Last Friday, August 13, 2021, my world came crashing down. My beloved father passed away. Selfishly I was hoping against hope, that he would beat the terrible disease, but sadly it was not meant to be. I know he is finally free of pain and at peace, but I am heartbroken that I will not get to spend one other minute with him.
I take comfort in the fact that luckily I have a trove of memories. They will stay and live within me till the day I die.
Oblivious of the blistering June heat, Gaston Maspero, Head of Egypt’s Antiquities Service is unwrapping forty mummies, found five years earlier in 1881 in ‘The Valley of the Kings.’
A plain, nameless coffin, however made out of expensive cedar wood stokes his curiosity. Inside is a male mummy his hands and feet are so tightly bound, the bones are marked. With his jaw wide open, seemingly ‘locked in an eternal blood curdling scream,’ this shocking discovery sends shivers down Gaston’s spine. Henceforward arises the mystery of “The Screaming Man Mummy,” one of archaeology’s greatest enigmas to date.
Daniel Fouquet, a physician; Mathey, a chemist and Gaston, were the first to examine ‘Unknown ManE.’ It was a habit of Gaston to allocate letters to his subjects when he had not yet established a positive identification. Judging from the mummy’s excruciating look, the trios of experts assumed foul play. Mathey’s personal opinion was ‘that he was buriedalive,’ whereas Gaston and Daniel deduced ‘that his death was bypoisoning.’ This speculation lasted for just twenty-six years.
“They let their imaginations run wild”
Grafton Elliott Smith, anatomist (1912)
In 1912, Grafton Elliot Smith, an anatomist, dispelled Gaston and his colleagues’ theory. “They let theirimaginations run wild,” he said. In his book “The Royal Mummies,” he explained the commonality of open jaws by: “the head falls back afterdeath.“ After meticulously re-examining artifacts and deciphering hieroglyphics from the original site, Deir el-Bahari archaeologists have yet to identify this mummy. Three persistent theories to his possible identity emerge.
Could ‘Unknown Man E’ be:
1) A Hittite Prince?
After King Tutankhamen passed away, his widow, Ankhesenamun, had sent a letter to the king asking for one of his son’s hand in marriage. No ceremony ever took place, as the prince mysteriously vanished off the face of the earth.
2) Perhaps a high ranking official who died during one of Pharaoh Ramesses III military campaigns?
In his thirty-year reign, Ramesses III successfully defended his country against three foreign invasions. This may explain why this individual was buried in the same tomb as the great king.
3) Or was it perhaps Prince Pentewere, one of Ramesses III sons?
Not much is known about this individual, other than what archaeologists have discovered written in “The Harem ConspiracyPapyrus.” Throughout his reign, Ramesses III never named a ‘Great Royal Wife.’ Queen Tiye was a secondary wife and wanted her son, Prince Pentewere to ascend the throne. In these papyri: ‘The Papyrus Rollin, The Papyrus Turin and The Papyrus Lee’ — which documents one of the most significant events in Eygptology, — there is a reference to a Prince Pentewere whom along with his mother Queen Tiye and forty others, conspired to kill Ramesses III and the chosen heir to the throne Ramesses IV. The plot failed. Many were tried and executed, others were spared and had their nose and ears cut off, while high ranking officials like Prince Pentewere were given a choice to end their own lives.
Up until 2012, historians believed that Ramesses III did survive the assassination attempt on his life. A team of experts headed by Albert Zink performed a series of examinations including a CT-Scan. Their findings which were published on Dec 17 in The British Medical Journal, revealed a ‘large and deep cut wound in hisneck (that was concealed due to the heavy layering of cloth wrapped around his neck) that must have been caused by a sharp knife or other blade.The cut which severed his trachea, esophagus and large blood vessels would have killed him instantly.’
The contradictions surrounding Unknown Man E’s burial is what has baffled experts over time. He was buried in an expensive coffin along side kings, meaning that the individual was an important person. Yet his coffin was purposely kept nameless. In keeping him anonymous, whoever buried this man, denied him from ever reaching the afterlife. To top it all, this mummy was wrapped in sheepskin. Such garb signified impurity.
“Why such a harsh punishment?” archaeologists have asked.
In Egyptology, when someone died, their soul left their body. Once burial occurred, it would come back to reunite with the body. From then onward the deceased would live happily ever after in the ‘Field of Reeds.’
Mummification, the method of preserving the body for such a journey was a sacred ritual. Once the body was washed with palm wine it was rinsed with water from the Nile. Embalmers would then remove the internal organs which were the stomach; liver; intestines and the lungs, and place them in ‘canopic’ jars. These jars bore the heads of each one of Horus’s four sons. The heart was considered to be the centre of intelligence and feeling; traits needed to guide the soul. Thus it was kept intact. To the naked eye, there was no visible incision on the left side of the abdomen. This meant that his organs were intact, which was unusual, for such a ritual was performed even on traitors!
“Mystery of the Screaming Man Mummy Revealed!“
Earlier in 2008, Egyptian authorities for the first time ever, gave permission for Unknown Man E to undergo a series of sophisticated tests. A CT-Scan; X-Rays; and a full 3D facial reconstruction were carried out under the watchful eyes of Mr. Zahi Hawass, the former Secretary General of Egypt’s Supreme Council of Antiquities and a camera crew.
A) The facial image portrayed a strong handsome face, a prominent nose and a long jaw, which are distinctive features synonymous to Egyptian men. Therefore the theory that this mummy was the Hittite Prince was debunked.
