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Opinions

This week in History: January 3rd to 9th

January 2, 2020

January 3rd:

On this day in 1911, Alexandros Papadiamantis, the influential Greek novelist, journalist, short story writer, and poet died of pneumonia on his native island of Skiathos in the western part of the Aegean. He has been referred to as the father of modern Greek literature. Papadiamantis studied in Athens as a teenager, eventually enrolling in the School of Philosophy at the University of Athens. However, he never received his degree due to economic reasons. His father was a priest and believed in the simple life. Papadiamantis shared the same philosophy as his father – he did not care much for money and would often ask for lower fees if he thought he was getting paid too much for his various assignments. His stories provided lucid and lyrical portraits of country life in Skiathos, or urban life in the poorer neighborhoods in Athens, with frequent flashes of deep psychological insight. He never married and was known to be a recluse, whose only true cares were observing and writing about the life of the poor, and chanting at Church; he was often referred to as ‘kosmokalogeros’ (‘a monk in the world’). Many of his works have been translated to English and can be found on Amazon.com. Papadiamantis’ house in Skiathos Town was bought by the Greek State and has been turned into a museum.

January 6th:

On this day in 1850, the Don Pacifico Incident, also widely known as the Don Pacifico Affair, took place. This event typified the approach to foreign policy taken by the long?serving British Whig foreign secretary and future Liberal prime minister Lord Palmerston. When the Athens home of Don (David) Pacifico (a money-lender) was attacked by an anti?Semitic mob (injuring his wife and children), Palmerston insisted that the Greek government honor Pacifico’s grossly exaggerated claim for compensation, and ordered the Royal Navy to blockade Piraeus in order to ensure compliance. Don Pacifico was a Portuguese Jew who claimed British subject status on account of having been born in Gibraltar, and Palmerston used this tenuous claim as a pretext for naval action which settled a number of existing disputes between the British and Greek governments. His heavy?handed response proved highly controversial at the time, and is widely held to have been a classic example of gunboat diplomacy.

January 7th:

On this day in 1934, Tassos Papadopoulos, the Cypriot politician and lawyer, was born in Nicosia, Cyprus. After studying law at King’s College London and Gray’s Inn, Papadopoulos returned to Cyprus to practice law. Papadopoulos was always drawn to politics and participated in the island’s political life. He was eventually elected as the fifth President of Cyprus and served the country for exactly five years – from February 28, 2005 to February 28, 2008. Papadopoulos has been described as a “hardline champion of Greek Cypriots.” In 2004, he urged the Greek Cypriots to vote against the UN-backed reunification proposal – the Annan Plan – with Turkish Cyprus. While Turkish Cypriots voted to accept the plan, Greek Cypriots overwhelmingly voted to reject it, and, as a result, Greek Cyprus alone was admitted to the European Union in May of 2004. Papadopoulos, an avid smoker, ultimately died of lung cancer in 2008. Almost one year after he was buried, his corpse was taken from his grave. At the time, news sources said that police described the act as “highly organized” – the body snatchers shifted a heavy marble slab encasing his tomb and dug through several feet of dirt to reach the corpse before covering their tracks with lime. Three months after the act of sacrilege the body was found in another cemetery in Nicosia after the police received an anonymous tip that the body had been moved there. DNA testing confirmed that the body was indeed the late president’s corpse.

January 8th:

On this day in 2006, a strong 30-second earthquake with a magnitude between 6.7 and 6.9 occurred in southern Greece, off the coast of the island of Kythera. According to reports, the shock was felt in a spatially extended area that covered Greece, Italy, Turkey, Egypt, Cyprus, Israel, Syria, Jordan and Lebanon. Although the quake shook this huge region, its epicenter was at a depth of nearly 40 miles beneath the sea – which likely contributed to the lack of major damage or serious injuries (for comparison, in 1999, a 5.9 magnitude quake near Athens killed 143 people, injured about 2,000 and left thousands more homeless). At the time, a Washington spokeswoman for the U.S. Geological Survey said that scientists projected that as many as six million people may have felt the 2006 earthquake.

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