by Despina Skenderis*, member of IHA

Over the many years that I have lived here in the United States, I have found out that many people do not know much about ASIA MINOR or they are rather confused about the few things they know.

Many Americans of Greek descent have told me that the little they know about “Asia Minor” is from conversations at home since it has never been taught or mentioned in any of their classes at school.

I will mention one rather interesting incident that happened in the late 1990s. It was during the month of December when Andy Rooney of “60 Minutes” talked about who Santa Claus was. He said that Santa was Saint Nicholas…a TURKISH bishop!

Needless to say that I immediately protested electronically and urged friends to do the same.

a. In Islam there are no…bishops, and b. the land Saint Nicholas was born in in 270 AD, was NOT Turkish at the time. The area was Greek.

Well, two weeks later Mr. Rooney apologized for his error on the air, in a rather arrogant way, being upset with “Greek-American viewers who complained”, as he said.

Oddly enough though, years later, on Dec. 6, 2009, I came across an article written by the Catholic News Agency stating the SAME thing! Quote: “On Dec. 6, the faithful commemorate a Turkish bishop in the early church,” etc., etc. I have brought with me some copies of that article for anyone who would be interested to look at…Two weeks later, and after many of us protested, the article on their website was corrected!!

Tonight, I will not narrate history. Rather, I will refer to historical events as I talk about the Asia Minor Greek heritage, what we have inherited from the Greeks of Asia Minor, via names and stories from as far back as the antiquity.

So, let’s start at the…beginning!

Here is a map of Asia Minor with the names of regions/states in the antiquity

The name ‘ASIA’:

In Greek mythology Asia, ΑΣΙΑ, was a Titan goddess in Lydia, Λυδία, one of the regions/states as you see on the map. Titans, Τιτάνες, were a race of powerful deities, θεότητες, descendants of Gaia (Γή) and Uranus (Ουρανός). The Titans were overthrown by a race of younger gods, the Olympians, during a Τιτανομαχία. (War of the Titans). When this region was conquered by the Romans, ‘Lydia’ became a province of the Roman Empire with the name ASIA.

The name Asia Minor was given to the area as we know it, by the author Παύλος Ορόσιος, Paul Orosius in the 4th century AD. We also hear the name…Anatolia when referring to this region. Constantine the fourth, emperor of the Macedonian dynasty of the Byzantine Empire in the 9th century AD, referred to Asia Minor as “ανατολικόν θέμα”, Eastern thema, (from the Greek words anatoli: east, [from where the sun rises…] and thema: administrative division, placing this region, Asia Minor, to the East of Byzantium, while Europe was lying to the West. Ανατολή – Anatoli then became Anatolia, and the Turks call it Anadolu. You might come across an etymology Turks give to the word “Anadolu”: ana in Turkish means Mother, dolu means “full” and the word Anadolu is interpreted as …Mother’s full embrace.         

Being from or having roots in that part of the world…

Several years ago, when I went to a party at a friend’s house, the host introduced me to a lady from out of town saying: “This is Mrs. Crist, and this is Despina Skenderis”. Within seconds, Mrs. Crist said: “Are you from Asia Minor? Μικρασιάτισσα είσαι;”  ..I was stunned. I thought…where did this come from… “Yes”, I told her, “But how did you know? We just met”! Her response was: “It’s your name; Despina. It is a very common name among Greeks from Asia Minor and almost all Despinas have roots in that part of the world”.

And yes, my father was born in Αμισσός – Amissos, now known as Samson, or Samsous on the coast of the Black Sea, in Πόντος – Pontos. He was not Πόντιος – Pόntios though…. His grandparents had moved there from Καισάρεια – Caesarea of Καππαδοκία – Cappadocia (Today’s Kayseri). They were Καραμανλήδες – Karamanlides. I will get back to the word Karamanlis….

My mother was from Προύσσα, Proussa – now known as Bursa. Where the city got its name from? In 202 BC, Philip the 5th of Macedonia (NOT Philip, Alexander the Great’s father…HE was Philip the 2nd and lived much earlier), …so Philip the 5th who won a war in the area where Proussa is, granted the city called Κίος – Kios at the time, to Προυσσίας -Prussias, king of Βιθυνία – Bithynia (you see the region on the map) for helping Philip in that war against –Πέργαμος – Pergamon and Ηράκλεια η Ποντική – Heraclea Pontica. Then king Prousias renamed the city after himself, as PROUSSA.

My parents on the day after their wedding. My mother wearing her «Δευτεριάτικο φόρεμα» -the 2nd Day Dress- as it was customary to do.

Pergamos was in the state/region of Μυσία – Mysia…close to the coast, and exactly across from Μυτιλήνη-Mytilene (Lesbos). Ηράκλεια Ποντική, was a port on the southern shore of the Black Sea founded by the Greek city-state of Μέγαρα – Megara in Πελοπόννησος – Peloponnese, around 560 BC. Heraclea was named after Ηρακλής – Hercules.

As about the name of the city Αμισσός or Samson as it is known today where my father was born… Here is how the name evolved from its ancient name: the phrase “I ‘m going to Amissos” was.. ‘πηγαίνω εις Αμισσόν῾ . …Eις Αμισσόν became εις ‘αμσόν, ‘ς ‘αμσ’όν and then Σαμσόν. The same thing with Constantinople:  Κωνσταντινούπολη, η ΠΟΛΗ, was THE City. So, I am going to the CITY…πηγαίνω εις την Πόλιν – εις την Πόλ’, εις ταν Πόλ , Istanbul!    Smyrni: Εις Σμύρνην- εις Σμύρν’ – Izmir in Turkish.

What about the word Καραμανλής/ Καραμανλήδες I mentioned earlier? The Dynasty of the Karamans, emigrated to the area, the provinces of Σεβάστεια – Sebasteia (today’s Sivas) and Καππαδοκία – Cappadocia, from Azerbaijan during the 13th century. They expanded their territory, fought many wars with the Ottomans and the Karamanid state was eventually terminated by the Ottomans in 1487. The name of the Karamans though has remained to this day. “Karamanle” is a person from the Karaman area, meaning Cappadocia. The suffix “lɝ” in Turkish means “from”.  Through centuries of Turkish occupation, we adopted that suffix and made it “lis” since there is no “lɝ” sound in Greek. So, Karamanlis is someone from the area of Karaman, just like we call Ρήγας Φερραίος- Rigas Ferraios – Ρήγας Βελεστινλής– Rigas Velestinlis , meaning  from the town of Βελεστίνο-Velestino.

