Spectacular Ancient Mosaic Discovered in Paphos, Cyprus

mosaic floor
The spectacularly intricate ancient mosaic floor recently unearthed at Paphos in Cyprus. Credit: Municipality of Paphos

A spectacular ancient mosaic floor that was part of a building from the Hellenistic period is among the important finds from excavations carried out recently at Fabrika Hill in Kato Paphos, Cyprus.

Known to archaeologists as the “Acropolis of Paphos,” the Hill holds treasures that have been the focus of archaeologists from France’s University of Avignon for the past twelve years.

The finds unearthed at the site were presented to the Paphos Municipal Council recently by Claire Balandier, a professor of archaeology and ancient Greek history and head of the Archaeological Mission of the University of Avignon.

Part of the Hellenistic-era building unearthed at Paphos recently by a team from the University of Avignon. Credit: Municipality of Paphos

Balandier, who has served as chief of the archaeological expedition conducting excavations on site for more than a decade, told the authorities the Fabrika Hill area was considered the Acropolis of Paphos and still holds extremely important monuments from the ancient history of the area.

Phedonas Phedonos, the mayor of Paphos, thanked Professor Balandier in a statement for the important excavation work carried out in the last twelve years in this area by the French Archaeological Mission.

Paphos building
Part of the Hellenistic-era building found at Paphos by the team from the University of Avignon. Credit: Municipality of Paphos

The announcement also noted that she even ranked the quarries that existed there as the “third most important, after the quarries of Petra in Jordan, and Sicily.”

During her presentation, Professor Balandier also pointed out that excavation work was especially difficult this past year due to the coronavirus, because no students were allowed into the area to help. “This year we are doing studies and cleaning,” she noted, “while at the same time the program is being prepared for next year.”

Ancient mosaic on Cyprus only one of spectacular discoveries there

One of the more spectacular discoveries made in the dig is a room with a mosaic floor that had been part of a building from the Hellenistic period.

In another incredible twist, the archaeologists found that the building where the mosaics were found had been supplied with water from a clay pipe that is amazingly still preserved, in what Balandier called “very good condition.”

It is believed that the water came from the area of Tala. Unfortunately, the building appears to have been partially destroyed by later Roman-era construction projects, which even included the construction of a water pipeline and reservoirs.

Paphos Mayor Phedonos expressed his great gratitude to Professor Balandier, who, according to a report in the Cyprus Mail, has been coming to Paphos for 31 years and is fluent in Greek. He also thanked all the other foreign archaeological expeditions that have been conducting excavations in the city recently.

The University of Krakow, led by Professor Evdoxia-Papoutsi-Wladyka, who is of Greek descent, is currently conducting an excavation in Paphos’ ancient market.

A team from Australia’s University of Sydney, under the direction of Dr. Craig Barker, is another major player in the archeological operations ongoing in the Paphos area, with its discovery of an 8,000-seat theater there which was declared to be the largest Hellenistic theater ever found.

Why Did a Statue of Greek Philosopher Diogenes Cause Controversy in Turkey?

Diogenes statue turkey
The statue of ancient Greek philosopher Diogenes searching for an honest man that caused controversy in Turkey. Credit: Michael F. Schonitzer/Wikimedia Commons/ CC BY-SA 4.0

A statue dedicated to the ancient Greek philosopher Diogenes in Sinope, Turkey, the city of his birth, stirred controversy in the country for a surprising reason.

Credit: Dimosthenes Vasiloudis

The Statue of Diogenes (Turkish: Diyojen Heykeli) is a monument dedicated to the ancient Greek philosopher Diogenes in Sinope, Turkey.

The ancient Greek philosopher was also known as Diogenes the Cynic, or Diogenes of Sinope (Pontic Greek: Diogenes o Sinopeas), and he was born in Sinope, an Ionian colony on the Black Sea coast of Anatolia (Asia Minor) at around 412 BC.

The municipality of present-day Sinope decided to erect a statue of Diogenes in 2006. The sculpture was crafted by Turan Baş, a Fine Arts Department Lecturer at the Ondokuz Mayıs University in Samsun, historically known as Sampsounta.

The sculpture of Diogenes is located in the center of the narrowest point of the isthmus of the Sinope Peninsula between Sinop and the mainland at the entrance of the city. Νearby points of interest are also Sinope’s Historic Prison, Sinope’s Castle, and Aladdin Mosque.

Measuring 5.50 meters high, it depicts Diogenes the Cynic standing with his dog in the large barrel in which he lived. The ancient Greek philosopher is also shown with his famous lamp in hand, used to “search for a virtuous/honest man,” as he claimed.

Statue of Diogenes stirs controversy in Turkey

After the statue was erected, numerous radical nationalist politicians in Turkey criticized the event symbolized by the statue and claimed that Diogenes’ search for honest people was an insult to the people of Sinop.

However, this was said by Diogenes not in modern Sinope but in ancient Athens, and his philosophical discourse was, of course, purely contemplative.

In 2017, protests took place by Turks who are ideologically close to the Turkish radical Islamic neo-Ottomanism for the removal of the statue, as they claim that it insidiously connects the “Greek ideology” with the people and city of Sinope.

The demands of the conservative “Erbakan” Religious Foundation were also accompanied by the proposal to transfer the statue from the central point where it stands today to the old, abandoned Byzantine church of the Assumption of Mary located in the city (known as Balatlar).