B) It was also established that around the time of his untimely death, this individual was closer to forty and not younger as had originally been deduced. This is consistent with what experts knew to be Prince Pentewere’s age at the time of his death.
C) Genetic studies confirmed that Unknown Man E had the same ‘Y- chromosome as haplotype (E1b1a) and shared half his autosomal DNA with Ramesses III.‘
These results confirmed what some experts had been saying all along:
The ‘Screaming Man Mummy’ is indeed Prince Pentewere.
“With some questions we found the answers to be more ordinary than we thought. But we’ve also answered others and found the answers to be much stranger.”
Dylan Bickerstaffe, Eygptologist
Whether Prince Pentewere died by strangulation or poisoning has yet to be determined. Unlike his three brothers Prince Pentewere, thanks to his zealous ambitions, never got to rule Egypt. However, what he didn’t accomplish in his young existence, he succeeded after death. No myth has lived on for so long as that of ‘Unknown Man E’ or as he was aptly referred to as ‘The Screaming Man Mummy.’
“Now, I really do believe that this ‘Unknown Man,’ is not unknown any more.”
One of the perks of growing up on a small island is that you are never far from the coastline and Malta’s beautiful beaches.
So, with summer around the corner and months-long restrictions that are finally, gradually being lifted off, let’s meander virtually together to Selmun Bay through my childhood Memory Lane.
As I walk down, carob trees adorn every bend of this country lane. The path is narrow and slithers like a snake; hence very few cars travel down this road. The shadows cast on by the umbrella of leaves shield the sun-drenched traveller from the warm mid-day sun. There is not a lick of breeze. Temperatures have easily exceeded the thirty-degree Celsius mark.
The beads of sweat trickling down my face sting my eyes. I pour what is left of my drinking water over my face. The icy water offers instant relief to my discomfort. In this heat, the pungent smell from the wild thyme hangs in the still air and its mint-like aroma flares up my nostrils. The dark brown carobs that have fallen off these trees, all shrivelled up and hardened, are scattered everywhere. The crunching sound of them splitting under the weight of my feet breaks the silence around me. I stop to pick one up and I stick it in the side pocket of my canvas striped blue and white beach bag to show later to my friends.
A carpet of yellow and orange daisies highlights the rocky cliff behind them. Under this glaring sun, the fields look aflame. Unlike the bumblebees that laboriously buzz from one flower onto the next, the crickets are basking in this heat. Their incessant shrill is getting louder now that temperatures have reached their peak for the day. A solitary stone farmhouse stands at the end of my memory lane. Its low lying rock wall that borders all four sides of the property resembles a levy made up of sandbags. The farmhouse is a stone’s throw from my destination, the sandy cove below. Its façade is complimented by an ox-blood rose bush garden and a row of squash that is perched on top of the flat rooftop ledge. The hues of yellow contrasts with the reds, blues and pink off the Barbie and Spiderman linen that hangs limply on the clothesline behind the small vegetable patch. Four citrus trees with their branches weighed down by oranges, take up most of the area in the backyard.
As I start my short descent to the beach, I can smell the hot dogs and burgers cooking on the hibachis. My mouth is watering; my stomach is growling! The tranquillity of moments ago is disturbed by the activity on the beach. Laughter and screams are travelling along with the light offshore breeze. The crystal golden sand is warm and soft under my bare feet. As the tide gently rolls in, sandcastles and forts are slowly washed away. I carefully thread through the maze of towels; plastic buckets and shovels strewn on the powdery sand. I put my bag down and rub the ridged intertwine chain imprinted on my shoulder.
Among the crowds, I search for the voice that is calling my name. I look over and watch as my friends are racing out of the water to come to greet me.
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The dreaded whine of the sirens rouses the islanders from their restless sleep.
“Angela, grab the kids! They’re coming again,” my grandfather yells.
On the horizon, the dark skies are beginning to light up. Sounds resembling thunderclap, drown out the sirens’ whine. The ground shakes violently. Clouds of dust hang in the air. Everyone is scrambling through the rubble trying to get to safety.
“Lord have mercy on us,” someone cries out.
The year was 1942. The island of Malta was experiencing the heaviest bombing in the history of WWII. Malta is Under Siege.
For the citizens of Malta, there is no respite. In the first six months of 1942, there was only one 24 hour period free of aerial bombardments. Terrified civilians took refuge in the underground shelters, scattered all over the island. Some prayed, others silently wept. Anxiously they waited for the onslaught to be over.
Within hours of Italy’s declaration of war, on June 11, 1940, at 06:55 in the morning, Italian air forces launched their first air raid in Malta. At the time, Malta’s defence consisted of just 42 anti-aircraft guns.
Works on the first few underground shelters were completed by the end of June 1940. Within a year there were close to 500 public shelters built (not including the private ones) with another 373 that were under construction.
Shelters in Malta varied in size. The most common type consisted of no more than one small room that was no bigger than the average size living room, but underground. Scantily furnished, these rooms were adorned with a wooden table, two worn-out benches and a couple of chairs. The larger shelters could house hundreds of people. With a medical room (some even had a small hospital incorporated), a warden’s office, a prayer room, a classroom, kitchen and a general room off one narrow tunnel, these shelters resembled honeycombs. Access was through a trap door, then down a short flight of steps.
All the shelters were built out of limestone. Limestone is a sedimentary rock that is part of the island’s geology. It has always been the mason’s preferred choice of mineral to build houses with, as it is soft to cut and once exposed to air, it hardens and becomes weather resistant.
