazing health benefits as well. Let’s look at some unique selections that are perfect for the cooler autumn season, and the Greek ingredients that make these spirits truly unique!

Tendoura Liqueur from Patras, Greece

Tendoura is a liqueur has been a cornerstone in Patras since the 15th century. It is full of beneficial spices that are commonly found in Greek cuisines, such as fermented essences of cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, and Greek citrus fruits, which are great flavors for autumn.

Many local families that make it say that they have their own “special family secret” recipe, so don’t be surprised if you taste some different flavor variants of this unique Greek liqueur!

Rakomelo

Rakomelo comes from two words: from the liqueur, raki (ρακή) + meli (μέλι), meaning honey.

This hot Greek mixed alcoholic drink is considered a digestive spirit and is often used as a medicinal remedy for a sore throat and cough. The warmth of the delicious drink makes it perfect for chilly autumn evenings.

It is known as a regional drink of Crete, where it is produced.

When you sip this drink, you will feel it warm your throat, and keep warming it all the way down into your stomach! It is quite strong and said to be high in powerful antioxidants such as flavonoids and a good cure for a common head cold. Even Greek children are often given this liqueur when ill!

The ingredients are raki or Tsipouro combined with Greek honey, along with spices such as cinnamon, cardamom, or other regional Cretan herbs.

Fatourada

This artisanal liqueur which is a spiced nectar comes from the Greek island of Kythera, located opposite the southeastern tip of the Peloponnese Peninsula.

This drink’s name comes from a time when Venetians ruled over the island. At the time, this spiced nectar was only consumed by the wealthiest citizens — but luckily this has changed.

What you get with this liqueur is a base made of Hamburg Muscat grapes macerated with fruit and spices such as oranges and cinnamon sticks.

Greek Mastic Liqueur from Chios

This tree-based resin has valuable health properties such as aiding in relieving digestive issues due to its antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds.

Mastiha resin also can help treat ulcers, help ease symptoms of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), help lower cholesterol, promote liver health, and more.

This sweet liqueur is either served cold over ice, chilled or at room temperature, depending on who you talk to. It is a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) listed product.

This liqueur is flavored with mastic distillate, or mastic oil, that comes from the mastic trees on the island of Chios.

Nowadays, a new trend is to create mastic cocktails at bars throughout Greece. So, if you like mastic, the next time you are in the country, try one out for yourself.

Kitro (Citron) Liqueur from Naxos, Greece

The Greek citron variety of Citrus medica was initially cultivated throughout the Ionian Islands, particularly Naxos and Corfu, as far back as the 17th century.

What is citron? Basically, it is one of the original four citrus fruits (the others being pomelo, papeda, and mandarin).

This fruit, which is packed with health benefits, makes a great companion to your infused water drink. Citron is valued in Greece for its nutritional and health benefits.

This sweet liqueur is made from the fruit and leaves of the citron tree and is a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) listed product. It is made by a distillation process of pure alcohol in traditional copper stills.

Naxos, Greece’s Island of the Gods

naxos island greek greece
The Greek island of Naxos. Credit: Dronepicr/Wikimedia Commons/ CC BY 2.0

Naxos is the largest island of the Cyclades island group, and although it is comparatively unknown relative to Greece’s many other idylls, it is one of the most enchanting places for any visitor.

Despite flying somewhat under the radar, the island is one of the most interesting places in Greece. It boasts a magnificent history, with influences from the Franks and the Venetians, who are responsible for numerous monuments from the Middle Ages. The island is completely overtaken by history.

Apart from boasting a fascinating past, Naxos possesses a lovely natural landscape, since it is the greenest island in the Cyclades archipelago. As well as having beautiful beaches, its rural villages are set into a backdrop of green valleys and mountains.

The island is also unique because it incorporates four smaller islets, Koufonissia, Iraklia, Donoussa, and Schinoussa which actually belong to the municipality of Naxos and the Small Cyclades. Travelers here have the unique opportunity of experiencing five islands in one destination.

This gives added value to the island, since it offers the chance to hop on over to these smaller islets and experience their almost completely untouched, romantic beauty.

With captivating legends, myths and history, stunning landscapes, and gastronomic specialties, Naxos is definitely worth discovering.

The fabled history of the Greek island Naxos

In Greek mythology, the island of Naxos was where Zeus, the king of the gods, grew up, hiding from his father Cronus’ violence. This is also where the god planned to win his Olympian throne.

According to myth, Zeus Eubouleus, the protector of the Naxians, fell in love with Semele, who was the daughter of King Cadmus of Thebes. From their union, Dionysus, the god of wine and revelry, was born.

Hera had urged Semele to ask Zeus to appear in all his divine form.

Since Semele was a mortal, she was unable to withstand the volley of thunderbolts that emanated from Zeus, and this resulted in her death. She died before giving birth, whereupon Zeus took the fetus and placed it in his thigh.

When the time came for him to be born, Dionysus emerged from Zeus, and he was brought up on Naxos by the local nymphs.

Dionysus understandably grew to love the island, and used his power to make the land fertile, filled with vineyards which produced the finest wines. The local people built a temple on the island in honor of Dionysus.

Naxos is also where Theseus took Ariadne, the daughter of Minos, the King of Crete, after killing the Minotaur. According to myth, Theseus saw the Greek god Dionysus in a dream, and the god told him to leave Naxos without Ariadne, since she was meant to stay there and become his wife.

Dionysus and Ariadne had three children, Oinopion (“Wine Drinker”), Staphylos (“Grape”) and Evanthi (“Lovely Flower”).

The Venetian Conquest of Naxos

The rule of the Venetians marked an important period in the history of Naxos. When Marco Sanudo took over the Cyclades, in the year 1207, he created a dukedom, which he named the Duchy of the Aegean, establishing the beginning of a long line of such rulers on Naxos.

Sanudo also constructed the beautiful castle which still exists at the very top of Naxos Town. The Jesuit Commercial School was also founded there, and flourished inside the castle.

For the next several centuries, the island was divided into 56 provinces, each of which were ruled over by numerous Venetian nobles. The rule of the Venetian dukes lasted till 1564, when the Turks took over the entire nation of Greece.

