Saturday, February 25, 2012

The region of Macedonia in 1908

I found a really interesting article in one of the national geographic magazines i have in my bookcase.It is written in 1908 so there are some historical inaccuracies in it but it is still interesting to read.

Some notes about Macedonia
A Greek at the port of Thessalonika
All the images of the post are from National Geogaphic

The wider region of Macedonia was for centuries a crossroad of nations and civilizations. Its fertile lands and natural harbours attracted many national groups which came into conflict for this land.

For many years the christians of Macedonia were considered as the most unfortunate and miserable populations of Europe.Although they numbered 4 to 1 in relation with the Muslims, they were never able to unite against the sultan because more than anything that was Ottoman they hated each  other mostly.The christians of Macedonia were Bulgarians Greeks Serbians and Vlachs.Until the last summer the Greeks had plans to annex Macedonia, the Bulgarians wanted to dominate the area by Bulgarisation , the Serbians were seeing Macedonia as an opportunity to have access to the Aegean and the Romanians thought that they should maintain some influence on the area.
moments of daily life in Macedonia.

The rivalry between the ethnic groups of Macedonia spread devastation and desruction. Bands of Bulgarians and Greeks commited atrocities to anyone who politically opposed them.And anytime there was a conflict between an ethnic group and the ottoman authority the other ethnic group sided with the Ottomans.

Now all this has changed. Hatred and rivalries have been put aside for the common interest which is freedom.All the ethnic groups decided to participate in an experiment and unite with the Young Turk movement which plans to overthrow the Ottoman sultan. The basic term of this alliance would be the all the nations of the empire would be considered equal by the constitution.

Christian girls of Macedonia. Their outfit betrays their religion.
The Macedonian nations were the ones that had a major role in this revolution and to them owe the rest of the nations of the Ottoman empire their relative autonomy.The joy of the people for having now a parliament and a constitution was such that they were forcing the christian and Muslim priests to hug each other in the middle of the villages.

The propaganda by various ethnic groups of Macedonia had positive effects on education.The Greek Bulgarian Serbian and Romanian schools that operated under the tolerance of the Ottoman goverment because they boosted the division between the nations offered to the agricultural population a high level education which couldn't be achieved if education was controlled by the Ottomans. At the big towns the students had the chance to receive higher education and in some cases music and artistic education by professors from Vienna and Budapest.
A Turkish old man looking suspiciously at the camera

Macedonia is outstands because of the beauty of its landscapes.Many of its mountains surpass 3.000 meters in height and are covered by beautiful forests.In the ancient times it was a notorious land and kingdom but after so man centuries of bad administration its ancient monuments are lost. Nowadays it's mandatory for the archaeologists to make studies about Macedonia as they may discover the ruins of its glorious past. Thessalonica for instance, has more christian monuments than any other city in Greece.There are many great monuments built by Romans and Greeks. The presence of a minaret on the side of each one tells us of their current usage.

A view of Thessalonikas landmark. The white tower.
In Thessalonica there is the Saint Sophia church built by Justinian just like its notorious sister in Constantinople.Nowadays it operates as a mosque.However a big fire four years ago and a recent earthquake have rendered the building obsolete.The Rotunda which is today a mosque was built by emperor Trajan following the architectural pattern of the pantheon in Rome but in a smaller scale and was dedicated to the Cabeirian gods.Indoors it is decorated with mosaics that belong to the pagan temple as there are no traces of christian modification.
A villager making turkish coffee in a village in Macedonia

Between the Rotunda and the sea is the area of the hippodrome where Theodosius the last emperor of the unified Roman empire gave the order for one of the bloodiest slaughters in history.Although he was a fanatic christian and according to ancient writers a charismatic leader , in this case he didn't act with logic.In order to punish the citizens who  uprose against the decision of the emperor for the arrest of a chariot racer, he invited them  to the hippodrome to watch a spectacle. The spectacle was themselves, 7000 citizens of any age and gender were slaughtered with a barbaric way.

source: National Geographic Greece, September 2003

Saturday, February 18, 2012

The Greek Popes of Rome

We know from history that the Greeks had never good relations or any connections with the papacy in Rome. The reasons for that are many.

  • The popes promoted the latin rite using the latin language 
  • The Greeks were under the political authority of the Eastern Roman empire(Byzantine) which promoted the patriarchate of Constantinople.
  • The Popes had bad relations with the emperors of the east contesting over the Roman legacy and the right to use it.
  • The pretext for the official break up of the east and the west were the dogmatic differences and the high point of this conflict was the sack of Constantinople by the crusaders in 1204.
Although Greeks had bad relations with the Papacy there were two periods in history where the Popes had Greek background. The first period was in the early stages of christianity when those who were appointed as bishops of Rome were either coming from the Greek community of Rome or were immigrants from the hellenistic east. The second was the period after Jutinian's conquests when Byzantium controlled for at least a century Rome and other regions of the Italian peninsula. At this period the emperors of the east promoted the appointment of Greek popes.

