Saturday, April 27, 2013


Dear most distinguished, all wise and sagely Foreign Minister of the Hellenic Republic,
I am inordinately sorry to disrupt your hastening Greece upon the path of future greatness, while single handedly attempting to overcome your bewilderment as to how to sell off your Ministry’s land holdings overseas, as well as determining which of your consulates and embassies shall close in view of the budget cuts necessitated by the rapacity of the foreign financial invaders, simultaneously praying that Cyprus, (but not its oil) will just go away, but an ugly and ultimately false pustule of a rumour has reared its ugly head from the variegated skin of the Greek community of Melbourne that requires your urgent attention.
It is falsely alleged that a certain member of the Greek diplomatic corps here in Melbourne sought and obtained from your august Ministry, the sum of $10,000 in order for said personage to undergo an urgent medical procedure. It is further falsely alleged that the said procedure was actually cosmetic surgery which cost a fifth of the amount claimed and the inference is that the balance was pocketed by the entrepreneurial diplomatic personage.
Now I do not wish to cast aspersions upon anyone’s character, save to question why one would go to the lengths of propagating such ridiculous slander, but I would urge you to pause, and consider the following: Surely in this torrid and tortuous era, where brand name Greece finds itself besmirched, ridiculed and of little value and diasporic Greeks emphasize the need for rebranding, rebooting, repowering and relaunching our beloved place of origin in order to set Greece once more upon the path of righteousness, we can begin with the faces of our diplomatic corps – since they are the face of Greece to the rest of the world. Give them all a facelift I say, a tummy tuck and release them onto the unsuspecting populace as tanned, bronzed and absolutely breathtakingly sexy Olympians, ones that will even cause the icy hearts of the bankers (the b is silent and is pronounced as a w) at the International Monetary Fund, the European Union Development Fund and any other sort of Fund to melt from the heat generated by the friction of their well-toned legs rubbing provocatively against each other in sundry diplomatic forums. After all, their proclivities in this direction are amply proven by the example of the hapless former head of the IMF and French presidential hopeful Dominique Strauss-Kahn.
Rather than demanding of our beleaguered homeland that it strips itself bare in order to make restitution of unpaid loan monies, select international bankers would be lining up in droves, willing to pay for the privilege of taking our Olympian diplomatic corps out to dinner and then a movie and them whatever happens, happens. In no time at all, the black hole in the centre of the Greek exchequer, which is so in the red, would be filled with manifestations of cosmic liquidity, rendering us back in the black and ready to assert our cultural and historical superiority.
O local arbiter of Greece’s foreign relations, heed my advice. After all, it is infinitely easy for a puffed up and cocky president of FYROM Gruevski to maintain a Caligulean countenanceoof immovable vigour with regard to the controversy surrounding the name if his country, when pushed and prodded by a person of your, let us face facts, rather uninspiring facial features. It is not, contrariwise, easy, for the said Gruevski to remain so implacable when caressed and cajoled by a Foreign Minister who looks like the goddess Aphrodite herself. Most likely he, (and any other politician except for Vladimir Putin who is glacial and cannot be moved under any circumstances, which is why he should extend his rule over Greece) would thus, breathlessly make over to her, not only the naming rights but the entire country itself. Similarly, who knows what effect the massage of a muscle bound and heavily oiled Adonis, or a Magnes, the handsome youth from Smyrna noted for his elegant clothes and fancy korymbos hairstyle which he bound with a golden band, would have upon the tense shoulders of violator of Greek airspace and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan? It is of such matters that the imponderables of foreign relations are constituted.
Was not Helen’s the face that launched a thousand ships? Surely then, such an approach can even be applied to the boosting of Greece’s flagging maritime industry. Was it not the idle beauty of the mindless Pandora that caused her to open the dread box, which unleashed plague and pestilence into the world? Surely this, suitably wielded by Evelina Papantoniou could comprise a weapon the likes of which would even sow fear into the contraption that serves as a heart of King Jong Un, thus ensuring our military dominance. And while, we are at it, once having seduced our way into becoming a player on the international stage, what better way to maintain our position than to make use of our own nubile players, the cohort of inexplicably beautiful boys and girls whose revolving love lives are so carefully scrutinised on Greek daytime talk shows?
