On this day in 1920, King Alexander I of Greece died suddenly at the young age of 27 from an infection caused by a bite from a pet monkey living in the Royal Gardens. According to the bizarre story, King Alexander went for a walk with his dog in the private park belonging to the Tatoi Estate outside of Athens. A monkey attacked Alexander’s dog, a German Shepherd named Fritz. When the King saw this, he ran toward the fighting animals and tried to separate the two from each other. Then, another monkey came and bit the King on his leg and upper body several times. When the King’s servants saw this, they came to his aid and managed to chase away the monkeys. King Alexander had two deep bites that were cleansed, and he was sure that the injuries were not serious and did not want the information about the fight and attack to reach the public. However, the damage was much more severe than he believed as that same evening, both bites became infected. His Majesty’s doctors considered amputating his leg, but none wished to take responsibility in the event that did not solve the problem. The situation worsened each day with the infection spreading throughout his body. Twenty-three days after the attack, the king passed away. Some background on Alexander: he was the second son of King Constantine and Queen Sophia. He became king when his father was forced by the Allies of World War I to abdicate and thereby allow Greece to join them in the war. Shortly after Alexander’s accession to the throne, Eleftherios Venizelos became premier of Greece, dominating Alexander and the government.
On this day in 1971, Theodoros Zagorakis, the Greek footballer turned politician, was born in Athens. Zagorakis first started his career playing for Kavala – where he made 114 appearances between 1988 and 1993. In the 1992–93 season, Zagorakis left Kavala as a winter transfer to join PAOK, part of a string of star transfers made that season. He played for PAOK until December 1997 and captained the squad in his last two seasons. He rose to become an iconic figure for the fans, as he rarely missed a league derby and often scored important goals. He then played on four clubs in the English Premier League, Italian Serie A, and the Greek Super League before serving as captain of the Greek national football team that won the 2004 UEFA European Football Championship. After his long and prestigious career, Zagorakis became president of PAOK in 2007 and immediately started sorting through its troubled financial situation. Seven years later, Zagorakis entered politics and became a Member of European Parliament.
On this day in 1940, Greece began is successful resistance of Italy’s attack in what was to be known as the beginning of the Greco-Italian War. Italy had annexed Albania in 1939 and tension began to grow between Italy and Greece – leading the Greeks to fortify their border with Albania. On October 26, Benito Mussolini demanded that the Greeks turn over territory to him. Ioannis Metaxas told Mussolini that under no circumstances would he agree to an Italian occupation of Greece (this event is the basis of ‘OXI Day’ celebrations). Mussolini decided to invade Greece – which would soon prove to be the commencement of a disastrous military campaign for Italy. Mussolini surprised everyone with the move against Greece – even Adolf Hitler. Hitler denounced the move as a major strategic blunder. According to Hitler, Mussolini should have concentrated on North Africa, continuing the advance into Egypt. Despite the warning, Mussolini moved ahead out of sheer hubris, convinced he could defeat the Greeks in a matter of days. The Greeks succeeded in pushing the Italian invaders back into Albania after just one week and the Axis power spent the next three months fighting for its life in a defensive battle.