The villages that were close to the ports — which at the time had the largest density of Malta’s population — and the airfields sustained the heavier bombardments. During this intense onslaught — to note, the first few months of 1942, Malta endured 154 days and nights of continuous aerial attack — civilians spent days on end in these shelters. Most of which were in the dark as the main electrical power grid was knocked out. Due to the large amount of time spent in this subterranean environment, civilians were plagued with severe health problems. Scabies, dysentery and tuberculosis were rife. At one point, there was even an outbreak of typhoid.
“…the air was filled with the crash of masonry and the uncanny swirl of the blast. The building above was hit. Clouds of dust penetrated the shelter, smothering and half-choking the shelterers with dust, mostly women and babies and young children. Some of the children were terrified and cried, but their mothers open-eyed and stupefied, calmly dipped their handkerchiefs in a pail of water kept in the shelter for the purpose and put them over the mouths and noses of the babies. Then hugging their youngest to their bosom they muttered a silent prayer.”
Can anyone imagine sharing this environment with more than 200 people? Cowering, in these claustrophobic conditions for weeks on end? Allowed just one square yard as personal space?
All historians agree that Malta was the most bombed place on earth during WWII.
For example: The blitz in London lasted 8 months. During one stretch the city of London was bombed 56 out of 57 days.
In Malta, air attacks lasted 2 years. One stretch consisted of 154 days and nights.
In London Axis carried out 85 major air raids on the city.
In Malta, there were more than 3,000 air raids. (2,000 – 60% of these raids were in 1942 alone)
During April 1942, there were over 282 air raids. It is the largest tally of air raids recorded in a single month. It was also the worst month of the war.
30,000 buildings were destroyed.
50,000 people homeless, which at the time was equivalent to 18% of Malta’s population.
15,000 tons of bombs dropped. That is more than four times the amount of bombs dropped by the Allies in the attack on Dresden, Feb 1945.
6,700 tons of these bombs were dropped in April 1942.
7,400+ unexploded bombs with 5,000+ (73% of the total in 1942 alone)
The total surface area of Malta= 95 sq miles. Malta is just 27kms long x 14kms wide (17 miles x 9 miles)
“There is nothing left to bomb.”
Albert Kesselring, Hitler’s Commander-In-Chief, in his report to the German High Command on May 10, 1942.
Supply ships destined for Malta were all sunk. Allied warships escorting these ships were either sunk or badly damaged. By the end of July 1942, the island was on the brink of starvation. Foods were rationed. The daily caloric intake for servicemen dropped from 4,000 to 2,000 a day. The general population was allowed 3 boiled sweets, half a sardine and a spoonful of jam a day. On many days, none of the above was available.
The date Aug 15, 1942, will forever be remembered and celebrated on the island. Fourteen merchant ships took part in ‘Operation Pedestal.’ Only five of these merchant ships that sailed out of British ports managed to dock safely in Malta’s harbour. The rest were sunk. An aircraft carrier, two cruisers and a destroyer escorting these ships shared the same fate, while another carrier and two cruisers were badly damaged. These badly needed supplies were enough to save the population from starvation.
“Even then I recall it was merciless. Malta was just being bombed. What for? Why were they strafing people?”
a teary Mr Ian McLennan said in an interview given April 9, 2008, to the Maltese newspaper, ‘The Times of Malta’.
Mr McLennan, a Canadian ace fighter pilot was stationed in Malta during 1942. Unfortunately, his plane was shot down by the ground fire while covering the beaches of Normandy. He was taken prisoner on D-Day.
Thinking the island had capitulated, by the end of 1942, enemy attacks eased considerably. Hitler’s and Mussolini’s plans to invade Malta were scrapped.
In the scheme of things what threat did this island in the middle of the Mediterranean sea, pose to the Axis? Malta’s total square area is just twice the size of Disney World. Why was Hitler’s response towards Malta so brutal?
When Mussolini first launched his airstrikes, he expected Malta to capitulate. Malta’s surrender would have secured him with complete control of the central channel, including the power to block the transit routes between the western and eastern basins in the Mediterranean.
Malta’s proximity to North Africa enabled the Allies to launch coordinated attacks on ships en route to supply Rommel’s armies in this region. Between Jan 01, 1941, to May 01, 1942, Allied submarines operating out of Malta sunk close to 400,000 tons of the Axis ships. The courageous efforts of these servicemen helped secure the Axis from ever conquering this region. Many valiantly risked their life, others died. My great uncle’s ship the HMS Neptune hit four mines off the coast of Tripoli on Dec 19, 1941. 764 out of 765 crew onboard perished. The lone survivor was rescued by an Italian torpedo boat five days after the Neptune was sunk.
In all over:
1500 civilians were killed.
3000 people injured
7000 servicemen (including those lost at sea and others that were shot down from the skies) and merchant seamen,
lost their lives protecting Malta. King George VI honoured the people of Malta for their bravery and devotion during these harrowing times. He awarded the island ‘The George Cross’. This symbol has since been proudly incorporated into the national flag.
President Roosevelt who visited the island on Dec 8, 1943, presented the Maltese with a citation that he had signed the previous day. The following is an excerpt from this citation:
“In the name of the people of the United States of America I salute the island of Malta, its people and defenders who in the course of freedom and justice and decency throughout the world, have rendered valorous service far above and beyond the call of duty. Under repeated fire from the skies, Malta stood alone but unafraid in the centre of the sea, one tiny bright flame in the darkness… a beacon of hope for the clearer days which have come.”
