February 3rd: On this day in 1830, the sovereignty of Greece was confirmed in the London Protocol. The London Protocol was an agreement that formalized the independence of Greece from Turkey, which was won by the Greeks as a result of the Greek National Liberation Revolution of 1821-30. The Protocol declared Greece to be a fully independent monarchical state. Greece’s independence was guaranteed by the Great Powers (Britain, France, and Russia) which participated in the Protocol and stated that Greece would be under their protection. It has been said that it was at the insistence of Great Britain, which was not interested in overly weakening Turkey, that Thessaly, Crete, Samos and a number of other territories populated by the Greeks were not regarded as part of Greece yet.
Also on this day in 1908, Panathinaikos, the major Greek multi-sport club based in the city of Athens, was founded. The name of the club, which can literally be translated as ‘Panathenaic’ – meaning ‘of all Athens,’ was inspired by the ancient work of Isocrates, Panathenaicus, where the orator praised the Athenians for their democratic education and their military superiority. (However, the original name of the club was actually Podosferikos Omilos Athinon (Football Club of Athens)). The club was originally founded by Giorgos Kalafatis as a football club when he and 40 other athletes decided to break away from the Panellinios Gymnastikos Syllogos following that club’s decision to discontinue its soccer team. According to the PAO website, it appears to be the first football-specific club in Greece. Panathinaikos’ emblem is the clover, a symbol of harmony, unity, growth, nature, and good luck. Ironically, during the first two years of its existence, the PAO colors were red and white. Today, they wear green and white.
Finally, on this day in 1989, John, the Greek-American actor, film director and screenwriter, died at the young age of 59 from cirrhosis of the liver. The younger of two sons of Greek immigrants, Cassavetes was born in New York City. Shortly after his birth, he moved to Greece where he spent his early years. When he returned to the United States at age 7, he spoke no English. His family moved to Long Island where John grew up and attended public school in Port Washington. He later attended Mohawk College and Colgate University before enrolling at the New York Academy of Dramatic Arts, from which he graduated in 1950. Cassavetes was known for being one of the pioneers in the field of independent cinema and even self-financed several films. The income he earned from his acting career gave him the financial freedom to create his own legacy in the independent film genre. He worked in over 75 films during his career as an actor – including Rosemary’s Baby, The Dirty Dozen, and Love Streams. All three of his children followed in his footsteps and became renowned filmmakers themselves.
February 5th: On this day in 1991, a Lockheed C-130H Hercules 748 crashed into Mount Othrys, killing 63 people – 5 crew members and 58 other passengers. The accident was considered the worst of its kind in the history of the Hellenic Air Force. In Greek mythology, Mount Othrys was the base of Cronus and the other Titans during the ten-year war with the Olympian Gods known as the Titanomachy. It was also said to be the birthplace of the elder Olympian deities Estia, Demeter, Hera, Hades, and Poseidon.
Also on this day in 1960, Aris Christofellis, the Greek countertenor, was born in Athens. He began playing the piano and singing opera arias at a very early age. In 1979, he moved to France where he worked with various teachers to develop his unique voice and technique. In addition to lieder and folk songs, Christofellis also sings Baroque opera (with a voice that spans from baritone to high soprano). His debut was in 1984 in Bordeaux and has since appeared internationally in numerous concerts and operas. In 2000, he gave his last live performance and returned to Greece to begin a five-year collaboration with the Greek National Opera. He regularly gives master classes throughout Greece and is a teacher in Italy. From 2009 to 2011, he was the Head of Studies of the Athens Opera Studio, a branch of the Greek National Opera dedicated to teaching a wide repertoire of vocal music to young artists.