On this day in 2001, Antonio (Anthony) Quinn, the Mexican actor who played Zorba in Zorba the Greek (1964), died from complications of throat cancer at the age of 86. Quinn was born in 1915 in Chihuahua, Mexico – the son of freedom fighters in the Mexican Revolution – but his family moved to Los Angeles shortly after his birth. Throughout his life, Quinn had a variety of careers including prizefighter, painter, musician, and preacher. By the time he was 80, Quinn had appeared in more than 150 films (and won two Academy Awards), but was universally identified with his role as Zorba. His full-of-life character, whom he inhabited so completely and comfortably that many of his later parts seemed also to be infused with that character’s spirit, also mirrored his off screen life (evidenced in part by the fact that his 13th child was born when he was in his 80s). Quinn’s other ‘Greek’ roles included playing Aristotle Onassis in The Greek Tycoon (1978), Zorba on Broadway (1980s), a resistance fighter in The Guns of Navarone, and the Greek god, Zeus, on the TV series Hercules: The Legendary Journeys (1990s).
On this day in 1929, Karolos Papoulias, the 6th President of Greece (2005-15), was born in Ioannina, Greece. He attended the Pogonian (Epirus) Elementary School and the High Schools of Pogoniani and Athens. During the Nazi occupation of Greece, he was among the first to join the armed resistance against the invading forces. He studied law at the Universities of Athens, Milan, and Cologne, where he submitted his PhD thesis on Private International Law. The 1967 military coup found him in West Germany and he was among the founders of the Socialist Democratic Union which organized and mobilized Greeks working and studying in Western Europe against the colonels’ junta. Papoulias was also a founding member of the Panhellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) and was continually elected to the party’s Central Committee and held several other high offices during the PASOK cabinets. In December of 2004, then-Prime Minister Kostas Karamanlis, leader of the governing New Democracy Party, and George Papandreou, leader of the PASOK opposition, nominated Papoulias for the Hellenic presidency, which is ultimately chosen by the Parliament. On February 8, 2005, Papoulias was elected with 279 of 300 votes to his first of two five-year terms as President of the Hellenic Republic. Karolos Papoulias passed away in December of 2021 at the age of 92.
On this day in 1825, Odysseas Androutsos, a (controversial) hero in the Greek War of Independence, was executed in Athens. Born in Ithaca in 1788 to an Arvaniti klepht father and a mother from Preveza, Androutsos actually first joined the army of Ali Pasha after the death of his father. However, in 1818, he joined the Filiki Etairia, which was planning the liberation of Greece from the Ottoman Empire. Androutsos is best known for his defeat of Omer Vryonis (a commander of the Ottoman army) at the Battle of Gravia Inn. Androutsos, with a band of 100 or so men, managed to force Vryonis’ retreat after his army of 8,000 men suffered heavy casualties of over 400. Despite his victories for Greece, in early 1825, Androutsos was placed under arrest after being accused of collaboration with the Ottomans. The new commander of the Greek forces, who was once Androutsos’ second in command, ordered his execution on June 5, 1825.