President Roosevelt 1943
369 British fighter planes were shot down. Another 64 were destroyed on the ground.
27 Allied warships/merchant vessels were sunk in Malta’s harbours.
532 Axis aircraft downed — 102 of these were destroyed by anti-aircraft guns in April 1942.
It took more than two decades to rebuild the island. For those grieving the loss of a loved one, scars ran too deep to heal. Talking about events during this dark chapter in our nation’s history was too painful for some. With their faraway look and misty eyes, the Maltese including my grandparents stayed silent.
In May 1960, printed in bold lettering, screaming, begging for attention, newspaper headlines across North America read:
“Ponies of Sable Island destined for dog food.”
They succeeded, for this news struck a nerve with an unlikely group of citizens; children. Kids of different age groups and from all over parts of Canada rallied to save the ponies of Sable Island.
Where is Sable Island?
Sable Island is located 300kms off the southeast coast of Nova Scotia, Canada. This crescent shape strip of land is 42kms long and less than 2kms wide. Yet, it is home to Canada’s:
only feral band of horses — population 500+/-
300+ different species of birds — including the Ipswich Sparrow which breeds only on Sable Island
175 species of plants
5 species of seal — including Harbor and Grey seals. With a staggering 400,000 seals including 50,000 pups born every year, the grey seal colony is the largest in the world.
18 species of shark — including the Great White that lurk in these waters to feed on the seals.
Out of all the Atlantic Region provinces, Sable Island is the foggiest and windiest. With a total of 125 days of fog a year, it is no wonder that Sable Island has also the least amount of sun. Daytime temperatures in Summer hover around 25°C and in winter average 5°C, with night temperatures as low as -5°C.
The island’s geology is sand. No trees, rocks or gravel makeup Sable’s topography. Its landscape consists of dunes, freshwater ponds, wildflowers, marram grass and shrub-heath. Considering that one can bury a 10 story building in the sand before hitting bedrock, ‘Sable,’ French for sand truly befits the name.
15 June, 1960
The ponies would have probably ended up being fed to my dog. They deserve to be ‘as free as the wind’ because they didn’t harm us, so why should we harm them?
Daniel Menchak (12 years of age)”
Hundreds of similar open-hearted letters — as the one written by Daniel Menchak,– kids wrote to Prime Minister, John Diefenbaker, helped rewrite Canada’s history books. A new law was passed. By 1961, the wild horses of Sable Island became a protected species under the ‘Sable Island Regulation of the Canada Shipping Act.’
Sable Island Horses
Sable Island has been home to these horses for the past 250 years. Thomas Hancock, a wealthy merchant, shipowner and uncle of John Hancock put 60 Acadian horses on the island in 1760. Nobody knows the reason behind this move. However, around this time, Mr Hancock was hired by the British Crown to assist them in the forcible removal of the Acadian people from Nova Scotia.
Today their population is around 500. These short, stocky horses weigh between 300-360kgs (660-790lbs). They vary in colour and stand on average from 13 to 14 hands. They have a long unkempt mane that looks scrunch dried.
From data collected over the last 10 years, on average 76 foals are born each year, from May to August. Their death rate is around 12.4% which equals around 64 deaths per year.
A typical band consists of the dominant stallion, two or more mares and their offspring. Ponies successfully feed within an hour of birth and nurse for ten months. Some bands may have an additional male member that is less dominant; therefore poses no threat to the head of the herd. To hang onto their bragging rights as head of the family, studs engage in fierce fights with other bachelors. There are between 40-50 herds and each has an allotment area of three square kilometres to graze.
Herds are not so social and tend to avoid each other even at water holes.
The summer months on Sable Island are an oasis of food for the horses. They grow fat feasting on the different types of plants, marram even algae that washes up on the beach. This helps the majority survive the harsh winter months, their only enemy, when food tends to be scarce. Yearlings and the very old are vulnerable and likely to succumb due to the harsher wintry conditions.
“I just couldn’t get over the fact that they were eking out this existence on a sandbar in the middle of the Atlantic. I’ve just total respect forhow tough they are.”
Dr Emily Jenkins Department of Veterinary Microbiology, University of Saskatchewan
From necroscopies conducted by a group of scientists on the island their findings included:
Over time, the horse’s teeth get worn down due to the large quantity of sand they ingest in their diet. Having bad teeth limits their ability to chew their food well which results in a lack of nutrients needed to stay healthy.
Sand can block their gastrointestinal tract.
Horses had a type of bacteria that causes ‘strangles’. This type of virus causes respiratory disease, abortion and the parasite lungworm. The faecal egg counts in the horse’s stomach and intestines were 1500 eggs per gram of faeces which is equivalent to three times higher than that found on a domestic horse.
“I think if our domestic horses had fecal egg counts as high as the Sable Island horses, they would just dropdead.”
Dr Emily Jenkins Department of Veterinary Microbiology, University of Saskatchewan
The Graveyard of the Atlantic
Sable Island used to be referred to as ‘The Dark Island‘ or more appropriately, ‘The Graveyard of theAtlantic.’ There are on record 350 shipwrecks. Thousands of lives were lost in these waters including a dear friend of Alexander Graham Bell in 1898.
Due to the high numbers of shipwrecks, some scientists concluded that the horses on Sable Island may have originated from the sunken ships. However according to an article published online on Sept. 13, 2007, by Oxford University Press titled ‘Journal of Heredity Advance Access’ totally disclaims these rumours. A total number of 1093 horses that included horses from Sable; 15 other breeds commonly found in Canada, along with 5 Spanish breeds were tested. The study proved that these horses shared the same DNA as their 60 ancestors, the ‘Acadian’ breed, who were put on the island in 1760. In the 17 century, the Acadian breed was commonly referred to as the ‘working‘ horse of the Atlantic Provinces.