The sea has always played an important role in Greece’s history since it’s surrounded by water. The ancient Greeks were active seamen seeking opportunities for trade and founding new independent cities at coastal sites across the Mediterranean Sea. By the seventh and sixth centuries B.C., Greek colonies and settlements stretched all the way from western Asia Minor to southern Italy, Sicily and North Africa.

The cities along the coast of Asia Minor prospered. They cultivated relationships with other affluent centers like Sardis in Lydia, which was ruled by the legendary King Croesus in the sixth century B.C. By this time, those cities, the eastern Greeks, controlled much of the Aegean Sea. They established other independent cities to the north along the Black Sea, and trade in the area gave them access to valuable raw materials, such as gold.

After the military campaign of Alexander the Great (r. 336–323 B.C.), more extensive trade routes were opened across Asia, extending as far as Afghanistan and the Indus River Valley. These new trade routes introduced Greek art to cultures in the East, and also exposed Greek artists to different styles and techniques, as well as precious stones. Emeralds, rubies, and amethysts were incorporated into new types of Hellenistic jewelry, more stunning than ever before. In the following centuries, the Greeks continued to live in these eastern regions and always maintained contact with the Greek mainland.


11th century  BC: Greeks colonize the eastern coasts of the Aegean Sea

10th century BC: Greeks found Μίλητος – Miletus, not far from the island of Samos.

The city of Miletus -Μίλητος became known for the great number of colonies it founded. It was considered the greatest Greek metropolis and Μiletus had founded more colonies than any other Greek city. By the 6th century BC Miletus had founded 75 colonies!!!  Among them were Αμισσός, Σινώπη – Sinopi, Τραπεζούς – Trapezus, and many more. Sinopi’s name in Turkish is…Sinop, Trapezus’ is Trapzon, Miletus’ is… Milet after deleting the last two letters from its ancient name. It just happens though that in Turkish, Milet means …people, κόσμος, λαός.

Thales of Miletus, Θαλής ο Μηλίσιος  (634 – 546 BC), the Greek philosopher who is considered the founder of science- being referred to as the Father of Science- of mathematics, geometry and philosophy and a skilled astronomer, was from Miletus. And according to Ηρόδοτος – Herodotus, Thales predicted the year of the May 28, 585 BC solar eclipse!!

10th century BC: we also have the origin of the Homeric poems

700 BC: Greek colonization spreads to southern Italy around 650 BC. The first Greek coins are minted by king Αλυάττης – Alyattes of Λυδία – Lydia, father of Κροίσος – Croesus,  and Miletus begins founding colonies both by the Black Sea and elsewhere in the Mediterranean 

657 BC: the city/state of Megara founds Byzantium

Greeks had actually gone as tradesmen to as far as the Sea of Azoff, and as early as the 7th century BC. The Sea of Azoff –Αζοφική Θάλασσα – is a bay of the Black Sea between Russia and the Ukraine, a rather shallow sea that looks like an “enclosed” lake. The ancient Greeks had named it «Μαιώτιδα λίμνη» Maeotian Lake after the Μαιώτες- Maeotians, a tribe that lived in the area.

The emigration effectively ceased in the 6th century by which time the Greek world had, culturally and linguistically, become much larger than the area of present- day Greece. Greek colonies were not politically controlled by their founding cities, but they did retain religious and commercial links with them.

So Greeks have been living in Asia Minor, in today’s Turkey, for over 3,000 years.

When the Ottoman Turks conquered the area, names of many cities have been changed or …semi-changed to sound “Turkish” as I have mentioned earlier. Some have not, like Amasya (I still write it with –ei instead of y) Amaseia -Αμάσεια, or Marmara – Μαρμαράς, Kutahya – Κιουτάχεια, Menemen -Μενεμένη, and others. And some geographic areas still bear their Greek names since the ancient times.

Let’s start with the Black Sea.

Greek colonies at Black Sea

Στράβων – Strabo who was born in 64 BC in Amaseia, not far from the Black Sea, was a Greek historian, philosopher and geographer. In his 17 volume «Γεωγραφία» (Geography), Στράβων reports that the Black Sea was called O Πόντος – O Pontos which actually means ‘The Sea’. Later it was called Εύξεινος Πόντος – Euxeinos Pontos, the…Hospitable Sea. The word Εύξεινος (ευ= good + ξένος= stranger) replaced an earlier name, Άξενος Πόντος – Axenos Pontos, Inhospitable Sea, a name first found in Pindar’s writings –Πίνδαρος was a Greek lyric poet from Θήβα – Thebes (5th century BC).

Στράβων thinks that the Black Sea was called “inhospitable” before the Greek colonization because it was difficult to navigate, and because its shores were inhabited by savage tribes. The name was changed to “hospitable” after the Milesians – people from Μiletus-Μίλητος – had colonized the southern shoreline, the area we now call Pontos. As about the name “Black Sea”, there are several theories about it. The Black Sea is the world’s largest meromictic basin where the deep waters do not mix with the upper layers of water that receive oxygen from the atmosphere. That means that oxygen is prevented from reaching the deeper levels, and that makes the water appear darker.

Meromictit – μερομηκτική means “partially mixed” while

Holomictic-ολομηκτική means “totally mixed”

Another theory is about the intense fog that develops over the Black Sea, absorbs the light, and makes the water appear black. And/or because it was a Sea of Death. Sailors of long ago, if caught in a storm, usually died because of the absence of islands at which to harbor, and of the ferocity of the storms that hit it.

I mentioned the land named Pontos. Pontos is the “strip” of land on the southern coast of the Εύξεινος Πόντος/the Black Sea.

The region was first spoken of as the country εν Πόντοι, a country on the [Euxeinos] Pontos”, in “the Expedition of Cyrus”, by Xenophon – Κύρου Ανάβασις του Ξενοφώντος. 

The Ανάβασις/Expedition was later used by Alexander the Great as a field guide.

Xenophon of Athens who lived from 430 to 354 BC was a Greek historian, soldier, mercenary, philosopher, a contemporary and great admirer of Socrates.

On our way to the Aegean Sea…

We first go through τα Στενά του Βοσπόρου – the Bosporus Strait. Τhe word Bosporus means “the passage of a cow”. Βούς = αγελάδα and πόρος = πέρασμα.

The daughter of the King of Άργος (Argos in Peloponnese) Ιώ – Io, had an affair with Zeus. Zeus’ wife Ήρα -Hera found out about it, became furious, and Zeus turned Ιώ into a cow to protect her from his wife. Hera though made her husband deny the affair and convinced him to give HER the cow. Hera then put the cow under the supervision of a giant, a relative of hers, who had…100 eyes all over his body.

