Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Costak a Kouros

A kouros is a statue of a standing nude youth that did not represent any one individual youth but the idea of youth. Used in Archaic Greece as both a dedication to the gods in sanctuaries and as a grave monument, the standard kouros stood with his left foot forward, arms at his sides, looking straight ahead. Carved in from four sides, the statue retained the general shape of the marble block. Archaic Greek sculptors reduced human anatomy and musculature in these statues to decorative patterning on the surface of the marble.

The kouros embodies many of the ideals of the aristocratic culture of Archaic Greece. One such ideal of this period was arete, a combination of moral and physical beauty and nobility. Arete was closely connected with kalokagathia,literally a composite term for beautiful and good or noble. Writing in the mid 500s B.C., the Greek poet Theognis summed this idea up as "What is beautiful is loved, and what is not is unloved." In a society that emphasized youth and male beauty, the artistic manifestation of this world view was the kouros. Indeed, when the poet Simonides wrote about arete in the late 500s, he used a metaphor seemingly drawn from the kouros: "In hand and foot and mind alike foursquare/ fashioned without flaw."

Monday, November 15, 2010

Piracy in Mediterranean

Pirates operated in any remote areas advantageous for them to attack. Piracy was able to operate as a state without immediate reprucussions. In this case it was within the Byzantine Empire. Pirates could find quiet uninhabited areas of an island, build a camp near the water and attack ships as they came by. Or they could go to neighboring islands, surprise attack and return to their hideout. If the attacks were successful, they would probably come back to the same camp. The camp would eventually grow into a village after all the slaves and loot they would bring back.
Arab dynasties from North Africa were known to send out expeditions throughout the Mediterranean. These expeditions were usually preceded by many piratical raids. These expeditions and raids coupled with further expeditions would ultimately result in the complete conquest of certain areas, as was the case of Sicily, Corsica, Sardinia, and coastal areas of France and modern day Italy. Raids by Arabs included raids on Rome during the 800’s and 900’s AD.
In the case of the Arab conquest of Sicily, it was the Sunnite Aghlabids in the 800’s AD based out of Africa Minor (modern day Tunisia) that were responsible for the expeditions. Sicily was an important base for the Moslems, because it brought them closer to the mainland in Europe to conduct further attacks and trade.
Simultaneously, on the other side of the Mediterranean in the east was Crete. Crete was used by the Arab Muslims the same way Sicily was used in the west. The Muslims repeatedly attacked the Greek islands and mainland. Recent archeological findings in Athens have also found a possible Arabic settlement from that era in the 900’s AD.
During the Arab conquest, the islands in the Aegean had turned into pirate lairs for both Arabs and Christian mercenaries. The “profession” of piracy was considered honorable and profitable and was passed from father to son. The word leventes (brave handsome fellow) came from levante, which at the time signified a fearless pirate of the eastern Mediterranean. The east coast of the Mediterranean was also referred to as the Levante (Where the sun rises- from the Latin “levantar” which means to rise) and it included the coasts of Asia Minor, the Middle East and Egypt.
Levante was also what was referred to as the “east wind” in sailing. For educational purposes, here are the other winds and how they were referred to at one time during the middle ages.
Northwest wind: O Maestros
Southwest wind: O Garmbis
West wind: O Pounentes
Southeast wind: O Sorkos
Northeast wind: O Graigos
East wind: O Levantes
As mentioned earlier, a name tied with the people of Arab mixed with North African pirate origin is Sarakinos and all its variants. Sarakinos is a Greek word synonymous with the word Arab. There are many Greek island areas and mainland areas with the variant name of Sarakinos. There are also various other areas in other countries in the Mediterranean like in Italy and France which have either a variant of the name Sarakinos or other similar influences from pirates from North Africa. Most of these areas are located near coastline areas. These names come from North African immigrants (who were usually pirates) that settled those areas during the combined Saracen and North African raids by the various Caliphates throughout the era of the middle ages. Those raids and attacks conceivably started during the 600 AD’s and lasted arguably up till the middle 1800’s. “The town of Parparia also has some fields called “Tou Sarakinou” meaning “belonging to the Saracen”.