In a statement made at the entrance to the city in front of the statue of the Greek thinker, Ismail Tezic, a spokesman for the Erbakan Foundation, said:

“We are not against art and statues. However, we are opposed to those who try to stick the label of Greek philosophy and ideology in Sinope. We ask that the statue be removed from the entrance of Sinope and be transferred to the Balatlar building. We will try to make that happen. If necessary, we will collect signatures and we will constantly make press releases here…we will fight until the end.”

On the other hand, when the statue became the symbol of Sinope in 2006, the city’s mayor, Zeki Yılmazer, stated that the famous philosopher was very important for the promotion of the city.

“I think the fact that Diogenes was born in Sinope brings positive privileges to our city and our country. We are happy to bring such a statue to our city. Of course, there are some opponents,” said Yılmazer, adding that “Whether he is Greek or from another nationality, it is important for us that he was born in this city.”

Yılmazer pointed out that Diogenes’ “reply to Alexander the Great ‘Don’t stand between me and the sun, I don’t want any other benevolence,’ is something that has gone down in history worldwide.”

Life and philosophy of Diogenes

Diogenes was one of the founders of Cynic philosophy. He was a controversial figure in ancient Greece.

No writings of Diogenes survive even though he is reported to have authored over ten books, a volume of letters, and seven tragedies.

There are not many sources about the first years of Diogenes’ life in Sinop, except that his father Hicesias was a jeweler and mint master. It is known that his father and Diogenes were exiled to Athens and banished from Sinope for debasement of currency.

In Athens, Diogenes criticized many cultural conventions of the city and its social values as corrupt.

According to his simple ascetic lifestyle, wisdom and happiness belong to the man who is independent of society and civilization is regressive. He believed that virtue was best revealed in action rather than in theory.

Diogenes maintained that all artificial growths of society were incompatible with happiness and that morality implies a return to the simplicity of nature.

Furthermore, he is said to have eaten in the marketplace, relieved himself on various people who insulted him, defecated in the theatre, and pleasured himself in public, as well as pointed with his middle finger at people, a gesture considered highly insulting.

Is Greece Becoming a Top Destination for Russian Fuel Tankers?

russian fuel greece
Korchagina oil field in Russia. Credt: Pavel Gurenchuk/Wikimedia Commons/ CC BY 3.0

The number of tankers carrying Russian fuel that arrived in Greece in April reached record-breaking highs, indicating that the country’s waters have become a top destination for transporting Russian fuel.

According to a report by Reuters, arrivals of ships carrying fuel from Russia in Greece doubled in April compared to March, and this month’s figures may break April’s record of almost one million tons of fuel.

Once arriving in Greek ports, the tankers carrying Russian fuel then go on to export the product to other countries around the world by way of ship-to-ship transfer.

The bulk of the Russian oil that reached Greece went through the port at the city of Kalamata in the Peloponnese.

Record numbers of Russian fuel arrivals in Greece in April

According to Reuters, the country is frequently used as a destination for exporting fuel to countries across the world, but the amount of activity was especially high last month compared to average figures.

A tanker called “Evridiki,” which has a capacity of around 130,000 tons, loaded up on Russian fuel off of Kalamata and then traveled to the United Arab Emirates. The ship “Okeanos” similarly took on a cargo of Russian fuel off of Kalamata and is en route to India with the shipment.

The use of ship-to-ship export is one of many ways that companies are trying to avoid breaching the European Union’s strict set of sanctions regarding the purchase of Russian fuel.

According to guidelines recently released by the EU, European companies can continue to purchase Russian oil and gas by opening a bank account even at Russian banks, such as Gazprombank, and paying for the fuel in whatever currency was agreed upon in their contracts.

Putin had previously asserted that foreign companies must pay for oil and gas in rubles as the Russian currency’s value fell due to sanctions. Poland and Bulgaria were cut off from Russian gas in April after refusing to pay in rubles.

Yet, the EU stated that all payments for Russian gas should be made according to existing contracts, which are largely in dollars and euros, and that companies should clearly state this before agreeing to purchase fuel.

“Operators should make a clear statement that they intend to fulfill their obligations under existing contracts and consider their contractual obligations regarding the payment already fulfilled by paying in euros or dollars, in line with the existing contracts,” the EU released in a statement on Monday.

A number of European companies have already jumped on the opportunity, as the Italian energy company Eni SpA intends to open accounts in both euros and rubles at Gazprombank in order to pay for Russian gas, as reported in Al Jazeera.

Russian oil and fuel, upon which many European countries are dependent for energy and heating, have become major points of contention in the EU in the wake of the war in Ukraine.

The bloc has attempted to ban all imports of Russian energy products, but countries that depend on the imports have blocked these attempts.

Greek Composer Vangelis Papathanasiou Passes Away

greek composer vangelis papathanasiou
Greek composer Vangelis passed away on Tuesday. Credit: Kapetan Nikolios/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 3.0

World renowned Greek composer Vangelis Papathanasiou, known professionally simply as Vangelis, passed away at 79, according to an announcement made on Thursday.

The composer, who won an Oscar award for composing the score for the film Chariots of Fire (1981), passed away late Tuesday evening, according to a statement released by his legal team.

The composer had been hospitalized with COVID-19 in France before his passing.