At the time, the cow was around Μυκήνες – Mycenae, in Πελοπόννησος – Peloponnese, and then went to the island of Εύβοια – Euboea. This is how Eύβοια got its name: ευ= good and βους= cow, so Εύβοια means the good cow, or the place with a lot of cows. While in Ευβοια, God Ερμής- Hermes put the giant to sleep and killed him. Zeus’ wife Hera, still seeking revenge, sent a horsefly to torment Ιώ, the cow. The cow kept moving from place to place and it finally went to the Euxeinos Pontos- the Black Sea passing through the strait that we call Βόσπορος -Bosporus, the passing of the cow. Today Ιώ – Ιο is known as a natural satellite or moon of the planet Jupiter, Ζεύς – Zeus in Greek!

We then enter Προποντίδα – Propontis, also called Sea of Marmara

Προ (pro) means before, and Πόντος – (Pontos) means Sea. So ΠΡΟποντίς means before reaching THE Sea, THE Pontos, THE Εύξεινος Πόντος, on the way there from Greece. Τhe name “Sea of Marmara” takes its name from the Marmara island, rich in sources of marble. (Μάρμαρον- marmaron meaning marble in Greek).

Continuing our journey, we now enter HELLESPONT or the Dardanelles strait…

To control navigation between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean, the Dardanelles and Bosporus straits have always been of immense strategic and commercial importance through history.

Ελλήσποντος = Pontos (sea) of Elli – Hellespont

Φρίξος– Phrixos and Έλλη – Elli were son and daughter of King Athamas of Orhomenos in Βοιωτία (Boeotia in Central Greece). Their stepmother who was jealous of them, conspired to have them killed by having them sacrificed to the Gods for the famine that had hit the kingdom. The famine though was caused by the stepmother herself. She had all the seeds roasted so that they wouldn’t sprout. Then their real mother, cloud goddess Nefeli – Νεφέλη (νέφος = cloud) sent a winged ram whose fleece was of gold – κριάρι με το χρυσόμαλλο δέρας- to rescue them. The ram took them on its back and flew from Greece all the way to Colchis – Κολχίς (in today’s Georgia by the Black Sea).

On the way there, Elli fell into the sea and the sea was named after HER: Ελλήσποντος– Hellespont.

As about the name Δαρδανέλλια/Dardanelles…..it is derived from the name of the ancient city of Δάρδανος-Dardanus on the Asian shore. Dardanus, son of Zeus and Electra, left his home Αρκαδία – Arcadia in Peloponnese after the big flood, that of Δευκαλίων/Deucalion, equivalent to the Biblical flood, when the peaks of mountains had become islands. Dardanus and his people settled in Τρωάς – Troas, the peninsula where Troy was located, and built the capital city of Dardanus north of Troy. One of Dardanus’ sons, Ζάκυνθος – Zakynthos, was the first settler on the island later called Zakynthos in the Ionian Sea. There are operas on the story of Dardanus first performed in 1739 in Paris.

So much about the antiquity…

We read and talk about Βυζάντιο – Byzantium, the Byzantine Empire. The empire took its name from the small town of Byzantium, founded by Greeks in 667 BC. It was founded by the people of Megara and they named it after their leader Βύζας – Byzas. Later, on May 11, 330 AD, the city of Byzantium was renamed Constantinople to honor Constantine the Great, later Saint Constantine, who ruled the Roman Empire for 31 years (306-337 AD). He actually named the city after himself – as it was so often done in antiquity – and the name means ‘the City of Constantine’.

Νόμισμα με απεικόνιση του Βύζαντα, 161-180 μ.Χ., Αρχαιολογικό Μουσείο Κωνσταντινούπολης – This is a coin showing Βύζας and it’s at the Archeological Museum in Constantinople.

When the Roman Empire fell in 476 AD, or rather its western half did, its Eastern half would come to be known as the Byzantine Empire and would endure and often flourish for 11 centuries! It’s the forgotten empire that rescued the Western civilization. The story of the Byzantine civilization is not much talked about; it is something of a void. Yet, for more than a millennium, Byzantium reigned and actually shielded Western Europe from invasion for centuries.

When Europe fell into the Dark Ages and literacy all but vanished in the West, Byzantium made primary education available to both sexes. With all the wars with tens of thousands of slain warriors, ruthless grasping of power, assassinations and all kinds of scheming, contrary to what is believed by many, it was Byzantium that preserved great gifts of the classical world. Of the 55,000 ancient Greek texts in existence today, 40,000 were transmitted to us by Byzantine scribes, as Lars Brownsworth writes in his book “Lost to the West” published in 2009.

Many books about the Byzantine Empire have also been written by the historian known as Steven Runciman. His full name is Sir James Cochran Stevenson Runciman (7 July 1903 – 1 November 2000).

It should be mentioned that thirty nine years after the fall of Constantinople, Christopher Columbus discovered America using a translated Byzantine text of Ptolemy’s Geographia.

Ptolemy’s name in his mother tongue: Κλαύδιος Πτολεμαίος (Claudius Ptolemy) Greek of Egypt, Roman citizen (100AD – 170AD)

Constantinople fell to the Ottoman Turks in 1453. Most of us talk about the 400 years of Turkish occupation. For some regions of Greece, it’s more than that. Thessaloniki for example was conquered 11 years earlier than Constantinople and was liberated in 1912. So Thessaloniki was under the Turkish occupation for 480 years, not only…400!

The war for the independence of Greece started on March 25, 1821. Still, in 1803, 18 years earlier in the month of December, an event took place that is both impressive and chilling at the same time, to this day: 60 women of Σούλι – Souli (a village up in the mountains of Ήπειρος – Epirus) threw themselves and their babies down the gorge from the top of Mount Zalongo (altitude: 700 meters or 2296 feet), rather than to be captured by the Turks. They did this, one after the other, while singing and dancing. It is known as The Dance of Zalongo – Ο χορός του Ζαλόγγου.

A similar incident occurred again 19 years later, in 1822. This time in Νάουσα – Naousa. Women with their children got onto the bridge of the Αραπίτσα – Arapitsa river and threw themselves down onto the cataracts in a gorge, again for the same reason.

This is the monument in Naousa, reminding us of what happened back then.

Now back to Asia Minor about a similar event….