Piracy was directly related to the slave trade, which greatly flourished for many centuries, especially during the middle-ages starting from the 600 AD’s. Pirates made a lot of money selling people. The sufferings of the inhabitants of the coastal towns and particularly the Aegean islands at the hands of pirates of every race and origin can hardly be described. In 904 AD Arab pirates led by a Greek named Leo of Tripoli from Crete who had joined the Muslim forces, according to one source, carried off approximately 22,000 inhabitants from Thessalonica. This same Leo from Tripoli along with another Greek pirate who had converted to Islam, named Damianos, defeated the Byzantine navy off the northern coast of Chios during the Byzantine war campaign against the Arabs in an attempt to take back lost Byzantine territories.
Other towns in Chios have similar stories about Algerian (Alidzerini-Berbers) and Saracen pirates. Some of the ones I read about were Thymiana, Kardamyla, Kambia, Mesta and Neochori.
In the late 900’s AD, the island of Lesbos had the same types of attacks from a Saracen pirate chief named Sirhan. Saracens had attacked the bay of Stenacus but were defeated when the town set their ships on fire.
During the early part of the middle ages, pirate attacks on the island on Lesbos from Saracen invasions occurred in the years 821, 881 and 1055 AD. There are places on Lesbos with the name Sarikinou as well, which in all likelihood were pirate lairs at one time.
The island of Paros was also plundered by the Saracen pirate Nissiris between 821 AD and 827 AD. Nissiris as a pirate was active from 821 AD to 827 AD. Nissiris went to the island of Paros and stole all the church treasures. In Paros there are also places with the name Sarakoinou. The encounters with pirates on Paros were documented in the year 905 AD, when Nikitas Magister, a government official during the reign of Byzantine Emperor Leo VI was sent from Constantinople to Crete to negotiate with the Saracens (Crete was captured by the Saracens and Arabs in 823 AD). As they approached the island of Ios, winds drove them to the island of Paros (Which at that time was uninhabited). There he met a monk who told him about the island and their encounters with Saracen pirates.
In 961 AD the Byzantine army under emperor Nicephoros Phocas took back Crete from the Arabs and killed, according to one source 20,000 Arabs in the process. There is a town in Crete called Barbaro or Varvaro. The Byzantine soldiers that took over the town during the re-taking of Crete named it like that because of the people there who were Arabs or Berbers from Barbaria in North Africa. It is in all likelihood, the same way the town of Varvakorso and its people the Varvarousi got their names from the Greeks on the island of Chios.
There are dozens of accounts of Saracen pirates invading and settling areas of the Mediterranean between the 900’s AD and 1000’s AD. These places included
St. Tropez and La Garde Freinet (937 AD) in France
Fontanarossa (935 AD) in Italy
Malta (870 AD)
Sicily (827 AD)
Corsica (754 AD) and others. Corsica even has a pirate head as their symbol on one of their flags.

In some of these places, it was recorded that these pirate settlements once they were re-conquered by the Christians remained in those areas and converted to Christianity.
By paralleling history in other areas with pirate history in the Mediterranean an image starts to emerge for the the history of Parparia. Parparia’s history mimicks the history of dozens of other places in the Aegean that attribute their origins and history to Saracen pirates, especially islands.
The formula one sees is clear, once Christian armies started to push back Muslim forces and settlements, the prisoners or towns left behind were usually forced to convert to Christianity. In the areas of modern France, Spain and Italy, Saracens that converted to Christianity became Catholics. In areas of modern Greece they became Orthodox. The Iberian peninsula (Spain and Portugal) and a large part of southern France was under Saracen or Arab rule at one time or another. In parts of Spain, Muslim rule existed for almost 800 years (Granada).
It is written that between 840 AD and 1017 AD the three great nations in existence were the Byzantines (Greeks), the Saracens (Arabs) and the Franks (French).