Before Sable Island was established as a national park, access on the island was prohibited, unless shipwrecked and without written permission. The few (mostly scientists) that were granted permission had to sign waivers against tsunamis, quicksand, attacks by wildlife and sharks. In 2013, Parks Canada assumed responsibility for the management of the island. Sable Island horses are considered a ‘naturalized’ species and are part of the island’s ecosystem.
What is the definition of a naturalized species?
‘An animal in its present habitat for more than 50 years. Consistent with the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada ( COSEWIC) and International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).’
Today, Sable Island horses are protected under the Canada National Parks Act and the Canada Wildlife regulations. These horses are protected from hunting, harm or disturbance. They also do not receive veterinary care. People are not allowed to touch, feed or otherwise interact with them and have to maintain a distance of 20m from the horses.
“Nature is central to Canada’s culture, prosperity and way of life… That’s why the Government of Canada is investing in critical research to better understand the ecological role the horses have on this dynamic ecosystem.”
Andy Fillmore, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Infrastructure and Communities and Member of Parliament for Halifax, Nova Scotia.
To assess what direct or indirect influence the horses of Sable Island have on the dune processes (i.e. erosion), the ecological integrity of freshwater ponds (including rare plants, water quality and invertebrates), and rare species and their habitats (including the Ipswich Sparrow, Roseate Terns and rare or endemic insects), the government is putting fences in specific areas to keep the horses out. The team of researchers will be able to study what effect the horses have on the indigenous flora and fauna.
Today in part thanks to these wild horses featured in documentaries and art galleries all over the world, perspectives toward the island have changed. One look into these horses’ gentle eyes and one can’t help but fall in love with them and the island they call home.
Discover Canada’s National Treasure, the Iconic Sable Island Horses: Free as the Wind
In the literary world, Kostas Karyotakis is regarded as one of the most influential Greek poets of the early 20th century. Yet despite this, throughout his short life, criticism of his work was at times harsh. It was only after his tragic death at the young age of 31, that Kostas Karyotakis’s lyrical voice received its due critical acclaim. He was the first Greek poet to introduce an iconoclastic theme in his prose.
Kostas Karyotakis, was the poet that inspired the revolution of modern Greek literature.
Kostas Karyotakis Early Life (30/10/1896 – 21/07/1928)
Kostas Karyotakis was born in Tripoli, Arkadia, on Oct. 30, 1896. He was the second born, after Nitsa, who was the oldest and only sister, and one younger brother, Thanasis. Due to their father’s profession — Georgios Karyotakis was a regional unit engineer, — the Karyotakis family had no fixed address. Most of Kostas and his siblings childhood was spent living in various cities — Argostoli, Athens, Chania, Kalamata, Larissa, Lefkada, and Patras — across Greece.
Kostas Karyotakis graduated from the Athens School of Law and Political Sciences in 1917, and acquired his licence to practise law in 1919. Scholars attribute that due to a lack of clientele, he gave up his law practise. Instead he applied for a civil servant’s job and was duly appointed clerk for the prefecture of Thessaloniki. Kostas hated his work and is said that he could not tolerate the bureaucracy of the state. He would often lay bare his discontent at the sordid state of affairs through his poetry. This in turn led to his ouster, and various transfers to other postings across Greece.
In 1922, during his tenure in Athens, Kostas met and became romantically involved with one of his colleagues, Maria Polydouri. However, the relationship did not last. Scholars suspect that it was around this time in his life that Kostas found out he had Syphilis. They attribute that Maria regardless of his disease, asked for his hand in marriage, even suggesting for them to have a childless marriage. To her dismay, Kostas Karyotakis turned her proposal down.
According to the late George Savvides (1929-1999), — who was a Professor at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, and had the largest archive of modern Greek writers,– he disclosed that Kostas Karyotakis’s brother, Thanasis, ‘thought the disease to be a disgrace to the family.’
Who was Maria Polydouri?
Just like Kostas, Maria Polydouri had a passion for poetry too, and wrote her first verses when she was 14. In her own rights, Maria Polydouri was an accomplished poet. She is credited to have written most of her best works in the last four years of her life, till her death in 1930 from tuberculosis. Unfortunately, Maria Polydouri is remembered more for her love story with the poet Kostas Karyotakis rather than for her great literary voice.
Kostas Karyotakis Final Days
The last few months of Kostas life were full of angst. This is evidenced from letters he sent to relatives and friends back home. In his last written poem titled ‘Preveza,’ the symbolism of ‘death’ is portrayed throughout most of his verses.
On Jan. 13, 1928 Kostas was elected as Secretary of the Union of Public Employees of Athens. His participation in strike marches led to his last transfer to the regional units of Patras and Preveza. His job in the prefecture of Preveza was to oversee control of land donations from the state to/and rehabilitation of refugees from the Asia Minor conflict of 1922.
Kostas Karyotakis lived in Preveza for just 33 days. He did not care for the provincial life or smallness of the community. Testament to these depressed feelings are reflected in his final personal letters. His family went as far and suggest for him to take a leave of absence and go on an indefinite stay in Paris. They even offered to contribute financially, but Kostas refused their offer, as he was consciously aware of the dire straits their kind gesture would have put them through.
On July, 19, 1928, Kostas Karyotakis went to the beach and tried to drown himself. After 10 hours of failed attempts — Kostas was an avid swimmer — he finally gave up.