Πάφρα – Bafra is a town very close to the city of Amissos. It was built by the people of Militus back in the 9th century BC under the name Αλυασσός -Alyasus, having been built on the banks of Halys – Άλυς, the largest river in what is Turkey today. It was Pericles the Athenian who in 436 BC, when he visited Amissos and the surrounding area, changed the town’s name from Αλυασσός to Πάφρα to honor Paflas or Pafras, son of King Phineas of Bythinia. Pafras made his kingdom rich and strong and when people wanted to refer to the citizens of that area, they would say “the descendants of Pafras”- in Greek: “γόνοι του Πάφρα”, thus the name Παφλαγόνες – Paflagones.  Also, according to Christian recordings, Amissos and Pafra were the first towns that received the first Christian preaching by Apostle Andrew, the First-Called (Πρωτόκλητος). In 1912 Pafra became the Greek Orthodox Seat of the Diocese of Zelon (Zelon – Ζήλων: Ζηλίτις Χώρα, ancient geography – got its name from the town Zela –Ζήλα), with its first and last bishop Efthymios Agritellis who was captured, tortured and killed by the Turks on May 29, 1921.

With the population exchange in 1923, from the 56,000 Greeks that lived in Pafra, only 25,000 moved to Greece. The rest vanished either in exile or were killed while fighting the Turks, and way too many were burned alive by Turks who set Greek Orthodox churches on fire with Greek people who had tried to find refuge inside.

Close to Pafra and on the west side of the ‘Αλυς – Halys River, there is a huge vertical “rock” like a small mountain, about 500 feet tall.

On its top there is an old castle built in 650 BC. Until 1680 AD it was called “the castle of the “Alys River.”

It was THERE, 140 years BEFORE the Greek revolution in 1821, that 30 young girls, not wanting to be captured by Turks, there, in Asia Minor, killed themselves by jumping off that cliff. Since then, the castle is called Kiz koulesi (in Turkish), meaning the girls’ castle, and the Alys river is called Kizilirmar, the girls’ river.

A very good friend of mine in Washington, a poet who is very well known both here in the U.S and in Greece, Χριστόφορος Αγριτέλλης- Christopher Agritellis (died on November 24, 2013) wrote a poem about the Girls’ Castle. Christophoros was born in Athens but his roots are from Mytilini and Asia Minor. He studied Physics and Math in Athens and came to the U.S. in 1959 for graduate studies. He moved to Washington DC in 1977 where he worked for NASA. Christophoros has several collections of his poems published and the publication Αιωλικά Γράμματα – Aiolikά Grάmmata in Greece writes about him and his poetry very often. As a matter of fact, the December, 2010 issue, was dedicated to Χριστόφορος Αγριτέλλης.


Christophoros Agritellis wrote it in March of 1992 and Αιωλικά Γράμματα had it printed on its cover:

Και νά που όλος σιμά μου ήρτε

και κλωθογύριζε μέσα στο είναι μου

του ήλιου ο πόνος.

Κι ως νά ‘τανε τσαμπί στ’ αμπέλι

που άγιο μεσημέρι το γυροφέρνει

και θεριεύει μέσα του

ο πόνος για τη γέννα μεσ’ σε θείο μεθύσι,

κι η γή βογγά ωσαν γυναίκα να γεννήσει

κατέβαινε στα μέλη μου μια ευφροσύνη για το πνέμα.

Τί ήσουν εσύ Ελλάδα που με βόηθας

σε κείνες τις στιγμές

και μέσ’ στο είναι μου μονάχη

κατοικούσες κι εκαρτέρας.

Ανάλαφρα, μέσα στις ρίζες του νερού

πλένοντας ένα προς ένα τα ιερά μου σκεύη

κι άγγελός μου και προστάτης

μέσα απο τα σύνορα του χρόνου

ήρτε το φώς σου πάλι.

Τί είπα; Το φώς τούτου του κόσμου έχει βρωμίσει

και ‘γγίχτηκα απ’ της κόλασης την πράξη.

Ολάκερος ο στεναγμός μου

δέν μπορεί να τον καθαρίσει.

Τί; ποιός θα με διδάξει τα όσα

ο νούς κι η καρδιά μου

μέσα σε θεία νύχτα

μ’ ορμηνεύουν τώρα.

Μ’ αυτό το ποίημα ο ποιητής εξιδανικεύει αυτόν τον τόπο, δημιουργώντας σ’ αυτόν έναν παράδεισο αγνότητας και αρετής, όπου το Ελληνικό πνεύμα υψωμένο σε μιάν ανώτερη σφαίρα ύπαρξης διασώζει και διατηρεί τα αγαθά της γήϊνης προέλευσής του, κι όπου τα πάντα μετουσιώνονται σ’ έναν ύμνο των αρετών του Ελληνισμού.

Η Μικρασιατική Καταστροφή – The ASIA MINOR CATASTROPHE 

So much has been written about that awful era…American Ambassador to Turkey, Henry Mongenthau, wrote the book “The Murder of a Nation”. The US Council General George Horton wrote the book “The Blight of Asia” in 1926. “The Great Betrayal” by E.H. Bierstadt. Many reports of eye witnesses like Stanley K. Hopkins of the Near East Relief, by Mr. G.W. Rendel of the Foreign Office, and countless more, let alone books written by people who survived that menace, their children and grandchildren, like Χάρης Τσιρκινίδης – Harry Tsirkinidis’ book “We Finally Uprooted Them”, a phrase attributed to Kemal Atatoürk, having said it on August 13, 1923.

The Greeks of Asia Minor lived there since the ancient times, were Greeks by identity, by their roots, their language, their religion, their traditions, their civilization, regardless of the fact that they did not live within the borders of mainland Greece, or the fact that they were not Greek citizens. They were educated, sure of themselves, they would compare their Greek identity with other ethnicities and would make their choices in life always being proud of being Greek. They worked hard, they elevated their standard of living and they were comfortably cosmopolitan by being Greek.

Greek genocide was the systematic killing of the Greek population of the Ottoman Empire from 1913–1923. It included massacres, forced deportations involving death marches, expulsions, executions, and destruction of Christian Orthodox cultural, historical and religious monuments. The Armenians suffered the same. The Armenian genocide was executed during the same period. It is estimated that more than 2.75 million Armenians, Greeks and Assyrians were outright slaughtered or were victims of the “white death” of disease and starvation.

Professor Constantine Photiadis, in his book “The Genocide of the Greeks of Pontos” has included testimonies by consuls of Germany, Russia and Great Britain who describe in detail the torture and massacre of the Greeks during that period. A document by a Turkish official Gemal Nüzhet states among others, that most of the people living in Pafra were burned within their churches. Also, that Moustafa Kemal applauded the bandit gangs he depended on at the beginning when those gangs would steal, torture and kill Christians. It was when he was rebelling against Ferid Pasha who was increasingly hostile to the new nationalist movement led by Mustafa Kemal Pasha which was centered in Ankara. The Ankara government had decided that first the Greeks of the areas of Adabazar and Kandira (a little further up on the map) get slaughtered and then the rest of Pontos.