Furthermore, my proposed ideology, for which I beg leave to coin the term “stunning diplomacy,” is eminently exportable to the rest of the world, assuring the dominance of fair Hellas on the international stage. The United Nations Assembly could be abolished and replaced in turn, with a global “The Earth-sphere’s Next Top Model,” with disputes between countries being adjudicated on the basis of their jaw-droppingly pulchritudinous representatives proven capacity to pout more effectively, or display their abdominal muscles in such a way as to better catch the glare of the studio lights. Persistently errant nations could be kept in check by being taken aside gently and advised that the particularly effervescent young Greek diplomat that is encouraging peace and moderation from them, is actually a Lamia, who will eat their first born children, if the requisite amount of cooperation is not offered. Failing that, securing compliance through the enticement of them being able to obtain a little bit of Alex Perry glamour in their otherwise colourless lives usually does the trick. Not pretty I know, but that is diplomacy for you.
In the aftermath of our restoration, if you are so minded, please send us diplomatic corps who:
a)      Actually effectively promote Greece’ interests in the countries they are being sent to. It is very easy to indulge in the squabbles and micro-politics of the disparate diasporic Greek communities around the world. It is not so easy to be respected and influential within the countries that they reside. To this effect, it should be immaterial to the diplomatic corps whether the Pan-Cycladic Federation of Timbuktoo and the Federation of Pan-Cycladic Associations of Northern Timbuktoo unite or not because quite frankly, there is a reason why they have split into two separate groups and they are happy to remain that way. Instead, of material interest is why any particular country will not intervene to protest against the violation of Greek national sovereignty, or foster closer trade links.
b)      It follows axiomatically from the above that there is absolutely no point in diplomatic corps attempting to influence the proceedings of various political or historical beliefs or diasporic organisations, especially since their pretensions to practising policy have always been unheeded by you and your predecessors. Certainly such well-meaning groups should not be discriminated against, mocked or icily excluded from accessing your employees, on the basis that they happen not to conform to the prevailing political ideology of the time. The rolling of the eyes, the contemptuous glare, the crossing of the arms and the shoulder snub – all these tropes are not pretty and must be banned. Furthermore, and considering that the diplomatic corps should have no interest or influence in the cultural activities of diasporic clubs and brotherhoods, no attempt should be made by your employees by way of example, to dissuade the Folegandrian Club, which is currently fighting against the Former Cycladic Republic of Folegandros’ misappropriation of their identity, from organising an exhibition of Folegandrian art and history at the local museum, by stating flimsily and irresponsibly that the time is not right and that you are already arranging for the Louvre to send their extensive collection of Folegandrian artefacts to the local museum, when this is evidently not the case.
c)      While you are at it, kindly instruct your employees in the finer art of etiquette and deportment. We not only want to be mesmerised by them, we also want to respect them and, perchance, have our requisite needs serviced by them, with the minimum of friction and the maximum of pleasure.
Finally, in keeping with the economic philosophy of this supposedly plastically altered member of your diplomatic corps, should you, in your infinite wisdom determine that mine is the path upon which the future of Hellenic foreign relations should tread, I advise that I am more than amenable to being in the receipt of only ten percent of the gross savings made by the Ministry in adhering to the aforementioned guidelines and/or free injections of botox and liposuction treatments for the rest of my corporeal manifestation.
Yours in Hellenism,
The Diatribist.
A version of this article was first published in NKEE on Saturday 27 April 2013

