This Past Week in History: March 17th – March 23rd

Nikolas Asimos, the Greek counter-culture composer, actor and singer. (Photo by Eurokinissi/Antonis Nikolopoulos)

March 17th:

On this day in 1988, Nikolas Asimos (né Nikolaos Asimopoulos), the Greek counter-culture composer, actor and singer, died at the young age of 38. Born in Thessaloniki to parents from Kozani, Asimos’ behavior and songs were often received as provocative by the general public. He was a person with strong political opinions and could be categorized as an anarchist – although he never accepted being assigned a specific political ideology. Asimos used alternative means of distribution for his music – mostly tapes passing from hand to hand. He often had problems with the police – particularly during the period of the military junta in Greece (and the consequent restriction on civil liberties). According to some sources, in 1987 Asimos was wrongfully accused of the rape of an ex-girlfriend and was violently led to a mental institution. Shortly afterwards, he was sent to Korydallos prison and was later bailed out. He never managed to overcome his bitterness over this unfounded charge. After two failed attempts, he committed suicide by hanging. His works were discovered posthumously and today he is considered one of the most revered Greek counter-cultural figures.

March 18th:

On this day in 1913, King George I of Greece was assassinated by Alexandros Schinas in the recently liberated city of Thessaloniki. King George was a popular and respected figure among his subjects and in the Greek Diaspora. He ascended to the Greek throne in 1864 and married Princess Olga (Romanov dynasty) in 1867.

The Assassination of King George. (Photo: commons.wikimedia.org)

They had eight children: Constantine, George, Alexandra, Nicholas, Maria, Olga, Andrew, and Christopher. Crown Prince Constantine assumed the Greek throne shortly after his father’s death. In the United States, Atlanta Greeks wore black bands as a mark of respect for their dead monarch. New York Greeks were stunned by the news of the assassination of King George and inquired continually at the offices of the Atlantis newspaper for news updates from Greece. King George’s descendants occupied the throne until the military coup d’état of 1967 and eventual restoration of the Republic in 1973.

March 22nd:

On this day in 1896, Charilaos Vasilakos of Greece won the first modern marathon in three hours and eighteen minutes at the Panhellenic Games. The main purpose of these Games was to help the country assemble the team that would compete in the first Modern Olympic Games later in the same year. Vasilakos ended up being one of the seventeen athletes to start the Olympic race on April 10, 1896. He finished with the silver medal, behind Spiridon Louis, with a time of three hours and six minutes (as one of only nine finishers). Vasilakos, a man with a reputation for honesty and integrity, went on to become a customs director in the Greek Ministry of Finance. To this day, there are annual marathon races in Olympia that commemorate his memory.