I mention Adabazar because I happen to know that the father of one of the Board members of Prometheas Hellenic Association, was from Adabazar. Ada means island and Bazar means market. The town is not an… island. It is built on the banks of Sangarios River, it’s surrounded by water and looks more like a town on an island rather than on the mainland.  His father managed to flee to Greece, wished to visit his hometown later in life but never made it.

Note the name “Sakarya”. That’s for Sangarios

As I mentioned earlier, it was not only the Greeks that suffered the Turkish brutality. Removal and deportation of Armenians began from Izmid (Νικομήδεια), Proussa, Adabazar & surrounding areas. The first recorded incidents against the Armenians go back to 1875 when by order of the Turkish government, the Armenian market district at Van is destroyed by fire with great loss to Armenian property, goods and businesses. Van is a town in the South Eastern part of Turkey located on the eastern shore of Lake Van. The official recorded date was April 24, 1915.

Turkish nationalists, the Young Turks as they were called, gained control of the Ottoman government by revolting against Sultan Hamid in 1908. The process of the National Turkish Movement is attributed to Mustafa Kemal (Atatürk), as he was the primary spokesperson and public figure. Their goal was to achieve the Turkification of the Empire by eliminating ethnic Christian minorities such as the Armenians, Greeks and Assyrians.

The expulsion had started as early as 1908, and it was being executed here and there without a concrete plan at the time. The official decision was made in October of 1911 in Thessaloniki at a secret meeting of the leaders of the Turkish nationalists. The Greek genocide started in January of 1913 under the orders of the Triumvirate that ran the Ottoman government, the three Pashas, Mehmed Talaat, Ismail Enver, & Ahmed Cemal Pashas.  Shortly after, the genocide of the Armenians and the Assyrians followed.

First, the Christian men were rounded up and sent to labor battalions in the interior of Turkey, which were essentially “battalions of death”, or were forced into some ditch for execution. My father was in one of those groups as a 15-year-old boy. Out of more than 1310 men and boys of that particular group, only 330 survived only because they fell down before the bullets got to them. 

After eliminating a significant part of the male population, the Turks proceeded to eliminate the rest of the Greek population including the elderly, women, and children. Their plan was to deport the Greeks and Armenians to the interior and expose them to severe weather conditions, hunger, and illness. And so they did.

Mustafa Kemal (Atatürk) was born in 1881 in Thessaloniki which was still under the Ottoman rule. Whatever has been written about him personally is still being debated by historians. Details of his marriage, his religious beliefs, all still not very clear. Much of personal information comes from memoirs of others, both friends and rivals. His first name was Mustafa. His math teacher called him Kemal, which means “perfection” because of his academic excellence. Later in life, when it was required that all Turkish citizens took a surname, he was given the surname “Atatürk”, Father of Turks, for his reforms and his success in creating a modern Turkish country. So his name became Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.

The 1st WW was a disaster for the Ottoman Empire, and the Allies (France, Britain, and Russia) started demanding Ottoman territory. Mehmed VI, the last sultan of the Ottoman Empire, in order to ensure the continuation of his rule, was willing to cooperate with the Allies. Turkey signed the Armistice of Mudros – Ανακωχή του Μούδρου in October of 1918. It was signed on the ship Agamemnon at the harbor of the island of Lemnos.

In the meantime, Mustafa Kemal kept being promoted in the military. Angry with the concessions the Sultan kept making to the Allies, he went to the city of Amissos/Samson to organize the Turkish Nationalist Party and began to form an army.

The day of his landing in Amissos, May 19, 1919, was so important to Mustafa Kemal that not knowing the exact date of his birth, he later put that date on his official documents as his birthdate.

Following Greece’s participation on the Allied side in the summer of 1917, Greece received an order by the Triple Entente (France, Britain and Russia) to land in Smyrni as part of the planned partition of the Ottoman Empire. At the Paris Peace Conference, that opened on January 18, 1919, Prime Minister Venizelos lobbied hard for an expanded Hellas (the ‘Megali Idea’) that would include the large Greek communities in Northern Epirus, Thrace and Asia Minor. The western Allies, particularly British Prime Minister David Lloyd George, had promised Greece territorial gains at the expense of the Ottoman Empire if Greece entered the war on the Allied side. These included Eastern Thrace, the islands of Imbros and Tenedos, and parts of western Turkey around the city of Smyrni.

Five days earlier than Mustafa Kemal’s landing in Amissos, on May 15, 1919, twenty thousand Greek soldiers landed in Smyrni, taking control of the city and its surroundings. Legal justifications for the landings was found in the article 7 of the Armistice of Mudros, which allowed the Allies “to occupy any strategic points in the event of any situation arising which threatens the security of Allies.”

As soon as Mustafa Kemal landed in Amissos/Samsun, he informed the chief officer of state Ferid Paşa with telegram stating “he would never accept the invasion of İzmir…” 

Shortly afterwards, on June 22, 1919, Mustafa Kemal issued the Amasya Circular, the first written document putting the Turkish War of Independence in motion. It declared that Turkey’s independence and integrity were in danger.

Amaseia is not too far from Amissos. On his way to Amaseia, had certain things gone right, history would have taken a different turn. The following story is from from Christophoros Agritellis’ father’s handwritten memoirs. Christophoros’ father, George, was Bishop Efthymios Agritellis’ brother!

Greek guerillas in the nearby mountains had found out about Kemal Atatürk’s planned visit to Amaseia and his route. They decided they could easily assassinate him and his entourage BUT only with permission by their Bishop Εfthimios Agritellis, Ζelon, assistant to Bishop Germanos Karavangelis..

The guerillas sent a monk, Stavros Ioannidis – Σταύρος Ιωαννίδης, to Amaseia to ask Bishop Euthymios about a possible assassination of Mustafa Kemal, and if his answer was YES, to definitely get a signed statement. The monk went to Amaseia, found Bishop Euthymios, and Euthymios did say YES! The monk rushed back, but in his excitement, he forgot to get the Bishop’s signature! He went back to Amaseia to get it. By that time Bishop Efthymios was gone and the monk talked instead to Bishop Karavangelis. His answer was ‘definitely NOT!’

Two years later, Bishop Euthymios was captured by the Turks on Easter Day in 1921. He was imprisoned, tortured and died a month and a half later, on May 29. In 1992 Euthymios was declared a saint by the Greek Orthodox Church and he is remembered on May 29.

Many years later in Greece, monk Stavros Ioannidis visited Bishop Karavangelis in Greece. He asked the bishop if he remembered him at all. When Bishop Karavangelis told him he did not, the monk reminded him of that meeting back in 1919… and Bishop Karavangelis wept! The story was told to Bishop Euthymios’ brother (Christophoros’ father) by Rev. Stavros Ioannides who had since become a priest, on November 12, 1953 at the cemetery of St. Nikolaos’ church in the city of Drama.