Monday, April 22, 2013


"A bookstore is one of the only pieces of evidence we have that people are still thinking." Jerry Seinfeld.

I remember receiving my first book from Greece as a gift from a returning aunt. Attempting to open it, I was disconcerted by the revelation that every second page was stuck together, necessitating the use of a knife in order to liberate the treasures that lay hidden within. Even before immersing myself in the reading of the text, I could not but indulge in the tactile pleasures of Greek typesetting. Unlike the dead flat, spirit levelled type of say, a Penguin book, Greek type impressed itself firmly onto the page, causing an innumerable array of lexical undulating bumps, ridges and valleys, serving as landmarks for the reader as he traversed any particular kingdom of the empire of the Word.

My favourite books were those that retained the polytonic system, as opposed to the current austere monotonic monstrosity. Not only was this system integral to a proper understanding of Greek grammar and the connection between the modern and ancient languages, it was also very pretty and lent itself well to being gazed adoringly at, by the discerning eye. As time passed and polytonic books became scarce, I invariably sought after books published by one of the most venerable and significant book stores and publishers of Greece, the «Βιβλιοπωλείον της Εστίας» (Estia) or Bookstore of the Hearth, which during its 128 year history, and up until its tragic closure in March of this year, was responsible for the publication of over 4,000 new titles, encompassing the works of some 1,500 Greek authors, all in the polytonic system.

To loiter around the shelves of Estia bookstore in its penultimate place of abode, Athens' Solonos Street, which should be renamed Book Street owing to its concentration of purveyors of the printed word was to be immersed in a particularly olde worlde literary culture of a type that long ceased to exist in the Australian world of the large commercial book chains. During my first visit to the bookstore, back in 1992, I revealed my Greek Australian provenance by browsing the shelves. Immediately I was set upon by a member of the staff who asked me what in particular I was searching for. «Τίποτα το ιδιαίτερο,» I responded. «Απλά, χαζεύω.» My inquisitor looked me up and down incredulously, before shrugging his shoulders and sighing in resignation: «Ναι, φαίνεται ότι έχεις χαζέψει.»

The concept of browsing was unknown. Patrons instead, would arrive seeking a particular book or a particular author, the concept of leaving one's literary activity to pot luck seeming ludicrously disrespectful. Given that just like an iceberg, not even a tenth of the titles available were on display, should one have wanted to browse, such a pursuit would have been rendered impossible. In this, it is quite plausible that Estia bookstore formed the inspiration for the bookhunters in Walter Moers' classic "The City of Dreaming Books," for the cavernous and seemingly endless basement of the bookstore housed a vast number of hitherto unknown and precious titles on an infinite number of subjects. Yet amidst the chaos, the owners seemed to know the exact position of all of the books in their possession, and a good many of the authors personally themselves.

Furthermore, unlike the generally clueless staff of the bookstores I had come to patronise in Melbourne, the staff of Estia seemed to be possessed of a disconcertingly inordinate facility for literary criticism. I remember one hairy, unshaven and yellow toothed cashier interrogate me as to my choice of Thrasos Kastanakis' classic of ambition and redemption «Ο Χατζή Μανουήλ.»He would not let me leave the store to devour my purchase until he had expounded why in his view, the author was suffering from psycho-sexual problems and how this can be revealed in his literary tropes. Then he prescribed a compulsory reading list of other worthy Greek authors and demanded that I come in to discuss each one with him after I had been suitably enlightened.

Loitering also provided unprecedented opportunities to meet literary luminaries, for Estia truly was the entrepot of the Greek literary scene. On any given day, numbers of sundry politicians, actors, poets, writers and thinkers could be found in the store, seeking particular publications, enquiring as to the sales of their own publications or, even more often, those of their rivals. It was in this way that I was able to meet, albeit gushingly and with a complete loss of articulation, the great Antonis Samarakis, the erudite yet urbane Freddy Germanos, and not a few politicians whose names I will forebear to blight the august pages of this publication.

The Estia bookshop was one of those rare things in modern Greece, one of the twelve oldest businesses in the country, stemming five generations and providing a tangible link of continuity and an unparalleled commitment to the publication of Greek literary works, many of which have been of immense significance to modern Greek culture.

If one considers that in the year that Estia was founded, seventy percent of Greek Males and ninety two percent of Greek females were illiterate, the effect that Estia had upon Greek cultural life can be viewed in perspective. Through its publication of a literary journal, it was able to provide a mouthpiece for the legendary "generation of 1880," comprised of such writers as Kostis Palamas who were concerned with folklore, everyday life and introducing the demotic tongue, rather than slavishly following European literary models.

Such an endeavour would continue through the publication of translations of ancient Greek works, making these available to the public, often for the first time, and reached its apogee when Kostas Sarantopoulos, who presided over the bookstore between 1925 to 1972, instituted the publication of the "New Series of Greek Literature," featuring the works of the influential "generation of 1930," Seferis among them, whose writings finally emancipated modern Greek literature from European domination.