Monday, October 25, 2010

Costumes from Aghia Mavra

ANDRE GRASSET ST. SAUVER (painter) & E. BRIONE (1729-) (engraver)
Local attire from Parga, Preveza, Vonitsa and Aghia Mavra
1800, copper engraving, 15.5 x 20 cm

Friday, October 08, 2010

Carlo I Tocco, count of Cephalonia and Zante

Carlo II Tocco (died 1448) was the ruler of Epirus from 1429 until his death.

Carlo II was the son of Count Leonardo II Tocco, the younger brother and co-ruler of Carlo I Tocco, count of Cephalonia and Zante, duke of Leukas, and ruler of Epirus. In 1424 Carlo II and his sisters were adopted by their uncle Carlo I. Carlo II's sister Maddalena Tocco married the future Byzantine Emperor Constantine XI Palaiologos in 1428, but died in 1429.

In July 1429 Carlo II succeeded his uncle Carlo I in all his jurisdictions. His succession was opposed, however, by Carlo I's illegitimate sons, led by Memnone. Memnone and his brothers appealed to the Ottoman Sultan Murad II for help in securing the inheritance of their father, and the sultan duly sent forth a force under Sinan. The Ottoman general entered into negotiations with the anti-Latin faction in Ioannina and, after guaranteeing the privileges of the nobility, obtained the surrender of the city on October 9, 1430.

Carlo II continued to rule over the remnants of his principality in Epirus from Arta as an Ottoman vassal, while the illegitimate sons of his uncle received holdings in Acarnania as Ottoman dependents. Carlo II died in October 1448 and was succeeded by his son Leonardo III Tocco. Name of "Karlı İli" which was a sanjak of Ottoman Empire and its center was Preveza was derived from Carlo II.

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Sexual Crimes and Improprieties in Late Ottoman Greece

Evdoxios Doxiadis, Sexual Crimes and Improprieties in Late Ottoman Greece

Sexual crime and sexual improprieties in Ottoman Greece has been a neglected field of study, primarily due to the lack of sources. Unlike much of contemporary, and even earlier, Europe and much of the rest of the Ottoman world where such cases quickly found themselves in front of a judge or kadi, in Ottoman Greece cases of prostitution, adultery, unlawful fornication, or even rape have been rare thus far. By examining a variety of material, however, such as wills, dowry contracts, private correspondence, as well as the correspondence and decisions of the local authorities, we can at least extrapolate some idea regarding the concerns and behavior of the the notables in Ottoman Greece who often doubled as executive and judicial authorities.

The Ottoman judicial system, as well as the administrative one, was characterized by a remarkable diversity which allowed significant autonomy to religious and regional communities. In the Aegean, as in many other parts of Greece, this diversity led to the emergence, and often dominance, of communal executive bodies and courts, usually under the control of local notables. These bodies based their decisions upon customary laws that had their origins in the Byzantine-Roman tradition but which had evolved and changed significantly over the centuries. Few of these laws were codified before the late eighteenth century, thus allowing great flexibility in the rulings of the communal courts and councils. Sexual crime was of course clearly described by Canon as well as by Roman law and included nearly all acts not leading to procreating within a lawfully conducted marriage. The notables and even the population at large, however, do not appear very concerned with applying the penalties, or even persecuting many technically illegal activities. Practices like the infamous “kepinio”, a form of unlawful marriage of limited time duration, though denounced by the Orthodox Church, endured as did the institution of “syggria” in Mani, a form of bigamy. From the cases examined in this paper it becomes evident that the notables were quite willing to tolerate what was generally deemed as immoral behavior for years and even decades, allowing families to deal with such issues by themselves. Dowry contracts and especially wills show that illegitimate children were not rare, nor were cases of what could be prostitution or perhaps concubinage, despite the efforts of parents to control the sexual behavior of their offspring.