Bishop Efthymios was also my father’s bishop; I mean bishop in Amissos when my father was a young boy. As I was growing up, my father would often talk to us about their bishop in Amissos, always referring to him as “our bishop”, – ο Δεσπότης μας – without mentioning his name. Many years later I found out that “our bishop” WAS Bishop Efthymios!

Armenians being marched out of Harput. Red Cross/Burning Tigris
Turkish hangmen and their victims in Aleppo, 1915.
Marching to the interior of Turkey where most of the died.
The massacre of Greeks and Armenians in Trebizond (Τραπεζούντα)
In a 2009 publication titled The Massacre of Pontians published by Eleftherotypia, this photograph is printed with caption “Hanged Pontian woman after her mutilation and decapitation”         

Now, some of the people most of us here know, who were born in Asia Minor:

HOMER, who is said to have lived during the 9th century BC. Most frequently Homer is said to have been born in Smyrni while others believe he was born in Chios. It is also said that his original name was Μαλησιγένης which means “born by Mέλης”- Melis, a river that flowed near Smyrni. Οne can see in his poems that he is familiar with the area around Smyrni. He took the name “Ομηρος” – Homiros -which means…hostage, either because he was blind or because he was taken hostage by the people of the city of Κολοφών – Colophon during a war with Smyrni. Κολοφών is not far from Smyrni; it’s a little further to the south. 

Στράβων – Strabo, the Greek historian, geographer and philosopher who lived from 64 BC to 24 AD. He was born in Amaseia.

Basil of Caesarea of Cappadocia, or Saint Basil the Great, ο Άγιος Βασίλειος ο Μέγας who lived from 329 or 330 to 379.

Gregory the TheologianΓρηγόριος ο Θεολόγος, o Ναζιανζηνός – born in the city of Ναζιανζός- Nazianzus, south west of Καισσάρεια – Caesarea in Καππαδοκία – Cappadocia, Archbishop of Constantinople who lived during the 4th century AD.

John Chrysostome – ωάννης Χρυσόστομος who lived from 347 to 407 AD, was born in Antioch.  Αντιόχεια (today’s Antakya) was built by one of Alexander the Great’s successors, general Seleucus I Nicator – Σέλευκο τον Α’ τον Νικάτορα to honor his father Antiochos.

Sts. Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian and John Chrysostome are the Three Holy Hierarchs in the Greek Orthodox Church.

Aδαμάντιος Κοραής, a scholar credited with laying the foundations of Modern Greek Literature and much more. His activities paved the way for the Greek War of Independence. He was born in Smyrni in 1748 and died in Paris at the age of 84.

More recently…:

Ηλίας Βενέζης – Elias Venezis, a major Greek novelist. He was born in 1904 in Κυδωνίες -Kydonies (today’s Ayvalik, across from the island of Mytilini), and died in Athens in 1973.

Δημήτρης Ψαθάς – Dimitris Psathas, the journalist, author and play writer. Born in Trapezous in 1907 and died in Athens in 1979.

Παύλος Παλαιολόγος – Pavlos Paleologos, born in Constantinople in 1895. He was a journalist, but mostly a great χρονογράφος- chronographos. He died in Athens in 1984.

Κάρολος Κούν – Karolos Koun, the great theater director was born in Προύσα – Proussa in 1908. He died in 1987.

Βασίλης Λογοθετίδης – Vasilis Logothetidis, a significant Greek actor both on stage and in the movies. He was born in 1897 in Μυριόφυτο -Myriophyto, a village close to Constantinople. He died in 1960.

Λάμπρος Κωνσταντάρας – Lampros Konstandaras, a comedian both on stage and in the movies, was born in Constainople in 1913 and died in 1985.

Δημήτρης Μυράτ – Dimitris Myrat, author, actor, director. Born in Smyrni in 1878. He worked a lot with Marika Kotopouli. He died in 1964.

Manolis Andronikos – Manolis Andronikos, a Greek archaeologist and a professor at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. He was born 1919 in Προύσα -Proussa. His greatest archeological discovery was in Βεργίνα -Vergina:  the tomb of King Philip the Macedon, father of Alexander the Great. He died in Thessaloniki in 1992.

Πολυχρόνης Ενεπεκίδης – Polychronis Enepekidis, professor of Byzantine and Modern Greek literature at the University of Vienna and author of several books. He was born in Amissos in 1919.

Ηλίας Καζαν (-τζόγλου)Elias Kazan, the well-known movie director here in the US. He was born in Constantinople in 1909 and died in 2003.

Αριστοτέλλης Ωνάσης – Aristotle Onassis known to so many people around the world, was born in Smyrni in 1906 and died in Paris in 1975 at the age of 69. His father Σωκράτης -Socrates had moved to Smyrni from Καππαδοκία- Cappadocia, and as a successful shipping entrepreneur, he was able to send his children to prestigious schools. Aristotle Onassis spoke four languages at the age of 16. After the Great fire of Smyrni his family fled to Greece as refugees, after having lost 4 uncles and one uncle’s whole family, burned alive in a Greek church in Θυάτειρα – Thyatira, a city further to the north.

Γιώργιος Σεφέρης – Georgios Seferis, the distinguished Greek poet, essayist, and diplomat who won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1963. He was born as Γεώργιος Σεφεριάδης in 1900 in Βουρλά – Vourla close to Smyrni and died in 1971. (The town of Βουρλά is called Urla in Turkish. Notice that it’s the same name after deleting the letter B).

There are many more well-known Greeks – επώνυμοι Έλληνες from Asia Minor. Generally Mikrasiates – Μικρασιάτες were the upper class in Asia Minor, good businessmen, educated and very well to do. Music and dancing were important elements of their lives and through the ages they created a special and unique cuisine known to this day as Μικρασιατική κουζίνα – Cuisine of Asia Minor. After the Great Catastrophe, when they went to Greece as refugees with only the cloths on their back, they carried with them their music, their dances, their foods, their traditions. They practiced them, passed them down to their children and grandchildren and are being kept ‘alive’ to this day.

May I add here that when I was growing up it was not “easy” to be a Mikrasiatis. It was even worse with my parents’ generation. You were looked upon as someone “inferior”, a second-class citizen, someone that maybe was half a…Turk. Not anymore! Now it is rather…fashionable to be a Mikrasiatis to the point that some people whose roots have nothing to do with Asia Minor, pretend that they are from that part of the world, from that culture which was more refined, had more class and therefore is respected more. 