What granted especial significance to Estia, constituting it as the hearth of Greek literature, was the commitment to the publication of truly worthy literary works, avoiding the commericalisation of best-sellers or, unique to Greece, the selective promotion of works on a political or ideological basis. The targeted publication of the writers of the "generation of 1980" such as Tatsopoulos, Homenidis, Tamvakakis and others, continued Estia's tradition of purveying Greek literature hand and hand with its propagators, in a most beneficial partnership. The commissioning of worthwhile translations of non-Greek authors, such as Gunter Grass and Milan Kundera was also a labour of love, making accessible important works the owners believed that the public should be exposed to.

At first, I thought that the announcement of the closure of Estia was an April Fool's joke. After all, would not the populace rise up in anger or righteous indignation at the news that one of Greece's oldest institutions was no more? Would not public collections be instituted, wealthy benefactors contacted, writers and politicians mobilised to save the hearthland of Greek literary activity at a time when thinkers and writers are needed more than ever to rethink and restructure the permutations of Greek society? Apparently not. There were no protests, no taking to the streets or ritual burnings of rival bookshops. Instead, the news was received in muted silence, as if, in this period of economic and spiritual crisis, while the closure of a family business is a tragedy, the closure of a bookstore is irrelevant as it is a luxury. Yet arguably it is in those books at the bowels of Estia, recording the trials, tribulations and passions of generations of Greece that lived through worse times than the present that will offer the guidance, strength and consolation the Greek people so sorely need in order to sustain them as they slowly make their way out of the abyss. It is in Estia and its cultural heritage that the arsenal for recovery can be found. As Doctor Who would put it, albeit paraphrased: "You want weapons? We're in a [bookstore]! Books! The best weapons in the world!"


First published in NKEE on Saturday 20 April 2013

Saturday, April 13, 2013


Mention the word «Γερμανός,» these days on the streets of Athens and more likely than not, the aforementioned word will be followed by a particularly long and varied array of expletives, most of which have as their subject matter, the National Socialist German Workers Party, its fuhrer, Adolf Hitler and his apparent successor, at least in the populace's eyes, German chancellor Angela Merkel. Greece's crisis and has reawakened old ghosts - in particular, the ghost of German mastery in Europe. In Athens, anti-German feelings have been running high for some time and it is not only protesters who reach back to the era of the Nazi occupation for analogies with the present. European Union officials in Greece are likened to the Gestapo, while Greek ministers who attempt to institute the reforms demanded by the 'troika' are lampooned as collaborators. In the meantime, almost all Greeks link Germany's demands on the Greek state with supposed "unfinished business of World War II," that is, a lack of restitution, compensation and remorse. Are we, at this critical juncture in Greece's history witnessing a final break between two hostile nations?

The connection between Greece and Germany is a chequered but quite close one, stemming much further back than the Second World War. German liberals, oppressed by restrictive governments at home, flocked to the Greek cause when the Greek revolution broke out in 1821, and fought and died there. Greece's first king, Otto, was a Bavarian and his administration, with its imported German technocrats and policemen, proved to be unpopular and unsuited to governing the restive Greek people. While we may view his unpopularity and ultimate replacement by the Danish Glucksburg royal family as evidence of the unsuitability of German political and cultural structures for Greece, let us not forget that Otto's imposition upon the Greek people was purely as a result of the murder of the Greek Prime Minister Kapodistrias. Nonetheless, Germany continued its close relationship with Greece, the fluent Greek-speaking Bavarian empress of Austria Sisi and German Kaiser Wilhelm holidaying in their Corfu palace of Achilleion. Furthermore, the German connection was so close that King Constantine I, who married the Kaiser's sister, was accused of being a 'germanophile' and skewing Greek foreign policy in Germany's favour and ultimately splitting the nation.

The unpopularity of pre-first World War I Germany is long forgotten. Indeed, when a German, Otto Rehhagel, led Greece's football team to victory in the 2004 European Championship, he was affectionately dubbed "King Otto" in the national press. Before the Second World War, Germany was seen very positively as a cultural and intellectual magnet and many of Greece's most illustrious painters, photographers, archaeologists, doctors, lawyers and bankers were educated there. Germany also provided inspiration to the fascists of Metaxas who where more inspired by and idolised German efficiency and discipline rather than Hitler.