Vangelis was known for his groundbreaking compositions in a variety of genres, including electronic, progressive, ambient, and even orchestral pieces.

Vangelis was one of the most famous Greek composers in the world

Vangelis was born in the small town of Agria in Thessaly but grew up in Athens. From a young age, Vangelis showed an interest in and talent for music.

He began to compose songs at the young age of just four years old without having had any training in music.

After noticing his talent for music, Vangelis’ parents enrolled him in music lessons, but the Greek composer didn’t find the lessons helpful whatsoever, so he developed his own technique for playing music.

Later in his life, Vangelis stated that he was glad he had no formal training in music, as it would have prevented him from exploring his own creativity.

In the earliest days of his career, Vangelis mainly composed music for Greek musicians and films. He then moved to Paris, where he founded the Greek progressive rock band, Aphrodite’s Child, with Greek musicians Demis Roussos, Loukas Sideras, and Anargyros “Silver” Koulouris.

After the band split up in 1971, Vangelis began to focus more on composing scores for film and television.

Vangelis went on to become one of the most well-respected composers in the world of film, and his work on the films Chariots of Fire and Bladerunner have made him a household name across the world.

Calabrian Greeks: Pocket of Hellenism in Italy has Survived Millennia

Calabrian Greeks
Gallicianò, Calabria: The only remaining original Greko-speaking settlement in the Aspromonte Mountains. Locals have not been forced to move or resettle on the coast like other Greko settlements. Credit: John Kazaklis

There exists today a tiny enclave of Calabrian Greeks, Greek-speaking people in the Aspromonte Mountain region of Reggio Calabria that seem to have survived millennia…perhaps since the Ancient Greeks began colonizing Southern Italy in the 8th and 7th Centuries BC.

By: John Kazaklis,

Italian as we know it today was not always spoken throughout Italy. The Italian language did not become the staple language until well into the end of the 19th Century during the process of Italian unification, or the Risorgimento.

Until then, the Italian peninsula was made up of Italo-Romance dialects and smaller minority languages that were differentiated by region and historical influences.

Once unification was complete, the Tuscan dialect was ushered into power as the official language of the Italian nation. This became the beginning of the modern end of the Greek language in Calabria, or what it is known today as Greko.

Why should it matter?

There exists today a tiny enclave of Greek-speaking people in the Aspromonte Mountain region of Reggio Calabria that seem to have survived millennia…perhaps since the Ancient Greeks began colonizing Southern Italy in the 8th and 7th Centuries BC.

Their language is called Greko. They survived empires, invasions, ecclesial schisms, dictators, nationalistic-inspired assimilation, and much more. Greko is a variety of the Greek language that has been separated from the rest of the Hellenic world for many centuries.

There are various population estimates circulating, but after I visited the region in April 2017 and sat down with several community leaders, the clearest estimate of remaining Greko speakers seems to be between 200 to 300, and numbers continue to decrease.

Calabrian Greeks
The main church in the center of Gallicianò. Credit: John Kazaklis

To help bring more perspective, Greek was the dominant language and ethnic element all throughout what we know today as Calabria, Basilicata, Puglia, and Eastern Sicily until the 14th Century.

Since then, the spread of Italo-Romance languages, along with geographical isolation from other Greek-speaking regions in Italy, caused the language to evolve on its own in Calabria. This resulted in a separate and unique variety of Greek that is different from what is spoken today in Puglia.

History of Calabrian Greeks

The struggle for the survival of Hellenism after antiquity is typically associated with Ottoman occupation in the Eastern Mediterranean, not the Italian peninsula. Few history books I read growing up ever mentioned any type of Greek history or presence in Italy after the glorious era of Magna Graecia. But to dig a little deeper means that we must look at what happened to this ethno-linguistic group after antiquity.

Calabrian Greeks
The stone structures and homes of Bova. Credit: John Kazaklis

There are many theories or schools of thought regarding the origin of the Greko community in Calabria. Are they descendants of the Ancient Greeks who colonized Southern Italy? Are they remnants of the Byzantine presence in Southern Italy? Did their ancestors come in the 15th to 16th centuries from the Greek communities in the Aegean fleeing Ottoman invasion?

The best answers to all of those questions are yes, yes, and yes. This means that history has shown a continuous Greek presence in Calabria since antiquity. Even though different empires, governments, and invasions occurred in the region, the Greek language and identity seemed to have never ceased. Once the glorious days of Magna Graecia were over, there is evidence that shows that Greek continued to be spoken in Southern Italy during the Roman Empire.

Once the Roman Empire split into East (Byzantine) and West, Calabria saw Byzantine rule begin in the 5th Century. This lasted well into the 11th Century and reinforced the Greek language and identity in the region, as well as an affinity to Eastern Christianity.

Today, there is more evidence of a Byzantine legacy rather than an Ancient Greek or Modern Greek footprint.

Calabrian Greeks
The mountainous countryside surrounding Bova. Credit: John Kazaklis

What’s even more fascinating is that Calabria was apparently a Byzantine monastic hub of sorts. There were over 1,500 Byzantine monasteries in Calabria and people today still remember and adore those saints. Even though Byzantine rule ended in Calabria in the 11th Century, the Greek language continued to be spoken while gradually declining in the region with the spread of Latin and a process of Catholicization.