Essential sightseeing on the Greek island of Naxos

The Naxos Portara:

naxos greek island
The Portara of the Greek island of Naxos. Credit: Olaf Tausch/ Wikimedia Commons/ CC BY 3.0

The Portara, or the Great Door, is essentially a massive marble doorway. It is located close to the port, on the tiny islet of Palatia, which was once a hill.

At one point, the tyrant Lygdamis began to build a temple on the tiny islet. He had grand ideas of creating a temple even larger than that of Zeus in Athens.

After the tyrant’s fall, the temple remained unfinished, leaving only its foundation and part of its gate, or Portara.

Later, under Venetian rule, the marble was used to build the Castle of Naxos, other monuments and buildings.

Kastro (the Castle of Naxos)

Along with the Tower of Glezos, the Kastro serves as a protective shield to the fortress built by Sanoudos in the Chora, or Old Town, of Naxos.

Sanoudo constructed the castle on a hill which rises approximately 30 meters (90 feet) above sea level, over the remains of an ancient acropolis, which he considered a suitable place for the original establishment of the city.

The most remarkable feature of his castle is that its walls are actually made up of the outer walls of the houses of the city, which were erected along its perimeter.

The Temple of Dionysus

Dionysus was especially beloved and honored by the ancient Greeks since he was the god of fun, wine, and celebration, who also bestowed fertility on the land, including its many vineyards.

It was believed that he was a denizen of the island’s forests, and was constantly drunk on wine.

The residents built a large temple in honor of their god, but sadly only part of it survives today. From the pieces that remain, it was established that the temple was built sometime in the sixth century BC.

The Romans reconstructed the temple to Dionysus in the first century BC, and in the fifth century AD, the temple was turned into a Christian church.

The Cave of Zas

According to myth, Zeus grew up here, finding refuge in the cave while being hunted by his father, Cronus.

It was here that Zeus became ruler of Olympus, after being given the power over lightning, and to honor him, the residents of Naxos named the cave as well as the mountain after him.

Remains from various historical periods including Roman, Neolithic, and many others, were found in archaeological research carried out in this Naxos cave in 1962. It is also known to have been used as a refuge during the Ottoman Occupation.

Two different paths lead to the cave. One begins near the village of Danakos, and the other near Filoti. While exploring near the cave, you will also find the fountain of Aries, which still has potable water even today.

Mount Zas

Mount Zas, the tallest mountain on the island, is also the tallest mountain in the Cyclades. The peak of Mount Zas, with an altitude of about 1,000 meters, or 3,000 feet, above sea level, is a popular destination for mountain climbers and hikers on Naxos.

Trekking from Danakos, one passes the small chapel of St. Marina, as well as the Cave of Zas and an inscription on a piece of ancient marble which translates as “Mount Zas, protector of the sheep.” This shows the great importance given to stockbreeding on the island since ancient times.

Trekkers can experience enchanting panoramic views of the Aegean sea, as well as the neighboring islands of the Cyclades, from the top of Mt. Zas.

Bazeos Tower

This stout castle, which also functioned as a monastery, was built in the seventeenth century to offer refuge to the residents of the island due to constant pirate attacks.

By the end of the nineteenth century, the Bazeos family owned the castle, and it was used as their summer residence until their last descendant recently chose to turn the castle into a space suitable for hosting cultural events.

The “Naxos Festival at Bazeos Tower” has taken place every summer since 2001, offering events of cultural interest as well as exhibitions of contemporary works of art.

Sunbathing on Naxos, Greece

Agios Prokopios

Located 5 kilometers (3 miles) from Naxos Town, the beach of Agios Prokopios is considered as one of the most spectacular beaches not just in Greece, but also in the entirety of Europe.

Its wide sands extend over 1.5 kilometers (one mile) and its crystal clear waters, which alternate from hues of light to deep blue and turquoise, are the most prominent feature of this sheltered bay, making it a must visit for all vacationers on Naxos.

One part of the beach is an organized resort, but the other part is left completely unspoiled, providing a peaceful, idyllic haven on its western side, where a chapel of the same name also stands.

Meanwhile, water sport lovers can get their fill, thanks to the wealth of activities on offer there, including beach volleyball, windsurfing, sea bicycling and snorkeling.

Since Agios Prokopios served as the main port of Naxos during the Middle Ages, a picturesque old shipwreck can also be found at the end of the beach.

Shops can be found in a nearby small village, along with mini markets, cafes, bars, tavernas, and car and motorbike rental agencies. Everything vacationers could possibly need is located here, on the beach’s eastern side.

Agia Anna

Once a fishing village, the 6-kilometer (four-mile) long Agia Anna Beach is actually a continuation of Agios Prokopis Beach. This seemingly endless sandy beach is interrupted only by its picturesque harbor, which serves as an anchorage for area fishermen.

Agia Anna Beach, considered one of the best organized beaches on Naxos, features umbrellas and sunbeds all along its length.

There are numerous types of accommodation such as beach front hotels, as well as apartments and rooms to let. You can find a great selection of beachfront restaurants, fish tavernas, beach bars, and cafes offering both stunning views of the sea and the surrounding landscape.

At times, the northern part of the beach gets choppy waters, but the small port is protected by the winds and is usually very calm, making it ideal for a nice relaxing swim even with the strongest winds.

Agia Anna and Agios Prokopis are connected to the Chora by buses which pass by every 20 minutes to half an hour, from the early morning hours to late at night.

The 10 Best Beaches on Crete

Preveli beach, Crete.
Preveli beach, Crete. Credit: Ma Rui/CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Crete is the largest island in Greece and its coastline of 1,046 km, or 650 miles, makes for some extraordinary beaches. With crystal clear waters and sand in a variety of hues, Crete’s beaches are unforgettable.

Here are the top 10 of the best beaches on Crete

1. Elafonissi Beach in Chania

Elafonissi beach, Crete
Elafonissi Beach on the Greek island of Crete. Credit: Urbamaker/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

This is the beach that you want to go to if you are into sparkling water and beautiful pink sand — and who isn’t? Located on the southwestern side of Crete the beach has both soft white and pink sand and the coast is lined with cedar trees. There are sunbeds and umbrellas available on part of the beach.