As in so many places, Nazism and the Second World War broke this rich web of ties and connections and replaced the varied memories of the past with the violence and trauma of the occupation. No crisis in Greece's history compare in terms of a death toll or arbitrary brutality on an unprecedented scale. Memories of entire villages being wiped out, of women and children mercilessly being massacred, and of a complete absence of humanity displayed by an occupying force that made it clear that the native population was in their eyes sub-human and expendable, are enduring and when scratched, readily come to the surface. While the modern crisis may well constitute one of these "scratching," for decades, German responsibility for its wrongs was a matter not actively pursued by successive Greek governments.

After the war, and in the context of the looming Cold War, the issue of reparations took a back seat as ideological conformity with NATO was deemed to be of greater priority. Thus, negotiations between West Germany and Greece which had stalled because Greece demanded the inclusion of civilian victims of German reprisals in the category of the compensated, whereas West Germany wanted this to be limited solely to citizens that fell victim to racial persecution, broke down under the pretext that full reparations could only be provided after the signing of a final peace treaty, something that could not take place until Germany re-united . East Germany for obvious reasons, offered Greece full reparations but these were rejected by Greece under the pressure of the West, which saw an acceptance of such reparations as tantamount to recognition of East Germany itself. So far as West Germany itself was concerned, for decades, it rarely made the headlines except as a destination for Greek men looking for work. Greece was the second country after Italy to sign a labour recruitment agreement with Bonn, in 1960, and perhaps as many as a million Greeks emigrated there for various periods of time. This labour recruitment agreement was "tied" to the final reparations treaty between Greece and Germany, signed in March 1960 and ratified by law 4178/14 1961. There is then some truth to the claim that the issue of reparations has been "settled," though there are recent reports that Greece did not obtain the full compensation it should have received. Would the nice people in the Bundestag deduct it from the bailout? Fat chance.

Evidently, a consequence of the German economic miracle was that it allowed the war to be forgotten, often in some fairly deliberate ways. At the end of the 1950s, a notorious war criminal, Max Merten, who had run the Nazi administration of Thessaloniki, was arrested on a trip to Greece, to defend a colleague. This event rapidly escalated into a diplomatic embarrassment not only for the Adenauer government but for the Greek conservative prime minister Konstantinos Karamanlis. Karamanlis was in the middle of negotiating Greece's first association agreement with the common market. He was placed under immense pressure by Konrad Adenauer not to prosecute but to free Merten, who had subsequently obtained an important position within the West German bureaucracy. Merten, responsible for hundreds of deaths of civilians and the persecution of Thessaloniki's Jews was tried, sentenced to twenty five years jail and a little while later, in violation of all principles of the separation of powers, was secretly freed upon Karamanlis' intervention and sent back to West Germany. This is because the freeing of a murderer and war criminal was the price of securing Germany's backing for Greece's entry into the common market. Merten, unlike his victims, received compensation from the West German government for the time he spent in prison and later re-surfaced to give evidence in the trial of Adolf Eichmann.

This revealing episode was quickly forgotten and remains unknown to most people today. They are much more likely to be familiar with the so far unsuccessful legal battle to get German compensation for survivors of the massacres that took place in several Greek villages during the war, an issue that has been separated from that of overall reparations to the Greek state.

Tell any German that they are behaving today as they did in the war and they will be outraged. There is, after all, some difference between the early 1940s, when the occupation simply bled Greece dry and plundered it of its resource, and the crisis today, in which Germany is providing large sums to Greece and being asked for more. Even if these sums are mostly going straight into the European banks to help them stave off bankruptcy, the fact remains that the aim of this policy is not to reduce Greece to penury and starvation but to keep it within the euro. Nonetheless, Chancellor Angela Merkel's insistence on continued austerity may indeed be reducing Greece to penury.

The consequence, as leading historian and analyst of Greek affairs Mark Mazower states, is that memories of the war still influence national responses to the economic crisis. Greek demonstrators turn themselves retrospectively into resistance fighters and thereby craft a moral counter-narrative to the north European charges of profligacy and corruption. What is more, many of them believe it. German lenders on the other hand see themselves as cooperative, restrained and helping to uphold commonly agreed principles and policies, thereby shaping their own morality tale of economic virtue, which contrasts comfortingly both with the less self-disciplined behaviour of the southern Europeans and with the exploitativeness of the Nazis.