There were, however, occasions where the communal authorities asserted their authority over the sexual behavior of individuals in the community, and acted quickly and decisively in matters of sexual crime or sexual improprieties. These few cases present us with an insight into the concerns of these notables. Under certain circumstances sexual misbehavior could threaten the peace and even the cohesion of the community and in extreme cases it could invite the involvement of outside authorities, infringing upon the autonomy and power of the notables. As a result these notables, whether secular or religious, were quick to act in order to preempt such developments, but only when such behavior threatened to escalate and disrupt the community. When such behavior crossed the boundaries of private behavior and became a public concern, however, the notables were swift to act in order to diffuse the situation, and in order to assert their own authority and power over the community.
Dr. Evdoxios Doxiadis received his B.A. from Tufts University in History, Economics and Classics, and his M.A and PhD from the University of California at Berkeley, where he also received the Outstanding Graduate Student Instructor award in 2007. He has taught a number of courses on gender and on nationalism at U.C. Berkeley, and on Greece and the Balkans at San Francisco State University. He has been a post-doctoral research fellow at Princeton University, and is currently preparing his book "The Shackles of Modernity: Women, Property and the Law from Late Ottoman to Independent Greece".

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Mediterranean Piracy

Piracy was a prominent feature of the Mediterranean world up through the nineteenth century. The relative poverty of the soil, the inviting expanse of the sea with its lively commercial life, and the many hiding places provided by the islets scattered across the area—particularly in the Aegean—ensured that the coastal inhabitants would always be tempted by the life of the pirate. Such low-level raiding, as constant and predictable as it was, is almost an environmental given rather than a phenomenon that begs the attention of the historian. At times, however, piracy spilled beyond such narrow limits and became a vital instrument of state building or state destruction. At such times in the Mediterranean, any explanation of historical change must include piracy in the narrative.

The early modern period in Mediterranean history—roughly the fifteenth through the eighteenth century—begins with the tapering off of one such period of piratical recrudescence. The final crumbling of Byzantine maritime power in the fourteenth century encouraged fierce competition between Latin Christians and Turkish emirs for control of the Aegean and its vital trade links. Both sides built up their navies, raided each other's territory, and preyed on each other's shipping in pursuit of supremacy in the eastern Mediterranean. Both sides recruited pirates (conveniently called corsairs once they were serving a legitimate political entity) to help them achieve their goals. The Knights of St. John, for instance, captured the island of Rhodes in 1308 with the help of a Genoese corsair (Inalcik, p. 186). The eventual victor in this fierce competition was the Turkish side, specifically the Ottoman Turks whose original base was inland but who eventually expanded outward to become a maritime power of the first order. With the conquest of Constantinople (1453), the Ottomans became masters of the vital commercial routes that linked the Black Sea and the Aegean. In 1522 they vanquished one of their most persistent naval competitors when Suleiman the Magnificent captured Rhodes and forced the departure of the Knights. Venice continued to have possessions in the eastern Mediterranean, but the Ottomans steadily eroded her power as well.

Having thus established control over the area, the Sultans quite naturally no longer looked with favor upon piracy and punished pirates whenever they were able to do so. Those who could be absorbed into the state apparatus—as naval commanders, for example—enjoyed a new life as Ottoman officials. Independent actors, however, were no longer tolerated. In 1504 the Ottomans seized the ships of a pirate who had served as a corsair in the recent wars with Venice. When he continued his raids in peacetime, he lost not only his ships; the authorities burned his house to the ground and executed seventy of his men (Brummett, p. 99). Ottoman maritime supremacy, combined with the Venetian desire to protect her commercial interests, ensured that the eastern Mediterranean enjoyed a long hiatus from piracy in the sixteenth century.

Farther to the west, in North Africa, the picture was largely similar. The corsairing captains who had raided the Spanish coastland on behalf of the Ottomans now settled down to life as the rulers of the newly acquired territories in North Africa. The high level of hostility between the sultan and the Spanish kings, however, meant that piracy was more tolerated in the western Mediterranean.