2. Balos Beach in Chania

Bay of Balos, Crete.
Bay of Balos, Crete. Credit: Moonik/CC BY-SA 3.0

Located on the northwestern side of Crete, this beach gives you a view of the sea and an Greek island with a Venetian castle on top. There are many ways that you can reach this beach – either by car through a track road from Kissamos or by excursion boat from Chania Town and Kissamos.

3. Matala Beach in Heraklion

Matala Beach, Heraklion
Matala Beach, Heraklion. Credit: Rudi Heim/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Once known as a popular hippie destination in the 60’s and 70’s, this beach is now a popular family destination. Surrounded by caves that beg to be explored, there is much to discover and enjoy at this sandy beach!

4. Vai Beach in Lassithi

Vai Beach, Crete.
Vai Beach, Crete, Greece. Credit: Nick Papakyriazis/CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Why not go to a beach that is surrounded by the largest palm tree forest in Europe while on Crete? This beach is surrounded by over 5,000 trees and offers clear blue water. This beach once was a free camping site but now in recent years free camping has been prohibited. Polynesian-style palm-frond sun shades dot this lovely beach.

5. Falassarna Beach in Chania

Falassarna beach, Crete
Falassarna Beach, Crete. Credit: Tracy Lee/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Another beach on the west side of the Greek island and close to Kissamos town, this beach offers many organized facilities and activities which makes it an ideal place for families.

Above the beach, which has sparkling light blue water, you can visit the archaeological site of ancient Falassarna. Also there are many activities such as windsurfing which you can access from a windsurfing station at the beach during the summer months.

6. Plakias Beach in Rethymno

Plakias beach, Crete.
Plakias Beach, Crete. Credit: pyramis/CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Want to get away form it all? This beach is the perfect escape as it has a mellow atmosphere and is located just in front of the village. There is part of the beach where you can access umbrellas and sunbeds, or you can just bring your own and enjoy this sandy little piece of heaven.

7. Istro Beach in Lassithi

Istro beach
Istro Beach, credit: lentina_x/CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

While visiting the east of the region of Lassithi, stop by and check out this beach located near the town of Agios Nikolaos. The large beach has golden sand and turquoise water – not to mention you can rent sunbeds and umbrellas as well.

8. Preveli Beach in Rethymno

Preveli beach
Preveli Beach, Crete. Credit: G · RTM/CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

This beach, which is located on the south side of the prefecture of Rethymno, has a river which meets the sea, forming a pond as it meets the sand! Preveli is a lovely beach surrounded by mountains; surrounded by palm trees, it offers activities such as exploring the fresh water of the pond and the river. The beach itself has no organized facilities so bring your own towels and umbrellas and dive in!

9. Rodakino Beach in Rethymno

Koraka Beach
Koraka Beach. Credit: johan wieland/CC BY-ND 2.0

This beach is located on the southern side of Rethymno near the village of Plakias. The beach is sandy and wide and does have some organized sunbeds for rent. Also, there are some seaside tavernas and apartments which are in back of the beach.

10. Tymbaki Beach in Heraklion

Tymbaki beach
Tymbaki Beach, Heraklion, Crete. Credit: Olaf Tausch/CC BY 3.0

This beach, large and featuring both sand and pebbles, is also known as Kokkinos Pyros. You can pass the entire day at this beach! It is complete with an organized section in case you want to rent sunbeds and umbrellas, not to mention it also has few seaside tavernas serving up scrumptious local dishes!

Autumn Equinox Marks Solemn Change of Seasons

Persephone Autumn Equinox
The Abduction of Persephone by Hades. Mosaic, tomb of Amphipolis, Kasta. The return of Persephone to the Underworld every year after she had spent the Summer with her mother Demeter marked the coming of Autumn to the ancient Greeks. Credit: Unknown. Public Domain

In Greek mythology, the Autumn equinox (which occurs on Wednesday) marks the return of the goddess Persephone to the underworld for three months, where she is reunited with her husband, Hades.

This somber event, as recorded by the ancient Greeks — who saw the work of the gods in all natural events — reflects the feeling of the Autumn, when the brilliance of the Summer recedes into the more muted tones of September.

To us in the modern world of today, the Fall and Spring equinoxes also mark the point at which, twice a year, everyone on Earth sees exactly the same amounts of sun and darkness.

In the Northern Hemisphere, tonight marks the Fall equinox (or autumnal equinox); for those living south of the equator, this time of the year heralds the coming of Spring.

And the further you get to the poles, in places like Scandinavia, the northern parts of Canada, and Russia, the larger the difference is between the amount of sun inhabitants receive during the annual cycle of the seasons.

However, during equinoxes, everyone on the globe sees exactly 12-hour long stretches of sunlight and darkness — leading to the word equinox, which is derived from the Latin word equinoxium; as you might infer, that means “equality between day and night.”

Autumn Equinox Marked Today in Northern Hemisphere

Our Fall Equinox this year will arrive at 19:21 UTC (Coordinated Universal Time) tonight, September 22.

That comes relatively early in the day for those on the East coast of the Americas, at 3:21 p.m. local time, what we usually call the beginning of Fall, or Autumn.

However, as happens so often when we discuss scientific matters, there are discrepancies between our colloquial terms and what is happening according to the heavens, or in other words “the astronomical seasons” of the equinoxes and solstices) and what are known as “meteorological seasons.”

CNN meteorologist Allison Chinchar explains what’s really going on here. “Astronomical fall is essentially the time period from the autumnal equinox up to the winter solstice. Those dates can vary by a day or two each year, but this year are September 22 though December 21,” she notes.

“Meteorological fall is different … in that the dates never change and are based on climatological seasons rather than Earth’s angle relative to the sun. These are perhaps the seasons that more people are familiar with,” she adds.

In normal parlance, our meteorological seasons are Spring, which stretches from March 1 to May 31; Summer goes from June 1 to August 31; September 1 to November 30 is Autumn, or Fall; and Winter is considered to be December 1 to February 28.

Chinchar notes that “meteorologists and climatologists prefer to use the meteorological calendar because not only do the dates not change — making it easy to remember — but also because it falls in line more with what people think traditional seasons are.

“For example, December 10, most people would consider winter, but if you are using the astronomical calendar, technically that is still considered autumn because it is before the winter solstice.”

The rotation around the Earth’s axis is what gives us day and night as our world spins in its orbit around the Sun.