The modern-day commune of Bova may give some insight into the history of the language in the region. In subsequent centuries after Byzantine rule, Bova became the heart of Greek culture in Calabria, as well as the seat of the Greek church in the region. It is important to note that the liturgical language of the region was Greek until 1572 when Bova was the last in the region to transition to Latin.

Not much is known of what took place between the end of the 16th Century and the Italian Risorgimento in the 19th Century, but there are a couple of details to mention. First, due to multiple invasions and piracy, much of Calabria’s coastal population moved into the mountainous interior.

The isolation and geography of the Greko communities in Calabria definitely worked to the advantage of preserving the language over centuries. We can also possibly conclude that occasional migrations of Greeks to Calabria from the Aegean could have taken place in the 16th and 17th Centuries in response to the Ottoman invasion. There is even evidence that a 17th Century mayor of Bova wrote poems in Greko.

Even though the Greek language had already been in great decline since the departure of the Byzantine Empire in Southern Italy and the spread of Catholicism with Latin liturgy, the language seemed to have quietly survived several centuries in the mountains of Calabria.

Calabrian Greeks today

Once the Risorgimento finally took place, the modern Italian language finally arrived in Calabria at the end of the 19th Century. Like I mentioned before, the Italian language that arrived was essentially the Tuscan dialect that was chosen as the national language.

Due to the complexities of the Risorgimento and the new multifaceted Italian state (Northern Italy vs. Southern Italy), there was a new wave of mindsets that was ushered into Calabria and surrounding Southern Italian regions. This deeply affected the Greko community and language.

The shame and embarrassment of speaking Greko began in the 20th Century and it intensified during the Fascist movement.

It became greatly frowned upon to speak Greko during that time. The nickname paddeki, meaning stupid, was commonly given to Greko speakers for speaking their mother tongue. Assimilation into Italian culture and the rejection of the Greko language seemed like the best option for many Greko speakers, especially for Greko parents wanting to give their children a promising future.

To get a solid grasp on the current status of the Greko language in Calabria,  I visited the homes of some local Greko families in Bova Marina, Condofuri Marina, Galliciano, and Bova.

With only 200 to 300 Greko speakers remaining today, the vast majority of them are elderly. We were able to sit down with Salvatore Siviglia (Roghudi Nuovo), Domenico Nucera Milinari (Condofuri Marina), Mimmo Nucera (Gallicianò), and Pietro Romeo (Bova).

Hearing the stories and experiences from each of these individuals gave me a good backdrop of what life was like for the Greko community in Calabria, especially before the 1960s. Many of them did claim that only the older generations continue to speak Greko today and that seemed to be quite evident during my trip.

We sat down with Salvatore Siviglia in his current home in Roghudi Nuovo, and he explained to us what life was like in his hometown of Roghudi (Side Note: Salvatore, along with all of the residents of Roghudi, were forced to relocate to Roghudi Nuovo in the 1980s due to severe flooding).

“Until the 1960s, there were no roads, electricity, or plumbing to most of the Greko villages,” Salvatore recalled. “When the schools arrived, Italian was the taught language and Greko was learned at home. There was no government assistance back then for the Greko language. People in Rome (referring to the Italian government) did not care about our language.”

The Italian government did not pay much attention to the Greko language and did not help preserve it because its speakers did not pose a threat of secession or independence much like the Northern Italian minorities or the Basques and Catalans of Spain.

Assistance from Greece

In the last twenty to thirty years, there have been efforts made in conjunction with the Greek government to bring education and revitalization to the Greko language and culture in Calabria. This activity has definitely brought more cultural awareness to locals but unfortunately has not had a positive effect on the language.

Unlike Modern Greek, the Greko language is written with Latin script. This in itself creates a clear barrier between the local Greko population of Calabria and the incoming teachers from Greece who brought the modern Greek language using the Greek alphabet. Perhaps the efforts from the Greek government and Greek organizations were intended to connect the Greko community of Calabria to a variety of Greek (Modern Greek) that was more sustainable in the 21st Century.

traditional home in Bova
A traditional home in Bova overlooking the Aspromonte Mountains. Credit: John Kazaklis

Looking within the community

There are many factors that have led to the current status of the Greko language, as it remains in severe decline and near extinction.

Although only a few hundred speakers remain, there seem to be thousands in the region that have a Greko ethnic identity but have no knowledge of the language.

I observed how passionate and hardworking some Greko people were in regards to the survival of their dying language. It was deeply moving and encouraging. In essence, they are guardians of Hellenism in this small region tucked away in the toe of the Italian peninsula.

The Greko settlement of Gallicianò. Credit: John Kazaklis

Status and Statistics of Calabrian Greeks

Below are a list of the current population centers today that have Greko-speaking residents as well as settlements that at one time had Greko speakers in the past 100 years. Keep in mind that several settlements in the mountainous interior experienced population shifts in the last several decades. I have attempted to give background details about each settlement listed.

Greko-Speaking Settlements Today:

Galliciano: The only remaining original Greko-speaking settlement in the mountains, locals have not been forced to move or resettle on the coast like other surrounding mountain settlements.
Roghudi Nuovo: Established in the 1980s after the original settlement of Roghudi in the mountainous interior was threatened by severe flooding, all of its residents were consequently relocated to Roghudi Nuovo, meaning New Roghudi.
Bova Marina: Bova Marina is the coastal settlement of its corresponding mountainous settlement, Bova (sometimes called Bova Superiore). Many of Bova’s residents have relocated to Bova Marina over the last decades in search of better economic opportunities and exposure to commerce on the coast.
Melito di Porto Salvo
Reggio di Calabria: The largest city in Calabria, Reggio has a few neighborhoods where Greko-speaking people have relocated over the decades.