1923. The horror of the 1922 complete catastrophe and the “Population Exchange”:

This is a benign term and it does not in any way depict the horrors of forced marches, the executions, the atrocities that occurred, the burning of properties and people…

A few years ago, an article with this as its title, “Population Exchange of 1923”, was submitted to the Mediterranean Quarterly Journal (published by the Duke University Press) to be included in one of the issues. It was approved by another editor, and when I, as an associate editor, read it, I totally rebelled!!!! All through the years it was Professor Stavrou* the one who would give the final approval for the articles to be published, based mainly on accuracy, but during that time he was dealing with serious health problems and he let another editor handle it.

I sent a letter to Prof. Stavrou at…midnight being totally upset, thinking that he had somehow…approved it! The impression the reader would get would be…well, all of a sudden the allies decided that people would be better off living with their “own”, Greeks with Greeks, Turks with Turks, and thus arranged this…population exchange. There was only one line in that article that mentioned “a war” that preceded this exchange. Prof. Stavrou read the article for the first time and he immediately withdrew it.

*Professor Nicolaos Stavrou died on December 29, 2011


The Greeks of Asia Minor were good in just about everything and so were the musicians by trade.

We all know the instrument called bouzouki. Its roots go back to the antiquity and both bouzouki and tambouras – ταμπουράς are descendants of an instrument called pandourίdion – πανδουρίδιον:

Ταναγραία κόρη με πανδούρα (πανδουρίδιον)

The word “bouzouki” comes from the Turkish work “bozuk” which means ‘broken’, not functioning’, χαλασμένο, because its music sounded weird to Turks. They called it…”the broken” instrument.

Τhe bouzouki , an instrument with three strings, was first commercially recorded not in Greece, but in America, in 1926. In 1932 the first true bouzouki solo was recorded by Ιωάννης Χαλικιάς – Ioannis Halikias, in New York, and…in October of 1932, in the wake of the success of Halikias’ recording, which was immediately met with great success in Greece, Μάρκος Βαμβακάρης – Markos Vamvakaris made his first recordings with bouzouki. Μανώλης Χιώτης –  Manolis Chiotis modified the bouzouki, adding a fourth string and utilizing electric amplification.

Μπαγλαμάς – Baglamas is a similar instrument but much smaller than the bouzouki.
The word means “to tie”, δέσιμο.
Τζουράς – Tzouras (double the size of baglamas)

THEN it’s the lyra…

Lyra of the ancient Greek
Byzantine lyra
Earliest known depiction of lyra in a Byzantine ivory casket (900 – 1100 AD).
(Museo Nazionale, Florence)

The Pontian lyra

The Cretan lyra

There is a difference in the way the Pontian and the Cretan lyra are played. The Pontian lyra player plays as he walks around in a circle of dancers holding the lyra from its top, while the Cretan player sits down, puts one of his feet on a stool, rests the instrument on his bented knee and plays.


The music of Greece is as diverse as its history. Greek musicis of two forms:Traditional music and Byzantine music with more eastern sounds. These compositions have existed for millennia: they originated in Greek antiquity and then in the Byzantine period. There is a continuous development which appears in the language, the rhythm, the structure and the melody.

By the beginning of the 20th century, music cafes — café-chantant (singing cafes) were popular in Greek cities like Constantinople and Smyrni, where small groups of musicians from Greece would play. The bands were typically led by a female vocalist and included a violin. They improvised songs, typically exclaimed amán amán, which led to the name ‘amanédhes’ or ‘café-aman’ This period also brought in the REBETIKO movement, which had local Smyrnaic and Byzantine influences.

Rebetiko, the Greek urban blues, born out of sorrow, pain, desire and yearnings, was initially associated with the lower and poor classes, but later reached greater general acceptance as the rough edges of its overt subcultural character were softened and polished. Today not only it is very well accepted, it has become very popular.

The disaster of Smyrna meant the end of the three thousand year Hellenic presence in Asia Minor. More than a million refugees leave for Greece, a land that is familiar to them only barely in language. The populations of Athens and Thessaloniki double. Working and upper middle-class Greeks who had lived comfortably in Smyrna and other towns and cities in Asia Minor, become the bottom rung in a society that can barely take care of its own people. In the cafes and back streets of Athens and Thessaloniki Rembetiko music, Greek Urban Blues, is being played and will have a powerful effect on the music and culture of Greece.

The lyrics tell of the frustration of being poor in a strange land, and the sadness of exile as well as the misery of being reduced to a life of crime and drugs out of desperation and hopelessness. Smyrni, which had been the cultural center of the Eastern Mediterranean, is no longer multi-ethnic or beautiful. The entire city, with the exception of the Turkish quarter, has been destroyed. More than 150.000 Greeks of the Pontus region and more than 400.000 Greeks of the rest of Asia Minor die in the massacres. Of the half a million refugees who don’t go to Greece, about 200.000 Pontian Greeks, go to Russia and the rest are dispersed all over the world.

The word rebetis, is derived from the Turkish word ‘rebet’ which means rebellious, unruly, disobediant. In general terms it means a person who embodies aspects of character, dress, behavior, morals and ethics associated with a particular subculture.

Many of the refugees from Asia Minor, as I have mentioned before, were highly educated, such as songwriter Βαγγέλης Παπάζογλου – Vangelis Papazoglou, and Παναγιώτης Τούντας – Panagiotis Tountas, who are traditionally considered as the founders of the Smyrna School of Rebetiko

As about the αμανέδες – amanethes and the… Turkish sounding music….I remember Harilaos Papapostolou the Protopsaltis of St. Sophia Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Washington DC, its Protopsaltis for 31 years until he died in 1998.

A few months earlier, he had received the National Endowment for the Arts Award for the revival and spread of Byzantine chanting. He had studied music extensively and he would always correct ‘the rest of us’ by saying: “THINK! The Byzantine music was THERE. The Turks came later. If you understand the Byzantine music you will see the similarities between the two types of music: Byzantine and what people… call “Turkish”. So, NO, ‘amanethes’ is NOT Turkish music. It is actually adaptation of the Byzantine music”.

And Manos Hatzidakis summarized the key elements of the rebetiko in three words: μεράκι, κέφι, καημός: love, joy, and sorrow.


Hasapikos: It’s a Greek folk dance from Constantinople and it was dance by the butchers, the χασάπηδες or μακελλάρηδες as they were called back in those days. The dance was also called μακελλάρικος χορός.

Zeibekikos: Zeibeks or Zeibekithes were originally Turkish irregular soldiers who fought against the establishment of the Ottoman Empire for the poor and the impoverished since the 17th century. If you have ever heard of Tsakitzi, he was a Zeimbek and he was considered to be a “Robin Hood” by all poor people no matter what race.