To begin with the very word 'pope' is Greek, meaning 'father' .

Early Christian period.

Saint Anacletus the second pope of Rome

St. Anacletus (Cletus) (+ c. 91), by origin a Greek from Athens and possibly a martyr. His name, correctly Anencletus, means 'blameless' (see Titus 1,7) and he may originally have been a slave. Feast: 26 April.
He was the second pope in history succeeding pope Linus who although he had a Greek name according to the archives of the Vatican he was from Tuscany. 

Saint Evaristus the fifth pope

St. Evaristus (+ c. 109), perhaps a martyr and almost certainly of Hellenic/Jewish origin. Feast: 26 October.
He was the fifth pope and held the office for eight years.He was the son of hellenized Jews from Bethleem.

Saint Telesphorus. The seventh pope

St Telesphorus (+ c. 136), a martyr. Feast: 5 January (in the East 22 February).
He was the seventh pope. He was born in Greece

St. Hyginus (+ c. 142). Feast: 11 January.
He was born in Athens and initially he was a philosopher.

Saint Soter
He was born in Fondi of Campania. His name  betrays his  Greek descent.

St. Soter (+ 174), of Greek descent, he may have been martyred. Feast: 22 April.

Pope Eleutherius . His name means free in Greek.

St. Eleutherius (+ 189), Greek, possibly martyred. Feast: 26 May.He was born in Nicopolis in Epirus.

Pope Antherus(Anterus). The epitaph of his grave was written in Greek letters.

St. Antherus (+ 236), Greek and perhaps martyred. Feast: 3 January (5 August in East). 

St. Sixtus II (+ 258), an Athenian. He was a good and peace-loving man' who was much helped by Dionysius, Bishop of Alexandria. He was martyred by beheading, together with his seven deacons, one of whom was St Lawrence. He was and is greatly venerated in the Orthodox Church, West and also East. Feast: 7 August (10 August in the East). 

Saint Eusebius. The thirtieth pope

St. Eusebius (+ 310), the thirtieth pope and a Greek by origin. He was deported to Sicily by the Emperor and died there as a confessor. Feast: 17 August. 

Pope Zosimus. the fortieth pope.

St Zosimus (+ 418), the fortieth Pope, by origin a Greek. Although initially he made many errors of tact and judgement, he was anti-pelagian. Feast: 26 December.

The period of Byzantine Rome

St. Agatho (+ 681), Sicilian of Greek origin. Preceded by two popes who are not saints, he was a kindly and generous man, who also helped call the Sixth Oecumenical Council and helped end monotheletism. Feast: 10 January (20 February in the East). 

St. Leo II (+ 683), Sicilian, possibly of Greek descent. He confirmed the condemnation of a predecessor, the heretical Pope Honorius I (+ 638), who had fallen into the monothelite heresy. He loved the poor and was also much concerned with church music. Feast: 3 July.

Pope Zachary

St Zacharias (+ 752), a Greek and the last Orthodox saint in this see, he opposed iconoclasm, adorned churches with frescos, and did much for missionary work and peace all over western Europe. Feast: 15 March. He was the last "Greek" pope. His successor facing the Lombard threat turned towards the Franks as the Byzantines were busy fighting in two fronts the Bulgars and the Arabs of the Abassid caliphate

The iconoclasm in Byzantium and the coronation of Charlemagne as emperor of Rome  worsened even more the relations beween he pope and the emperors of the East. This lead  to the final schism two centuries later in 1081.

images source: wikipedia

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Gawhar al-Siqilli Al Rumi a greek boy who became a great muslim general and founder of Cairo.

Gawhar was of Greek(Roman at the time) descent. His family originated from Sicily which at the time was an Arabic emirate.His name Al Siqilli means the Sicilian.Gawhar was born between 928-930. He was sent as a slave to the caliph of Tunis because of his exceptional  intelligence. He gained his freedom and worked as a secretary for the caliph's son.
The territories controlled by the Fatimids.Their initial base was Tunis but later Gawhar al Siqilli built their new capital in Egypt.

Soon he rose to become a vizier and assume the highest ranking position in the army. Initially he set out to conquer all of Morocco. After  he secured the western borders he turned towards Egypt which he conquered after a succesful siege of Giza .He ruled Egypt as a viceroy until 972. As a ruler of Egypt he founded the city of Cairo to be the new capital of the Fatimids. Eventually we know that Cairo rose to become the biggest city of Egypt since then. Gawhar also gave orders for the building of the Al Azhar mosque

Gawhar died in 992, stripped of power since 979 the last year he was still a regent .

It took four years for Gawhar to build the city of Cairo. Initially it was named al-Mansuriyyah . At the same time Gawhar ordered the building of the Al Azhar mosque which developed to be the third oldest university in the world.

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