Former Settlements or Former Greko-Speaking Settlements in the last 100 Years:

Roghudi: Nestled in the Aspromonte Mountains, Roghudi’s residents were forced to relocate closer to the coast after severe flooding took place in the 1980s. The new settlement would be named Roghudi Nuovo.
Roccaforte del Greco
Bova: Once the epicenter of Greek culture and religion in the region, Bova has no indigenous Greko speakers remaining today. Many of its former Greko-speaking inhabitants have moved to its coastal settlement of Bova Marina in the last thirty to forty years for economic opportunity.

Important side note: Greko vs. Griko: The two are not to be confused. The variation of Greek that is spoken in Calabria (Greko) is different from the variety of Greek spoken in Puglia, known as Griko.

*The article was published originally at by DC-based author John Kazaklis who gave permission for its republication on Greek Reporter. This is an edited version of the article.

Greece Marks Pontic Genocide as Turkey Claims it Distorts History

Pontic genocide turkey
Greece does not forget the Pontic Genocide,” PM Mitsotakis said on the anniversary. Credit: Public Domain

Turkey accused Greece of distorting history as the nation commemorates one of the darkest pages in Hellenic history, the Pontic Genocide at the hands of the Turks.

The  Genocide in Pontus cost 353,000 lives while even more lost their homes and generations of wealth in the Pontus (Black Sea) region and were then forced to emigrate to other places to begin their lives all over again.

The international community has a “manifest obligation” to recognize the systematic extermination of Greeks in Pontus said President Katerina Sakellaropoulou.

“The memory of the hundreds of thousands of innocents slaughtered or displaced from their ancestral hearths remains alive 103 years after that ruthless pogrom,” she said in a message.

“The international community has a manifest obligation to safeguard historical knowledge by recognizing this unconscionable crime. Today’s anniversary in particular, coming at a time when authoritarian revisionism poses a direct threat to global stability, serves as a deterrent so that we may never experience such atrocities again,” Sakellaropoulou added.

“We mark the 19th of May, honoring Pontian Hellenism in every corner of the earth,” PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis said in a statement.

“We are strengthening the shield of the homeland and upgrading its international position. And we turn into a struggle the two words that accompany every ordeal of our Nation: We do not forget!” he added.

“Today is a day of remembrance of the Genocide against Pontian Hellenism,” Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias said in a Twitter post.

“We keep alive the memory of the 353,000 victims, we honor the great contribution of the Pontians to the economic, spiritual and social life of the country, as well as to the national struggles,” he emphasized.

The Pontic genocide was officially recognized by the Greek state on February 24, 1994, and Parliament unanimously voted to establish May 19th as the day of remembrance of the genocide.

Turkey claims Greece twists facts of “so-called” Pontic Genocide

The Turkish Foreign Ministry strongly rejected the “unfounded Pontic claims,” saying that Greece aims to twist historical facts.

“We categorically reject the delusional statements made by the Greek authorities on the pretext of the anniversary of the unfounded ‘Pontian’ claims, which completely distort history,” it was said.

Noting that Greek officials continuously try to distort historical facts, the ministry said Turkey condemns all attempts to deceive communities by spreading such false propaganda to third parties.

The ministry also warned that attempts to create hostility based on the past only mislead the young generations and do not benefit efforts to establish peace and stability.

“Instead of relying on falsified historical narratives contradicting reality, it would be more reasonable for Greece to face the facts regarding the crimes against humanity that were established by the Lausanne Peace Treaty, as included in the report of the Allied Powers Investigation Commission, committed by Greece during its occupation and invasion attempt of Anatolia,” the ministry said.

It continued by saying that it would be appropriate for Greek officials to remember the brutal crimes and atrocities perpetrated against other religious or ethnic groups, particularly the Turks, including the 1821 Tripolitsa massacre.

The History of Oligarchs, from Ancient Greece to Modern Russia

oligarch ancient greece oligarchy
The term Oligarchy comes from the Ancient Greek for “rule by few.” Credit: Gary Bembridge/Wikimedia Commons/CC-BY-2.0

The term “oligarch” has become commonplace in the wake of the war in Ukraine, but its roots date all the way back to ancient Greece.

Oligarchs are extremely wealthy people who hold a large amount of power in their countries. Currently, the term is most often used to describe a number of Russian businessmen who exercise considerable political influence in the country.

The word oligarch comes from the word oligarchy, which simply refers to a power structure that is headed by a small group of people.

Oligarchy means “rule by few” in Ancient Greek, as “ὀλίγος (olígos)” means “few,” and “ἄρχω” (arkho) means “to rule” in the ancient tongue.

While an oligarchy is not always composed of wealthy people, as oligarchs can hold nearly any type of power or influence in an oligarchy, most modern descriptions of oligarchs and oligarchies refer to wealth.

Oligarchs first linked to wealth by ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle

This connection between riches and oligarchies comes from the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle himself, who wrote in his work Politics that “oligarchy is when men of property have the government in their hands; democracy, the opposite, when the indigent, and not the men of property, are the rulers.”

