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General News

This Week in History: March 16th to 22nd

MARCH 17TH:

On this day in 1988, Nikolas Asimos (ne Asimopoulos), the Greek composer and singer, passed away at the young age of 38. When he was 18, he moved from Athens to study at the Philosophical School of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. From a young age, his artistic vein was made evident by his participation in theater groups, but his biggest loves were music and the guitar. He became a self-taught music writer and appeared in many Athenian music halls. He often had problems with the Greek police, particularly during the period of military rule – the junta – and the consequent restrictions on civil liberties. Asimos became known as a counter-culture artist – his behavior and songs were often received as provocative by the general public. He had strong political opinions and ideologies – and could have been categorized as an anarchist, but he never accepted being put in a special category of political ideology. In 1987, he was accused of the rape of an ex-girlfriend and was forcibly led to a mental institution. Shortly afterwards, he was sent to Korydallos Prison but was eventually bailed out. He never managed to overcome his bitterness over this charge and his psychological state began to deteriorate. After two failed attempts, he committed suicide by hanging in his house. It is rumored that he kept a diary during the last 15 days of his life in which he described his efforts to find something worth living for. He marked those pages with an ‘X’, which meant that he had not found anything worth living for. The last day that he ‘wrote’ in the diary was also marked with an ‘X’ – which was the day that he hung himself.

 

MARCH 18TH:

On this day in 1913, King George I of Greece was assassinated by Alexandros Schinas in the then- 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. 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 the unrecognized plebiscite for the abolition of the monarchy in 1973 during the junta. The abolition was confirmed in another after the restoration of Democracy in 1974.

 

MARCH 21ST:

On this day in 1920, Manolis Chiotis, the famous singer, composer, and soloist bouzouki player, was born in Thessaloniki. At the age of 14, Chiotis and his family moved to Athens where his father opened a cafe. It was there that Chiotis began his stage career, and one year later, he recorded his first song. The German Occupation eventually became a reality and many record companies in Greece shut down, and it was after this time that he started to gain much popularity. He became known for blending popular folk music (laika) and more modern Greek and international sounds. It is said that Maria Callas and Aristotle Onassis took Princess Grace Kelly to one of Chiotis’ shows. Callas told Chiotis that she had been translating the lyrics for the American actress and that she loved them. It was then that Kelly asked Chiotis what the difference was between a bouzouki and an electric guitar. Chiotis said, “Ms. Callas, please explain to Princess Grace that the strings of an electric guitar are vibrated due to electricity, while the song of the strings of a bouzouki come straight from the heart.”

 

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.

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