“And in order to change the mood, I recommend to those who intend to commit suicide, avoid the method of drowning if you know how to swim. I suffered ten hours in the sea and I did nothing! I swallowed plenty of water and every now and then, I never figured out how my mouth went up to the surface. Definitely, once I have opportunity, I will write the impression of a drowning man.”
According to a witness account, the next day Kostas went and purchased a ‘Pieper Bayard type 9mm pistol.’ Today this pistol, courtesy of the Karyotakis is exhibited at the ‘Benaki Museum in Athens.’ However, after a few hours, he went back to the gun shop complaining that the pistol he had just bought was faulty. Apparently, Kostas had forgotten to switch the safety on ‘off.’
On July, 21, 1928, Kostas Karyotakis went to a local cafe ‘ TheHeaven Garden‘, in Preveza and ordered a sour cherry juice. He asked for a cigarette and a piece of paper, the latter on which he wrote his final thoughts and conveyed his last farewells. Kostas paid a total of 75 drachmas which included the 5 drachmas bill for his juice; the rest a generous tip to the gentleman that had served him his drink.
“It is time to reveal my tragedy. My biggest defection was my anxious curiosity, my illusory imagination and my attempt to know about all the emotions, the most of which I could not feel. However, I hate the act which is bestowed upon me. I only asked for it’s ideal atmosphere, ultimate bitterness. I’m not the right person for that job. My whole past convinces of that. Every one of my realities was abhorrent. I had danger’s vertigo. And the danger that came I will accept with a willing heart. I am ready for an ignominious death. I pray for those, like me, whodidn’t have any ideals in their lives, always stayed adrift of their hesitations, or thought their existence as a game with no meaning. I see them ever coming along with the centuries. That’s who I’m talking to… I’m sorry for my heavy-hearted parents, sorry for my cousins… I was sick…“
Under the shade of a eucalyptus tree, in Vathi, Margarona, Kostas Karyotakis shot himself in the heart. Today this place is currently the 8th Infantry Division’s fuel camp.
In 1970 a commemorative marble plaque was placed by the Preveza Touring Club. It reads:
” Here on July 21, 1928 with a sphere in his heart, found peace the poet Kostas Karyotakis“.
When asked about the absence of Kostas Karyotakis’ s works from the house he rented before his death, his landlord Penelope Lygouri, is quoted as saying;
“at home Mr. Karyotakis had no books but some papers which after his death I didn’t know were poemsand threw away.”
According to extensive research that George Makridis did on the life of Kostas Karyotakis, his opinion was that Kostas “did not commit suicide because of his misery of living in preveza but more out of fear of being hospitalized in a psychiatric clinic, which at the time was the case with all Syphilis patients in the final stage of the disease.”
Kostas Karyotakis’s Prose Collection
By age 16, Kostas Karyotakis had already participated in various literary contests and some of his poems were even published in children’s magazines.
When You Came
1st collection of poetry titled:
The Pain of Men and Things
The Calf – A satirical magazine in collaboration with his friend Agis Levendis. This publication was well-received however it was banned after just 6 issues.
2nd collection of poetry titled:
He also wrote a musical revue titled:
Song of Madness — From it’s verses scholars suggest that Kostas Karyotakis during this time was suffering from Syphilis.
The Ash Beyond the Horizon
Varium et Mutabile
Elegy and Satires
When We Get Down the Stairs
Apart from poetry, Kostas Karyotakis’s works, also included translations of foreign scholars such as; Francois Villon, Charles Baptiel, Paul Verlaine, Tristan Corbier, Zan Morea and Heinrich Heine.
To date, Kostas Karyotakis’s works have been translated into more than 30 languages and form part of the Greek national education curriculum.
Did You Know?
‘Karyotakis‘ is a Greek TV production directed by Tassos Psarros. The series which aired in 2009, is a biography of the poets life from his infancy right up to his tragic death. To date this award-winning TV series is regarded as one of the best Greek productions.
Best Drama Series
Best Male Actor
Best Production Design
Kostas Karyotakis had an impact on the next generation of Greek poets. Seferis, Ritsos Vrettakos are among Greece’s modern day influential poets that adopted ‘Karyotakism’ into their prose.
Kostas Karyotakis lived in an era that was marked by tragedy, political strife and hard economic times. Through his prose Kostas Karyotakis laid bare his personal emotions, his struggles along with “the pain of a changingworld,” fellow Greeks of his generation were going through at the time.
“I’m leaving with my conscious clear.”
Kostas Karyotakis Greece’s National Poet and Lost Son.
All rights reserved.
Images courtesy of;
Kostas Karyotakis’s Portrait by Alexis Fassianos
Museum of Arts and Sciences of Epirus, Harry Gouvas- image of Kostas Karyotakis with his sister, nephew and friend.
The Holy Week starts on; Palm Sunday (Hadd il-Palm); followed by The Passion of Christ (Il- Gimgha l-Kbira); and ends with Easter Sunday ( Hadd il-Ghid), which is one of the most important liturgical festivities in the Christian fate. It also happens to be the most referenced event in the New Testament. For Christians worldwide, Easter Sunday is a day of feasting following Lent, and joyous celebrations honouring the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Many countries have their own signature Easter traditions. Most notably in North America is The Easter Egg Hunt enjoyed across many households throughout the continent. Rooted in Maltese culture, a tradition that has been celebrated by many generations is the gift-giving of the Figolla or Figolli, (plural) to our children and loved ones. As was customary when we were kids, the final event of the Holy Week festivities was marked by the blessing of our prized figolla by the parish priest.