Since the axis has a 23.5 degree tilt, some regions see less of the sun while others see more of it — and that’s what gives us our seasons. At all times, either the Northern or the Southern Hemisphere will be experiencing more or less sunshine, and the resultant heat from it.

This phenomenon is at its maximum in late June and late December, during the solstices, marking the greatest differences between day and night; this is especially marked near the poles, leading to the famed “midnight sun” of northern Scandinavia, Russia and Alaska.

Everyone in the northern hemisphere notices the enormous loss of sunlight we have experienced so far since the apex of the summer solstice on June 21.

Ancient Greeks and Others Marked Autumn, Spring Equinox, Solstices

And you can bet our agrarian ancestors all over the world also noticed this phenomenon.

When they were desperate to see the Sun again after long, cold winters — which they often barely survived — they hung their hopes on its warming rays coming again in Springtime.

Stonehenge is only one of the ancient monuments marking the solstices and equinoxes which survives today. Chaco Canyon in the American Southwest has entire buildings that were erected to mark these seminal events in the lives of its ancient people.

Serving as enormous calendars to mark the seasons and the welcome return of Summer, these stone structures are monuments to the inimical ties we have to the Sun and our complete dependence on it for our very lives.

Aligned to signify and celebrate the Summer and Winter solstices and the Autumn and Spring equinoxes, Stonehenge has been a place of worship since time immemorial. Built most likely in the Late Neolithic period, approximately 2,500 years ago, it is still a place that draws people almost magnetically to marvel at its perfectly-positioned monoliths.

Chaco Canyon also marks the Spring equinox by way of the orientation of its main buildings, which were constructed in ancient times by the ancestors of the Navajo people, once called the Anasazi.

On the Spring Equinox, as the sun rises above the canyon’s walls, its rays shine through the windows of Casa Rinconada, the largest kiva, or sacred building, in the canyon, which are aligned in the four cardinal directions.

These four cardinal directions, as well as straight up and straight down, were considered sacred to these people, whose creation story includes the emergence of their ancestors straight out of the ground at a central point in the area.

Persephone Returning to Underworld Marked Autumn Equinox

The story of Demeter and Persephone from Greek mythology is strangely similar to that, with Persephone, who had been abducted by Hades, the god of the Underworld, believed to be drawn back to that dark world every Autumn equinox.

Likewise, she comes out of the ground to the blooming of flowers and the warm sun every Spring equinox, rejoining her mother Demeter for the long Summer days.

In 2014, the Greek Ministry of Culture released photographs of a dazzling Ancient Greek mosaic from the newly-excavated Amphipolis tomb in Macedonia. The mosaic shows Persephone as she was abducted by Hades before he took her down to the Underworld for the first time.

Although Persephone is mentioned in Homer’s epic the Iliad, she has no actual part to play either in the Iliad or the Odyssey. Nor does she feature at all as a character in any extant Greek drama.

However, the beautiful poem called the “Homeric Hymn to Demeter” in which Demeter and her daughter Persephone are the central focus of attention, dating back to the first half of the 6th century BC, shows us the cosmology of the Greeks of the time and the part she played in the turning of the seasons.

The ancient Greek word for “mother” (meter) is actually embedded in Demeter’s name — perhaps denoting Mother Earth. As Classics professor Chris Mackie from La Trobe University states, the Hymn “describes the primordial maternal power brought to bear upon the male sky-god Zeus, who had secretly (i.e., without Demeter’s knowledge) given over his daughter Persephone to a marriage with his brother Hades.

“While Persephone is missing Demeter creates a blight on the land in which nothing germinates and nothing grows… she won’t let the fruit grow on earth until she sees Persephone again.

“Zeus is forced to relent and sends the messenger Hermes to the Underworld to get the girl back. But, just as she is going, Hades prevails on her to eat the seed of a pomegranate to prevent her from staying with her mother above the earth all her days.

“Persephone is therefore forced to spend one-third of each year under the Earth with Hades, and two-thirds with her mother and the community of gods on Mount Olympus.

As Mackie states, Persephone’s connection to the seasons is clear. “She is both queen of the Underworld, as wife of Hades, and associated with the new life that rises with the spring. Death and life are no longer mutually exclusive, but co-exist in both the upper and lower worlds. There is life in death, and death in life,” he states.

The Demeter Hymn contains the foundation of the Eleusinian Mysteries – the renowned religious rites which took place at Eleusis, near Athens. As Mackie explains, “initiation into the Mysteries held out the prospect of making death less threatening.”

So, as the ancient Greeks knew, and we know on a scientific basis now, this return to the relative darkness of Autumn and Winter is not permanent and Spring will come once again, as everything good returns once more to Earth.

The Story of Oedipus: The Most Tragic of All Greek Myths

Oedipus blind entrusting his children to the gods
Oedipus, now blind, entrusting his children to the gods. Credit: Wikipedia/Public domain.

The story of Oedipus is perhaps the most tragic story of ancient Greece. The mythological character was the king of Thebes and lived under the shadow of a curse that could not avoid until the end of his days.

This shows that the ancient Greeks not only created glorious stories but also tragedies that are laden with pain and despair.

Oedipus was the son of Laius and Jocasta, the king and queen of Thebes. The misfortunes of his line were the result of a curse inflicted by his father.

When his son was born, Laius consulted an Oracle to find out his fate. To his horror, the oracle revealed that “he was condemned to die at the hands of his own son.”

The parents ordered a servant to kill their son, but he could not do so, and he gave him to a shepherd.

The shepherd called the boy Oedipus, or “swollen feet”, since Laius had tied his feet tightly. The child was taken to Corinth and given to King Polybus, who had no children and who would raise him as if he were his own son.

Futile effort to escape fate

When he was an adult, Oedipus heard a rumor that he was not the son of Polybus and his wife, Merope. Driven by doubt, he went to the oracle at Delphi and asked if the kings were really his parents, but instead of answering, the oracle told him that he had a dark destiny, “mating with his own mother and killing his own father”.

Desperate to avoid the oracle’s profession, Oedipus, who thought that Polibus and Merope were his true parents, left Corinth and headed for the city of Thebes.

On the way to Thebes, Oedipus met Laius, the two argued over which chariot had the right of way. The Theban king moved to strike the insolent young man with his scepter, but Oedipus, unaware that Laius was his true father, threw the old man from his chariot and killed him.