Both parties are therefore labouring under their own illusions of comfort. Europe's troubles, in which Greece plays a small but significant part, are caused by an addiction to cheap credit that was fed by the demands of consumers, voters and politicians and enabled by the greed of bankers and the methodical corruption of Greek democracy into a clientilist state over the past three decades. If grappling with the ghosts of the past may offer a kind of false comfort, it will certainly not help understand the mess Greece is in now.

Let us therefore forebear to vilify the Γερμαναρά του κερατά, even though the appellation is often well deserved. Instead, let the focus be on rebuilding, slowly, and without shortcuts, a viable, mature state that will look to the past for lessons, not recrimination and the future with optimism, not fear.


First published in NKEE on Saturday 13 April 2013

Saturday, April 06, 2013


“Everywhere, as though at a preconcerted signal, the peasantry rose, and massacred all the Turks—men, women and children—on whom they could lay hands. In the Morea shall no Turk be left. Nor in the whole wide world. Thus rang the song which, from mouth to mouth, announced the beginning of a war of extermination... Within three weeks of the outbreak of the revolt, not a Muslim was left, save those who had succeeded in escaping into the towns.” W Alison Phillips.
Cast aside for a moment, the chest swelling rhetoric describing a proud but down-trodden people rising up after a long hiatus in order to re-claim its rightful place within the brotherhood of nations. Let lie the demagoguery of those who would juxtapose the bestiality of our enemies against our own purported innate nobility, dignity and decency of ethos and soul. Submit to Lethe the national myth that we stoically endured the depravities of our oppressor, who tortured and massacred the weak and the defenceless, abjuring resort to a similar harrowing of the innocent but confining ourselves to the methodical and steady removal of the enemy’s armed forces through singular acts of valour. The Greek Revolution of 1821, notwithstanding the noble and often confused and contradictory ideals that underpinned it,  with various of its protagonists not being able to agree whether its aim was to re-establish the Byzantine Empire or to introduce a liberal enlightened system of the rule of law, it was an exceedingly bloody business, fought with equal ferocity between two armed groups who, save for religious differences, were not culturally dissimilar, allowing Christians and Muslims within Greece to switch sides frequently. Armed captains, such as Odysseas Androutsos, were more concerned with carving out their own independent region of rule rather than adhering to any larger concept of a Hellenic nation state, knowing that the loyalty of most Greeks was a personal one to the leader of the moment who could pay them. Some things never change. As a result he did more deals with the “enemy” than actual fighting.
The flash of swords, the gunpowder smoke of the blunderbuss and the swirl of the foustanella cannot disguise two disturbing facts: with a few notable exceptions such as General Makrygiannis, the Greek protagonists of the Revolution were concerned to a large degree with perpetuating and abrogating to themselves the trappings of Ottoman rule, rather than ruling benignly and inclusively over a “Greek nation.” This is why it is a little known fat that there were at least two bouts of civil war between rival "heroic" captains during the Revolution. Further, our mythologized narrative supposes that the Greeks merely overthrew occupying Ottoman armies. It generally glosses over the often tragic fate of a Muslim civilian population that had, at the time of the great Revolution, been settled in Greece for centuries and which, to put it plainly, was generally massacred by the valorous and humane Greek freedom-fighters.
Take for example, one of the early successes of the revolution, the  capture of Navarino in the summer of 1821. After a long siege and through the mediation of General Gordon, it was agreed that the unarmed muslims in the town would give up their property and be offered safe passage to Egypt. When the surrender took place however, it soon became apparent that the Greeks had neither the intention nor even the means of providing this promised secure passage. When the gates of the city finally opened, a Greek priest, Phrantzis bore witness to an appalling crime:
“Women, wounded with musketballs and sabre-cuts, rushed to the sea, seeking to escape, and were deliberately shot. Mothers robbed of their clothes, with infants in their arms plunged into the sea to conceal themselves from shame, and they were them made a mark for inhuman riflemen. Greeks sized infants from their mother's breasts and dashed them against rocks. Children, three and four years old, were hurled living into the sea and left to drown. When the massacre was ended, the dead bodies washed ashore, or piled on the beach, threatened to cause a pestilence...”