Although ancient Greece is most closely linked to the concept of democracy, many forms of political rule were tried and tested across Greece during antiquity, including oligarchy.

For the most part, Athenians, who were dedicated to democracy since the concept was first put in place in the sixth century BC, nearly all forms of rule that did not include input from the citizenry were described as oligarchies.

Many references to oligarchies across ancient Greek city-states indicate that the form of power came to be after the collapse or take over of some other governmental system, such as democracy.

The most well-known example of an ancient Greek oligarchy, “The oligarchy of the 400,” is an example of this phenomenon.

In Athens in 411 BC, an oligarchy consisting of 400 men took control of the state from the people only for power to be taken from them by a larger group of 5,000 oligarchs only shortly thereafter.

Another notable example are the Thirty Tyrants, who were pro-Spartan soldiers, lead by Critias, who took control of Athens after the city-state lost the Peloponnesian War in 404 BC. The oligarchy was noted for its extreme cruelty, which included the execution of an estimated 1,500 people.

Many Athenians fled the city during the regime and formed a group of troops that later went on to topple the oligarchy only a year after it was formed.

Sparta itself was ruled by a powerful oligarchy consisting of a number of elders, government officials, and kings.

The ancient Phoenician city-state of Carthage, which is located in modern-day Tunisia, was governed by an oligarchy in the fifth-century BC, when a small group of aristocrats and nobles took power of the city-state.

Oligarchies across the world

Nowadays, the word “oligarch” is most often used to describe immensely wealthy Russian businessmen who exercise a large amount of power in the politics of the country.

After the fall of the Soviet Union and privatization of the Russian economy in 1991, a large number of businessmen in the metal, petroleum, and natural gas industries made a fortune.

These businessmen have links to many significant figures in the Russian government, and many of them have close relationships with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Many of these oligarchs have been sanctioned by various governmental bodies after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine due to their connections to the ruling class.

A notable Russian oligarch is Alisher Usmanov, 68, who owns a major stake in USM, a Russian investment group with holdings in Metalloinvest, one of the world’s largest iron ore producers, and the telecommunications company MegaFon.

He’s the sixth-richest Russian with a fortune of $19.5 billion, according to Bloomberg’s wealth index, although that figure includes the Dilbar.

In early March, Usmanov’s massive superyacht was seized by German authorities after a round of sanctions aimed at Russian oligarchs in the wake of the war in Ukraine.

Oligarchs are not found only in Russia, however, and are common in many countries across Africa, Asia, and the Americas. A number of rich and powerful businessmen had considerable political influence in the Philippines during the rule of dictator Ferdinand Marcos during the 1970s.

Many of these oligarchs and their descendants have maintained power in the country, and limiting their influence was one of former president Rodrigo Duterte’s rallying cries during his campaign.

How Ernest Hemingway Witnessed the Greek Genocide

Ernest Hemingway Greek
Illustration by Greek Reporter

As a young journalist, Ernest Hemingway witnessed first hand the displacement of the Greek population from their ancestral homelands in Pontus, Thrace, and Asia Minor.

His restless spirit of adventure took him to many places, where he so often received the inspiration to write his timeless books. He went to Spain during their civil war, lived in Paris, and spent time in Cuba.

However, early on in his adult life, he spent two years in Constantinople and was introduced to Greek culture during a tragic time for Hellenism.

Little is known about the writer’s beginnings as a journalist and his writings on the war between Greece and Turkey, which took place between 1920 to 1922. Hemingway was only 23 years of age when, on September 30, 1922, he arrived in Constantinople as a war correspondent to cover the Greco-Turkish War for the Toronto Star.

The story titled “Hemingway in Constantinople: Ernest Hemingway’s writings on the Greco-Turkish War in 1922” in The Midwest Quarterly academic journal, written by Peter Lecouras is quite enlightening about the writer’s first contact with Greek culture. The academic article was published on September 22, 2001.

Hemingway in Constantinople

Hemingway Greek
Hemingway’s 1923 passport photo. At this time, he lived in Paris with his wife Hadley and worked as a foreign correspondent for the Toronto Star Weekly.

The American legend wrote a total of twenty pieces during his time in Constantinople, beginning with the story “British Can Save Constantinople,” dated September 30, 1922, to his last article, “Refugees from Thrace,” which bore the dateline of November 14, 1922.

During those two years, Hemingway wrote about the war and its politics while at the same time honing the style that would make him a renowned writer. His experiences there inevitably made their way to his later works, as well. The Greco-Turkish war, for instance, is referenced memorably in “The Snows of Kilimanjaro,” written in 1936.

According to Lecouras, Hemingway sympathized with the half-million Thracians who were displaced in the Greco-Turkish War for the political and economic interests of the superpowers of the time— namely Britain, France, and Italy.

In his articles, Hemingway also blames the political decisions of the Greek leadership for the catastrophic results of the war. Following the line of the British foreign office and the American consulate in Ankara, he condemns the Greek cause and the decision of King Constantine to replace competent officers in the Greek army with his cronies.

Describing Greek exodus from eastern Thrace

In “Refugees from Thrace,” Hemingway observes that Greeks leaving Eastern Thrace were fleeing the Turks. He describes with great sympathy the Greek peasants who marched without knowing where they were going, knowing only that they were to flee to save their lives.