What is the Figolla?
On the Maltese islands, the Figolla is the most sought after traditional Easter food. This treat is enjoyed not just by kids but adults alike. The Figolla is a flat baked sweet pastry — that comes in different shapes and sizes,– with a marzipan style almond filling, sandwiched in-between. It is covered with icing sugar or melted chocolate and topped with a chocolate egg. In the old days, their various shapes were synonymous with Christianity. Crosses; baskets; fish; lambs; stars and hearts, were very popular moulds. However, over the years newer forms of no religious significance such as; mermaids, cars, and butterflies have also been added.
Where did the Figolla originate from?
There are different theories to the origin of the Figolla. Some reference its symbolism — the ritual of fertility celebrations — to date back to pagan times. Nevertheless, Dr Noel Buttigieg, a lecturer at the Institute for Tourism, Travel and Culture at the University of Malta, attributes the tradition of the Figolla in the Maltese culture to date back to the second half of the 18th century.
Did you know?
The common belief is that this sweet biscuit originated from Sicily. After all the word: ‘Figolla,’ is a derivative of the Italian word ‘figura’ or ‘figulina’.’ Both translate to Figure. While it no longer features in Sicilian culture, in Malta this tradition has endured and evolved over the years.
When the almond filling was introduced and adapted into the Figolla traditional recipe, it gained popularity with the Maltese.
The shape of a basket represented fertility.
Figollas can be stored in a cool dry place, shrink-wrapped for up to one month.
Figollas are only available in Malta around Easter.
Generations ago, the Maltese used to adorn the figolla with hand-dyed hard-boiled eggs. Today, the original eggs have been replaced by the commercial chocolate ones instead.
The process of dyeing the eggs consisted of;
Boiling the eggs together with their choice of vegetables or citrus peel to obtain their desired colour palette.
For example to obtain;
a) an oxblood red, beets were put in the water;
b) blue, red cabbage leaves;
c) green, fresh spinach leaves;
d) brown, coffee or onion skin;
e) and yellow, citrus peel.
The vivid colour was and remains a signature feature of the Figollas decor. To obtain a darker hue, once cooled, eggs were left in the dyed water overnight.
I confess I am not a baker. I have never baked my own. But, as every Maltese can attest and agree with me, we have always been spoilt for choice. Figollas are available to buy from just about every coffee shop, grocery and convenience stores, confectioneries, even bakeries that are scattered all over the Maltese islands.
So, next time you are visiting Malta around Easter, this mouth-watering sweet pastry is a must-try. If you would like to try and bake your very own, please click on the following Figolla Recipe, that I came across throughout my research. The choice was hard. Too many contributors have their versions and in all honesty, they all look very appealing. However, in my opinion, if this is your first attempt, I found this recipe from one of Malta’s culinary blog to be very informative. Various contributors who bake their own, suggest this recipe is relatively simple to make.
Word of Caution! Figollas can be addictive. So if you are conscious of calorie intake, for just one day break your own rule. This Sunday enjoy feasting on the local cuisine and il-Figolla:Malta’s Centuries-Old Traditional Easter Pastry.
While I may not have agreed with everything Ms Daphne Caruana Galizia wrote, I always respected her integrity during her 30 years of reporting.
For her relentless quest for justice, against what she described as systemic abuse of power and endemic corruption in Malta, Ms Daphne Caruana Galizia was brutally silenced. On Oct. 16, 2017, the ‘one-woman WikiLeaks’ as she was dubbed by Politico was assassinated.
Is freedom of speech in Malta at risk of extinction? Typically, it is revered when political rhetoric requires defense, yet conveniently dismissed when those same narratives are challenged. Character assassination and hate speech are now an occupational hazard for unbiased journalists doing their job. One may look no further than the vicious smears directed at Ms Daphne Caruana Galizia before and deplorably after her untimely death.
In my lifetime, Malta has progressed from a Mars bar banning jurisdiction, to being ranked 3rd in the EU for economic growth in 2019. Despite this evolution, some things in this country never change. Personal gains exchanged for political support is a decades old tradition steeped into our national psyche. The reputation this nation worked so hard to achieve, has been tarnished by the greed and self-serving interests of a select few.
With the caveat of innocence until guilt is proven, the recent allegations resulting from Ms Daphne Caruana Galizia’s investigative reporting, are too damning to be ignored. After reading the latest headlines, will the sceptics who denied the abuse of power and corruption, acknowledge the accuracy of her reports? Confronted with reality, I wonder what those who vilified this woman and destroyed her makeshift memorial, have to say for themselves now?
In light of Daphne’s courageous crusade for transparency and accountability, President Roosevelt’s words about our nation echo:
“… it’s people and defenders, who in the course of freedom and justice and decency throughout the world have rendered valorous service far above and beyond the call of duty … One tiny bright flame in the darkness – a beacon of hope for the clearer days …”
While I cannot imagine the sorrow her loved ones experience, I wish them peace.
The Acheron River is legendary among students of Greek mythology and ancient history. Its surrounding landscape and unique biodiversity attract naturalists from around the world. This blend of myth and majestic beauty has earned the Acheron River the coveted top spot for natural wonders in Epirus, Greece.
Come and discover Acheron; The River of Woe in Epirus, Greece. Your epic journey to the ‘Gates of Hades ‘ starts here.
THE ANCIENT MYTH
According to Greek mythology, the Acheron was one of 5 rivers that also included the; Styx, Lethe, Phlegethon, and Cocytus, that crisscrossed and flowed around the Underworld. The Acheron was the most prominent, for the ancient Greeks believed it to be the entrance to the realm of Hades — the Underworld.