This was not an isolated occurrence. A month later, in September, a combined force led my Kolokotrones and Petrobey Mavromihalis captured Tripolitsa.  Historian W Alison Philips tells a horrific tale of mutilation and slaughter  “For three days the miserable inhabitants were given over to lust and cruelty of a mob of savages. Neither sex nor age was spared. Women and children were tortured before being put to death. So great was the slaughter that Kolokotronis himself says that, from the gate to the citadel his horse’s hoofs never touched the ground. His path of triumph was carpeted with corpses. At the end of two days, the wretched remnant of the Mussulmans were deliberately collected, to the number of some two thousand souls, of every age and sex, but principally women and children, were led out to a ravine in the neighboring mountains and there butchered like cattle."
Based on the accounts of one hundred European officers who were present at the scene, and did nothing to intervene, William St. Clair wrote:
"Upwards of ten thousand Turks were put to death. Prisoners who were suspected of having concealed their money were tortured. Their arms and legs were cut off and they were slowly roasted over fires. Pregnant women were cut open, their heads cut off, and dogs' heads stuck between their legs. From Friday to Sunday the air was filled with the sound of screams... One Greek boasted that he personally killed ninety people. The Jewish colony was systematically tortured... For weeks afterwards starving Turkish children running helplessly about the ruins were being cut down and shot at by exultant Greeks... The wells were poisoned by the bodies that had been thrown in…”
Although the total estimates of the casualties vary, the Turkish, Muslim Albanian and Jewish population of the Peloponnese had ceased to exist as a settled community after the early massacres. Some estimates of the Turkish and Muslim Albanian civilian deaths by the rebels range from 15,000 out of 40,000 Muslim residents to 30,000 only in Tripolitsa.   According to historians W Alison Phillips, George Finlay, William St. Clair and Barbara Jelavich, massacres of Turkish civilians started simultaneously with the outbreak of the revolt, while Harris J. Booras considers that the massacres followed the brutal hanging of Ecumenical Patriarch Gregory V of Constantinople.
 Finlay has claimed that the extermination of the Muslims in the rural districts was the result of a premeditated design and it proceeded more from the suggestions of men of letters, than from the revengeful feelings of the people.  St. Clair wrote that: "The orgy of genocide exhausted itself in the Peloponnese only when there were no more Turks to kill."
There were also calculated massacres towards the Muslim inhabitants of the islands in the Aegean. This is because one of the aims of the Greek revolutionaries was to embroil as many Greek communities as possible in their struggle. By engineering some atrocity against the local Turkish population, diverse Greek communities would have to ally themselves with the revolutionaries fearing retaliation from the Ottomans. In one case, in March 1821, Greeks from Samos landed on Chios and attacked the Muslim population living in that island. Among the Samian belligerents was an ancestor of mine, Dimitrios Kalymnios. When the Samians withdrew to the safety of their island, the Ottomans descended upon defenceless Chios and carried out an atrocity that horrified the rest of the world: the massacre of Chios.
Understanding the massacres and brutalities inflicted upon the civilian Muslim population of Greece in no way diminishes the right of the Greek people to take up arms to liberate itself. However, the inclusion these into our national narrative of the Revolution would be the mark of a mature nation that rather than demonising others, accepts that all people, regardless of race, or history, are capable of depredations against their fellow humans. Our revolutionary leaders can be admired for their determination, fearlessness, strategic acumen or valour. However, they were not supermen and unless their virtues are considered in conjunction with their greed, lust for power, self-interest, duplicity and cruelty, then we are viewing them out of context and not contributing in any way towards understanding how we are the fractious, anarchic, corrupt and yet amazingly endearing and tolerant nation we are today.
Recognising the massacres of the Greek Muslims, rather than tallying up Ottoman atrocities and seeing who committed more crimes and is thus ultimately “worse” has another effect. By decrying brutality in all its forms and not seeking to justify or excuse it, we pull the rug under the feet of those nations who would deny large scale massacres and genocide by blaming the victims of similar activities. Greece today, despite its troubles is a nation that embraces its minorities in a way that its rivals are unable to do so, simply because while historical complexes exist, these do not stand in the way of humanity and compassion.
The final word, if there is one, goes to Theodore Kolokotronis, who in his account of the fall of Tripolitsa, was unrepentant to the last: “When I entered Tripolitsa, they showed me a plane tree in the market-place where the Greeks had always been hung. "Alas!" I said, "how many of my own clan — of my own race — have been hung there!" And I ordered it to be cut down. I felt some consolation then from the slaughter of the Turks. ...”
First published in NKEE on Saturday 6 April 2013.