Thus, Laius was killed by his own son, and half of the prophecy that the king had tried to evade by exposing Oedipus at birth was fulfilled.

Oedipus and the Sphinx
Oedipus and the Sphinx. credit: Wikipedia/Public domain

Before reaching Thebes, Oedipus met the Sphinx, a legendary beast with the head and breast of a woman, the body of a lioness, and the wings of an eagle.

The Sphinx was sent to the road that approaches Thebes as punishment from the gods, and would strangle any traveler who could not solve a certain riddle; however, Oedipus manages to solve it.

Oedipus’ reward for freeing Thebes from the sphinx was the hand of the dowager queen, Jocasta; no one realized then that Jocasta was the real mother of Oedipus.

Thus, unbeknownst to any of the characters, the prophecy was finally fulfilled.

The unimaginable destiny of Oedipus

Oedipus, now king of Thebes, tried to solve the problems of a plague caused by the assassin of the previous king. The oracle warned that the only solution is to capture the King’s assassin, of whom there was only one witness.

Yocasta, now the wife of Oedipus, sent for the witness to the murder of her deceased husband and former king.

Oedipus questioned him and revealed that some years ago they gave him a child to abandon on Mount Citerón. The son of King Laius and Queen Jocasta had been handed over to die, preventing a fatal oracle from being fulfilled. However, he had turned him over to the shepherd out of mercy.

He discovered that he was that child who was destined to be the murderer of his father, and he cursed himself, and fate. When Jocasta entered the house, she ran to the palace bedroom and hanged herself there.

Oedipus, furious, ran through the house, discovered the body of Jocasta. He screamed when he saw her lifeless body and stabbed his own eyes with the needles that held his robe together.

The tragic story ends with Oedipus leaving the palace with bloodied eyes and asking to be banished as soon as possible. He says that he preferred to blind himself because he cannot bear to look at his parents in hell, or the children he has fathered or the people of Thebes.

Larissa Hosts Landscape Architecture Competition for Amphitheater

Ancient Amphitheater Larissa
The ancient amphitheater of Larissa, from the third century BC, has now been restored and a competition is underway to recreate the landscape surrounding it so that it shine once again. Credit: Δημήτρης Πλαστήρας /CC BY-SA 4.0

The city of Larissa is asking the world for ideas on new surroundings for its ancient amphitheater, which was built in the third century BC and recently uncovered after languishing, buried beneath residential buildings, for centuries.

An international design competition searching for the best ideas to develop the area around its marble theatre, “Theatre A,” will be open until November 19, 2021.

Larissa is offering a prize of €30,000 for the submission that it judges will make the magnificent amphitheatre into what it hopes will be “a point of reference and identity” for the modern city, which is the fourth largest in all of Greece.

Following the massive excavation project which brought the stones of the amphitheater to life once more, the city would like to make the theater serve once again as the showplace of the city.

They say that this will entail a complete revisualization of the space around the theater, to encompass an area of 42 hectares, or 4,520,842 square feet.

Larissa aims high in its attempt to reestablish the theater to all its ancient glory. As the largest theater constructed in the Thessaly region in ancient times, the 10,000-seat facility was built on the slopes of Larissa’s military citadel, called the “Frourio.”

Larissa officials hope that a complete restoration of the monument in the center of town will bring the world to the city once again.

Ancient Amphitheater of Larissa Once Held 10,000 Spectators

On September 20, 2014 Larissa triumphantly reopened the theater after 2,500 years of inactivity.

In honor of the archaeologist Athanasios Tziafalias, choral works from “Electra” by Euripides were presented under the directorship of Kostas Tsianos, in collaboration with the Lyceum Club of Greek Women of Larissa and the choir of the Municipal Conservatory.

The performance coincided with Diazoma’s Seventh General Assembly of the Movement for the Ancient Theaters.

Believed to have been constructed in the third century BC, the ancient theater of Larissa served a dual purpose, hosting not only theatrical performances but assemblies of the local governing body, the so-called “Koinon of the Thessalians,” as well.

Following the Roman conquest of Greece, it was converted into an arena.

Until recently, the greater part of the theater lay under private homes. Owing to the work of Larissa archaeologists, its elegant marble seating and rich decoration was finally completely uncovered in 2014.

Participation in the new competition is open to individual architects or multidisciplinary teams consisting of at least one architect. Due to the complexity and size of the amphitheater site, the city encourages architects to team up with specialists in the areas of landscape architecture, urban design and planning, archaeology, history and sociology.

The competition, which is endorsed by the International Union of Architects (UIA), will be conducted according to UNESCO requirements as well.

The international jury includes the chair Renato Rizzi from Italy, Aristidis Sapounakis from Greece, Deniz Incedayi from Turkey, UIA representative Christian Sumi from Switzerland, Rainer Mahlamäki from Finland and deputy UIA representative Jacek Lenart from Poland.

In total, €63,000 in prize money has been set aside by the city of Larissa for the competition. A total of €30,000 will go to the winner, with a second prize of €15,000, third prize will be worth €10,000, fourth will be €5,000 and third will be €3,000.

City officials will announce the winners of the competition in March of 2022.

Archaeological Finds Shed Light on Battle of Salamis

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The Battle of Salamis. Painting by Wilhelm on Kaulbach, 1868. Property of state of Bavaria. Photo: Public Domain

The Battle of Salamis, fought between the Persians and a vastly outnumbered Greek force in September of 480 BC, is considered by many historians to be one of the most decisive in history, and much archaeological evidence found there has shed light on the battle and its aftermath.

Although the exact date in the month of September when the significant naval battle between the Greeks and Persians occurred is not known with exactitude, many scholars believe it took place at the end of the month.

The Battle of Salamis is considered one of the most important in history. Had the Greeks not won the battle, many believe that the Persian invasion of Greece would have been successful, altering the course of history as we know it.

Much like the Battle at Thermopylae, the heroics at the Battle of Salamis, an island off the coast of Attica, Greece, have risen to legendary status, as the allied Greek city-states used approximately 370 trireme ships, and the Persians had over 1,000, according to ancient sources.

The Persians, under King Xerxes, planned to crush the outnumbered Greeks with the sheer force of their massive fleet. The leader of the Greek ships, Themistocles, aware of the number of Persian ships, lured the Persians to the narrow Strait of Salamis, where the Greek ships were waiting.

