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This Week in History: November 6th to 12th

November 8th:  

On this day in 1866, the Arkadi Holocaust took place at the Arkadi Monastery in Crete during the Cretan Rebellion against the Turks. During the Turkish occupation of Crete, the Cretans initiated many revolutionary movements which failed in the traditional sense, but triumphed in strengthening the Cretan morale and hatred against the Turks. During the 1866 rebellion, more than 900 Greeks (mostly women and children) sought refuge in the monastery which is located near the town of Rethymnon. After three days of battle and under the orders from the abbot of the monastery, the Cretans blew up barrels of gunpowder, choosing to sacrifice themselves rather than surrender. The monastery became a national sanctuary in honor of the Cretan resistance and November 8 is a day of commemorative parties in Arkadi and Rethymnon. The explosion of the Arkadi Monastery did not end the Cretan insurrection, but it attracted the attention of the rest of the world. Newspapers from all over the globe printed the story of the battle of Arkadi. Support for Cretans against the Turks was supreme in the public mind and some individuals even paid for a ship, renamed the Arkadi, to send supplies to the island. Articles written by Garibaldi and Victor Hugo honored the dead of Arkadi and many foreigners came to help the people of Crete recover.  

Also on this day in 1977, Greek Archaeologist Manolis Andronikos discovered the tomb of Alexander the Great’s father, Philip II of Macedon, in Vergina – a small Greek village. Under the supervision of English classicist Nic Hammond, Andronikos led a six-week dig around a large mound. The dig uncovered a site of unopened royal tombs hidden by another structure. The main room of Phillip II’s tomb included a marble sarcophagus with a larnax made of 24 carat gold weighing 11 kilograms. On the remains of Phillip II was a golden wreath of 313 oak leaves and 68 acorns weighing 717 grams.  

November 11th:  

On this day in 1990, Alexis Minotis (ne Alexandros Minotakis), the Greek actor, died at the age of 90. Minotis was born in Chania, Crete, the third of 10 children of a fabric merchant. He rebelled against tradition and vowed to become an actor when he saw his first play at the age of 12. After finishing his military service in 1925, he joined a theatre company in Athens and began working with Katina Paxinou – who eventually became his wife. World War II threatened to separate the couple – with Paxinou fleeing to Britain and the United States, while Minotis was captured by the Germans – twice. He finally escaped to Cairo and joined his wife in Los Angeles, where he played bit parts while she had major character roles. In 1946, he appeared in Alfred Hitchcock’s Notorious as well as in The Chase. Some of his other films include: Siren of Atlantis, Boy on a Dolphin, and Land of the Pharaohs. A few years later, Minotis and Paxinou were able to return to Athens to recreate the national theatre, form an experimental company, and travel the world. 

November 12th: 

On this day in 1953, Vasilis Karras, the Greek singer, was born in Kokkinohori near Kavala, Greece. At the age of 10, his family moved to Thessaloniki where Karras grew up and made lifelong friends. In the summer of 1969, Karras made an appearance at a club called Prosfygas in Thessaloniki and made an immediate impact. Even though he was only 16 years old, he became a favorite in the city suburbs due to his distinctive raspy voice. The club owners allowed Karras to sing there on many more occasions and thus a legend was born. In the 1970s, Karras cemented his reputation as a young upstart on the Greek 'laika' (folk songs) stage singing throughout Northern Greece and towards the end of the decade had begun to develop his own repertoire, working with song writers and also creating his own work. However, the 1980s were really the decade when he decided to devote his life and career to folk music and sing professionally. By the 1990s, his unique style and appeal to the Greek public catapulted Karras to national stardom, becoming a legend of folk music in Greece. Before the pandemic hit, he frequently sang at nightclubs in Athens and Thessaloniki and also traveled around the globe to centers of the Greek diaspora, including the United States, Australia, and Canada. 

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