The Underworld represented the destination of the soul after death. Subject to position and how one lived their life, the Underworld held the promise of these main destinations;
Isles of the Blessed
Elysium was reserved for the nobility and for anyone who committed an act of bravery. It was considered to be a paradise.
The Isles of the Blessed were islands that formed part of Elysium. The souls in Elysium were given the choice to stay or be reborn. Those who opted for the latter, and were reborn three times over and sent to Elysium each time, were rewarded with eternity on the Isles of the Blessed.
The Asphodel Meadows was reserved for the souls of those individuals who did not commit serious crimes or achieve greatness to merit entry to Elysium.
The Mourning Fields were the destination for those who wasted their lives chasing a love that was not returned in kind.
Tartarus was many levels below the Underworld. It was described as *’being as far beneath the Underworldas the earth is beneath the sky‘. Zeus banished the Titans to Tartarus for eternity.
THE RIVERS OF THE UNDERWORLD
The names of the rivers of the Underworld reflected beliefs with respect to the afterlife.
Styx. The ‘River of Hate‘. While the river Styx is better known, many of the legends attributed to it originate with the Acheron. Swearing upon the name of the river Styx was considered to be an unbreakable oath. Those foolish enough to break this promise were made to drink from its waters, which in turn left them mute for 7 years.
Lethe. The ‘River of Forgetfulness‘. Any soul that drank from the waters of the River Lethe, had their memories from their prior existence erased. This ritual was administered to the souls that were destined to spend their eternity in the Asphodel Meadows.
Phlegethon. The ‘Riverof Fire’. According to Plato, this river led to the depths of Tartarus. Souls that were banished to Tartarus, were tortured in the boiling waters of the Phlegethon.
Cocytus. The ‘River of Lamentation‘. Like the Phlegethon, the Cocytus flowed through Tartarus. In this river, the punishment of murderers was undertaken.
Acheron. ‘The River of Woe or Pain’. Some historians attribute the name to a combination of 2 Greek words;
Achos — meaning sound
Reo — meaning flow
‘The river with the powerful flow’.
While thoughts may cost a penny, the price to cross the Acheron to gain entry into the Underworld, was an ‘obol’ (a coin) paid to Charon, the ferryman of Hades. Only upon receipt of payment would Charon transport the souls of the newly deceased in his skiff. The coin was placed over an eye or under the tongue by their loved ones prior to burial. As the myth goes, those unfortunate souls who were unable to pay were left behind to roam the banks of the Acheron for eternity.
DID YOU KNOW?
Entry to the Underworld was denied to the living, Although according to legend, Hercules is said to have visited and returned. The souls of the dead who roamed its domains were also prohibited from ever leaving.
Oceanus. According to the beliefs of the ancient Greeks, Oceanus was the largest river. It lapped at the edges of the underworld and circled the earth as they knew it.
WHERE IS THE ACHERON RIVER?
The Acheron River is in the prefecture of Epirus, northwestern Greece. It is 64 kms (39.77 miles) long and its source is near the village of Zoliko on the southwestern regional unit of Ioannina. The river’s path travels through mountain gorges, pristine lakes and pasture land before reaching the village of Ammoudia, where it empties into the Ionian Sea.
Throughout its journey, the Acheron River’s palette, features white cliffed canyons, vine-green forests, and verdant fields on its way to meet a cerulean blue sea.
The middle course of the Acheron River flows through a narrow gorge between the Souli and Paramythia mountain ranges. Acheron Springs is near the village of *Glyki, in the prefecture of Thesprotia. The natural springs that feed the Acheron and the ancient landscape can be visited here.
*Glyki is 414kms from Athens
44kms from Preveza
25kms from Parga
The best way to discover the springs is to walk along the paved and gravel trail that skirts the northern riverbank.
For the more adventurous wading through the refreshing waist-deep waters, will safely bring you to the heart of the gorge where you can;
touch the imposing white cliffs
listen to the thunder of the underground river
feel the vibrations from the rush of water behind the rock face
catch a glimpse of the sunlit azure pools
The riverbed is covered with smooth pebbles that are visible through the crystal clear waters.
Pack water shoes.
Bring a waterproof bag to pack your camera or phone.
You will thank me later!
Enjoy your frappe, and spanikopita from the local bakery at one of the picnic tables scattered along the river’s edge. Listen to the tranquil gurgling of the water as it meanders by.
For anyone interested in alternative tourism such as rafting, kayaking, or canoeing there are individual and group tours organised from the village of Glyki.
Small boat excursions of the lower river are available in the village of Ammoudia.
Today Acheron River forms part of the Natura 2000 environmental protection program. It encompasses around 4630 acres of land. The rich ecosystem and unique landscape provides a perfect habitat for hundreds of species of flora and fauna.
The river supports over;
500 species of plants and trees, including; sycamore, oak, ash, and willow,( see the amazing nightingale nests hanging among the branches of the willow trees)
190 species of birds, including; Dalmatian pelicans, Golden eagles, Common buzzards, Levant sparrowhawks, Bonelli’s eagles, nightingales
The river is also home to otters, beavers, turtles, and a wide range of amphibians and fish species.
And much more…
Submerge yourself in history and walk the riverbanks of legend. The Acheron River will captivate you with a natural beauty that you can immerse your senses in and will continue to flow through your memories long after your visit.
Come and Discover Acheron, The River of Woe in Epirus, Greece.
*The Complete World of Greek Mythology by R.G.A. Buxton