Since the enormous Persian fleet could not fit in the strait, they quickly became disorganized, opening up a possibility for a Greek victory.

While the Battle of Salamis is one of the most well-studied and famous battles in world history, archaeologists and experts continue to find new evidence that illuminates the decisive battle and what happened on the island in the wake of the Persian War.

Archaeologists reveal sea walls at Salamis

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View of the sea walls of ancient Salamina unearthed. Archaeological evidence from the site of the Battle of Salamis shows how the island progressed after the war. Credit: Hellenic Ministry of Culture

A team of 15 archaeologists, lead by Dr. Angeliki Simossi and Professor Yannos G. Lolos, discovered new evidence about ancient life on Salamis after the battle in April of this year.

The latest excavations revealed a large part of the submerged sea walls running alongside the ancient city’s harbor, where the Greek fleet gathered for the epic battle against the Persians in 480 BC.

Methods of both land and marine archaeology have been used to excavate through five layers down from ground level.

Two distinct construction periods of the city walls were identified by the researchers, both dating back to the Classical era, starting from the 4th century BC.

Other findings from the excavation have included various pottery and marble fragments as well as an unidentified copper coin.

The marine excavation activities took place in September and October of 2020. This was the fifth consecutive year of research in the area, with the current three-year project scheduled to conclude in 2022.

Scientists determine that location of Battle of Salamis was chosen due to weather conditions

Scientific research, in addition to archaeological digs, has also yielded fascinating information regarding the battle.

An article featuring research from the Center for Atmospheric Physics and Climatology Research at the Academy of Athens argues that the Greeks actually chose the site of Salamis after studying the area’s climactic conditions.

This new hypothesis is a groundbreaking development regarding one of the most well-studied and famous battles in world history.

It was not only the great military mind of Themistocles which led the Greeks to victory, but also a deep knowledge of the climate of Salamis, according to an article published in the scientific journal Atmosphere by researchers at the Academy of Athens.

In the article, researchers, led by Professor Christos Zerefos, argue that current data gathered regarding wind conditions in the Strait of Salamis align with ancient eyewitness accounts.

Additionally, the article contends that the Greeks must have been aware of these conditions, as Greeks planned a late-morning attack on the Persians, which aligned with wind conditions that made it more difficult for the Persians to retreat into the open sea in the early afternoon.

Late-night and early-morning northwest winds, or Etesian winds, in the Saronic Gulf, combined with local south sea breezes in the late morning, trapped the Persian fleet in the narrow Strait of Salamis during the afternoon, leading to a Greek victory in the early evening.

This particular wind pattern is still present today, and takes place mainly from May to September, when the sun is especially strong, heating up the atmosphere. The Battle of Salamis is traditionally believed to have taken place at the end of September in 480 BC, when this weather phenomenon is still in effect.

Earlier archaeological discoveries on Salamis from Roman period

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Exquisite head of a statue found in area of the ancient Battle of Salamis. Source: Greek Ministry of Culture

Marine archaeologists announced in 2019 that they discovered underwater artifacts at the site where the naval battle of Salamis was fought in the Saronic Gulf in 480 BC.

This major discovery was made during excavation work in the shallow waters off the coast of Salamis, according to an announcement by the Greek Ministry of Culture.

The structure, which was standing in shallow water, is almost 50 feet long and was constructed on a north-south axis.

Researchers believe it was a large public building which was used until the late Roman times, in the third century.

The researchers said it would likely have been one of the main public buildings of the ancient city, located in the port. The team found ceramics, statues, columns or pillars and other features relating to the building, along with marble sculptures.

One of the most spectacular archaeological finds from the site of the Battle of Salamis was the exquisite head belonging to a statue of an athlete or god, which the Ministry said appeared to be from the fourth century BC.

Greece Needs to Look at its Glorious Past for Renaissance

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The Parthenon, the most famous ancient site in Greece, is also one of the best-known sites in the entire world. Credit: Thermos/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY 2.5

Greeks need to turn their eyes, and mind, to their ancient ancestors for inspiration and knowledge, because it was science and civilization from ancient Greece that built the foundations of our world.

by Evaggelos Vallianatos

The 200 years of modern Greek history mirror the lives of people trying to be free.

After four centuries of degrading Turkish occupation, the Greeks went against the post-Napoleonic “holy alliance” and master-slave order of Europe favoring the Turks and other tyrants. They fought the European-trained and European-armed troops of Turkey to a standstill, defeating them most of the time, in the Greek Revolution which begin in 1821.

In October 1827, the embarrassed European powers (England, France and Russia) finally intervened and smashed the Turkish-Egyptian fleet at Navarino, Peloponnesos, thus boosting the Greek cause for political independence.

In 1828, Russia went to war against Turkey not on behalf of the Greek revolutionaries but because the Sultan blocked the passage of Russian ships through the Dardanelles. Russia won and, in the terms of the Treaty of Adrianople of 1829, Greece became an independent state.

Ioannes Kapodistrias

The first president of Greece was an exceptional Greek named Ioannes Kapodistrias from the Greek Ionian island of Kerkyra. He was educated in medicine in Italy. He served in high political offices of the Unites States of the Ionian Islands, the first independent Greek state. He was such a great diplomat that he played an important role in the independence of Switzerland. Moreover, he served as the foreign minister of Russia.

Without doubt, Kapodistrias was the best Greek politician in modern times. He understood the politics of Europe. The Chancellor of the Austrian Empire, Klemens von Metternich, disagreed with him. Metternich’s vision of Europe included the perpetuation of Turkish tyranny in southeastern Europe, including Greece. Kapodistrias, on the other hand, justified the Greek Revolution. In  general, Europe’s senior diplomats and the Czar of Russia trusted Kapodistrias.

He was a patriot who tried setting the foundations of political freedom in devastated and hungry Greece. He did not pay himself a salary. He used all his wealth for the benefit of Greece. He did not want foreign interference. He focused on making Greece self-reliant and able to defend its borders.

His policies infuriated both foreign powers and corrupt Greek elites used to rely on foreigners. In 1831, two brothers from Mani, southern Peloponnesos, assassinated Kapodistrias. They hated him because he interrupted their Turkish custom of taxing people and keeping the taxes. It’s also plausible that the British, who did not want an independent Greece, might have had their fingers on this most foul of political murders.

