Monday, August 27, 2012

Letter to the Greek island of Kastellorizo

Αγαπητό Καστελλόριζο,

Ονομάζομαι Χάρης Σαμάρας. Είμαι Έλλην Κύπριος.

Μια φορά και ένα καιρό η Κύπρος ήταν μία αδιαμφισβήτητη Ελληνική ακριτική γη όπως ενωρίτερα υπήρξαν πολλές άλλες… Για πολλούς αιώνες εχθροί την ζήλεψαν… Κανείς όμως δεν ήταν τόσο μεθοδικός και τόσο ανελέητος όσο οι σημερινοί γείτονες της, οι Τούρκοι… Σημειώστε, όσο περίεργο  και αν σας φανεί, δεν μισώ τους Τούρκους… «μισώ» όμως και απεχθάνομαι τον κάθε κατακτητή, βιαστή, βασανιστή και σφετεριστή της κληρονομιάς μου και του μέλλοντος των παιδιών μου…

Ο Ελληνισμός, ο μέγας αυτός πολιτισμός, (η ΙΔΕΑ), βιάστηκε και αυτός ανελέητα… πολλοί προσπάθησαν και προσπαθούν να τον σφετεριστούν… αν και φανερά, συστηματικά και με κάθε ευκαιρία τον βεβηλώνουν και μειώνουν… φόβο προκαλεί στους δυνατούς γιατί γνωρίζουν πολύ καλά ότι, η Ελληνική Σκέψη, η ΙΔΕΑ, δεν έχει σύνορα, πρωτεύουσα ή στρατό… γνωρίζουν πολύ καλά πως ο μοναδικός τρόπος να καταπολεμηθεί είναι η πόλωση και η διαστρέβλωση… η «φίμωση» της κριτικής σκέψης!

Καστελλοριζιανοί αλλά και απανταχού Έλληνες, ο εχθρός είναι εχθρός, πράττει όπως αυτός έχει σκοπό… στη πατρίδα μου όμως την Κύπρο εχθρός δεν θα στέριωνε αν εμείς οι Κύπριοι δεν είχαμε επιτρέψει να αφεθούμε σε άγνοια… αν προτού αφομοιώσουμε τα συνθήματα αντιλαμβανόμασταν την έννοια τους… αν φροντίζαμε εμείς και τα παιδιά μας να αναζητούσαμε την βαθύτερη αλήθεια των πραγμάτων… τελικά, ευκολότερο είναι να φταις τους ξένους παρά τον εαυτό σου για το κατάντημά σου… αν όμως δεν βοηθήσεις εσύ τον εαυτό σου γιατί να σε γνοιαστεί ο ξένος;

Ελπίζω, πραγματικά ελπίζω, ότι δεν θα αφεθείτε από τον Ελληνισμό και την πολιτεία στο έλεος της τύχης σας και των δυνατών, όπως κάποτε αφέθηκε και η ιδιαίτερη μου πατρίδα… Ελπίζω, πραγματικά ελπίζω, πως η πολιτεία θα αντιληφθεί έστω και την υστάτη την τεράστια σημασία που έχει το ακριτικό σας νησί… όχι μονάχα για τους υδρογονάνθρακες που την ποσότητα αλλά ίσως και την βιωσιμότητα τους για την Ελλάδα το μικρό σας νησί καθορίζει… αλλά γιατί επιτέλους ο Έλληνας πρέπει να διεκδικήσει αυτό που δικαιωματικά και νόμιμα του ανήκει, οργανωμένα, μεθοδικά, με τόλμη αλλά και στρατηγική, χωρίς κομματικές σκοπιμότητες… Τότε μόνον οι φίλοι μας θα βοηθήσουν και ο εχθρός όποιος και να είναι θα μας σεβαστεί…

Ελπίζω, πραγματικά ελπίζω, πως και εσείς, ακρίτες Καστελλοριζιανοί δεν θα θυσιαστείτε στον βωμό των κομματικών και προσωπικών συμφερόντων «Ελλήνων» ημιμαθών, «φιλοπάτριδων»…

Μετά τιμής,
Χάρης Σαμάρας

Λευκωσία, 27 Αυγούστου 2012


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Megisti (Kastellorizo) – History brief 

Megisti or Kastellorizo is the most easterly of all Greek Islands. The ancient name of the Island, is probably due to its first settler Megisteas. Another interpretation, however, is due to the fact that the island is the biggest from all small islands spread in the area (Megisti in Greek means bigger). The etymology of its later name Kastellorizo is derived from “castelli” (castle) and “rizovounia” (foothills of mountains). 

Megisti's history can be traced back to Neolithic times. Among the earliest settlers were the Pelasgians or Pelasgoi (pre- 5,000 BC), followed by the Minoans, Mycenaeans, Dorians and Lycians, all of whom left their mark in various ways. Many structures and uncovered artifacts attest to their tenure. 