The relationship between the Zeimbeks and the Greeks in Asia Minor was very good before the Mustafa Kemal Neo-Turk revolution. Then they joined the Kemalist troops and during the war from 1919 to 1922 they ferociously fought against the Greeks. 

It is believed that this dance was created by Zeibek warriors high up in the mountains trying to simulate movements of eagles.

Tsifteteli: The word means “double stringed”, taken from the violin. There are suggestions though that the dance already existed in ancient Greece, known as the Aristophanic dance. Αριστοφάνης – Αristophanes was a comic playwright of Ancient Athens. He lived from 446 BC to 386 BC.

Karsilamas: It means Αντικρυστός, across from each other, and it is danced in couples. There are many variations of karsilamas and in some, like in Cappadocia, the dancers use..spoons, two in each hand to add to the rhythm, just like the castanets (play one minute – click here).

Aptaliko: Although the word aptal means not smart, in this case it means informal, even less than informal, like dressed απτάλικα. Here is a more up to date  aptaliko: (play 1 ½ min – click here).


Nonetheless, the Greeks from Asia Minor came “home”. Home though, is a familiar place, a place with memories, a place where ancestors are buried, a place where you are welcome. None of this was true for the πρόσφυγες the refugees. They left a country and a home they loved and came to a place where they were strangers and were disliked. They lived in poverty in towns made up of παράγκεςshacks made of whatever cheap material they could find. The once very prosperous Greeks of Asia Minor were stripped of their wealth, went to Greece only with the clothes they were wearing at the time, and became paupers.

They had lost EVERYTHING except their αρχοντιάnobleness, nobility. They had class, dignity, intelligence, willingness to work, to make sacrifices and they were willing to live. Nobody could take that away from them. It took them some time and against all odds they persevered and prospered again. Along with their pain for loved ones lost, for their χαμένες πατρίδεςlost homeland, they brought with them to their “new home” their customs, their traditions, their cooking! It was their Cuisine, Πολίτικη KουζίναΜικρασιατική KουζίναAsia Minor Cuisine (“A Touch of Spice” – 2006 movie). To eat food without understanding its origin is like eating food without flavor!

Going back again to the Byzantine era, the cuisine at the time was a merger of Greek and Roman foods, later enriched with spices, sugar and new vegetables that trade brought from the East. Cooks experimented and created basically two styles in the process: the Asia Minor one, consisting of Byzantine cuisine always supplemented by trade items, and the leaner style of the Greek mainland.

Salad, yes, salad became very popular and when Emperor Ioannis PaleologosΙωάννης Παλαιολόγος the 8th (he died five years before the fall of Constantinople and he was the last emperor’s – Κωνσταντίνος Παλαιολόγος’ brother) …when he visited Florence in 1439, the Florentines were amazed that he had asked for salad with most of his meals…The Byzantines made different cheeses including anthotyro – ανθότυρο and made famous omelettes called sfougata – σφουγγάτα. And so, the Asia Minor Greek Cuisine was created over the centuries.

Some names of those foods have Turkish prefixes and a Greek suffix. Like γιουβαρλάκια for instance. Yuvarlak means round…-άκια is a Greek suffix. The same thing with σουτζουκάκια. Soujouk means sausage…-άκια the Greek suffix. We do something similar here in the U.S. mixing English with Greek.

BUT the foods that I just mentioned are not known by most Turks. I have been invited to the Turkish Embassy in Washington DC as editor of the Mediterranean Quarterly many times, as were members of the Embassy of Greece. Since I happen to speak Turkish, I have comfortably chatted with Turks and I have asked details about our Asia Minor foods numerous times…They did NOT know them! Those foods and more, were Greek creations by the Greeks of Asia Minor.

Some of the foods the Greeks from Asia Minor took along to Greece were/are…melitzanosalάta taramosalata, κεφτέδες – meatballs…

Κεφτές – keftés (keftéthes in plural): from the Ancient Greek word κόπτω (kóptō) found in Katharevousa, which means cut. Thus: food made with cut meat..
…vegetarian dishes like μπριάμι,
παπουτσάκια – papoutsάkia
…then παστουρμά – pastourma

It is NOT a Turkish word and NOT created by Turks as some think or believe. Turks back then ate plain dry meat, with no spices or flavorings.

etymology: from the Greek word το παστόν (noun), that was in use since 424 BC in the play «Ιππείς». The verb is πάσσω, meaning πασπαλίζω – Also: πάσσασθαι = γεύσθασθαι

Παστά: έτνος (thick soup of peas or beans) αλφίτοις μεμιγνένον (άλφιτα: άρτος, ψωμί).

σουτζούκι – soutzouk

…dishes with bulgur-πληγούρι, dishes with yogurt – that includes trahanά which is very different than the trahanά we know in Greece– πίττες/pies, different than the ones in Greece at the time, ντολμάδες/dolmάthes  and  ντολμαδάκια/dolmathάkia, sweets drenched in syrup, τουρσιά/pickled vegetables, σάμαλι/sάmali, κουλουράκια & κουραμπιέδες from Smyrni, politikos halvas, τσουρέκια /tsourekia, and many, many more!

The people from Pontos had their own special cuisine. Some of their foods are: σορβάς, χαβίτς, ωτία, κιντέατα (τσουκνίδες – nettles), τανωμένο σορβά, ποράνια (beets), πισία and many more!

Pisia – Πισία
Otea – Ωτία
Chapsia – Χαψία
Nettles – Tσουκνίδα

I used to be my grandmother’s helper during the summer when school was out. She made toursi out of vegetables in big ceramic containers, and sweets out of fruits. Toursi/pickled vegetables and fresh cabbage were the only salad we had in winter. There were no greenhouses back then… I would help her make trahanά, our favorite soup in winter (dried outside on clean white sheets), AND my grandmother’s specialty: Manti. Yes, I know, many people make manti…do they?… but …without sounding… biased…my grandmother’s was THE BEST! It still IS! My children and grandchildren absolutely LOVE it. So here are some of my pictures of the manti I learned to make from my grandmother:

My tray takes 250 of these bow-like pieces. There is more to it before it gets to the table…but that’s for some other time. Thank you again for having me, thank you for listening to me….

*Speech given by Despina Skenderis in 2012 and 2013 in N.Y. and in Washington DC. The maps and pictures below were presented on screen in Power Point


Τα άρθρα που δημοσιεύονται στην ιστοσελίδα του ΙΗΑ εκφράζουν αποκλειστικά τους συγγραφείς – μέλη του ΙΗΑ. Η ιστοσελίδα του ΙΗΑ δεν λογοκρίνει, ούτε επεμβαίνει σε άρθρα – κείμενα των μελών του ΙΗΑ.



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