Greece after Kapodistrias

After 1831, foreigners became partners with a few Greek families in ruling the country. They sent European kings, lent money to the bankrupt Greek state, sponsored coups, invaded and occupied the country. The Germans during WWII practically annihilated Greece.

These humiliations continued after WWII and the civil war, 1945-1949. The fratricide started by the ideologies and practices of communism, extreme poverty, and foreign influence. The Greeks that worked for the German occupiers fought the Greeks who resisted the Germans. Many of the resistance fighters had embraced communism. The British supported and fought both. The Americans followed the British model.

American power

The Americans exacerbated the pains of war in Greece with their arbitrary and thoughtless choice of Turkey as an ally. Like the Europeans before them, they were convinced they could control a Moslem country with its own ambition to return to its past imperial overreach.

So, the Americans drafted Greece and Turkey for the same anti-Russian and anti-communist alliance that goes with the acronyms of NATO. Americans (with the enthusiastic but silent agreement of post-WWII weakened England) went a step further in showing who was the new boss in the Mediterranean.

In 1967, the Americans supported a coup in Athens. By 1974, they had decided half of Cyprus should be handed to Turkey. In order to prevent a war between Greece and Turkey,  the Americans ordered the Greek generals to withdraw their defense forces from Cyprus and blessed the Turkish invasion of Cyprus.

This American action against Greece has had dramatic effects in speeding up the decline of the country. Greek politicians learned their American lesson, all too well. They did not want to suffer what their ancestors had suffered at the hands of Rome.

In 146 BCE, the Romans made Corinth an example of their wrath. Like Carthage in Phoenicia, a Roman army dismembered Corinth marble by marble. Then they exiled most Greek leaders for twenty years to Rome.

Twentieth-century America did not have to decapitate Greece whose leaders were educated in American universities. It had a larger fish to fry – international communism.

Communism in the mind of American leaders

America is still poisoned by communism, and its state representations in Russia and China. Russia and China have jettisoned the original dogma of class warfare. Yet they like to believe they are superpowers challenging the American notion of the first among all.

This imperial obsession, even without communist opponents, remains to this day a cloud darkening the mind of American leaders. They punished Greece and gave Turkey something that did not belong to them but Greece, clearly an unjust and hostile act.

Playing games with Islamic Turkey

They also continue the European policy of playing games with a really hostile Turkey. Handing half of Cyprus to Turkey does not make Turkey a friend of America.

Islamic Turkey manipulated European powers for centuries. Its twenty-first century strategic goals are threatening Greek, European, and American interests. Turkey wants all of Cyprus and probably all of the Greek islands in the Aegean. Such an agenda is certain to provoke war and the disruption if not the breakup of NATO.

The imperial factor

Like imperial Rome, the US has been stumbling like a blind giant all over the world, spending mythical sums, causing enormous “collateral” damage, and losing wars, one after another: Korea, Cuba, Vietnam, Cambodia, Iraq, and Afghanistan.

Greece First

Time has come for Greece to rethink its dependence on America and the European powers. The debt crisis brought out into the open that these Western countries mistreated Greece in the extreme. They forced it to abdicate its national sovereignty.  In other words, they pushed Greece down to a status of colony – and worse. It’s impossible to have confidence they may be trusted again.

Of course, things change. Greece would not reject honest relations with any country. On the contrary, thinking about itself first, becoming truly independent, would win the admiration of America and the world. All countries do that.

Greeks need to turn their eyes and mind to their ancient ancestors for inspiration and knowledge. Hellenic science and civilization built the foundations of our world.

Twenty-first century Greeks can also harvest the wisdom of these thinkers from ancient Greece: Homer, Hesiod, Thales, Anaximandros, Pythagoras, Parmenides, Empedokles, Anaxagoras, Demokritos, Hippokrates, Herodotos, Aischylos, Sophokles, Euripides, Aristophanes, Thoukydides,  Plato, Aristotle, Theophrastos, Euclid, Eudoxos of Knidos, Apollonios of Perga, Aristarchos of Samos, Ktesibios, Philon, Oppian, Herophilos, Archimedes, Eratosthenes, Hipparchos, Polybios, Poseidonios, Dioskourides, Strabo, Ploutarchos, Heron of Alexandria, Ptolemaios, Pausanias, Galen and Tzetzes.

The surviving works of these polymaths from ancient Greece are full of genius that gave rise to epic poetry, mythology, theater, astronomy, mathematics, philosophy, democracy, history, biology, botany, pharmacology, scientific medicine, technology, and engineering.

Western scholars have been studying these polymaths for centuries. Is it not the time modern Greek scholars emulate their Western colleagues? Not that they are unaware of their ancestors from ancient Greece. They are. However, they must study and look at them with a new vision: how to bring them to life, revitalizing their own thoughts solely for the benefit of their country – in politics, war, science, literature and civilization. Such approach would guarantee Greeks entering a Renaissance — at last.

Moreover, the Greeks of 2021 have more recent renowned ancestors like Adamantios Koraes who linked them to Homer, Hippokrates, Plato and Aristotle. Koraes sparked the Greek Revolution.

Ioannes Kapodistrias is another lighthouse of political wisdom and patriotism. Be self-reliant and put the interests of Greece above everything else, he said. Allies are great but don’t expect them to protect you or restrain Turkey’s war path against you.

Start this transformation by debunking the nonsense of Turkish military superiority. Begin this discussion right in the Greek military academies, universities, media, and schools. Greeks must recover their confidence in themselves. They must decolonize their minds. And, needless to say, they must make their military the best it can be.

Greeks defeated Persia, the largest empire in the ancient world – twice, in 490 and 480 BCE, when they went to war in ancient Greece. A century-and-a-half later, in 333 BCE, Alexander the Great conquered Persia. In 1940-1941, ancient Greeks won the first battle of WWII by defeating the much larger Italian army.

Greeks must elect a government of national unity, one that will be ethnocentric / Greco centric, entirely devoted to defending Greek freedom, national interests, and independence.

Ostracize the ethnomidenistes (Greeks who hate Greece). These Ephialtes (traitors) peddle their hatred under deceptive names and practices related to foreign interests.