Things changed again after the Ottoman defeat at the battle of Lepanto (1571). Revisionist historiography has made it clear that this clash was not the watershed it was once presumed to be. It was important, however, in terms of piracy. The staggering and ever increasing costs of galley warfare convinced both the Ottomans and the Spaniards that it was best to turn their energies elsewhere. The Mediterranean was left to its own devices. The pirates once again took to the seas, and the seventeenth century was the golden age of the pirate republic. The slave markets of Algiers and of Valletta teemed with miserable captives from the other side, as both Muslims and Christians pursued their opponents with equal ferocity.

To a certain extent the pirates of the seventeenth century were operating on their own initiative and were motivated by the issues of economic scarcity that had always figured prominently. As with earlier centuries, however, shifts in the Mediterranean balance of power were working themselves out through piracy. It was in this period that northern newcomers—the Dutch and the English—put an end to Italian commercial supremacy in the Mediterranean and piracy was a vital instrument in this assault. The English pirate in his berton became a hated and feared figure for the Venetian merchant. This northern invasion is only the bestknown example, however. France backed Catholic pirates—particularly the Knights of St. John—as part of its ambition to replace the Venetians as the preeminent Catholic power in the eastern Mediterranean, and to hurt her economic competitors. The North African regencies of Tripoli, Tunis, and Algiers would prove similarly useful for English and French ambitions. Throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries these two powers signed a number of treaties with the North Africans, agreements that were designed both to protect their own merchants from North African piracy and to encourage raids on their competitors' shipping. In the eighteenth century the power of the regencies dwindled as they themselves devoted fewer and fewer resources to such assaults and European supremacy became ever more evident. Nevertheless, remnants of the system were still at work as late as the American Revolution. Once the Americans declared their independence from the British, Lloyds of London discreetly informed the North Africans that American ships were no longer under the protection of the British navy. North African attacks on the merchant shipping of the new republic predictably ensued.

In 1798 Napoleon Bonaparte captured the island of Malta and took the previously unimaginable step of freeing all the Muslim captives held by the Knights of St. John. His dramatic actions were an illustration of a more prosaic truth. By the end of the eighteenth century combatants in the Mediterranean were strong enough to fight their naval battles and conduct their trade without the help of Mediterranean pirates turned corsairs. Once the state turned its back, piracy never again achieved the international significance that it had enjoyed from time to time in the early modern period.


Brummet, Palmira. Ottoman Seapower and Levantine Diplomacy in the Age of Discovery. Albany, N.Y., 1994.

Earle, Peter. Corsairs of Malta and Barbary. London and Annapolis, Md., 1970.

Inalcik, Halil. "The Rise of the Turcoman Maritime Principalities in Anatolia, Byzantium, and the Crusades." Byzantinische Forschungen 9 (1985).

Tenenti, Alberto. Piracy and the Decline of Venice, 1580–1615. Translated by Janet and Brian Pullan. London and Berkeley, 1967.


Sunday, January 10, 2010

New 2010 Costak Teaser Logo

Recipies for Costak | Braised Cod with Plums

Another monastic dish Petri must have enjoyed it during his stay in Mount Athos.

Traditional versions of this dish call for salt cod, which is cod that has been salted and dried. Though delicious, salt cod can be tedious to prepare, as it must be soaked in water for hours to remove excess salt.

This version has been adapted for fresh cod, a substitution that also reduces cooking time.
Start to finish: 30 minutes
Servings: 4 to 6
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 large yellow onion, diced
1 pound plums, halved and pitted
1 1/2 pounds cod
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
Ground black pepper, to taste

In a large, deep skillet over medium-high, combine the olive oil, garlic and onion. Saute until the onion just begins to soften, about 3 to 4 minutes.

Add the plums and saute another 2 minutes. Arrange the cod over the onions and plums, then add enough water to come halfway up the cod. Sprinkle the cod with salt, then bring the water to a simmer, cover and cook 15 minutes, or until the cod flakes easily.

Sprinkle the lemon juice and parsley over the cod, then season with pepper.