Megisti's history is intense. It has a rich and glorious past. It played an important role in Greek history as early as its participation in the Persian wars nearly 2,500 years ago when its “Meagre” (albeit important) supplement of boats augmented the fleet of Themistocles in his victorious battle against Xerxes the conquering Persian Emperor. Megisti was also proudly honoring its obligation as a player in the first Athenian coalition. Through the years it has been connected with the Apostle St. Paul, several Saints, the Crusaders, the Johannites, the Byzantines, the Ottomans, various Sultans, Hannibal and other. For a while it was even the home of the cult Zeus Megisteas. 

The island had long navigational importance. Megisti has long been an important navigational way-point for the (ancient) mariners who plied the Arab-Euro sea lanes along the south coast of Turkey. Megisti was hard to miss. 

It was apparent that whoever controlled Megisti (in olden times) would also exert a dominating influence on this vital region of the Eastern Aegean (much like Gibraltar and the Bosporus). For this reason the island attracted more interest than its small size and population warranted. 

At Vigla, there are the remains of the Cyclopean wall built in the Mycenaean era. A sarcophagus found on the plateau of Agios Georgios in 1913 yielded a gold wreath with vine-leaves and grapes, a work of highest artistic value which is now in the National Archaeological Museum in Athens. 

Twenty two looted tombs at the point where the wreath was found date earlier than the 4th century BC. 

On the nearby tiny island of Ro, a tiled tomb of the 11th century was found, together with other objects of the 4th century BC. At that time, Megisti was one of the “Demes of Peraea”. It issued its own coins, which bore the head of Bacchus, crowned with ivy, on one side, and the word “Megisteon” on the other. 

Inscriptions found at the castle of Ai -Nikolas, which, as we know, was built by Sosicles, son of Nicagor, refer to Amios, that is, a man of Amos on Rhodes, who served as overseer on Megisti, and further inscriptions from the old castle give us the names of a number of other Rhodian overseers: Epicrates, son of Anaxicrates, Hexacesticnus, son of Lelius, Agesimachus, son of Hieron, Aeschynus, son of Diander, and Timostratus, son of Eucrates. In the 2nd century BC, the Rhodians sent Eudamus, in command of a squadron of 36 ships, to Megisti in order to prevent Hannibal entering the Aegean. Eudamus succeeded in confining him to Pamphylia. 

In 80 BC it was occupied by the Romans. About 718 AD it became the base for the Saracen pirates. Since the 14th century alone it has had many overlords and suffered many raiders including Italian, French, English, Turk, Arab, Catalan, Spanish, Cycladian, Venetian, Genoan, Neapolitan, Maltese, and German. Its hapless people have been raided, shanghaied, looted, abducted, enslaved, plundered, bombed, evacuated, and resettled many times. In 1943, for instance, British commandos landed on Kastelorizo. They evacuated the whole population to Egypt to protect them from German air attacks. Most of them did not return, but took the British offer to immigrate to Australia, where there are now about 50,000. 

During the period of the Byzantine Empire, Kastellorizo was part of the “Eparchy of the Islands”, the capital of which was Rhodes.

In 1306 the island was taken over by the Knights of St. John Hospitaller of Jerusalem, headed by Folques de Villaret. 

In 1523 it fell to the Ottomans despite its powerful fortifications but the inhabitants secured some special privileges but were under tribute to the Sultan. When the Greek Revolution of 1821 was declared, the island was enjoying great commercial and economic prosperity. It had a considerable number of ships which offered to the cause.

On September 22, 1659 during the war over Crete, the island was conquered by Venice.

Between 1828 and 1833 Kastellorizo joined the Greek Revolution against the Ottoman, but after the end of the Greek War of Independence it returned to the Ottoman Empire (according to the Protocol of London). 

On 14 March 1913 its Greek inhabitants imprisoned the Turkish governor and his Ottoman garrison and proclaimed a provisional government. 

In August of the same year, the Greek government sent from Samos a provisional governor supported by Evzones. But they, too, were expelled by the inhabitants on 20 October 1915.

On 28 December 1915, the French navy led by the cruiser “Jeanne d'Arc” occupied on the island at the behest of a pro-French local party which feared Turkish reprisals. The French quickly blocked another landing attempted on the same day by a Greek contingent of Evzones. 

Turkish shore batteries responded to the French occupation by shelling the island, in 1917 succeeding in sinking the British seaplane carrier “HMS Ben-my-Chree”.

As per the Treaty of Sevres the island was ultimately assigned to Italy. The Italian navy assumed it from the French on 1 March 1921. Megisti, under the Italian name Castelrosso, was then integrated in the possession of the “Isole Italiane dell’Egeo”.

The 1932 Convention between Italy and Turkey, which defined the sea border between the two powers, assigned all the islets of the small archipelago around Kastellorizo except Rho and Strongili to Turkey. 

Finally, Kastellorizo was assigned to Greece with the Paris Peace Treaties, 1947. In May 1945 it was still under British administration, but on September 15, 1947 effectively came under Greek administration. The island formally joined the Greek State on 7 March 1948 together with the other Dodecanese islands.

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