The short story “On the Quai at Smyrna,” also inspired by the time the writer spent in Constantinople, is a harrowing work about the dreadful events of 1922. Hemingway describes with painful realism how Smyrna was burned by marauding Turkish soldiers and civilians.

He goes on to tell the sickening story of the slaughtering of 125,000 Greeks there, and how those who survived the brutality of the Turks sought escape on the quay at Smyrna where British warships hovered close by.

Hemingway and the Greek restaurant in Chicago

A story about Hemingway appeared in the November 1979 Princeton Alumni Weekly journal called “Friends for Life: An Alum’s Recollections of Hemingway,” written by William Horne, Jr..

As all Hemingway aficionados know, Ernest Hemingway volunteered to serve his country as a driver in World War I. William Horne likewise felt that he needed to do something for the cause, and in New York, the two young men boarded the same ship that would take them to Bordeaux, France.

Hemingway and Horne met at the Austrian-Italian border, transporting wounded soldiers and running supply lines. This was the beginning of a very long friendship between the men.

Following the war, Horne moved to Chicago, where he worked selling axles in the automotive industry. He then told Hemingway that he would support him financially as a writer because he believed in his talent. Horne recalls in the “Friends for Life” story:

“We rented a fourth-floor room in a house at 1230 N. State Street. It was the kind with a washstand in the corner and a bath down the hall. Meals weren’t included, so we usually ate at Kitso’s, a Greek restaurant on Division Street.”

He further writes that: “It was a quick lunch place with tables, a counter, and a hole in the wall for shouting orders into the kitchen. They served pretty good dinners for 65 or 70 cents, and I think Kitso’s was the scene of Ernie’s story, ‘The Killers.'”

The Greek diner, one of the many businesses in the Windy City run by members of the sizable Greek community,  was actually mentioned by Hemingway as the place in which he wrote “The Killers.” The writer himself said he wrote the entire story in a burst of creativity on May 16, 1926, before he ate his lunch at a neighborhood restaurant.

The story is about two professional killers who go to a small town to kill a famous former boxer. It was initially published in March 1927 in Scribner’s Magazine, and Hemingway received $200 for it—a rather princely sum at the time for a struggling writer.

Turkey Becomes More Isolated as it Blocks Expansion of NATO

Turkey NATO
Erdogan meets Putin in 2020. Credit: Creative Commons Attribution 4.0, Russia Presidency

Turkey risks becoming more isolated from the West by blocking the accession of Finland and Sweden to NATO. Ankara tries to balance its strategic partnerships with the Alliance and Ukraine with its difficult but important relations with Russia.

By Christoph Bluth

Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine has united the west in opposition. NATO member states have cascaded weapons into Ukraine, taken in Ukrainian refugees, and imposed severe sanctions on Russia.

The enlargement of NATO was cited by Russian President Vladimir Putin as one of the key threats to Russian security that prompted the invasion of Ukraine. So the announcement by Sweden and Finland that they would abandon their long-held military neutrality and join NATO is another blow to Russia.

NATO members generally have welcomed this development and the Baltic states, in particular, signaled enthusiastic approval. In order for new NATO members to be accepted, all thirty existing members have to agree to accept them. But Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has objections to Sweden and Finland joining the alliance.

President Erdoğan likened the Scandinavian countries to “guesthouses for terrorists.” For some time Turkey has accused Sweden of giving shelter to supporters of the Turkish cleric Fethullah Gülen. Gülen is accused by some critics of being behind a coup to overthrow Erdoğan, which Gülen denies.

Another issue is Sweden’s suspension of arms sales to Turkey, which began in 2019, because of Turkey’s military incursions into Syria. It also cites Sweden’s failure to extradite 33 alleged members of the Kurdish Workers’ Party (PKK ), which is listed as a terrorist organization by the European Union.

Turkey’s regional anxiety and Russia relations

As well as its domestic agenda, Turkey finds itself in an ambivalent situation internationally. It has to balance its strategic partnerships with NATO and Ukraine with its difficult but important relations with Russia. Turkey and Russia have some economic and regional cooperation, especially around Armenia, Georgia, and Azerbaijan.

They may be rivals for influence in the region, for instance in supporting opposing sides of the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh. But they share a common interest in economic stability and, possibly, in reducing military conflict.

This is partly why Turkey has put itself forward as a potential mediator between Russia and Ukraine. Turkey refused to support Russia’s exclusion from the Council of Europe and also has not joined other NATO countries in imposing economic sanctions on Russia. At the same time, it has contributed significantly to Ukraine’s efforts to defend itself and has declared what Russia calls a “special military operation” to be a war.

Russia has shown increasing strategic assertiveness in recent years in its invasion of Crimea in February 2014 and its significant military intervention in Syria. This precipitated a serious crisis in Turkish-Russian relations when Turkey shot down a Russian SU-24 fighter plane that allegedly entered Turkish airspace and Russia imposed sanctions on Turkey. However, subsequently, Putin and Erdoğan have repaired their relations.

Turkey’s collision course with NATO

Turkey maintains an important economic relationship with Russia, relying on Russian natural gas. The TurkStream pipeline that started operating in 2020 is an alternative export route for Russian gas via the Black Sea and circumvents Ukraine as a transit country.

It has also developed military cooperation between the two. Turkey purchased Russia’s S-400 air defense system and has been considering purchasing Russian military aircraft.

