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Literature

Billy Cotsis on His New Book, The Aegean Seven

February 21, 2022

The long overdue return of the stolen Parthenon Marbles has been increasingly in the news lately and is the subject of several books. The Aegean Seven Take Back the “Elgin” Marbles by Billy Cotsis presents a revisionist historical fiction approach to the story of the Parthenon Marbles, calling it “Ocean’s Eleven minus Brad Pitt meets Dan Brown, Byron and Thucydides.” The author spoke with The National Herald about the book, his latest film, and his Greek heritage.

When asked how long the process took from idea to publication for his latest book and for his documentary film, Cotsis told TNH: “With the book, it was conceptualized in 2015. My friends and I had just finished making a short film, Draconian Decision of the German Drachma where Germany is poor and Greece rich, and my friends and I thought why don’t we make film where we ‘steal’ the Marbles back. We never made the film, but last year during a lockdown in Sydney, I decided to sit and write it as a novel. Took 3-4 weeks to write in June and July. Edited in August and September by friends in Cyprus and Melbourne and final touches made in LA. Making it a very international book.”

Billy Cotsis. Photo by Ana Marcia

“Magna Graecia: The Greko of Calabria was shot on location in 2018,” Cotsis continued. “We added new elements in 2019 and 2020 with my friend from London, Basil Genimahaliotis. It’s part of a trilogy of documentaries, one in Apulia and one in Reggio, which have already played on TV and at international festivals. We have a contract offer by a distributor for Calabria, though not making a decision yet. We hope to release it in the next few months online. It has played at international film festivals. Its predecessor, Magna Graecia: The Griko of Apulia has won a couple of awards.”

When asked about his Greek roots Cotsis told TNH: “My beautiful parents are from the amazing Lesvos, where I have spent a year of my life, and we also have some heritage from Aivali and Smyrna, which is poignant as the centenary of the end of Smyrna approaches.”

Billy Cotsis was born in Sydney in 1977. He spent almost a year of his childhood in Greece. Upon entering university in 1995, he joined the well-organized and active Greek club, Macquarie University Greek Association. He spent four years learning more about and promoting his own culture before making his way to Greece, again, in 1999. The love affair with Greece was rekindled. From that time onward he has spent most of his spare time researching his own Greek roots from Asia Minor and Lesvos as well as becoming fascinated with the remnants of Greek settlements in countries outside of Greece. At last count, he had made his way to almost 60 countries and 79 Greek nisia. Cotsis is a prolific writer with over 350 of his articles appearing in Greek media in various countries. Since 2012, he has written 17 short film and documentary projects, contributes to a blog https://herculean.wordpress.com/, which features all of his history articles and has written or been involved with six book titles.

Of his latest book, Aegean Seven, Cotsis said, “I wanted to write a story based on the timeline of actual events that led to the theft of artifacts from the Parthenon and other parts of Greece in the early 1800s, a period that coincides with the movement towards the Greek Revolution – the book ends in 1817 as things are progressing for Filiki Eteria.”

“As the journey to recover the Marbles unfolds, the reader will see a few points about the Filiki Eteria and how it came about,” he continued. “I have visited their Headquarters in Odessa, Ukraine, which helped inspire me to draw on the looming Greek Revolution into the novel.”

The Stolen Marbles and artifacts lead to a series of twists and turns that bring together, the ‘Aegean Seven’ to help reunite the artifacts with their homeland. The Aegean Seven is a composite group of Hellenes and Philhellenes, including Lord Byron.

Magna Graecia: The Greko of Calabria is the seventh film collaboration between Basil Genimahaliotis and Billy Cotsis. Photo: Courtesy of Billy Cotsis

Cotsis wrote the novel as a way to draw attention to the fact the Marbles were taken from Greece illegally and need to come home.

He also hopes not to tread on the toes of the Committees worldwide and in Australia who work hard lobbying for the Marbles’ return. “I’m just a writer taking in a range of histories from the era,” Cotsis said. “The Aegean Seven is a novel with some controversy as it involves a reverse heist and some violence. I did not want the novel to be a burden to those who work hard on the restoration committees.”

Following The Aegean Seven, Cotsis, along with his filmmaker friend Basil Genimahaliotis, will release their third Magna Graecia documentary which is set in the Greko towns of Calabria. This is to help raise awareness of this ancient language with a call to action for Hellenes to learn more about the Greko and Griko (in Apulia) and to find ways to support them.

The Aegean Seven Take Back the “Elgin” Marbles by Billy Cotsis is available through the Greek Bilingual Bookshop https://bilingualbookshop.com.au/, on Amazon, Belmore and Kingsgrove Newsagencies.

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