America and its NATO partners should realize that Greece has the responsibility to kick Turkey out of Cyprus. If they respect national borders and human rights and wish to preserve peace in the Mediterranean, they should join Greece and demand the withdrawal of Turkish troops from Cyprus while Cyprus, finally, becomes one with Greece.

A united Hellas now, as in the past, like in ancient Greece, would be invincible. Greeks in the Battle of Salamis in 480 BCE and in the Greek Revolution of 1821 fought for freedom or death.

A new Hellas would become a stabilizing and civilizing force in the Mediterranean and the world.

Evaggelos Vallianatos, Ph.D., teaches at California State Polytechnic University, Pomona. He is the author of hundreds of articles and 6 books. His latest book explores the rich Hellenic tradition of science and technology: The Antikythera Mechanism: The Story Behind the Genius of the Greek Computer and its Demise (Forthcoming, Universal Publishers, 2021). 

Huge Increase in Tourist Revenue in Greece in July

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There has been an increase in the number of tourists in Greece. Credit: Dimitra Damian/Greek Reporter

The tourism industry in Greece was optimistic about the Summer season this year after a brutal 2020 — but few expected the huge increase of tourists to Greece that July saw.

According to Bank of Greece data released Tuesday, the number of incoming travelers to Greece increased by a staggering 240.2% in July and by 51.4% over the January-July 2021 period, with travel revenue up by 235.6% in July and by 139.7% in the seven-month period.

The number of inbound travelers in July 2021 rose by 240.2% year-on-year.

Specifically, travelers coming through airports increased by 254.3% relative to July 2020 and traveler flows through road border-crossing points rose by 220.8%. This overall increase was due to higher traveler flows from both within the EU27 (up by 211.8%) and outside the EU27 (up by 352.7%).

Tourism flow by both EU and non-EU tourists

Overall, euro area visitors increased by 229.8% to some 1.3 million and the number of non-euro area vacationers grew by 181.4% to 691 thousand. In terms of source markets, travelers from Germany increased by 178.6% to 460 thousand and by 393.9% from France to 261 thousand.

As for non-EU countries, vacationers from the UK were up by 187.3% to 178,000 and by 4,214.3% to 97,000 from the US. The number of visitors from Russia also increased by 6,099.5% to 27,000.

Inbound traveler flows exclude cruise passengers other than those recorded in the Border Survey.

July visitors caused travel receipts to increase by 235.6% year-on-year. Visiting EU residents generated 1,549,000 euros in July up by 190.4%, while non-EU nationals sent revenues up by 393.2% to 712 million euros compared to July 2020 and 144 million euros.

In the period before the summer high season, between January and July 2021,
the number of inbound travelers increased by 51.4% to 4,550,000 against 3,006,000 in the same period in 2020. Traveler flows through airports grew by 103.9% but were down via road border-crossing points by 16.6%.

Travelers from Germany, as per usual, were the leading source market for the given period, reaching 801,000 – up by 156.3%, followed by the French, whose numbers increased by 343.6% to 389,000. Regarding non-EU countries, the number of travelers from the UK rose by 49.9% to 268,000, followed by visitors from the US, up by 53.2% to 135,000 and from Russia by 38.3% to 31,000.

Over the seven-month period, travel receipts increased by 139.7% year-on-year to 3,384 million euros, driven by a 176.9% rise in EU resident spending to 2,318,000 euros and by an 81.3% increase in receipts from non-EU nationals to 1,037,000 euros.

Pandemic and lockdowns didn’t affect increase in tourists

Despite the pandemic lockdowns and the mini-lockdowns implemented in popular tourist destination islands, such as Mykonos, Paros and Santorini in July, the relative easing of restrictions by both EU and non-EU countries led to a seemingly unprecedented increase in Greek tourism.

That was due to the fact that the Greek islands especially remain among the top destinations both for international celebrities and ordinary vacationers alike. One would expect a further uptick in tourism revenue next summer, when restrictions will presumably be eliminated once and for all.

Six Female Afghan MPs Arrive In Athens On Way to US

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Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Athens. Six female Afghan MPs arrived in Greece on Wednesday. Credit: Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Six female MPs from Afghanistan arrived in Athens, Greece via Tbilisi, Georgia, accompanied by their family members, earlier on Wednesday, according to a Foreign Ministry announcement.

The six women were extricated from Afghanistan following the actions of the NGO Zaka Khan, which is based in New York, as part of a wider evacuation effort after the Taliban takeover of the country.

“Their arrival and stay in Greece, which are being coordinated closely by the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Migration and Asylum, are part of the government’s commitment to host a symbolic number of Afghan citizens who are advocates of fundamental values, freedom of expression and gender equality,” according to a statement by the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Afghanistan Parliament dissolved, Afghan MPs in Danger

Afghanistan’s two-chamber parliament was effectively dissolved after the Taliban took over the country while US forces was fleeing the capital, Kabul, last month. The future of the National Assembly — and whether or not women will be allowed to hold any positions of authority at all — remains uncertain.

The new Taliban regime, which looks remarkably like the one that ruled over the country until it was toppled by the US-led invasion, has closed the government ministry dedicated to women’s affairs.

It is preventing some female students from returning to schools and universities. Female workers in an array of professions have also been told to stay home until further notice. Videos show Taliban enforcers flogging women on the streets, in broad daylight, for unknown transgressions.

Afghan MPs came with NGO assistance

Greece is hosting a “symbolic” number of Afghans who are “defenders of fundamental values, freedom of expression and gender equality,” the Foreign Ministry states. The Afghan MPs identities have not been revealed.

The Ministry had initially announced that seven lawmakers were being hosted in Greece but later corrected the number to six. Greece is currently home to 40,000 long-term Afghan refugees and asylum seekers, making it the largest migrant population in the country, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

Afghan MPs on their way to the US

The Afghan MPs and their family members will be hosted in Greece for a short time until the procedures for their transfer and settlement in the US are completed, according to the Ministry. Greece took part in US-led evacuation efforts in August to remove a number of people from Afghanistan following the Taliban return to power after two decades.

The Greek government subsequently took a tough line on immigration, saying that it is determined to prevent a large number of Afghans from reaching the European Union member state despite the unfolding crisis.

Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said over the weekend that new extensions of a border wall on the frontier with Turkey would be constructed if needed.