This element of the Turkish-Russian relationship put Erdoğan on a collision course with NATO and has provoked US sanctions against Turkey since the first of the missiles were delivered.

But Turkey is also close to Ukraine. In the run-up to the Russian invasion, Turkey signed a free trade agreement with Ukraine, establishing itself as a key partner.

Turkey is also engaged in significant military co-operation with the country and established a joint production and training center for the Ada-class corvettes, anti-submarine ships, and long-range Bayraktar drones. This amounts to a significant military technology transfer to Ukraine. The ships are an important addition to Ukraine’s navy while the UAV has played a significant role on the battlefield already, destroying Russian armored vehicles.

Turkey also took various measures that hampered Russia’s operational logistics during its military operations in Syria, such as limiting the passage of warships from the Black Sea through the Bosporus straits (as it has done again over Ukraine) and prohibiting Russian military aircraft from passing through its airspace.

As Sweden and Finland moved towards an official application for membership, the United States and other NATO members clearly affirmed their support for the Scandinavian countries to join.

Even Russia has softened its previous opposition that was accompanied by various threats. The United States and Britain have said that while the applications for membership were in process, Sweden and Finland would be given security assurances.

Although Erdoğan has rejected a visit of delegations from the two countries to discuss their membership, Sweden and Finland remain optimistic, as Turkey has hinted that it would be open to negotiations.

It’s likely that Erdoğan is just being opportunistic and hoping to use the moment to achieve concessions from the Nordic countries. Significantly, already, Sweden has reaffirmed that it considers the PKK to be a terrorist organization.

But if Turkey does not show flexibility, it risks a situation where Sweden and Finland become de facto members of the alliance (enjoying security guarantees without full membership).

Meanwhile, Turkey could become more isolated within NATO and risk losing all the political benefits it has gained for its current military support for Ukraine after years on the edge of the alliance.

Christoph Bluth is a Professor of International Relations and Security at the University of Bradford.

The article was published in The Conversation and is republished under a Creative Commons License.

Why Greek Statues Have Small Penises: Woman’s Lecture Goes Viral

small penises Greek statues
The Artemision Bronze represents either Zeus, the ancient Greek king of the gods of Mount Olympus, or possibly Poseidon, the god of the Sea. Credit: National Archaeological Museum, Athens

A woman’s explanation of why ancient Greek statues have small penises has gone viral on TikTok.

Even a casual glance at classical sculptures in a museum will reveal that the penis on marble depictions of nude gods and heroes is often quite small.

Ruby Reign took it upon herself to look into the matter. “Have you ever wondered why so many of the ancient Greek statues have colossal muscular physiques and yet a tiny package?” she asked in a video shared on her TikTok.

@rubysaysstuff I sound like some kind of wannabe professor but I found this kinda interesting #foryou #historytok #ancientgreece #fyp #history #randomfacts ♬ original sound – Ruby.Reign

“What I wasn’t aware of was that the Greeks often presented their enemies, the Egyptians, the satire creatures, and even fools in comedies as having large appendages – so it was quite a negative thing to have, which is quite different today.

“So actually, what I discovered was that big D’s bad and small D’s good in ancient Greece. But why was this? This is obviously different to today.”

Small penises in Greek statues “a sign of virtue, of civility”

Ruby claimed it is all to do with how perceptions have changed. She explained: “Turns out that in ancient Greece, having a smaller package was considered a sign of virtue, of civility, or self control or discipline.

“Meanwhile, having a bigger one was a sign of lustfulness, of gluttonous appetites and barbarism, which is quite interesting because it’s different to today.”

Together, Ruby’s clips have racked up more than four million views, Lad Bible says with many people in the small willy community delighted by the lecture.

One person commented: “Remember lads we were on top, now the Barbarians have taken over.”

Another said: “We definitely gotta return to our roots.” A third added: “I was really born in the wrong generation.”

You can view the amusing video by following this link

Ruby concluded that our changing perception of size illuminates the fact there is no such thing as objective beauty.

She said: “I just think it’s interesting to compare the perspective back then that smaller is better with the view today that, sometimes people think bigger is better.

“And it just goes to show that our beauty standards, our ideals, are all a social construct and we shouldn’t get bogged down feeling bad about ourselves.”

The small penis was consonant with Greek ideals of male beauty

In the ancient Greek world of around 400 BC erect penises were not considered desirable, nor were they a sign of power or strength.

In his play The Clouds (c. 419–423 BC), ancient Greek playwright Aristophanes summed up the ideal traits of his male peers as “a gleaming chest, bright skin, broad shoulders, tiny tongue, strong buttocks, and a little prick.”

Historian Paul Chrystal has also conducted research into this ancient ideal. “The small penis was consonant with Greek ideals of male beauty,” he writes in his book In Bed with the Ancient Greeks (2016). “It was a badge of the highest culture and a paragon of civilization.”

Lustful, depraved satyrs, in particular, were rendered with very large, erect genitals, sometimes almost as tall as their torsos. According to mythology, these creatures were part-man, part-animal, and totally lacked restraint—a quality reviled by Greek high society.

“Big penises were vulgar and outside the cultural norm, something sported by the barbarians of the world,” writes Chrystal. Indeed, across many an amphora pot and frieze, well-endowed satyrs can be seen drinking and pleasuring themselves with abandon.

Related: The Erotic Art of Ancient Greece